As a church we are called to be a bridge, from our city to our God.
Message Notes from Carlos Ortiz and Eric Bryant:
Big Idea: As a church we are called to be a bridge, from our city to our God.
Welcome to all of our campuses! I’d like to jump right in and ask a question of everyone right off the bat. Have you ever been in a situation that you didn’t want to be in? Maybe you were forced to change schools and you went to a high school you didn’t want to attend. Maybe you didn’t get into your college of choice so you had to settle for somewhere close to home. Maybe you did everything right, and your company still moved you to a place where you had no intentions of living, but it was all part of the job.
Now, how did you respond to your situation, your school, your job? How did you respond to the city you found yourself living in?
Libby (my wife) and I were newly married, in love, wide eyed and bushy tailed, when all of a sudden I was invited to be part of a staff with a pastor we really liked, but in a state I swore I would never live in…Arkansas!! I immediately said no, and after he asked the third time, I still said no. Then Libby gently reminded me that it should be something we pray about and consider. I begrudgingly accepted an invite to little Malvern, Arkansas, and before we left that weekend, we accepted the role.
I found myself excited for a new adventure, but despising that I was in the “woo pig sooie” state. You see I loved college football, and when I wasn’t cheering for the Michigan Wolverines, I was cheering for the team down the road…Texas Longhorns. So to move across state lines was a big deal. But, in time, the culture, the values, the needs…and eventually the people, became a true part of our lives. They embraced my family, and they named my oldest son nothing other than, “Bubba.”
I started finding healing in that small town of backwoods people who I projected stereotypes on to. This was what I expected to find:
I was a Hispanic young adult, helping to pastor people that I assumed would not be for me, but the exact opposite happened. I fully embraced the culture so much that in a matter of 18 months I gained 30 pounds with all of the fried chicken, fried catfish, pies, church potlucks and extra deer meat in my freezer. And this stuck up kid from Dallas, soon began to see the people for who they really were. Why is this important? We are supposed to be a bridge. The church is meant to be a bridge, from our city to our God.
How do we see those around us?
How do we perceive the people at the job we might hate? How do we project stereotypes onto those who are different from us? What kind of self-defense mechanisms have we put into play, so that we can have an excuse to NOT embrace the very location, job, school, or city God sought fit to place us in?
When we ___Ignore_____ the people of our city, we rob ourselves of God’s heart for them.
When we ___Reject_ ____ the people of our city, we forget God’s acceptance of them.
When we ___Despise____ the people of our city, we block out God’s desire for them.
When we ___Hate_______ the people of our city, we become enemies of the God who loves them.
Romans 8 says that we become enemies of God, and cannot please him, when we are ruled by our human nature, and hating people does not reflect the spirit of God.
What God Says About This
In Acts 17:16-34 – We read a story of Paul, who does not set out to embrace a city, but a heart change ensues. He was simply minding his business, waiting for his friends to arrive, and found himself in a city that was not necessarily on his pinterest board. He had desires to get to other churches, but plans changed, and he’s now in Athens, and finally opens his eyes to truly see:
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
- Paul is open to see what God sees
- He brings the Good News where he has influence
- He builds a bridge of common good
- He gives people the hope and life of Jesus
When we love people like Christ, there are going to be 3 common responses:
- Rejection 2. Inquiry 3. Belief
None of these responses are our responsibility to control, Our responsibility is to build a bridge from our City to our God.
- We all play a part in changing our city. That each campus plays a part of what God wants to do.
- We are UNITED across campuses and what God wants to do in central Texas is going to take ALL of us.
Join a Group – CONNECT, BELONG, HEAL, GROW
Serving on Sundays
Here’s one very specific way we can build a bridge from our City to God – it’s the BLESS Challenge!
As we get ready for our next series Best Summer Ever which leads up to the Church Has Left the Building on July 2nd, we want to encourage you to do the following:
- Read a chapter from the book of Acts
- Subscribe to the GatewayAustin YouTube channel to watch the devotional
- Look for ways to BLESS your family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends!
BLESS is an acronym that describes a way to make a difference in the lives of those close to you. Begin with praying for them, Listen to them, Engage with them, Serve them, and Share your story with them when the opportunity arises or the time is right.
If We Live This Out
In order to reach our city it is going to take all of us connecting and building relationships that lead people to Christ. We don’t do this out of obligation but out of the overflow of love we’ve experienced.
Unfortunately, Christians have been known more for their stances than standing with people. But Paul warns against that in 1 Corinthians 13, this passage most often read at a wedding, is really about how we treat each other in community. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 he says without love we’re just a clanging cymbal. And so many Christians are just making noise crashing the cymbal of their ideologies.
Each and everyone of us are called to impact our section of the world. It’s going to require boldness, courage, and love. But we have to have eyes to see the people around us as people in desperate need of Jesus.
We will meet the tangible needs of our city as we have been doing (refugees, homeless, food pantry, prison ministry, foster care, etc.). We show compassion and love and uplift the marginalized and oppressed because the love of Christ compels us to. But, reaching our city isn’t simply about changing laws, it’s about changing hearts. It’s not only about feeding hungry people but feeding hungry souls.
We will not be apathetic followers of Jesus that just coast through this life with our only goal being our own well being and “making it in the gates”. We will not only build bridges, but we will help people cross them.
A life reaching others is messy. But messy life is better than a clean death
The power of darkness, evil, and brokenness in our lives, in our home, and in our city will not win. You need to hear that and believe that. But it will take all of us. When we let God change us from the inside out He begins to use us to change OUR CITY. And that’s how he builds His church. LIFE BY LIFE. Not big buildings and fancy lights. One heart at a time being transformed and being a bridge for someone else to experience the same.
It’s all because of Him and what His Spirit is doing in us and through us