Our City

Our City

“How Do I Struggle With This?”

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.

WE: 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
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 does God say 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.
Let’s review some of the highlights of this story: CP Note – I’ll add some commentary
under each one of these points.

  1. Paul is open to see what God sees
  2. He brings the Good News where he has influence
  3. He builds a bridge of common good
  4. He gives people the hope and life of Jesus
    When we love people like Christ, there are going to be 3 common responses:
  5. 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.
    Each CP will lead through the last two sections. You get to write the closing, but let’s all
    please use Ricky’s notes from the brief to guide us.
    Campus Pastor Portion (10-15) minutes
    ● Talk about the recent stories of life change and transformation at your campus
    (pictures are even better if you can include them)
    ● Help people understand that we all play a part in changing our city. That each
    campus plays a part of what God wants to do. Help people REALLY catch a vision
    that we are UNITED across campuses and what God wants to do in central Texas is
    going to take ALL of us.
    ● Guide people on 1 or 2 things that your campus will really focus on to love our city
    well. Whether it’s a serving partnership, a campus initiative, or an emphasis on
    ● Land on Jesus. It’s all because of Him and what His Spirit is doing in us and
    through us
    ● Lead to “Build your Church” closing song
    Here’s one very specific way we can build a bridge from our City to God – it’s the BLESS
    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 Gateway Austin YouTube channel to watch the devotional
● Look for ways to BLESS your family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends!
(one slide for The BLESS Challenge)
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.
(One slide for BLESS and the acronym)

“How do we all struggle with this?”

○ 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. Acts 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 [would
be fun to bang the drum set as an illustration]

○ 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 the Jesus inside
of you. [Give examples of people in your campus who have done this
recently that have led to life change for others]
○ 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

● We are introducing this song as our theme over the next few weeks. It comes from
this passage of Scripture, Matthew 16:13-20 [read if you have time, paraphrase if
you don’t]. 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.

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