1. When did Westoak Woods come into existence? Westoak Woods Baptist Church came into existence in June of 1990. We are celebrating our 25th anniversary this summer.
2. How long have you been the pastor? I came to Westoak Woods Baptist Church in south Austin in November of 2008. I have been the pastor for six and a half years.
3. You are a church who is being the church outside your walls, can you tell us ways you are doing this? WWBC has historically been a mission-minded church. In 2009, we adopted Acts 1:8 as our mission purpose statement. We covenanted to annually do missions locally, nationally, and internationally. What we were overlooking was the need to help equip our people to live missional lifestyles at work, school, and in their neighborhood. Taking baby-steps towards a greater missional strategy, we began doing concerts and family-oriented carnivals outdoors, sending out groups and families to do prayer walks the area around the church, partner with the Austin Disaster Relief Network to assist flood and fire victims, along with our ongoing support of the South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, the Baptist Community Center, and other para-church organizations. We were finally starting to put feet to the kingdom of God.
Then God opened a tremendous door for us. After years of trying to make inroads in the local schools, I received a call from a local elementary administrator, asking if she could come and pray at our church. I eagerly met with her, prayed with her, and tried to comfort her in her struggles. She also began to share with me about additional needs at the school. God was opening the door for us to reach our community. A team of WWBC members went to the school and assisted with their carnival fundraiser. Subsequently, I had the privilege of meeting with the school counselor. She shared with me about the need of assisting students in Homework Club. WWBC mobilized a team of people to aid this ministry at the school. We continue to see God at work through this avenue and are excited about joining with him in additional ways as we relationally invest in the administration, teachers, students, and families of our own backyard.
Additionally, God is at work all across greater Austin. A movement is underway called, Love Where You Live. The intent of this movement is that the fall of 2015 will consist of a time of training in local churches all across the Austin area. This training will be around the concepts from Pathak and Runyon's book, The Art of Neighboring. We will be studying this book in the fall through our Life Group classes. Then, in the spring, churches across greater Austin will mobilize to begin reaching out to their neighbors with the intent to reach people, love of them, and extend the kingdom of God. This is what it means to live as a citizen of the kingdom of God.
4. Have you come against any resistance since using this strategy? Our Church Council has identified a number of challenges associated with being more intentional to reach our community. In evaluating our budget, we realized that approximately 80% of our program funding is for ourselves; we also looked at the calendar and evaluated that the majority of our time is spent creating programs geared towards the interests and needs of our members. While it is important to grow relationally with each other in the church family, we were not doing as much as we felt God compelling us to do to reach out. As we continue to work through this recalibration, we understand that it is going to push us out of our comfort zones, some will not understand, and there will be a need for explaining more of the "why" we do what we do. Additionally, we recognize that Satan is attacking us and seeks to distract us from living for the King. Nonetheless, we see God's hand at work in unique ways and his power to be sufficient to overcome all obstacles that we encounter (Mt. 16:18).
5. Please share a story of the effects this has had on your church body. One of the things that we are doing is asking our members to start telling their kingdom stories. A kingdom story is how God is at work in his/her life at this time helping them to understand the kingdom and extend it in the home and community. To aid families in personalizing these passages, I wrote a Lenten Devotional Guide with 46 daily family devotions around the kingdom passages of the gospels. Families continue to work through this devotional guide, discuss how the kingdom is coming in their own lives, and evaluate ways for them to implement it in the world. People are sharing these personal, kingdom stories, in their Life Group classes and some, even in the worships services. We continue to encourage them to share them with friends, coworkers, classmates, neighbors, and family as God provides a God moment for them to do so.
6. Do you have any wisdom to share to those in a church environment who may not know where to start engaging their community? I would read Rob's book. Although this was not a starting point to me, when I picked it up, it affirmed the journey that I was on and the vision that God was unfolding for Westoak Woods. I am currently having my staff, council, and church leadership read it, and it is building a nucleus of kingdom bringers. Simultaneously, I am preaching from these passages. For the first time in my pastoral career, we are taking an entire year to study the life and ministry of Jesus. As we do, we are looking at these passages through kingdom glasses. Most importantly, I would recommend praying and asking God to help pastors, staff, and church leadership to embrace a kingdom lifestyle. It begins within our own lives as we are transformed and begin to truly seek God's kingdom and his righteousness above all else (Mt. 6:33).
7. At what point did you get 'awakened' to the idea of the Kingdom of God and the bigger story that Jesus is inviting you into? As my five year anniversary at Westoak Woods approached in early 2013, I began to question what God desired in my life and in the life of his people at WWBC. I returned to school to complete a doctorate at Logsdon Seminary, and began to read more about missional living. Through seminars, conversations with other local pastors, and meetings with church leaders within our own church, I was "awakened" to the need to explore a deeper understanding of the kingdom of God. As I researched this topic biblically and extra-biblically, I rediscovered how prominent and central the kingdom of God is in Jesus' teaching. I explored what this meant and how this translated in my own life and in the life of the members of our church. The more that I studied this, the more that I realized how revolutionary Jesus' kingdom concept is and how vital it is for us to be kingdom bringers. Christ's commission is encapsulated in bringing God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10).
8. What has reading Rob's book, Citizen, and embracing the message of Awaken done for you personally and the life of your church? Rob's book affirmed God's movement in my heart and helped to reinforce the awakening that God was doing in Westoak Woods. His journey mirrored what God was doing in my life and the life of our church. I saw so many parallels. I wanted our church leadership to likewise experience this affirmation. As we have read through this book together, I continue to hear from church leaders how much we need this awakening. God is at work in our lives as we surrender our all to him as our King, understand that we are truly his children, and go out into the world as his ambassadors. By being kingdom bringers, our lives are enriched beyond measure. We partner with God, who is relationally connecting with others in the world and serve as his outpost or colony to reach people in this world for the kingdom of God. It is an amazing adventure that rejuvenating souls, giving substantive meaning to our lives and those we encounter. Living for King Jesus is the hardest and most challenging thing we will ever do, but it is also the most rewarding and empowering thing that we will ever do. It takes great risk, but the reward is literally out of this world!
Facebook: Patrick Wilson or Westoak Woods Baptist Church