In this sermon, you’ll consider how to leave a legacy that lasts forever.

See Sermon Transcript

Full Sermon Transcript

Pastor Chris Paavola:

An awesome video. There’s so many stories that didn’t make it on there, like stories of… We used to have a steeple and then it got struck by lightning and they had to take it off, and I can’t pinpoint when that happened, but that happened at some point. We had a steeple here, Julie, I don’t know if you remember when that happened. But then stories about snowstorms and families putting on snowshoes and dragging their kids in a sled to come to church. And I’m like, man, if it rains now people are like, “I don’t know if I’m going to church today. It’s a little wet out there.”

Or stories of being the first black family to move into this neighborhood. The story of what it was like to be the first black family to come to this church and how they were welcomed with open arms. Great stories, great stories that are on the cutting room floor because I mean, the point of this video is to really celebrate the construction of this place and to talk about what went into and the construction of the sanctuary. And you watch videos like that and you feel a lot of emotions. Maybe if you were here you’d feel nostalgia or maybe you just feel a sense of gratitude for people who gave and sacrifice so much and then maybe you feel a sense of hope for the future. But eventually you watch videos like that and you see the legacy of people and it makes you start thinking about your own legacy.

What are you leaving behind? And that’s what we’re going to talk about and we’re actually using today to talk about today, but also in the next few weeks as we enter a new series called A Legacy of Faith. And we’re going to be talking about this idea of legacy. By the way, my name is Chris Paavola. I’m a senior pastor here at St. Mark and I found out that researching for this weekend, I’m the eighth senior pastor here, so I stand in a long line of pastors. I’m feeling some sort of way about things, so I’m feeling something this weekend just like in a lot of ways just like so many of you guys are as well. But yeah, we are here today. You picked a great day to be here because we are celebrating 18,250 days ago. We dedicated this place or 50 years in one day. We dedicated this sanctuary in 1973 and it’s just a remarkable thing.

And legacy, we don’t start thinking about legacy. We aren’t born, we don’t arrive out of the womb and then instantly start thinking about legacy. We actually think about its cousin, a different word. We think about this word, importance. Like when a child comes out of the womb, they cry because they want to know if they’re important enough to be cared for. Is there anyone who’s willing to care for me? And if you don’t care for an infant, they’ll stop crying because they believe they’re not important enough to be cared for. But then you’re an infant, you’re cared for, your needs are met. That kind of transitions into a different importance then as you become a toddler and an adolescent, it’s now you’re worried about, am I important enough to be known? Like you go to school, am I popular? Am I voted best in class, most likely to succeed, or whatever it may be.

And this is the allure of social media. It’s like you can be known, right? And the arms race for likes on Instagram, can I be known by other people? And then when you’re no longer a child and you grow into adulthood, importance shifts yet again. And now you start thinking about, am I important enough to matter? Do I matter to my kids? Do I matter enough to have a spouse where someone cares about me enough to pledge their life to me? Do I matter enough to my peers and work, my accomplishments? Is my diploma impressive enough? Is my 401k impressive enough?

And then something else happens. We shift again, the inevitability of age happens, ailments and aches, and you start feeling, you’re like, where did that come from? Why is my knee hurting all of a sudden? And you start thinking about your mortality. And that’s where I importance shifts to am I important enough to be remembered? Not am I important enough to be cared for, not am I important enough to be known, not am I important enough to matter to people? Now you start thinking about am I important enough to be remembered? And that’s where we get to this idea of legacy. Legacy. What am I leaving behind?

Okay, so your history is what you did. Your legacy is what you put in motion. What happens because of you? And a legacy is measuring the depth and the reach and the time, the length of your impact on people’s lives. And you can have a legacy that lasts a moment. You can have a legacy that lasts a generation or two, but then there’s this idea of a legacy that lasts forever and there’s something in us that wants this. I mean, just look at rulers who would hold parades in their honor to cement their legacy or raising statues and monuments to their accomplishments and they crumble. It doesn’t make it any more important to you, but they tried. And then we make things like awards and trophies as if somehow that captures and imposes our importance on other people. But that doesn’t work either. They’re nice, but it doesn’t work. Okay, who won the Academy Award in 1973 for best actor? Who won the Academy Award for best actor last year? But it was really important.

Okay, who won the World Series last year? Exactly. But they held a trophy and they got their name on it. It’s the Astros by the way. Right. Yeah, it’s the Astros. This year the Texas Rangers won. But see, they can’t really impose their importance on us. There’s an accomplishment and it’s nice, but it doesn’t cement a legacy. And this is where scripture then introduces a new word. Scripture enters the chat with a new thought, a new angle on this conversation about importance and about legacy. And regardless of what you do or don’t think about God, what you do or don’t know about Jesus, this is going to be helpful for you. Scripture leads us in a direction that will be helpful for you in processing your own legacy. And I promise you, even if you don’t agree with how we get there, where it’s going to lead us is going to be important for all of us as we think about our own legacy. Because eventually you will.

And scripture doesn’t use the word legacy and it doesn’t use the word, really very much, doesn’t use the word importance. When it talks about what we’re talking about and kind of in this arena, it uses a word, glory. Glory. And we don’t really use this in common vernacular. We maybe talk about the glory of athletes or the glory of a soldier, old glory, something like that. So we know what it means, but glory and we kind of understand what it means intuitively. It’s this idea of highlighting something, lighting it up, illuminating it, lifting it up so all of us see that it is better and bigger than we are. That is glory. It is something that is greater than the common. Glory.

And when scripture talks about glory, glory is God’s. Glory is His. It talks about how in Romans 15 it says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him and for Him are all things to the glory of God the Father forever. To Him be the glory forever.” And you get the sense that everything kind of leads up to and culminates and streams up to God being lifted up. And one day every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father and that he will be lifted up This morning, the frost on your windshield was designed by God and glorifies Him by doing its thing. The leaves turning color, the birds flying south for the winter, all of that, they’re doing what God designed it to do. And when they do, they glorify God. And God receives the glory. The stars at night. The heavens declare the glory of the Lord. Glory.

And when you and I become a follower of Jesus, when you’re welcomed into the family of God, when you’re part of this kingdom, you call Him Lord and ruler and king and Savior like we just sang, you’re invited now into a new thought process on glory because man is all about lifting up his own glory. We do things to try to cement our glory, but scripture starts to go, no, no, no, no–It’s about God’s glory. Psalm 115:1, “Not to us, oh Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory.” And this is echoed over and over throughout scripture. John 3:30, John the Baptist goes, “I must decrease. He must increase.” To Him be the glory. A prophet named Jeremiah says, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let not the strong man glory in his strength. Let not the rich man glory in his riches. Let him glory in the knowledge of the Lord.” “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name,” the Psalmist says. Glory is His, not ours. His.

And this is this idea, when you come into the kingdom of God and you are a part of this thing, it’s this idea of how could you possibly look at the beauty and perfection and holiness of the holy one of one God, how could you look at that and then brag about how much you bench pressed? How could you look at a God hanging on a cross, dying your death, in your place that you might live His life, in His place, how can you look at that and then boast about how many followers you have on Instagram? Not to us, O Lord, but to you be the glory. You must increase. We must decrease. We lift you up higher and higher. Be glorified. That’s the cry of God’s people.

And this is where it really starts to change the way we think about legacy. Because if I was having a conversation with you and we were not talking churchy talking, we were just sitting down having a cup of coffee and we were talking about your legacy, I would say and summarize all of scripture when it talks about the glory of God, here’s how I would say it. It’s not about you. It’s not about you. That’s what the scripture is saying. Okay, turn to your neighbor and tell them, “It’s not about me.” Turn to your neighbor and tell them, “It’s not about me.” Some of y’all need some therapy this morning, some of y’all that is way overdue. It’s not about me. It’s not about me.

We’ve been around people who it is about me, right? Man, people who are like, “I, I, me, me, mine, what I want, what I need, what I care about.” Those people are insufferable to be around. I could say that. It’s hard to be around people who are all about themselves. I do a lot of funerals. I’ve done funerals for people who lived a life for themselves and they are hard. I’ll sit down with the family trying to get content for a sermon. I’m like, “Okay, tell me about them.” “He made a lot of money. He liked the Tigers.” “Okay, anything else? Give me something guys. I need something.” And inevitably those sermons as well or those funerals are sparsely attended.

And then on the flip side, the irony is people who live for others, people who realize it’s not about them and live for God or his glory, or for other people in service to them, deferring to them, constantly putting others ahead of themselves, constantly serving, those are the very people who leave a legacy, the ones who aren’t trying to be about themselves. If you live for yourself, you eventually have only yourself to show for yourself. But if you live for others, the irony is you leave a legacy that goes on and on and on. It’s true my friends. And you might not agree with how we got to there, you might not agree with the premise, but I’m telling you, scripture is telling us all something. It’s not about you. And the sooner we realize this, the happier we’ll be, the less stressful life will be. Things happen and you’re like, “Eh, it’s not about me. You can cut me off in traffic. Okay, whatever. I’m not that important.” I’m telling you, the sooner you learn this, the better off you’ll be.

And that’s actually the secret sauce of people who called St. Mark home 50 years ago and built this place. They had a mindset that said, it’s not about me. It’s about those yet to come. And you’re here today enjoying their legacy because it wasn’t about them. You’re here today experiencing Jesus. I mean, think about our mission statement. “We lay down our lives.” It’s not about us. Not to us, Lord. “We lay down our lives so as many as possible experience Jesus.” It’s not about you, it’s about others. And that’s what they knew and that’s why they gave.

You don’t know this, but somebody purchased the pews in here and you don’t know their name. It doesn’t say on the side, for the Wilson family. It doesn’t say that because it’s not about us. It’s to God. And every penny mattered. And it’s not like their pennies mattered more than the person who gave one penny. It is not about you. Check this out. They had to raise, back in 1973, they figured out they needed to raise $225,000 to get a loan to build this place. So they had to raise $225,000. Adjusted for inflation, today, that’s about one and a half million dollars. We already heard there’s a hundred people down there. That’s about let’s say, 35 families, 2.5 kids per… Right? Like 35 families. That means 35 families raised one and a half million dollars.

It’s about the same size as this room and nobody stroked a check that was like 40% of it, here you go and everyone kind of filled on the gaps. Nah, man, many hands made light work. They had something called Crusade Units. They figured out how much they needed to raise, they did the math, and the crusade unit was $3 a week for three years. And they made pledges, $3 a week for three years. And people bought a crusade unit, $3. Some people bought five, some people bought two, some people bought one, but they did it. They raised $225,000 and then four years later raised another couple hundred thousand dollars for that organ up there. Remarkable, remarkable. And the reason they did it is because it’s not about you. And I can think of no better way for us to honor the legacy of those who went before us, those who built the space that we are enjoying today, whose names you don’t know, and yet they left a legacy.

You don’t know their names, but they left a legacy. And I can think of no better way to honor those who went before us in the last 50 years, but than turning our attention for the next 50 years, the next 50 years, and thinking about what’s ahead. So can we just describe a few things that have happened in the last 18 months at St. Mark. We’ve been growing and we have growing pains because we’ve been growing. We’re about to hire a youth coordinator to do teen ministry, but we don’t have an office for them. And so my wife, our youth and family director, he’s going to share an office with her, but her office, it’s more like a closet. And now there’s going to be two people in there.

We don’t even have storage, enough storage on our campus. We don’t. We’ve rent storage units a couple blocks away ’cause we don’t have space here. And we’re not hoarders. We just don’t have space. And then there’s some other facility needs because we’ve been growing. There’s a room called the Tropics, part of our school. We have 200 kids that come here Monday through Friday. And the Tropics meets in this hallway right over here. That’s a part of the original building built in 1958. And they meet there and it’s great, but ask any teacher that’s in there and you could tell it was built 1958.

And then you go down the hallway and the rest of Our World, so it’s detached from Our World, the rest of the school, the rest of Our World is modern state-of-the-art, up to date, beautiful. It tells parents, you matter, your kids matter, and they’re going to get an awesome education here. But when you walk into the Tropics, it’s different. We would love to move the Tropics down to the east side of Our World, build a new space there, and then renovate the current Tropics into office space and storage space. We have to. And then that kind of brings up the multipurpose room where they used to meet. I actually think it’s still the original flooring there. And kids at Our World are hanging out and playing on this floor from 1958 and the lighting in there and it’s just, you could tell it was built in 1958. And then you come down the hallway and it’s like this muted orange color. I’m not going to equate it to anything because it’s not a good image. But the hallway is painted this muted orange color.

And then you come into our lobby and our cafe area here and the flooring is dated. The lighting is dated, the cabinets are worn. And maybe that’s a static you could push back on me. And I’m like, okay. But I want people, when they walk in the door for the first time, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Right, First impression. And here’s what I want them to know. We’re glad they’re here. We’re rolling out the red carpet for them. I want them to know that this is a relevance timely ministry. Sure we’re historically grounded, but we’re culturally relevant. That’s one of the beautiful things about St. Mark. But when you walk in and you see a dated place, it doesn’t send that message. And then the third thing I want them to know is how much we care about our God. We want the best for him. Do not neglect the care of the sanctuary, scripture says.

And then the other huge need is the growing pains is our space. If we wait until the 11 o’clock service is full to start talking about expanding, we’ve waited too long. The 9:30 service, it’s full. And the best time to plant an apple tree is five years ago, right? Now we need to be having this conversation. How can we get more people here? Listen, okay, listen. I will not let the size of a building limit the growth of the kingdom of God. Okay. I’m about to repeat that unless someone says amen. Because that’s good. I won’t let the size of our room limit the growth of the kingdom of God. Jesus is not done moving in Battle Creek. Jesus is still bringing people here. We want more bap… We had 25 baptisms last year, but he ain’t done.

The prophet Haggai says, “The glory of the latter days will be greater than the glory of the former days.” Our memories will not outweigh our dreams. God is still on the move, kicking butt and taking names, and we have to accommodate for that. And if we wait until we’re full, it’s too late, my friends.

And so we’ve been having a lot of conversations, staff, church council, board of elders, and then we put together, there’s a property team to talk about this. And Ben’s on that team. We’ve been having a lot of conversations, great smart people who work in construction, architects, engineers talking about what can we do and how can we continue to expand this space and also make it an enjoyable place to be? And we then started putting together a list of all these priorities like, well, which one’s more important because if we expand, then we got to also, our parking lot, like, oops, we got to add some… So all of it, creating a priority list and then off of a priority list, looking at that and going, okay, what takes precedent over what? But having those hard conversations. For months, we’ve been doing this.

And then we started interviewing architecture firms, talking to them, having them put bids on this. What would it cost to do X, Y, Z here? What are your fees? And we interviewed them, we talked about it, we prayed about it, and this week we chose one. And the timing is so divine in my mind. So providential. Here we are celebrating the last 50 years and we’re now able to start talking about the next 50 years in a timely way. And we were sitting down with the architects, the designers, and we started looking at things and walking around our campus.

And then we got up to the balcony there and we started talking about what would it look like to expand it or maybe push it out. And he was like, “If you want a cost-efficient way to do this in phases, and would be good stewards, you could renovate that as it is and add seats, add 50 seats up there.” But you got to do a lot of work to be able to make that a good space for people to worship. And I’m already hesitant Because y’all in the back row are going to be up there now and I’m going to be like, “Tim.” Just busting your chops, man.

But we started talking about that and it was like pennies on the dollar, like, oh my goodness, this makes a lot of sense. And so then he is like, okay, well, he’s got to start measuring engineering load and what can it handle and pulling code and doing drawings. And that’s where we are today. I’ve got here the original blueprint of St. Mark and it made me gasp because I looked at the date written by hand, right there in the bottom right-hand corner, you can’t see it. It says November 5th, 1970. And here we are in November 5th, 53 years later having the same conversation. So they were having these design conversations and then three years later dedicated this space. But that’s how much time it takes. That’s why we have to start talking now, my friends. We can’t wait. The time is right.

And then I’ve got over here a blank piece of paper and I thought it would be so apropos to today and just appreciating those who were the 50 years before us of talking about the next 50 years that we are about to put blue ink on this piece of paper with the new design for the next 50 years. And just like there’s people who made this vision a reality, you can help make this vision a reality. And we are not starting a capital campaign yet. We are not ready. Don’t know the feasibility, the scope, we don’t know any of that, but we’ve got to start getting that information. And so we’re going to start a capital campaign a long way off, but we’re going to start one. But right now we’ve got to get some drawings on here. And these drawings will cost us $30,000, $30,000. That’s the cost of doing business in today’s terms.

And so this is just architects measuring things and figuring things out and drawing things and designing things and putting together a legitimate piece of paper, it’s going to cost us $30,000. So really expensive piece of paper, but it matters. We have to. And so today, I’m going to give you an opportunity to put blue ink on there. Now here’s the thing, we’re not going to do this right now, okay? There’s no way. I am not that kind of a preacher. I’m not that kind of a guy. I do not want to coerce you and make you super emotional and have you write checks right now. Yuck, gross. That is not what I want to do. Okay? Well, what I do want to do is give you an opportunity to have this conversation. Go home, talk about it as a family and pray.

Here’s the prayer. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. “God, what do you want us to give to this? Amen.” And then whatever he leads you to do, do that. Don’t give more. Don’t give less because this is a marathon, not a race, but just be faithful. Like those who were faithful before you. Just be faithful. That’s it.

And there will come a day where you can make long pledges and we can talk about the future and all that kind of stuff and have a capital campaign, but we just need to see what God has in store for us and how we can make this a reality. And so there’s two ways you can give whatever the Lord tells you. One, you can go to our website, And then right there you’ll see we’ve got an image here, you’ll see a little dropdown. You can select give to the next for the next 50 years. That’s funny. It says, give to for the next 50 years. Maybe we should just call it the next 50 years. Anyway, give to the next 50 years. And you can do that online or we have envelopes. And during this next song, I’ll invite the volunteers forward, they’re going to pass out an envelope. You just need one per household. Take that envelope, it’s remittance envelope. It’s just already pre-addressed. And fill it out. Send it in. That’s it. Nothing huge. And when you give, my friends, I’ll remind you that it’s one thing to leave a legacy that lasts a moment or a legacy that lasts a generation or two. It’s entirely another thing to leave a legacy that lasts forever. And that’s a legacy of faith. Let me pray for you.

Heavenly Father, our prayer today is simple, doesn’t need to be long and drawn out. We just join our voice with the psalmists and saints from centuries gone by. And in this moment, our hearts cry out, not to us, but to your name, be the glory, forever and ever. Amen.