State of the Gate by John Burke (Gateway Austin)

Today John Burke shared the process for spiritual growth at Gateway Church in Austin. He shared some of the following insights:

“God is Love, and Love is what this whole thing is about. Everything else will come and go, but love never dies.  Jesus said it this way—to love God first above all other loves, and to love people as much as you do yourself. This sums up the whole Bible and every command of Scripture. What does it mean to actually Love God and Love People, not by our definition, but by God’s? How does God change the world by His love? That’s what I want to talk about by walking through the 4 core values we’re trying to live out together at Gateway.

First, Come As You Are.

This is the value emphasizing grace-giving acceptance. Symbolized by an open door, this means living a life with an open invitation to community.

Jesus lived this out continually during his 3 1/2 year ministry. He told a parable saying the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a party for his son’s wedding (referring to heaven). When those first invited were too busy or unresponsive, the King said to his servants:

“‘Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.” – Matthew 22:9-10

God’s Party is an open invitation to all who will come—good and bad alike. God makes all who come to Him ready for eternity with Him. Our job is not to determine who is worthy, our job is to invite everyone!  That’s Grace—God’s Unconditional Love offered with no strings attached.

As a church, we’re here to help you extend grace and a Come As You Are invitation to your neighbors and coworkers and friends because that’s what Jesus did. Jesus taught a mixed audience in his outdoor Come As You Are venues all the time. Doubters, skeptics, prostitutes, and tax collectors showed up right along with the religious pharisees and ordinary faithful disciples. You’ll never fully appreciate what we are trying to do until you extend God’s loving invitation and have a few people sitting here beside you exploring faith. It is a real privilege to participate in a church that relates to both Christians seeking to grow and to those still skeptical. That’s how God loves through us.

God is restoring a lost, broken, and hurting world one willing life at a time, and His plan is to use His church.  This requires our willingness to follow Jesus.  Do you want to participate in the greatest endeavor of all history—restoring the world to a Love that never dies?”  Ask yourself,  “Am I going to just watch, or am I gonna get in the game spreading this Love that never dies?”

If you are a Christ-follower, will you live out this value by coming each Sunday to encounter God and let people know how valuable they are to God? You create a culture of Grace with how you consistently come and interact with people. Do you demonstrate how valuable all these people are to God?

What is a person worth to God? A person’s worth what God’s willing to pay.

God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ….” – 1 Peter 1:18-19

Do you know how valuable you are to God? Do you realize every person He created has the same intrinsic value? That’s what Jesus demonstrated.

Come As You Are does not mean that we don’t care if people stay stuck in self-destructive lifestyles, or stuck in pharisaical, judgmental mindsets, or unloving sin patterns. God cares and we do too. So how does any of that change? First, by helping people experience God’s unconditional love and acceptance—regardless of their junk.

And then second, Live Connected.

This value emphasizes loving and honest community.

Jesus’ strategy included the following layers of relationship:

  • Jesus taught 1000s in large Come As You Are venues with the intention of inspiring people to trust God fully in everyday life. (That’s our goal in our Inspire Services).
  • After a year teaching people, then he challenged 12 to a small-group community where he developed them spiritually. (This is our goal in life groups of 8-15 who meet together in homes to learn and grow together spiritually).
  • Jesus also had a larger network of 70 that he sent out to serve and minister to the needs of others. (This is our goal through our networks which are made up of 20-70 people  who are focused on serving a neighborhood or people group).

We cannot love God first and love people second without getting relationally involved with people in His church. Look at a sampling of the “one anothers” of scripture:

  • “Be devoted to one another in love.”
  • “Honor one another above yourselves.”
  • “Live in harmony with one another.”
  • “Stop passing judgment on one another.”
  • “Accept one another as Christ accepted you.”
  • “Instruct one another.”
  • “Encourage one another.”
  • “Serve one another humbly in love.”
  • “Be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
  • “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other.”
  • “Teach and admonish one another.”
  • “Encourage one another and build each other up.”
  • “Love one another deeply, from the heart.”

We’ll never learn to love this way unless we take the risk and let God teach us how to live connected and then become transformed which is our next value.

Third, Be Transformed.

This value emphasizes intentional growth.

We say “Come as you are, but don’t stay that way!” In other words, “grow!” We’re serious about helping people become deep, mature, fully-devoted followers of Jesus. God wants us to gather to worship and learn and be a unified church, but it’s not enough. Think about it this way: if you come 3-4 times each month, you’re only getting 20 hours of spiritual input each year. If you’re the typical American, you watch 1000 hours of TV or movies each year! 20 hours or 1000 hours? What’s forming you spiritually? What you feed your soul shapes your soul! So yes, come every Sunday, we need it, but we also need to begin daily and weekly practices that truly form us into a more loving, joy-filled, peaceful, patient, kind, other-centered people.

Paul says to young Timothy, who he was spiritually developing:

Train yourself to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 

We all get the value of physical training: you look better, you feel better, and you live longer, but you can’t just sit and watch a P-90X video and think you’re really growing stronger! You have to actually do something!

So how do we build a solid, lasting foundation? We have to prioritize our spiritual growth.

Jesus said:

I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” Luke 6:47-49

Here a few resources to help in that :

  • Connect with a life group and find a few spiritual running partners
  • http://lifegroup.gatewaychurch.com has a spiritual development plan to deepen your faith.
  • Join us for the next series called Realm which is about our spiritual battle. Each week work through www.gatewaychurch.com/nextsteps.
  • Soul Revolution helps you learn to hear God’s whispers and walk in faith.
  • Morph will help you love God, love people, build character, and be the Body.

Finally, Change Your World.

This value emphasizes our ministry together to love and serve our neighbors, family, co-workers, and friends.

We can do great things to love and serve and restore what’s wrong in our city and world, but it requires willingness. It requires every Christ-follower to stop thinking me-centric and start thinking God-centric asking: “God, do you want to do through US as Your church? How can I get in Your game?”

If you’re a Christ Follower, you have a ministry to serve.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord…A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

We all benefit when you are using your uniqueness in passionate ways. Everyone has a ministry to serve, and everyone can eventually develop others spiritually.

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.” Hebrews 5:12

Peter turned away and denied Jesus, but do you remember how Jesus restored him? He asked, “Peter do you love me? Then feed my sheep!” In other words: love me by spiritually building into others! That’s maturity!”

So God changes the world as we work together, serving with our gifts, developing people, and resourcing his church financially. Everything in the world takes resources, and God’s church is no different. Every week we tell people exploring faith or visiting:d “Don’t feel pressured to give. This is our gift to you.” We can only do that because Christ-followers are growing to be more generous. Some of you saw the 1% challenge which demonstrates the power of stretching your generosity until you are fully tithing—and even beyond. [Watch the 1% Challenge Here].

Don’t just sit and watch, get into His game and extend his undying Love to a dying world!”

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