Backstage Pass :: The Character Matrix

At Gateway Church in Austin, we started a new series, Backstage Pass.

Having a backstage pass can offer an amazing opportunity to get a glimpse of things we deem as great —bands, actors, organizations, and the like. But God shows us that true “greatness” comes from knowing Jesus and working towards strong character. What would it look like to pull back the curtain and snag a backstage pass to the creation of followers of Christ who seek great character through Him?


These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.



Have you ever gotten a Backstage Pass? …Access to the VIP Tent? …Sat in First Class?…Gotten the Exclusive Treatment?

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but a lot of people pay a lot of money to get to go “behind the scenes…” for a “backstage pass.”

– A music wristband for SXSW will run you = $179, but all-area access $1325.

We often want to get backstage in order that we might see something or someone that we deem “great.” A rock star. An actor. An athlete. An A-list celebrity… you name it. Almost as if we think that being in the proximity of something or someone that we deem “great” will in some way rub off on us…. i.e. If we’re close to something or someone we deem great, we will feel great, maybe even be great ourselves.

But that isn’t really true and the path to greatness may not be what we think. It’s not about fame but something far more significant.

“Most people don’t do great things because most great things don’t feel great when you are doing them.”
Robb Overholt

Seriously, most people I know want to be great… but few people I know want to go through what it actually requires to be great. And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

You see, today we start our series Backstage Pass… In honor of SXSW. There are scores of people in our great city right now trying to get all area access to their favorite artists, from music, to film, to technology, and on and on.

And today, I want to give you a backstage pass. To give you a glimpse behind the curtain as it were. I want to talk to you about creativity as it pertains to Gateway. But not creativity in its usual sense. Where I might say something like, we are all creatives, whether you know it or not. We are all created in the image of THE Creator and therefore we are creators…. whether we create paintings or spreadsheets, and on and on… and all of that would be true and potentially very meaningful, but it’s not the point of today.

Today, I want to give you a backstage look at creativity – but more so in how we “create” disciples (learners, those disciplined in the ways of Jesus), as his followers… To look at “Greatness” as he defined and continues to define it. And this is what Jesus has had to say about true “greatness.”

The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:11-12

So I want to talk to you today about some of the things we are and will continue to be utilizing to develop others: leaders, staff, and potential staff alike… things that keep Jesus’ focus of “greatness” at the core. I want to give you a glimpse of some of the content we talk about in small rooms around here, that make what we do in the large rooms, like this one, possible.

In 1996 I met Matt Burch at Mosaic and was introduced to The Character Matrix. I have experienced it as a diagnostic instrument panel that easily helps pinpoint our current place on our faith journey and maps out where and what we need next in order to achieve greatness as prescribed by Jesus. It was created by my pastor at Mosaic Erwin McManus who wrote all about the Character Matrix in his book Uprising: A Revolution of the Soul.

The Greek word “arête” means virtue or moral excellence… “Character.”

It is the word Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples turned apostle, uses and what he says is the very first thing we must add to our basic faith in Christ. This is the text found in…

“In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NLT)

Peter’s literary device here suggests that this list of qualities is not presented in a way that suggests a random order.

  • Each quality builds upon the qualities before it and helps to develop the ones after it.
  • The sequence of qualities begins with faith and ends with love for everyone.
  • These qualities are similar to the ingredients in a cake recipe where all ingredients are needed, but they should be added in the proper order.
  • And the very first ingredient to faith is a generous provision of moral excellence… or a big dose of strong character.

Hence, The Character Matrix as the foundational tool for developing people towards true greatness as Jesus defined it.

So with that in mind, I would like to lay out for you

The Character Matrix

Selfishness = Pride, Foolishness, and Greed  
Servant Leader = Courage, Wisdom, and Generosity

The hallmarks of selfish living are Pride, Foolishness, and Greed. The greatness Jesus has called us to as selfless, servant leaders means we exhibit Courage, Wisdom, and Generosity.

Even in the business world, in his book Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about the Level 5 Leader – the most effective leaders are more committed to their organization than they are to themselves. These level 5 leaders are also called “Servant Leaders.”

No one goes from Pride to Courage with snap of the finger and so on. Each path is a journey and each point on the matrix suggests a critical trait in the pursuit of Christ-like character.

The Creator of the Universe came to rescue us by serving us and ultimately giving up his life for us!

God became a servant!

 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 10:28

Jesus made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant… – Philippians 2:7

Often we struggle to make progress by falling into the same struggles time and after time – like the generational sins we talked about last week.

We can make small changes that will have a big result to move from being selfish (proud, foolish, and greedy) to become servant leaders (courageous, wise, and generous). Discover our role to play in the divine change God wants for our lives and the lives of those we serve.

A New Attitude: From Pride to Courage

Pride – thinking about yourself too lowly or too highly

Humility – committed to follow and serve

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:5-7

Either we humble ourselves or we can also get there by being humiliated. Both help us overcome pride. I prefer to choose humility rather than humiliation. What about you?

Integrity – able to be trusted with followers. 

What is on the outside matches what is on the inside.

God makes everything with integrity. When you buy a banana you are actually buying a banana peel, but you can trust what is on the inside matches the outside.

Unfortunately, often we say the right things but inside the darkness is winning.

When we choose to follow and serve Jesus and follow and serve another person, we break the stronghold of pride – of thinking constantly about ourselves which leads to isolation and darkness.

Humility means we become good followers because we want to help someone else succeed. When we want to help someone else succeed we become good leaders because we are in it more for the good of the organization and others than our own good.

Someone who wants an audience cannot be trusted like someone who wants to serve those in their group.

We’ve talked a lot about Moses in this new year, anyone know who followed Moses as the leader of the people of Israel? It was Joshua. It was not Moses’ brother, sister, son, or even one of the other elders of Israel. It was Joshua, who when mentioned for the first time in the Scriptures we discover his role was as Moses’ assistant.

If we are faithful in the little things, Jesus promises, we can be trusted with more.

Courage – the absence of self rather than the absence of fear. 

We care so much for the good of others, we are willing to sacrifice for them. 

  • We take the blame for a colleague even though it was their choices that messed things up.
  • We continue to love and serve our spouse even though they seem to be stuck in a destructive pattern.
  • We courageously invite a neighbor over for dinner to find out ways to serve them, pray for them, hear their story, and when the time is right share with them about how faith is what they are looking for.

We are willing to lay down our life for others.

A New Habit: From Foolishness to Wisdom

Foolishness – making the same bad choice repeatedly

The fool is like the dog who returns to its vomit. – Proverbs 26:11

What are the things in life you know are destructive that you cannot seem to overcome?

Faithfulness – making the right choice no matter how small it is

Perseverance – making the right choice no matter how small it is and no matter what happens. 

Doing the right thing is hard. Do the right thing even when you do not feel like it!

From recovery: “You cannot think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking.”

Wisdom – connecting cause and effect.

It appears almost like they have supernatural abilities to see into the future but in reality they are just able to connect cause and effect better than others.

A New Perspective: From Greed to Generosity

Greed – demanding more, needing more “I deserve better”. 

Don’t feed greed, but starve it. “What do you deserve?” “Nothing!”

From Greed to Gratitude is a lynch pin for true development to occur.

Gratitude – thankful for what you have and not mad about what you don’t have

Wholeness – able to give more than you receive (51%)

Generosity – able to give without concern for receiving, “of noble birth”

The Spiritual Growth Path

No matter where you are today, there are resources here at Gateway in your journey towards or with Jesus. To find the true greatness that he speaks of.

The world needs us to become all who God created us to be! 

Today, as always, we have and continue to invite you to “Come as You Are.”

Come As You Are

Pride – Foolishness – Greed

Pride, Foolishness, and Greed are the human condition. This is why we say “No Perfect People Allowed.” Being honest with our struggles puts in a position to make progress in a way that pretending we have it all together keeps us stuck.”

But if you’ve been attending and you haven’t gotten involved yet, we invite you to Live Connected.

Live Connected

Humility – Faithfulness – Gratitude

We believe that the best way to Live Connected is to gain relationships and a responsibility in serving others with others. It is here that you will learn to humble yourself in service to others… Faithfully showing up and being relied upon, while learning to see and experience gratitude first hand. So, if this is you,  please take advantage of attending Starting Gate at the close of this service today, where you can learn how you might best serve others with others here at Gateway. 

Maybe you’ve been serving but have not yet experienced the deeper community and benefits of a Life Group. Well, we’d invite you to speak with your serving team leader today (or as soon as you are able) about how to get into a Life Group and to Be Transformed.

Be Transformed

Integrity – Perseverance – Wholeness

It is in working Spiritual Outcomes with others that you will begin to model the integrity we spoke of, be cheered on as you persevere, and tangibly learn to forgive as you have been forgiven in your journey towards wholeness. 

But maybe still, you are a part of a LG, but you haven’t stepped yet into taking part in our Commissioned Core, where we invite you to Change Your World.

Change Your World

Courage – Wisdom – Generosity

If you’d like more information, talk to your Life Group Leader today (or as soon as you are able). It is here that you will be challenged to live out true courage, exemplifying and administering wisdom, while being generous in your dealings.   

No matter where you are, we have a path, and have always had a resource to help you in your development. In fact, even if you are considering a life in ministry, we’d invite you to inquire about the Leadership Development Program. Applications are now being accepted on-line for the coming class of 2018/2019 that starts up this August.  

Now, depending on where you are at, this may all seem a little daunting, like maybe you weren’t ready for a peek behind the curtain and a glimpse backstage. But don’t worry, this path to true greatness as Jesus explained it… you don’t have to go it alone. In fact, it has never been intended to be that way.

Backstage Pass to God’s Presence

First off, Jesus promises to be with you always through His Spirit, and secondly, he gave you a community in His name… the church, to support you in this. And here at Gateway, we would love nothing more than to do just that.

Now, if you don’t know Jesus, or have never asked him to lead your life, you should know that he is the ultimate giver of the backstage pass as it were. For it was Jesus who offers us all an all-area access path to God. He not only can take you and me behind the curtain and give us a backstage pass, he tore the curtain in two.

Here’s what I mean:

Up to and during the lifetime of Jesus, the holy temple in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life. The temple was the place where animal sacrifices were carried out and worship according to the Law of Moses was followed faithfully. Hebrews 9:1-9 tells us that in the temple a veil separated the Holy of Holies—this was the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence—and it was separated from the rest of the temple where people had access. This signified that mankind was separated from God by sin. Only the high priest was permitted to pass beyond this veil, and only once each year to enter into God’s presence for all of Israel and make atonement for their sins.

But upon Jesus’ death, this is what we are told:

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.
– Matthew 27:50-51

From then on, access to God was not just for the high priest or the elite, all-area access was given to anyone, any one of us, who approached or approaches God in the name of Jesus. Backstage Pass, all-area access granted.

If you’ve never come to God in the name of Jesus, I’d invite you to do so. If you are a follower of Jesus, at whatever point you find yourself this morning, we’d invite you to take your next step.


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