At Gateway Church in Austin, we are getting a preview of what is to come for Gateway this fall.
Last week, our senior pastor, John Burke, shared that we are going to be leveraging our 20th anniversary as a church on Sept 23 as a celebration of what God has done, but also as an opportunity to “relaunch” our church into a new era.
The theme this fall is “Love Everyone Life By Life” which is simply God’s plan for changing the world — it’s been the fuel of the past 20 years, and it’s meant to be the marching orders for the next 20!
Be sure to join us for our Sept 23 celebration at the HEB center!
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
HERE IS THE AUDIO OF THE MESSAGE I SHARED:
HERE ARE THE NOTES FROM THE MESSAGE BY JUSTIN MCCARTY:
THE INVITATION TO THE FEAST
You know there is something special about getting an invitation isn’t there? Well, today, I have some invitations and they are for you… to be precise, just a few of you. I know most of you come to sit and listen, but Sundays are meant to be interactive. The more we put into our time on Sundays, the more we get from our time together – actively listening, singing, having a conversation with others, praying, serving and so on. 🙂 Today I am going to add a new element for 5 of you. Take a moment to look under your seats right now, and see if you have an invitation taped to the bottom of your seat (or see one on the bottom of an empty seat nearby), then open it and do precisely what it says.
Welcome to my table! Today, I bring you good news of great joy!
I have invited you here to share something with you.
I am an evangelist (simply means “enthusiastic advocate”).
Since moving to Austin almost 8 years ago, I have been introduced to all the fantastic food we have in this community; in particular, I have become an ardent supporter of some local restaurants. One in particular is Kerbey Lane.
Some of you may be long-time Austinites — and I want to remind you of the treasure we’ve been given. Others of you are relatively new to the area and haven’t yet been converted to the glories of Kerbey. Today, I invite you to taste and see that Kerbey is good…
As they feast, check this out:
Jesus [told] this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. Luke 14:16-23 NLT
Jesus tells this story to create a picture of what life is like in relationship with God. Living in the love of God like we described last week — is a feast to be enjoyed/savored and everyone is invited — no exceptions.
HUNGRY FOR LOVE
Strange isn’t? Because have you noticed that pretty much everyone you meet is starving for love? I don’t mean the kind of love that is super popular in our world right now; the kind of love that is often a synonym for “you make me happy” feeling — and when you don’t, I don’t love you anymore. That kind of love is everywhere and easily accessible yet quickly fading.
I mean, we are starving for a real, lasting, accept-me-as-I-am-even-when-I’m-not-really-that-lovable, I’m-utterly-committed-to-you kind of love. Underneath all the failed relationships, one night stands, volumes of divorces, and billions of unhappy lives, is a desire to be truly loved. We want that kind of love to be real — and so we search for it, we endure so many betrayals looking for it, we try to manufacture it if we can’t find it. We are hungry for real love.
I think that’s part of the reason why our world is captivated by self-sacrificing love when we see it. A love that truly cares about its object — no strings attached. Examples of people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa — they seem otherworldly. When we catch glimpses of it in real people in the media — a parent sacrificing themselves for a child, a stranger defending another stranger, a parent forgiving the person who murdered their child — it mesmerizes us.
• Can that be true?
• Could anyone ever really love me like that?
But when the invitation into God’s love comes, most people end up making excuses, like the people in Jesus’ parable. We keep starving ourselves, all the while, God’s love is an extravagant feast and the table is open to all.
Jesus came to reveal the heart of God in a way that is meant to stop us in our tracks:
When we were utterly powerless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:6-8 NLT
Our message, as Gateway Church, and the invitation that is embedded at the heart of it is that you are loved by the God of the Universe; you need not starve one moment longer!
The death and resurrection of Jesus proves the extent and power of God’s love for you. It’s the feast your heart is hungry for. But it’s not just for you — it’s for everyone. And as each person experiences the love of God for themselves — that love moves through them and it begins to change the world. The more satisfied you are in the love of God, they more you are compelled to share it with someone else; it’s too good to keep to yourself! One life at a time, the love of God moves from one person to another. That is what it means to “love everyone life by life”. That was Jesus’ plan and it’s how his message has moved through history to you here today.
ACTS: LIFE BY LIFE
The Book of Acts records this progression of life by life. Jesus first demonstrated his love to his disciples — they were witnesses to the cross and resurrection and could not keep it to themselves. Here’s one of their early quotes, when confronted by the local authorities to keep quiet about Jesus and His message:
But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” – Acts 4:19-20 NLT
That is the sound of someone satisfied at the feast — do what you will, I’m going to tell other people they can find the food they are looking for here!
- It moved from men like Peter and John, to a guy named Barnabas (read about him in Acts 4:36).
- Barnabas was so changed by the love of God that he once went out on a limb and vouched for a guy named Saul, who had previously tried to imprison and execute Christians, but seemed like he was turning over a new life.
- Saul experienced the love of God through Barnabas and others, so much so that you really couldn’t think of him as the same guy, so they started calling him a different name — Paul. Paul couldn’t keep silent about the feast of God’s love, so he got a passport and started traveling internationally with Barnabas and others, just to share it with more people!
- Paul ended up connecting with a young guy named Timothy on one of his trips, and Timothy was overtaken by the love of God — he took the invitation to the feast.
- Timothy went along with Paul on his journeys and they ended up sharing the message of Jesus with a guy named Titus, who responds to the love of God.
This is just the story — the movement of love that Jesus began 2000 years ago just rolls like a wave, moving life by life by life. It still happens that way!
This is what God has done over the past 20 years at Gateway. But it’s what He is inviting us all into as we turn the corner into the next 20! You haven’t missed out! At one point, John and his wife, Kathy, were the only 2 Gatewayers and then the Beasleys and the Dishingers along with one small group. 20 years later, there are over 5000 of us in 4 locations (3 in Austin)! What might God unleash in Austin if we simply took the mission of “loving everyone life by life” seriously? Maybe you’re wondering, what does loving everyone life by life actually look like?
LOVE LOOKS LIKE…
Just like there were different people throughout the book of Acts [referring to table tents], there are lots of different things that “loving everyone life by life” might look like at different times. This is what we’re going to be diving into in our fall series, but let me give you a quick preview:
Sometimes love looks like praying for someone. John challenged us last week to identify 20 people that we might want to “invite to the feast of God’s love” and begin praying for them. Why pray? Glad you asked — we did a great 3-week series in June called “Why Pray” — go watch that! What God is doing in someone’s life is the most important thing, and through our prayers, our hearts come into alignment with what God is doing. Not only does God respond to our prayers to move in their hearts, He also changes ours.
One of the things you see throughout the book of Acts is that the love of God was shared when people connected on a relational level. A shared meal, a conversation, an interaction where you got to know each other. Love may look like spending time with another person, inviting them to coffee, expressing care to them in the form of quality time. Most of the time before we can help them experience the feast of God’s love, they need to know us, see our hearts, feel connected to us. Who might you connect with in a deeper way this fall?
If our world is captivated by self-sacrificing love, perhaps loving everyone life by life might look like an act of service for someone God places in your path. A gift card, a mowed lawn, an errand on someone else’s behalf, a radical act of generosity — who knows? He’ll give you opportunities to practice if you’re looking for them.
When we gather together as a church, one of the things we are trying to do with music, video, teaching, etc. is to put the feast of God’s love on display. Our goal would be that you know what’s cooking when you walk in — but it’s not just for you. Like the Sermon on the Mount, our Sunday services are meant to be a place where you can invite someone in your life that needs to experience Jesus for themselves. We’ve stripped out as much of the traditionally “churchy” stuff that might get in their way, in hopes of them encountering the love of God for themselves. Don’t just come on Sundays for what God has for you — who else can you share this with?
We believe that you’ll take that to heart which is why we are working to expand the reach of Gateway. John referred to the expansion of Gateway networks — an organic way to create relationships and share the love of God with others.
Our goal is to create 20 new Networks across all 3 campuses as we step into this anniversary year. Also, I think you should know — we have plans for 2 campuses on the radar, slated for launch in fall of 2019!
The goal isn’t to grow bigger, but to create more ways to care for the next person. We want to share what we have here to others where they live! Our city needs more places where they can “come as they are” – no matter their background or where they may be in their spiritual journey and discover a loving and diverse community and experience new life in Jesus.
Through campuses and networks, we are trying to support you in inviting the people that God has already put in your life. Campuses in particular create more local opportunities for people to get to the feast; removes obstacles like traffic and driving (reduces excuses to the feast!) More details at 20 Year celebration!
You see Gateway, you have helped fast-growing Austin feel more like a small town (like it used to) because of how you have welcomed others. We never want to get to the point where we close the doors not letting new people in!
This is also the heart behind creating the 20th Anniversary Celebration. The goal isn’t to pat ourselves on the back, it’s to create a conversation with the city of Austin about the feast. It’s why we are handing out yard signs and car window decals — what if you could wind up in a conversation with a neighbor or a friend, in a grocery store parking lot or at work, about what it is?
“That’s the heartbeat of God and the heartbeat of our church. You’d be so welcome to be there. I’d be glad to buy a ticket for you, or you can get one online. You’d be amazed at what God is still up to in our world in real people’s lives. Come check it out!”
That is love — inviting someone to a place where you know their hunger will be satisfied.
In fact, that’s why you all can’t stay here at the table any longer — I want to equip you to go out and share the news of what you’ve experienced here. Going to equip you with Kerbey Lane gift cards — go tell someone what you’ve experienced and invite them to the feast!
For all the ways you can communicate God’s love to someone, there’s something very important about pointing to Jesus. He is what distinguishes this love from all other kinds of love; He is the example of God’s self-sacrificing love that will change someone’s world. Perhaps God will tap you on the shoulder this fall to share the story of what Jesus has done, and specifically, what He has done in your life. Sharing your story is a stunning way to love someone — and it happens best, life by life. What if this scripture was descriptive of all of our hearts, Gateway?
God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” – 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 NLT
With every conversation, every prayer, every act of service, every invitation — you and I are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is making his appeal through us! The feast is here. Jesus says there is more than enough room — there are empty seats with someone’s name on it. You have so many different opportunities to let the movement of God’s love flow through you to them!
As we close, I want to challenge you with 3 questions:
1. Am I encountering the love of God for myself?
Your effectiveness as an “evangelist” (enthusiastic advocate!) is directly tied to your satisfaction at the feast.
Are you at the table with God, living in his love? Not perfectly, but regularly eating and drinking God’s love in a way that nourishes your soul?
Some of you — have you ever encountered the love of God for yourself? Have you received the invitation to the feast? You can, here and today.
Immediately following this service we are celebrating baptism — you will hear story after story of people who have received the invitation to the feast and have put their trust in Christ.
Come talk with our baptism prayer counseling team, have a conversation, if you need to make that decision they will help you.
If you need to get baptized as a public declaration that you have taken your seat at the feast, we would love to celebrate that with you.
2. Who do I want to encounter the love of God for themselves?
It’s not enough to experience it for yourself; who are the empty seats at the table in your life? Perhaps as you watch and listen at the baptisms in the courtyard, pray and ask God — who do I want to experience that? God, who are you putting in my life that I could move toward this fall? Begin praying now… identify 20. Maybe you have given up on someone you love. Who in your life needs more hope? More peace? More love? We live in a city that can be really lonely. Who in your life needs community? There’s enough room at God’s table for all of those and more!
3. How am I going to let the movement of God’s love flow through me to others?
What action steps could you begin taking? Praying, connecting, inviting, serving, sharing? If nothing else, would you invite God to begin giving you opportunities to let that love flow through you — life by life to other people?
Consider yourself warned. “Loving everyone life by life” is where we are going this fall. It’s coming soon! Don’t forget that the feast is fantastic — and there’s plenty of room.