“Best Summer Ever: Love One Another”

We kicked off a new series called “Best Summer Ever” at Gateway in Austin!

What will make this the best summer ever won’t be the destinations we go or the pictures we take, but rather the people we do life with- those we impact and those that impact us. Love is perhaps the most used and misused word in the world. Today we explore what love means in the context of a Christian community.

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own or get together with your group, spiritual running partners, or family to talk through what you are learning.

Digging Deeper

Message Video:

Message Audio:

Message Notes:

“How do I struggle with this?”

Ever been lonely? Felt left out or isolated?

In 2007, I had a stretch of loneliness I had never experienced before. I had been promoted into a role as an executive pastor so now all the guys at work I enjoyed serving with were now treating me differently. I was no longer their friend. I was their boss. 

My wife and I had not been on the same page about several things for several years – specifically parenting our kids and how much I was working.

And then she shared how she really felt: “I don’t want to be a pastor’s wife anymore.” It wasn’t that she didn’t feel called to be in ministry any longer. It was the fact that she was at home with two little kids who she felt like she was raising by herself because I was gone on 10 day trips from time to time and working long hours and on my laptop or phone when I was home. In her desperation, she felt like I needed to get a different job. 

Too many times I had said: “This is just a busy season.” “Just a busy season” had turned into a busy life.

She hoped maybe a new career for me would help.

I was really hurt. I thought we were in this together. And then compounding that, the people I was truly in it with were no longer in it with me.

When I called my parents or my brother for encouragement, they seemed to think the solution was to move back to Texas. I wasn’t interested in that at all.

I felt all alone.

Fortunately, after a few weeks of trying to figure it all out on my own, I shared with one of our pastors all I was feeling. He listened. I didn’t feel judged. I felt cared for. He pointed me back to Jesus and towards a counselor and affirmed my willingness to open up about our struggles.

“How do we all struggle with this?”

Our world is filled with broken relationships and loneliness.

Austin is now the 10th largest U.S. city, surpassing San Jose, CA, with an estimated population of 974,447. Most people don’t realize this since we are 4th largest in Texas! In 2021, the population of the Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown metropolitan area in the United States was about 2.35 million people, and yet like any other city or community, people struggle with loneliness and feeling disconnected.

In cities with millions of -people milling around, men and women go through their day without one meaningful interaction or even a single experience of human touch. We live in the midst of a crowd of lonely people.

Even in cities with millions of people all around, men and women go through their day without one meaningful interaction or even human touch.  Perhaps this is especially true in cities with millions of people.  We all assume that the people around us must have others in their lives when in reality the feeling of loneliness grows like a fog over their hearts.  

Several years ago, a middle aged gentleman was riding along a crowded subway train in New York City when he was instantly killed by a heart attack.  His body slumped over leaning next to the window.  For the next six hours, his lifeless body rode along without anyone noticing.  It wasn’t until the subway driver pulled into the station at the end of his shift, that paramedics were called to help this man who had stopped breathing.  Obviously, it was way too late.

While I was reading a book about Los Angeles after moving there I was not surprised to read that many people in Los Angeles live in isolation.  The book mentioned that people can live in the same place for 10 years and never know their neighbor’s name.  What did surprise me was the date the book was published: 1930.  The history of our city and cities around the world includes stories of millions of people who are lonely and depressed, alone even though they are surrounded by other people. Perhaps because there are so many people, we all assume that everyone we see must have a friend even though many do not.  We live in the midst of a crowd of loners.

The antidote to loneliness, isolation, or even not enjoying life is love. The world makes you think it’s all about romantic love – just “find your person,” but that’s not nearly enough!

Love is perhaps the most used and misused word in the world. Today we explore what love means in the context of a Christian community.

If we will ever truly change the world around us, it will require a love greater than our limitations.

“What does God say about this?”

During this series, we are looking at some of the “one another” verses in the Bible.

What will make this the best summer ever won’t be the destinations we go or the pictures we take, but rather the people we do life with- those we impact and those that impact us.

“One another” is two words in English, but it’s only one word in Greek: ἀλλήλων (ah-LAY-loan). It’s used 100 times in 94 New Testament verses. 47 of those verses give instructions to the church, and 60% of those instructions come from Paul.

Kissy-kissy? Yes! Four of the “one another” commands are about kissing. But with all due apologies to David Crowder and John Mark McMillan, these kisses are neither “sloppy, wet” nor “unforeseen.”

Unity. One third of the one-another commands deal with the unity of the church.

Humility. About 15% stress an attitude of humility and deference among believers.

Love. One third of them instruct Christians to love one another.

Love one another

For all of these “one another” verses in the Bible – go to https://overviewbible.com/one-another-infographic/

In Ancient Greek, there are 4 different words for love, and in C.S Lewis’s words “the greatest can’t stand without the least”

  • Storge– empathetic bond of affection
  • Phileo– the bond of friendship, or brotherly love
  • Eros– romantic love; being in love 
  • Agape– unconditional “God” love

When I first learned about this I was in college. My roommates and I lived together for 3 years and we created our own fraternity called Alpha Pi, the Agape Posse.

We were like any other fraternity – we did service hours, we hazed each other, and we even had a sweetheart, that’s what a fraternity calls a young woman they vote on each semester in order for her to bake us cookies.

What I learned from these guys was a glimpse of community I had never experienced before. Joe and Pete decided to outserve us, so at first Craig and I let them. It was nice having two guys willing to do our dishes and clean our apartment asking nothing in return.

Then one day I woke up late on a Saturday morning and I saw Pete scrubbing our toilet. That’s when I thought ok, that’s enough! I started with just deciding to clean our stuff but it turned into trying to out clean them! We never had a list of chores. We just tried to love the other guys by sacrificially serving each other!

Jesus said:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

So how did Jesus love us? How should we love others?

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:6-8

It is only until we realize and encounter the love of God as displayed on a Cross meant for you and me, that we can love others to our fullest potential

[A note for skeptics and seekers]: If you are wondering why this should have any bearing on your life if ‘I don’t believe this stuff’, it’s because it’s impossible to love the people in your life the way they deserve until you discover the unconditional love of God for yourself. You will only give them the best you have to offer, and that is contractual at best. But when you encounter the love of Jesus, you begin to lavish it on others even when they don’t deserve it.

We see this kind of love in the early church. It’s a love that bubbles over into the community around us.

Today is known around the world as Pentecost Sunday. On this day almost 2000 years ago, the early church was born when the Spirit of God came like fire and the believers spoke in the languages of all those around them who had come to celebrate Pentecost which was a day celebrating the fruit of all their labor and a day commemorating when God gave the people of Israel the 10 Commandments.

And now listen to this description of the early church.

Acts 2:47

The early church were…

praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

This is a remarkable description!

Every single day, lives were being changed! People were discovering that God loved them, came for them, died for them, rose for the dead for them, and now can live within! Every single day!!

What is also remarkable is how the people are described.  “praising God” AND “enjoying the favor of all the people”

I know people who are known for praising God, but they are not the same ones that enjoy the favor of all the people. 

I know people who enjoy the favor of others, but they are not the same people who are known for praising God.

This seems like an oxymoron: two phrases that do not belong together like “jumbo shrimp” or “cafeteria food” or “Mavericks Basketball.”

So how did this happen?!

Let’s go backwards with this story. Like Memento!

Start with the end and start go further out and then further out and then further out. Like a satellite panning out.

We need a little more context.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. -Acts 2:42-47

Acts 2:42-47 shows us that because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and through the work of the Spirit, LOVE became the primary ethic of Christ-followers. Everything has to pass through the filter of LOVE

We can learn from the early church in order to experience the fullness of life with Jesus.

They were devoted to God AND they were devoted to each other.

The result: they experienced the miraculous AND lives were transformed.

It is hard to distinguish between their devotion to God and their devotion to others. Loving God and loving people are interconnected. You cannot love God without loving others. And let’s be honest, to truly love others, we need God’s help!

But let’s take a look at how they were devoted to God and how they were devoted to others.

So how were they devoted to God?

  • the apostles’ teaching about God
  • prayer
  • sent out into relationships – in the lives of other believers and those who did not yet believe
  • willing to trust God and sacrifice for others

How were they devoted to each other?

  • gathered in the temple courts with each other (large groups)
  • shared meals in their homes (small groups)
  • fellowship

Let’s pause for a moment and define what “fellowship” means.

Growing up I thought “fellowship” was like singing Kumbaya around campfire. Never truly understood what this meant until a movie came out called Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Any Lord of the Rings fans?

I love that movie! I think it is because I think I am related to hobbits. My mom is 4’11” tall, and she has hairy feet.

  • In CA, 4’9” requires a booster seat
  • Children 10th % height and weight, 90th % head
  • Bobbleheads
  • When crawling, dragging their heads beside them
  • Hadn’t been for the C-section, they would still be in there.
  • Asked the doctor for advice about Caleb’s height. “You and your wife are little people”

Fellowship as seen in that film meant hobbits, dwarves, elves, and humans teaming together to save civilization! These creatures who normally did not like each other were united for a common cause.

Fellowship is not what Christ-followers do for each other. Fellowship is what we do together for the world!

Our cause is bringing hope to humanity – and His name is Jesus!

Church is not a building. Church is not a service. The Church is made up of all of those who follow Jesus! 

Erwin McManus used to say: “The Church is not here to meet our needs. We are the Church, and we are here to meet the needs of the world!”

So we can see that the early church was devoted to God and devoted to their community. There’s a fourth way the early church was devoted to each other. They sacrificed as individuals for the good of others.

How were they devoted to each other?

  • gathered in the temple courts with each other (large groups)
  • shared meals in their homes (small groups)
  • fellowship
  • sacrificed to meet the needs of others

As each person dove deep into their relationship with God, He led each to sacrifice for the needs of others.

Miraculously, as the early church chose to fully trust Jesus – even with their belongings and finances – He worked through them to see their family, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and even complete strangers transformed through their generosity.

Consider for a second that phrase we started with today: the early church was “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” 

Seeing the greater context shows how this was possible.

Remember: they were the first people on the planet to believe that God came to earth as a baby, grew up, lived a perfect life, started traveling with a group of followers, taught with authority, healed people with diseases and illnesses, and even died on the cross to heal our spiritual sickness – our sin that separates us from God. Rising from the dead He promised to send His Spirit to live within all of those who choose to follow Him.

This was remarkable! They were the first to believe this! Rather than being confused or even repelled by their beliefs, the people around them were intrigued by their generosity.

They might have unusual beliefs, but they met the needs of others through their financial sacrifice!

Cause creates community.  

Often we find ourselves connecting with others we would have never even met had we not played in the same band, performed in the same play, or played on the same football team.  When we pursue the same cause, our shared experiences and shared goals bring us together.  

Christ’s cause creates supernatural community.  

“What should you do about this?”

How does your love for God show up in your day-to-day life? 

Does the love you demand from the world exist when you look in the mirror?

The world needs you to become who God created you to be!

We can bring more of heaven to earth when we connect more deeply with the Creator of heaven and earth.

Here’s one very specific way you can grow to bring more of heaven to earth – more love to our broken world – the BLESS Challenge! 

As we go through this series – the Best Summer Ever which leads up to the Church Has Left the Building on July 2nd, we want to encourage you to do the following:

  • Read a chapter from the book of Acts
  • Subscribe to YouTube.com/GatewayChurchAustin to watch the devotional from some of our staff and church leaders.
  • Look for ways to BLESS your family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends!

“How can we all live this out together?”

Our world needs us!

Our world needs our service. 

What we do on Sundays creates the space for people whose marriages are in a tough place, kids and teens who are struggling, young adults and singles who are looking for community and purpose. Serving on Sundays also helps people go from a good place to a great place!

Serving in the city with our Food Pantry, through our partners like Mission of Hope, Education Connection, and the Refugee network makes a genuine difference in people who may have never even attended church or even heard of Jesus.

I have a special guest I want to introduce to share with you another way we can be part of the solution to our broken world’s issues.

Jamie Schwarz– 2 minutes on her operations role

As we help bring justice to areas of injustice, help to those who are hurting, and kindness to those who have been knocked down – we are bringing love into our world.

➳ [GIVING Slide] – Gateway is made up of so many generous people who give towards what God is doing among us and through us in, and I want to invite you to join us on a journey of generosity to give financially to advance and multiply the work God is doing in our city and around the world. We give out of gratitude because of all that God has given us!

My family and I choose to give online monthly. If you would like to do that as well, you can set that up through texting the number on the screen, through the Gateway App, or at the website on the screen.  If you are a guest, there is no obligation to give. We are just so glad you are here!

This past week, we were on the news in regards to the closing of a government agency that helps refugee families who just moved here. You can watch the video clip on our website – gatewychurch.com

So you should know that when you give to Gateway, you can know a portion of what you give helps us help families like the one featured in the video on the local news.

Our world needs our generosity.

End of fiscal year at the end of the summer which is challenging as some people only give when they are in town.

We don’t receive governmental funds. We don’t receive funds from the other campuses. In fact, we contribute towards what we all do together. We are self-sustaining 

Since 2008, our campus has given over $1,250,000 to our Global Partners and Local Partners!

As we approach the end of our fiscal year – currently we are projected to come in at $37,000 in the red.

We have been giving $200,000 less than in 2019 so we have been cutting back to keep expenses under revenue.

Our prayer is to end this fiscal $100,000 in the black! This will get us closer to where we were in 2019. We want to be able to move all South Staff to full time

We have Momentum! We don’t have a Momentum problem but a resource problem! We need more volunteers and more financial resources to pull off what God has put on our heart for this next year starting on September 1st!

Would you pray about specific ways God may be wanting you to get involved?
Giving above and beyond what you currently give?

  • Some give more than 10% of your income
  • Some give when you can.
  • Many in between. 
  • If the 512 people who have given to God through Gateway South this fiscal year each gave $270 more than they currently are giving, we would reach our goal of $100,000 in the black.
  • More than likely, we will need those who give to give a bit more.
  • If those giving on occasion could give 10% of their income through the summer.
  • If those giving 10%, could give a one time gift above that before August 31.

Our world needs our voice.

BLESS is an acronym that describes a way to make a difference in the lives of those close to you. Begin with praying for them, Listen to them, Engage with them, Serve them, and Share your story with them when the opportunity arises or the time is right.

If we will ever truly change the world around us, it will require a love greater than our limitations.

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