Family – The One Where It Takes a Village

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series on the Family of God.

At some point our relationships will become strained, but we aren’t meant to face these challenges alone.

DIGGING DEEPER:

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

Discussion Questions

Message Audio:

Message Video:

Message Notes:

Well happy Mother’s Day!

I hope you feel loved and appreciated on this day. And kids – whether young or old, let’s make sure our Moms feel appreciated all year long!

You know why?

Because all babies are born self-centered and demanding as if all the world revolves around them!

Moms and Dads have one of the the toughest jobs on the planet

Did you know that scientists have now proven that babies lie as early as 6 months of age.  I think my kids are overachievers!

From the moment my daughter was born, I knew parenting was going to be tough! She came out screaming!  Not like a baby screaming but more like a velociraptor!  Whaa Whaa!

At 2 she would scream at me to pick out her outfits. She couldn’t talk, but she could accessorize. She was such a powerful little leader, we began to realize she was going to grow up to be the next Billy Graham or a dictator of a small country.

At 3, I asked her if she wanted to be a leader when she grew up. She said: “I’m already a leader.”  True.  Older brother Caleb watching Sportscenter then cartoons and then hands her the remote!  Pray for my son.

At 4, asked her if she wanted to be President of the United States. “Yes, I want to be on the dollar.”  Sounds like a politician – ambitious and vain.

Same summer, Caleb got baptized so asked Trevi if she wanted to follow Jesus.  “I already told Jesus I would be his leader.”  Not what I was hoping she would say. Our daughter was starting her own world religion where Jesus followed her! Pray for my daughter.

So we kicked her out of the house to protect our very kind and quiet son from her influence.

Of course not!

We stopped feeding her until she changed her mind.

Of course not!

We loved her just as she was. We tried to guide her, and we had hard conversations with her.

At age 6, she decided to follow Jesus. I was so excited to hear she had made that decision with her Mom on the way to Trader Joe’s. I let her know that her next step was to be baptized, and that is when Caleb said she had already baptized herself in the bathtub.

So we had another hard conversation with her.

Just this past week she graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara and more importantly she loves Jesus.

But I have to tell you as a parent with children who are now young adults. We could not have done it without our church family.

This family of God became like their cousins, their aunties, their uncles, their bonus grandparents, and their friends. There were times when our kids weren’t listening to us, but they would listen to the adult volunteers in youth group or the speaker at youth camp.

There are a lot of things we can teach our kids as moms and our dads, but there are a lot of things they will learn from others.

Somewhere along the way I realized that parenting is just another word for discipleship. You may know that word if you grew up going to church. It’s another way to describe intentional spiritual growth. In the Jewish culture a rabbi had disciples. Disciples wanted to learn everything they could to become like the rabbi.

The goal of parenting is to turn selfish, dependent little people into selfless and independent adults who can one day do the same with their kids, and others that God brings into their lives.

The goal of discipleship is to turn selfish, dependent followers of Jesus into selfless interdependent followers of Jesus who can help others in their journey.

This idea of discipleship comes from what we call The Great Commission, it is the mission Jesus gave us before he ascended into heaven.

“18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””Matthew 28:19-20 NIV

There is so much good stuff in here.

●  Jesus reigns over heaven and earth and Jesus is always with us. 

●  Even when things are crazy we can know there is always hope and we are not alone.

●  So until our time is up on this earth, we have a mission as we are going to make disciples then we baptize them and then we help them live the way of Jesus.

Discipleship is the dictionary defined as “a follower of another in doctrines and precepts,”

As followers of Jesus, as his disciples, the goal is to grow to think like Jesus and to act like Jesus and to help others in areas where we are strong and to get help in areas where we are weak.

This is the beauty and intention of what God wanted for the family of God!

We can disciple our kids and we do this with other people’s kids.

They can be elementary age, teens, young adults, adults, middle age adults, or senior adults.

Some of you are doing that! You have been holding our babies, helping our preschoolers discover God loves them, helping our elementary age kids start to follow Jesus, helping our teens get through the challenges of a broken world, or leading groups where you are helping other young adults, couples, or adults in areas where they need encouragement.

Thank you. Words are not enough to express my gratitude.

At the same time, you have helped my kids, my wife, and me grow to know God more!

And you know the beauty of serving others because of the ways God has blessed you and helped you grow in the process.

We help parent other people’s kids just like we want others to help us parent our kids.

To become like Jesus takes an entire lifetime. There are always more ways to grow!

In an article by Jayson Bradley from Cru, he writes:

“Discipleship is a journey of intentional decisions leading to maturity in your relationship with Jesus so that you become more like Him in your attitudes, focus and ultimately behavior…. This is a lifelong commitment to follow God with your whole self and to both learn from and eventually teach others about how to follow Him.”

As the family of God, we help each other grow.

It takes a village to raise a child.

It takes a village to help us become like Jesus.

In other words, it takes a church family to raise up mature Christ-followers!

The challenge is we all come with a level of brokenness and rough edges and things do not always go the way we want them to go.

If you are in a good time in life, you need to set up your village before you need it. The big bad wolf will come at some point, we need to have a solid foundation of family in place.

If you are in a tough spot in life, it is not too late to lean into your faith and lean into community. Too many walk away in the struggle when in reality we all need this more than we realize.

So let’s talk about 1) why we need the family of God, 2) how to grow within the family of God, and 3) how to help others grow in the family of God.

If you aren’t following us on instagram or Facebook, you really need to do so. Our team does such a great job sharing what we do together. You can share, like, and comment on these posts to help your friends and family and neighbors know about Gateway.

Here’s one of my favorites:

Gateway Instagram: looking for a church but found family

So first, why do we need a village?

Let’s talk about why we need a village- our church family.

At some point our relationships will become strained, but we aren’t meant to face these challenges alone.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: 9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

We should never choose to suffer in silence.

Single people need other singles and married friends

Married people need other couples and single friends

Dating people need single and married people

We say this often but there are no lone wolves in the family of God.

Christianity doesn’t work in an individualized, private, segmented way of doing life.

We moved here from Los Angeles when I was 37.

I had been an executive pastor at a church called Mosaic.

I had helped start several campuses and came here to help Gateway do the same.

I thought I had a lot to bring to the table, but in reality, I also had a lot of room to grow.

In these past 13 years, I have grown so much because of this church family.

And there are ways I am asking God to help me grow now.

The closer you grow to God the more you realize how broken and how much you need Him.

I have been in groups with others who encourage me, prayer for me, listen to me, challenge me, and help me. And I have seen God work in miraculous ways, answering tear-filled prayers.

Together we have experienced God’s presence and healing and goodness.

At the same time, we have grieved together, and we have celebrated together.

We’ve seen our kids become young adults.

We’ve seen people we have come to love move away.

Together we survived the pandemic, financial hardships, election cycles, social unrest, protests, the solar eclipse, having to boil our water, not having water, the icepocalypse, and all the other things that have happened in our crazy world!

And now, for the first time in a long time, we have 3 staff members who we love stepping out of their roles.

John Lee is now part of a church plant in Northwest Austin.

Fortunately both Amber and Sulinda and their families are staying with us at Gateway South, but it will be different. They have been behind the scenes and front and center when it comes to so many of the special moments we’ve had together.

As they both independently felt God calling them to step down from staff, they both sensed a promise from God that they would have a season of rest.

Now that may seem odd as they are both moving into different jobs, but being on staff can be exhausting – especially as Moms.

Some jobs let you clock in and clock out, but ministry sometimes can be 24/7.

As you see them, thank them for jobs well done and for the ways they have helped you or those you love come to faith, navigate a tough time, or grow to know and experience God more.

As you think of them, pray for them and their families as they adjust to new jobs and find their new ways to serve here with us.

We need to proactively step into a village that will love us; find a tribe that will fight with us and for us.

●  We need people that will lovingly correct us when we are making unhealthy decisions morally.

●  We need friends to restore us and guide us when infidelity or conflict threatens to destroy our family.

●  We need a tribe to surround us and care for us when we are dealing with the loss of someone we love or the pain of infertility.

●  We need mentors that remind us that quarter life crises and mid-life crises won’t last forever and remind us to trust God not our feelings.

Let me give you an example of how this works.

I am a workaholic who struggles with anxiety and control issues.

The men in my Restore group on Monday nights are helping me make real progress.

If you have ever been to Restore you know that it works when you work it.

That means when you are triggered or tempted you learn how to “work the steps.”

For me often that means when my mind is going in dark directions or I am overwhelmed with something happening, instead of going to my common “escape” routes – screens, sugar, or shouting, I remind myself that I am powerless and my life has become unmanageable

And I believe that a Power greater than me can restore me to sanity.

And then a make the decision to turn my will and my life and my circumstances over to the care of God.

Listen to how the Bible describes steps 1 and 2

“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

And now step 3 from the Scriptures:

9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. – Romans 10:9-10

To be saved doesn’t just mean a chance to be with God in heaven once you die. That’s how a lot of us heard was the message of the Bible. The Gospel or good news is so much more than that!

  • God created humanity in His image to co-rule with Him.
  • With the freedom God gave us, we chose to go our own way.
  • Yet He made a way for us by coming to rescue us.
  • Jesus came to us, lived a perfect life, taught with authority, included the outcasts, willingly died on the cross taking upon Himself the brokenness, evil, sin, and wickedness of humanity, and then He rose from the dead, ascending to the right hand of our Heavenly Father where He reigns.
  • God’s Kingdom is already here!
  • We can experience the fullness of the life He has to offer us right now when we choose to surrender our lives to Him and His leadership!
  • When we do, we experience forgiveness and receive His Spirit!
    Our identity is now in Christ and Christ is within us!
  • As a result, we can experience His presence and His peace and His joy today and every day!
  • We can experience the beauty of eternal life with Him right now!
  • And with that comes purpose! We are now members of God’s family and messengers to the world around us through our words and through our actions – helping others find forgiveness and the new life and the new purpose that we have found in Jesus.
  • We can bring more of heaven to earth right now – through acts of kindness and serving those who suffer injustice.
  • And one day, God will make all things right!

So instead of yelling at my family or another driver on the road or trying to escape the situation pretending it wasn’t happening by binging on the news or sports or a show or binging on food, I remind myself.

·  I cannot handle this on my own.

·  God is with me. I am in Christ and Christ is in me.

·  So I surrender.

That surrender often turns into prayer and then even reading the Scriptures.

Maybe you have been to Restore, but you haven’t worked through the entire workbook…

Or maybe you’ve been through it in the past but you are aware of new issues you want to overcome…

Or maybe you’ve never been.

I used to think recovery was just for people who struggled with alcohol addiction or drug addiction. In reality, the 12 steps are spiritual disciplines from the Bible that can help you overcome any hurt, habit, or hang up.

Monday nights can be a truly transformative experience.

I have seen people overcome anxiety, anger, co-dependence, pornography, smoking, control issues, a feuding marriage, and so many other unhealthy patterns.

Life hits hard, but our church family can help us get back up.

Our church family can fight for us and fight with us against the darkness that comes against us.

One of the saddest things as pastors during covid was how many people silently resigned from relationships.

●  Couples divorcing and never bringing their issues into the light

●  Singles leaving groups and driven into isolation

●  Dating couples moving in together out of convenience and loneliness, only to discover that acting like you’re married without the commitment will quickly jade you with disillusionment.

Life hits hard, but our church family can help us belong, heal, grow, and serve.

Singles

Don’t believe the lie that you are less than

Don’t sacrifice God’s eternal best for temporary pleasure

Married people

Don’t believe that it will always be this hard and it’s never going to change

Parents

Don’t be so consumed with the difficulty of raising children that it embitters you to the beauty of life.

So how do we do that?

How can we be discipled and disciple others?

I recommend both the formal and the informal ways to go about this.

A path that works is one that is Jesus-centered and community-oriented so that you have help moving forward with accountability and encouragement.

That’s why on Sundays we often say, if you don’t have your group in this season, choose one today!

We have belong groups made up of people in similar stages of life.

We have life groups and Gateway U groups to help you grow.

We have serve groups that serve on Sundays or in the city. We have opportunities and a real need to serve with kids and teens.

We have support groups and restore groups to help you heal.

Start with one in this season.

Before summer choose one to join and experience in the month of June.

So how do we do this informally?

We should grow to the place where we have a mentor and we have a mentee.

An easy way to remember what happens in those times together is using the acronym BLESS. We use this acronym to help us remember how to lead someone to follow Jesus, but it can also be how we help someone to grow to become more like Jesus.

A church planter named Paul who wrote most of the letters in the New Testament describes how to begin a relationship with God through Jesus.

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10

Later he was writing to friends who were following Jesus, but they were in a very spiritual environment where everyone was making up their own spiritual path. He writes a beautiful description of why Jesus is the pre-eminent and only one to truly follow and then he makes this statement.

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:6-7

So just as we began a relationship with God through Jesus by grace through faith, we should so also live by grace through faith.

When we choose to follow Jesus, we should remind ourselves of who we are in Christ. We are forgiven. We are willing to forgive. We are kind. We are faithful. We are gentle. We are more and more like Jesus. Sometimes we act like the old version of ourselves instead of the new version! We forget and community can be there to help us in that.

So then just as we BLESS our neighbor in order to help them follow Jesus, once they start following Jesus, we keep BLESSing them.

BLESS

Begin with prayer – try to pray for them daily. The more you know about them, the more your can know how to pray for them.

Listen – ask questions about their life. Get to know them. Actively and empathetically listen.

Engage – spend time with them. Share a meal. Invite them over. Make this a regular thing. Discuss passages of Scripture. Pray together.

Serve – look for ways to help them as you might discover specific ways to do that in your conversations or in your time praying for them.

Share your story – after hearing their story, share what you have discovered in our own life in similar situations. Share how God has spoken to you in the past or even recently through the Scriptures, through prayer, in worship, through miraculous intervention, or through the still small voice.

A workaholic who struggles with anxiety and control issues.

The men in my Restore group on Monday nights are helping me make real progress.

30th Anniversary

When I proposed on Good Friday of 1993 I asked her: “Would you spend the rest of your life with me serving the Lord.” She said: “Mm hmm.” Not the resounding answer I had hoped for so then I asked her: “Would you marry me?” and then she gave me an emphatic: “yes!”

It wasn’t until last year that she shared with me that the reason she wasn’t so willing to give me a “yes” to the first question was she wasn’t sure she wasn’t willing to spend the rest of her life with me serving the Lord if we weren’t married! I asked the questions in the wrong order!

Even still, it is so hard to believe we have now been married for 30 years!

For years, Deborah has been wanting to visit Bruges and Florence – two amazing cities whose heydays were in the 1400s! We ate amazing chocolates and waffles in Bruges, Belgium and amazing pizza and gelato in Florence, Italy. In both cities we visited palaces which are now museums and saw lots of art. We aren’t fully enlightened to what makes art great or what makes art a masterpiece so at one point we bought a guide book to tell us which paintings and sculptures were masterpieces. We then took pictures of the paintings whose pictures were in the guidebook. As the one with the guidebook, at one point I realized I could just tell Deborah any painting and she would take its picture. “There! The one with the ducks! There! The one with the all the colors! There! The one with the goats!”

And then as I mentioned we flew from Florence to LAX where we met my Mom and son and coming in on another flight, Trevi’s best friend since middle school. We then drove to Santa Barbara for Trevi’s graduation – which was amazing!

The plan was then to celebrate Trevi’s graduation at Disneyland, but then she ended up moving one of her classes to the May term so Trevi couldn’t go. I thought we would then cancel only to realize I think it was more for my Mom and my wife! Look at these two! They were having the time of their lives!  [PICS] 

I don’t know if either one of them have ever hugged me as hard they are hugging each other in this picture!

In line with my wife and I in lane 1 and my Mom and Caleb in lane 2, but then when it was time to get on the ride, my wife went to sit with my Mom! It’s not that was like a Scrooge McDuck. I was having fun – you know like a normal human being. But my Mom is next level at Disneyland! As Deborah was to paintings in museums, my Mom was to these rides! She tried to take pictures of every scene in every ride! We rented a wheelchair for my Mom. She’s very active, but we walk about 7 to 9 miles each day at Disneyland plus having her in a wheelchair gets us to the front of the line sometimes. You would have thought my Mom was on parade! She was at about the same level as kids in their strollers, and she just had to wave at each and every one of them!

Well then, my family came home and then I went to Minneapolis for a workshop I was doing for pastors there, some of whom I am coaching.

As busy and exhausting as these last 16 days, I have come back refreshed and ready for this next season of life and ministry.

We have such a remarkable and loving God! I had so many miraculous moments and experiences with the Lord on this trip! He spoke to me through the Scriptures, through conversations with other people, through times in prayer, through experiences we had, through the ancient artwork, churches, and relics, and even through the books I was reading – one for spiritual growth and one for fun.

I have come back with a resolve to be who God wants me to be – to pursue holiness, to pursue Him and experience Him more, and to help you do the same.

I want to become a disciple who makes disciples and help you to do the same.

I want to become more like Jesus and experience more of His presence, His peace, and His love and help you to do the same.

Want to join me in something more?

Want to experience more of God’s love and help others do the same?

If so, then consider, who is in your village? 

When you say “yes” to Jesus you are now part of the family of God! 

Coming on Sundays is a start, but who do you know and who knows you?

In this season, which group are you in?

In June, I am starting two groups to reset our hearts and focus on prayer – one after the 9:15am service and one after the 11:15am service. It will be just 30 minutes each week and just 4 of the 5 Sundays, if you want to join me in this, send me an email with Prayer as the Subject. My email is eric@gatewaychurch.com. There will be some homework during the week, but I am excited about what God is going to do in us. 

Once we’ve said yes to God, like it or not we say yes to His family. And yes it is messy, it is broken at times, but when done right, there’s far more beauty, wholeness, and as we will learn next week- healing available.

So many of you this past Friday, for example, decided to enrich your marriage and be a part of the Marriage event with other couples.

You will only ever change and transform to the level of intentionality you place into Christ-centered community and connectivity.

Transformation does not happen on an island; it happens in a village…in a tribe.

You can’t tackle life all alone. You can’t even do it just you and your spouse, or you and your roommates, or you and your kids. You need the arsenal and the army that is provided when brothers and sisters in Christ- THE CHURCH- link arms with you and fight for you.

So practically- maybe you’re not ready for a group.

Maybe that is intimidating right now, we get that. But can you find one person, just one, that you can start meeting with and walking with for the sole purpose of growing spiritually? And as you trust God in that step He will give you the courage to expand your definition of family and village.

See- If you truly want to follow Jesus, truly be his disciple…You are going to have to do what He did. And Him being the God-incarnate, still chose to do life in the context of community. You and I are not God. We are finite. And it should be humbling to us, that the infinite one still chose to immerse himself and his followers in a tribe.

That my friends is how we change the world…together.

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