January 7, 2024

Gateway Church Exists... Manuscript

SERMON TITLE: Gateway Church Exists...
TEXT: multiple
‌SPEAKER: Matt Heft
‌DATE: 1-7-24

Watch the sermon here
Sermon notes


Good morning and Happy New Year! My name is Matt Heft. I’m an elder here at Gateway Church and on most Sunday mornings, you’ll find my family and I worshiping over at the North Main Campus. I really appreciate the opportunities to be here at County Road 9 Campus with you, including last week, this week, and then next Sunday evening’s communion service. 

Before I get too far into my sermon, like Pastor Josh, I want to remind you that I love you, and God loves you too. It always feels like I’m stealing Josh’s line when I say that…but it is true and like Josh has said, no one ever hears that they are loved enough. 

This is now the third year in a row that I’ve gotten to preach on the first Sunday of January. At this point, if you keep showing up on the first Sunday of January, you know what you’re getting into, so I feel less sorry for you. 

Each time I’ve preached at the beginning of January, I’ve gone through Gateway Church’s discipleship process, you know, Worship, Connect, Serve, and Go and I would challenge us to grow in each of those areas, and then I’d recommend some resources to read or things you might do in the coming year. Instead of doing exactly that, I’m going to put a post on Gateway Church’s Facebook page later today letting you know some resources I plan on reading this year, and I’ll ask what books or resources you’re excited about reading this coming year. I hope you’ll comment and let me know what you plan on reading. And let me encourage you to keep that list somewhat flexible as we go through the next few weeks. Pastor Josh has some special sermons that might influence some of what you want to read in the coming year. 

I’ve titled my sermon this morning “Gateway Church exists dot dot dot”. What a cliffhanger, right? We hear this phrase at least once every Sunday morning during announcements. Many of us could finish the phrase in our sleep. Gateway Church exists to connect people to Jesus Christ and to one another. So why say, Gateway Church exists dot, dot, dot? Well, let’s go on a little journey together. 


We’re going to start out this morning in the book of Exodus. I’d love to have you looking there in your Bibles with me, and if you have access to a paper copy of the Bible, it might be easier to follow along, so if you would turn to Exodus 19. 

You may recall that early last year, Pastor Josh led us through a sermon series on the 10 Commandments. Leading up to God giving Moses the 10 Commandments, the people of Israel had been held captive, they were slaves, in the land of Egypt. It took ten plagues for Pharaoh to finally relent and allow the Israelites to leave and break the bonds of this slavery. But even then, Pharaoh changed his mind and began to chase the Israelites. This is when God parted the Red Sea and all the Israelites walked through on dry ground. But when Pharaoh's army tried to follow, the sea crashed in on them and killed them. 

Following these miraculous events, we see the Israelites making their way through the desert wilderness. It wasn’t long and they began to grumble about food. This is when God provided them with manna and quail, God gave them water from a rock, and he protected them in battle against another nation called the Amalekites. To give us a frame of reference for the time elapsed, Exodus chapter 19 starts with, In the third month - after the Israelites left Egypt… Exodus 19:1a (NIV84). So it’s been a few months, but not really a very long time since they had left behind the slavery of Egypt.

Chapter 19 and verse 3 tells us that Moses went up to God and God called to him from the mountain and gave him these words to tell the people of Israel. You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites. Exodus 19:4-6 (NIV84)

Moses went back and told the leaders what God had said. And the people all agreed that they would obey God. 

Continuing on in chapter 19, we see more amazing signs of God’s greatness. In verse 17 it says, Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. Exodus 19:17-19 (NIV84)

If we would keep reading, we would see that God called Moses to come up on the mountain again, and then a few verses later, he told Moses to bring Aaron up with him too. In Chapter 20 of Exodus, we see the 10 commandments given for the first time. Chapters 21-23 highlight the laws and festivals the people were to keep. 

In Chapter 24, Moses was to come back down from the mountain and bring back up Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, along with seventy of the elders of Israel. When Moses came down from the mountain, he shared the laws that God had given him and the people responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” Exodus 24:3b (NIV84) In chapter 24, verses 9 through 11, Moses took this group of elders back to the mountain with him. It tells us that they saw the God of Israel. They not only saw God, they saw God and ate and drank. I’m picturing an absolute feast with God. 

Moses was then called by God to go further up the mountain, and he went. The end of chapter 24 tells us that he was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. 

In chapters 25 through 31, Moses received instructions for the tabernacle and how the Israelites were to live. But here’s what I want us to go deeper. Chapter 32. When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Exodus 32:1 (NIV84)

These are a people that have seen God at work in amazing ways! From the plagues in Egypt, the Exodus, the crossing of the Red Sea, God’s provision in the wilderness, God’s power on the mountain, even the leaders got to have a feast with God. These people had firsthand experience seeing God at work. But here we are, just a few months after escaping Egypt, they are ready to turn their backs on the one, true living God, and turn to other gods, who are not really gods at all. 

But they made their request to Aaron. If the people had seen God’s power a lot, Aaron had seen God at work even more, because of his proximity to Moses. So how does Aaron respond? He’ll stand up against this, won’t he? Exodus 32:2 tells us.

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” Exodus 32:2 (NIV84) 

Aaron took the gold jewelry and crafted it into a golden calf. He even built an altar in front of the golden calf and declared a festival to the LORD the next day. Yes, you heard me right. After making the golden calf, after declaring that it was this god who brought the Israelites out of Egypt, after building an altar in front of the golden calf, Aaron declared a festival to the LORD, to Yahweh. If you’re like me, this scene leaves you with your jaw dropped open and asking what just happened? 

So the next day, they had their festival in front of this golden calf. They had gotten up early. They had burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. And then, the last sentence of Exodus 32:6 tells us, “Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” Exodus 32:6b (NIV84)

I wanted to check this with some other translations, so I looked at the ESV. It says, “And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” I have to be honest, when I read that translation, all I can think of is the comedian Dana Carvey in an old skit where he would portray the church lady. “and they rose up to play”…well isn’t that special. Make no mistake, whether the English word we use is play or revelry, we know full well what they were up to. 

I encourage you to pick up your Bibles later today and read the rest of the story in Exodus, but for now, I want to take you to a New Testament passage. Please flip over in your Bibles to I Corinthians, chapter 10. We’ll start reading in verse 1 of Chapter 10. You’re going to see a brief retelling of the same events that we just went over in the book of Exodus. I Corinthians chapter 10 and verse 1.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they all drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. 

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolators, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” I Corinthians 10:1-7 (NIV84).

Do you see that this last sentence is the same sentence we just read in Exodus? The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry. Now Paul adds the word pagan, so that we have full clarity that this was not at all worship of the one true God, but was following after the example of pagan nations around them.

What I want you to see here is this. The people ate and the people drank, but its what comes next that I believe we’re being warned about the most. They were fully indulging themselves in whatever they wanted, not what God would want for them or from them. They were seeking to glorify themselves, not God.

In the next couple verses, I Corinthians chapter 10 goes on to warn us against three things: sexual immorality, testing the Lord, and grumbling. Do you see that these are all forms of glorifying ourselves, making ourselves out to be number one, numero uno, the top dog? 

  • With sexual immorality, we’re telling God that we know better than him, how this most intimate of relationships should have really been designed?
  • By testing the Lord, we question whether he even exists…perhaps I can be my own lord. 
  • And when we grumble, we make it clear that there should be no one with more authority than us, because we know best. 

So if this is what I’m not supposed to do, if I’m not supposed to glorify myself, what should I do? The Bible is an amazing book and generally when we read something we shouldn’t do, close by we can find a passage that is telling us what we should do instead. Let’s look at I Corinthians 10:31. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. I Corinthians 10:31 (NIV84)

Do you see this contrast? The Israelites that we looked at in Exodus ate, and drank, and then sought to please themselves. God is calling us to eat and drink, and do this and all things to glorify him. We’re to put off the sin in our lives, from the seemingly big sin of sexual immorality to the seemingly small sin of grumbling, and instead put on glorifying God in everything we do. 

And this isn’t just something for you individually. As a church, we want to glorify God in all that we do as an entire body of believers. 

Alright, now, I’m going to make an abrupt change in topics. 

The Great Commission

Let’s turn to Matthew 28:18-20. This passage is known as The Great Commission. Jesus is giving his closest disciples his final words before he is taken up into heaven. 

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 28:18-20 (NIV84) 

Go and make disciples. I love going. Many of you know that my wife, Amberly, and I have a passion for the people of Cuba. To go to Cuba, teach, share the Gospel, pray. I love doing these things.

But you know what, if that’s the only way that I apply this verse, then I’m really missing the point. I like the way that the God’s Word translation starts this verse, “So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19a (God’s Word translation)

You see, making disciples isn’t just something that I get to think about when I go to Cuba once or twice a year. This is something that should be a part of my life no matter what I am doing. Making disciples is something that I should be doing at home, making disciples is something that I should be thinking about when I’m with friends, when I’m on the sidelines at kids activities, and yes, even at work. Wherever you go, make disciples. 

Many times we’ll use this passage to emphasize the going, but we have a clear, all-the-time mission being laid out for us. We are to make disciples. This disciple-making is going to include things like leading people to Jesus for the first time, but it also includes the ongoing work of teaching, and correcting, and rebuking, and training in righteousness those that are already Christ followers. 

And what is our goal at the end of our disciple making? Our goal is that people would look more like Jesus. For me personally, one of the ways that I like to say this is More and More People, More and More Like Jesus. I want to be making disciples that look more and more like Jesus wherever I go.

And as we think about making disciples wherever we go, let’s be sure that we ourselves are growing as disciples too. 

Time for another abrupt change in topics without a good transition. 

Gateway Church’s History

How well do you know your Findlay history? Here are some quick facts.

Findlay was originally spelled with an “ey” on the end. It was changed to the current spelling in 1870.

In 1882, Findlay College was founded.

In 1886, Findlay was already starting to be a center for oil exploration, but when the Great Karg Well ignited and the flame could be seen as far away as Lima, Findlay made the map. At the time, this was the largest well in the world. All of the residents and businesses in Findlay received gas for free, leading to a boom in the city’s population. 

In 1887, The Ohio Oil Company was founded in Lima. In 1889, John D. Rockefeller purchased the Ohio Oil Company and moved the headquarters to Findlay. 

Of course, when looking at Findlay history, you couldn’t leave out the hospital, which was founded in 1891 as the Findlay Home for Friendless Women and Children, Cooper Tire came to Findlay around 1920, Dietsch’s moved to its currently location in 1937, and Whirlpool opened in 1967. 

Did you know that Gateway Church can trace its roots in Findlay back to 1890 when the Reverend J.C. Roe and twenty-one charter members formed the First United Presbyterian Church of Findlay? Many of those first members were first generation Scottish immigrants. 

The first permanent church building was constructed in 1893 at the corner of Sandusky and West streets. There were various additions and wings added through the upcoming years. In fact, this building is still there and is currently the annex for the Fort Findlay Playhouse. You can plainly see the cornerstone that says, “U.P. Church 1907” from one of the additions that I just mentioned. Later, a church bell was added from an abandoned church in Leipsic. And even Andrew Carnegie had a part in our history, as he donated a church organ. 

In 1966, the church began to build a bigger building on Norcrest Street. In 1969, after moving into the new building, the name was changed to Norcrest United Presbyterian Church. Following the move to the new church building, the church struggled for many years. In 1982, history tells us that the church had an average attendance of 105 people. Here’s a quote I found…“It was a small congregation struggling with many of the issues that smaller churches face including few young families, limited programming, aging membership, financial uncertainty, and little apparent motivation for outreach.”

1982 is also the year that Norcrest hired a young, very young, Pastor Ben Borsay. 

The congregation of Norcrest Presbyterian Church had the following mission statement that had become part of the fabric of the church. “The mission of the Norcrest Presbyterian Church is to love people into the kingdom of God and into the fellowship of the church where they may be strengthened and equipped for a life of service to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

By 2002, Norcrest had grown to an average attendance of 410 people. Optimism was high and “the future looked good and positive”. One main emphasis of Norcrest was evangelism. Something that I’d like to hear more about from some of you that were there at that time is the White Rose ceremony that was started in the year 2000. It sounds like it was a special time of sharing stories of evangelism.

Although things were going well in the local body, there were strong divisions growing between Norcrest and its denomination. On January 21, 2002, Ben Borsay was terminated as Pastor of Norcrest by the Presbytery of their denomination. That same week, all of the elders were removed from their offices. 

But that’s not the end of the story, it was just a new beginning. 

On Sunday, January 27, 2002, just 6 days after Pastor Ben had been terminated. Members and friends of what had been Norcrest met at the Hancock County Humane Society for a service. By the end of that service, the Findlay Evangelical Presbyterian Church had been formed.

The elders felt that a new church, along with a new name, needed a new mission statement and within a few months of forming the new church, a new name and mission statement were established. I bet you’ve never heard this before. Here’s that mission statement, “Gateway Church exists to connect people to Jesus Christ and to one another.” The elders were leaning into the verses we just read from Matthew 28, as well as Acts 1:8, which reminds us that we are to be witnesses close to home and far away. 

This mission statement incorporates a key element of who we want Gateway Church to be, both here in Findlay and all around the world. But there’s also a focus on spiritual maturity. You see, the second part of the mission statement, “to connect to one another” wasn’t simply making new friends and hanging out together. This phrase was intended to point to a growing and deepening spiritual maturity within the congregation. Some might define it as “spiritual growth that allows God's presence and power to animate and control the life of our congregation”. Connecting to one another wasn’t just the handshakes and hugs before announcements, it was intended to be a deep, spiritual maturing of the congregation as a whole. 

I’m going to make one final abrupt switch in my message this morning. 

I started this morning talking from Exodus about glorifying God, instead of ourselves. I’ve discussed the great commission. And, I’ve walked through the history of Gateway Church. Let’s see if we can’t pull all of these things together.

A New Take on an Old Mission

You may recall back in November, Pastor Josh spoke with us at an evening service about Gateway Church’s vision for disciples. He even talked about four columns and how the church is structured (put up slide from Josh’s sermon). As you can see, there was a column for the Pastor, for our church leaders, our discipleship process – worship, connect, serve, and go, which let me be clear, applies to all of us. From Pastor Josh, the elders, deacons, and others in leadership, we have an expectation of ourselves that we are participating in this discipleship process and continuing to grow in our faith. 

And then finally, we have this last column that is labeled, “Disciples”. Josh told us that it was actually pretty hard to come up with that word disciples, even though it encompasses all the characteristics that Josh will talk about in the coming weeks. But why was it hard? Josh left you in suspense in the November sermon. I’m here to finally break that suspense.

It was so difficult to come up with that word, because even though it’s clear that the word should be disciple, as we looked at Gateway Church’s mission and vision statements, the word disciple wasn’t there. The idea and the concept of disciple was there and always had been there as a part of Gateway Church, but somewhere we had lost the deep definition of connecting people to each other. 

Perhaps it was time for a change. 

And so this morning, with great respect and honor for Gateway’s past leaders and members, the elders want to share an updated mission statement with you. 

Gateway Church exists to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ

Ok, so I didn’t get the loud, thunderous applause that I was hoping for. Just kidding. …but why not? Because really, this has been our mission all along. We may have used some different words, but this is what we were striving for as we connected people to Jesus Christ and to one another. This new language clarifies even more why Gateway is here. 

Let’s step through the new mission statement. 

Gateway Church exists to glorify God. We could stop right there. That is our purpose as a church, and it should be our purpose as individuals. In fact, the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith, a document that is subordinate to Scripture, but still one that we can look to for growing in our faith…it says in Question 1, “What is man’s primary purpose?” And the answer, Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. 

We’ve already walked through Exodus and I Corinthians to see that instead of striving to glorify ourselves, we are to glorify God. And contrasting with the Israelites who glorified themselves as an entire group of people, we want to glorify God as an entire group of people called Gateway Church. We will strive to glorify God both individually and corporately. 

As an aside, when Pastor Josh isn’t preaching this year, the elders and staff will be preaching on the Shorter Catechism. Stay tuned to hear more about this concept of glorifying God and enjoying him forever when Pastor Robert kicks off those messages in February. 

Gateway Church exists to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ. 

The way that Gateway Church is going to glorify God is by making disciples. Just like Jesus told us at the end of his time here on earth, we are to be making disciples, in other words, helping people to look more like Jesus. 

It is our goal that participating in Gateway Church’s discipleship process (worship, connect, serve, and go) will help people to become mature disciples of Jesus Christ. But how are we defining what a disciple should look like?

Of course, our heartbeat is that disciples should look like whatever the Bible tells us a disciple should look like. But as a Session, we have talked through and agreed on the following five characteristics of a disciple. We want to make disciples who are:

  • Word and Spirit Christians
  • Generous
  • Family
  • Disciples who Make Disciples
  • Kingdom-Minded

Pastor Josh will be expanding on each of these characteristics over the next five weeks. I hope that as he does, you’ll see many of these things are already part of who Gateway Church is, but we have room to grow as God’s Word and his holy spirit lead us. 

Of Jesus Christ

Gateway Church exists to glorify God by making disciples…

Gateway Church’s vision is not a number of members, a number of locations, or the size of the budget. Our vision is about the spiritual growth of the people that would call Gateway Church home. We want you to be growing to look a certain way (not that you’ve already attained that) and this isn’t our way…we want you to look the way we’re called to by God’s word.

A second ago, when I said the mission statement, you may have noticed that I left off the final phrase “of Jesus Christ”. As I was preparing for this message and trying to make sure I had the new mission statement down pat, I unintentionally kept leaving that phrase off. But it is so important. 

The world is completely fine with us making disciples, in fact, I think our world would encourage us to make disciples, just so long as our disciples match up with what they think a disciple should look like. 

But the elders didn’t leave it open for interpretation. We are pursuing a very specific kind of disciple. Disciples of Jesus Christ. Disciples that will open up his Word to see what God has said, and then do it. 


In the coming weeks, as Pastor Josh gets into the characteristics that we want to see in a disciple, we’ll see that Jesus has already met them perfectly. He was led by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, he was kingdom-minded, he was generous, he saw believers as family, and making disciples was his aim while he was on this earth and challenged us to do the same. 

If you’re here this morning, and you’re not a Christian, you’ve likely seen Christians eat and drink and then indulge in any manner of selfish behaviors. Just like anyone else, Christians sin…and sometimes, we sin big time. We are doing anything but glorifying God. We humbly confess that that is wrong. 

And here’s the really good news, I John 1:9 tells us, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9 (NIV84) So even though I know God still has a lot of work to do in my heart, I rest in the fact that through the blood of Jesus, my sins are forgiven. If that’s something new to you, I hope you’ll find me after the service or talk to Ed Grable over at North Main Campus. We would love to discuss that with you more.

And if you’re here, and you just don’t like mission statements, I hope you can at least see that our mission statement is firmly rooted in scripture. So if that’s you, ignore the mission statement and just look at the scripture. Either way, our calling is the same. Let’s glorify God and make disciples of Jesus Christ.

I know it will take all of us some time to get used to a new mission statement. But let’s embrace this change and seek out opportunities for God to grow us both individually and as an entire congregation. 

Let’s pray.

God, it is our heart's desire to glorify you as a church. Please guide and direct us as we strive to do that by making disciples of Jesus Christ. And as we strive to make disciples, I pray that we would be mindful of our own, personal need to be growing as disciples no matter what level of involvement or leadership we may currently have here at Gateway Church. 

Thank you for the rich history that we know as Gateway Church. And thank you for the many men and women that have brought us to this point today. I pray that you would make this an amazing season of spiritual growth for us as individuals and as an entire congregation. Amen.


As you go this morning, let’s all strive to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ. You are sent.

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