January 18, 2024

We are Family Manuscript

SERMON TITLE: We are Family
TEXT: multiple 
‌SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
‌DATE: 1-21-24

Watch the sermon here
Take notes here


‌As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.


‌We’re continuing our vision series today. If you weren’t here with us a few weeks ago — Matt Heft — one of our elders — kicked off this series by introducing our new church mission statement. All of this started about a year ago — when I and the elders began a conversation about God’s vision for Gateway Church. And — this new vision — resulted in the elders taking a look at our mission statement and realizing that it was time for an update — as new vision requires a mission statement that uses supporting language. 

Now — what I’m about to say is so important that — regardless if you’re a Christian or not — this will give you clarity as to the kind of church that Gateway is aspiring to be. And — this is so important — that I’m repeating it each week in this series.

It begins with this graphic. These four columns represent the key components that drive the life, ministry, and direction of a local church. The first component of a church is the pastor. The second component are the other key leaders of the church. The third component of a church is its discipleship process. And the fourth component describes the kind of disciples we hope all of us are becoming here at Gateway Church.

So component one — the pastor — that’s me. Now the Bible has a lot to say about the qualifications, characteristics, and calling of a pastor. There are the characteristics of a pastor found in First Timothy chapter 3. There’s the call to shepherd the flock found in First Peter chapter five. There’s the mandate to preach the Word — Second Timothy chapter four — as well as the charge that I’m to be focused on prayer and the Word — as found in Acts chapter six. Those are some examples of my role and responsibilities as your pastor.

‌The next component of a local church are its other key leaders. This would include our elders, deacons, staff, and those who serve as Life Group leaders — we’ll talk more about these key leaders next week. But know that these key leaders help the pastor move the church along in a certain direction — which leads us to the third component — our discipleship process. Here at Gateway Church this is our process of Worship, Connect, Serve, and Go — this is how we help you grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Now — this series is focused on our vision as a church — and this is where the fourth component comes in — the column labeled “disciple.” In the past, we’ve focused so much on what we want you to do to grow in your faith — our discipleship process — that we failed to clearly communicate to you who we’re wanting you to become. Meaning, “what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus here at Gateway Church?” And this is what I and the elders want to make clear so we all move forward growing as disciples of Jesus with a clear vision of what we mean by the word “disciple.”

‌And our vision is that we’d be disciples...

‌1. Who are...Word and Spirit Christians.
‌2. Who are…generous.
‌3. Who are...family.
‌4. Who are…disciples who make disciples.
‌5. And who are…Kingdom-minded.

And — what we’re doing in this series — is focusing on each one of these characteristics in a sermon to give even greater clarity as to the kinds of disciples of Jesus that we all should be aiming to become together. We’ve already looked at the first two characteristics and — today — we’re going to look at what it means to be a church family.


Now — right here at the beginning — I want to acknowledge that we all have different experiences when it comes to being part of a family. So — a caution for all of us — is to be aware of how we impose our family experience on this characteristic of a disciple of Jesus. For example, none of us have grown up in a perfect family — your family may have been slightly less imperfect than what others of us grew up in — but none of us have experienced a perfect family. And it’s these imperfections that are easy to impose on a church family. 

Maybe your family never dealt with disagreements — the unspoken family rule was “don’t disagree with dad” — thus — any disagreements in your church family — however minor they may be — feels like a betrayal. Or maybe your family prides itself on being critical because — as everyone knows — “complaining is the easier form of conversation.” And complaining can be an incredibly difficult habit to not bring into your church family relationships — because though it's the easiest form of conversation — complaining is not the godliest form of conversation. Or maybe you’ve experienced abuse by a family member making it difficult for you to trust others — you’ve learned to survive by putting walls up between you and others. Those walls — no matter how safe they may make you feel — will be obstacles for you in being part of this church family — there’s no way they can’t be. And these are just a few examples of what we all are bringing into this big family called Gateway Church — much less — our church backgrounds and experiences — for good or bad — which are just as diverse as our family experiences. 


So let’s see what God’s Word has to say about the kind of family the elders and I are hoping we’ll all work at becoming together. One place to begin is in First Timothy chapter five. Here Paul writes…

1 Timothy 5:1–2 (NLT)
Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. 2 Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.

Again — I want to caution all of us about imposing our personal family experience on Paul’s words to Timothy. Some of our fathers were godly men — others were not. Regardless — in this faith family — what we should all be striving for is to treat men — who are older than us — with a gentleness and respect in our words — in the way we’d speak to our father if he was a godly man. We’re to treat men younger than us as brothers. We’re to be patient with them, and instruct them, and help them mature in Christ. This means that the older men among us need to view themselves as spiritual fathers to the younger men in the congregation. And younger men are to desire spiritual mentors to help them grow as godly men, husbands, and fathers. Older men — what an opportunity you have — to disciple young men — to pass on the faith to them — to leave a spiritual legacy in the lives of the next generation. This is your role in our faith family.

We’re also told to treat women — who are older than us — like we’d treat our mother. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul says this about Timothy’s mother and grandmother.

2 Timothy 1:5 (NLT)
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.

This is who Timothy would be thinking of when he read Paul’s words about treating older women like a mother — he would think of Eunice who passed on her faith in Christ to him — what a godly woman. And the older women among us have the opportunity and responsibility to mentor and disciple the younger women in our faith family. To help them grow as a godly woman, as wives — if they’re married — as mothers — if they have children. An opportunity that only comes with time. So — women — let me encourage you to make the most of the opportunity if this is you. God has blessed you with the opportunity and responsibility to invest in the next generation of godly women in our faith family.

And we’re to treat women — who are younger than us — as sisters — with complete purity. In an age of church abuse and sex scandals — and where there’s seeming no end to sexual immorality or — as I recently heard it put — sexual criminality — being approved of in our culture — the church is called to be a family where women are protected and safe — treated with complete purity — a word related to holiness.

Now think of how this view of each other would transform us into a godly family! And — just so you know — these verses have done more in shaping my view of the church as a family than any other. And it grieves me to see the abuses done by pastors and other leaders in Christian organizations. It angers me how the church can be an unsafe place — especially for women and children. And I know that I’m not without sin — none of us are — thus a way we can protect the vulnerable is by submitting ourselves to the authority of God’s Word as we live by the power of the Holy Spirit to be the kind of godly family that God desires us to be.

Here’s another characteristic of being a family that I hope we’ll grow in together. It comes from Paul’s words to the Christians living in Rome. He writes…

Romans 12:15 (ESV)
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

A great example of this family characteristic is illustrated in a book the staff and elders read a few years ago — which we also discussed on the church podcast — the book is titled The Compelling Community. Here’s an excerpt from the book giving us an example of Romans 12:15 in a local church. The author writes…

“If my wife and I are unable to get pregnant, we should rejoice when our fellow church member gets pregnant. If I just got a new job, I should weep with my fellow church member who lost his…I’ve seen…[church] members show up for the wedding of another member they don’t actually know that well. You can imagine the conversation with other guests at the reception: “So how do you know Maurice and Tonya?” “We’re members at the same church.” “OK, but how do you know them?” “I guess I don’t that much — but since we go to church together, I wanted to support them by attending their wedding.” “Really? Even though you don’t know them?” (pg 56)

Think of how counter culturally confusing — and compelling — us being a godly family will be for those in your life who don’t yet believe in Jesus. When someone else gets a promotion and you don’t — it’s countercultural — to rejoice with those who are rejoicing — though this is the way of following Jesus. When someone’s getting married in your church family — you celebrate with them — even if you don’t know them that well — simply because they’re part of your church family. And when people are grieving — because of a doctor’s report, or a wayward child, or the death of someone they love — they’ll be surrounded by us — by you — because we’re family — and they won’t have loneliness added to their sorrow. But only if we strive — together — to be a godly family.


And viewing ourselves as family will change our gatherings when we worship. The person who shows up late or runs out early will feel like an outsider because family members stick around to talk and hangout. Our Life Groups will feel like getting together with family — not a box we check on our calendar. And whether or not we’re in a Life Group will indicate if we’re part of this faith family or not. We’ll try hard to make you feel welcome but — if you’re not engaged in our discipleship process — know that you’ll never quite feel like you’re part of our family.


‌Which is why I want to make something very clear: All are welcome to be part of our family — but know that there are some expectations of our family members. And this shouldn’t be surprising — all families have expectations. So let’s talk about our family member expectations.

First, it begins with church membership. Family members of Gateway Church are members of Gateway Church. Guests are always welcome but — to be part of this family — membership is required. Membership is where we — the church and you — make this relationship formal. It’s where we covenant — which means we make an agreement together — to commit to our roles in this family. 

And we expect our church family members to be engaged in our discipleship process — to be growing towards becoming Word and Spirit Christians, who are generous, who make disciples, who are Kingdom-minded as members of this faith family. We don’t have these expectations of non-members — even if you’re a believer in Jesus — I mean — why would we have family expectations of people who haven’t formally committed to being part of our local church family through membership?

Now we live in a world that seems to have “commitment-phobia.” In the words of one pastor, “Commitment-phobia is the fear that in promising to do something good we’ll miss out on getting something even better.” So why — in a world that often frowns on commitment — would we ask you to make a formal commitment to our church?

That’s a great question! But it begins by having a right understanding of the church — for only then can we gain insight into why commitment to a local church is important. In the New Testament, we see that the church is a local gathering of a group of people who are disciples of Jesus. In the Greek language, a local church is called an assembly of people who are committed to following Jesus together. Additionally, the Bible describes the local church as the bride of Christ, as God’s temple, and as the body of Christ.

So — to be a Christian who isn’t a member of a local church — is to be a non-attached member of the body of Christ. You’re a hand not attached to the rest of the body — and that’s weird. Or you’re a stone of the temple but — instead of being attached to the rest of us stones — you’re off on your own — a stone by itself. So are you really part of the temple if you’re not joined together to the rest of the stones who are part of the temple? Are you really part of this family if you haven’t made the same commitment the rest of us have?

And I know what some folks will think at this point: “But Josh, I’m part of the universal church — so there’s no need for me to be part of a local church.” Did you know that the Bible says far more about the local church — and its importance in our lives — than it says about the universal church? Now I don’t want to downplay the beauty that is God’s universal church — but in our independent culture that has commitment-phobia — we should all recognize how vital the local church is in the New Testament.

Did you know that nine of Paul’s letters were written to local churches? His other four letters were written to leaders of local churches. Yup, all of Paul’s letters are written to local churches. It’s believed that Hebrews was written to several local churches in Rome. Peter’s two letters were written to local churches — John’s three letters were as well. And the book of Revelation — also written by John — was written to seven local churches. That’s twenty of the books in the New Testament all being written to local churches. So — if you’re not formally committed to a local church — for that’s what membership is — it’s going to be hard for you to put into practice the majority of what you read in the New Testament because it was written to people who were members of a local church.

And this brings us to something important to remember — and that is — membership in a local church is for disciples of Jesus Christ. A disciple is someone who professes Jesus as their Savior and Lord and desires to follow him in obedience. And there are certain beliefs we expect all members of this faith family to hold to — they’re called the Essentials of our Faith. I want to read them to all of us as a reminder of what we all — who are members of this church — believe.

All Scripture is self-attesting, and being Truth requires our unreserved submission in all areas of life. The infallible Word of God — the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments — is a complete and unified witness to God’s redemptive acts culminating in the incarnation of the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible, uniquely and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the supreme and final authority on all matters on which it speaks. On this sure foundation, we affirm these additional essentials of our faith.

1. We believe in one God, the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To him be all honor, glory, and praise forever!

2. Jesus Christ, the living Word, became flesh through his miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and his virgin birth. He who is true God became true man united in one Person forever. He died on the cross a sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. On the third day he arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, he now is our High Priest and Mediator.‌

3. The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Christ and to apply the saving work of Christ to our hearts. He convicts us of sin and draws us to the Savior, indwelling our hearts. He gives new life to us, empowers and imparts gifts to us for service. He instructs and guides us into all truth, and seals us for the day of redemption.

4. Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness, our salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God’s free grace. God credits his righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, and thereby justifies them in his sight. Only such as are born of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus Christ become children of God and heirs of eternal life.

5. The true Church is composed of all persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit are united together in the body of Christ. The Church finds her visible yet imperfect expression in local congregations where the Word of God is preached in its purity and the sacraments are administered in their integrity, where scriptural discipline is practiced, and where loving fellowship is maintained. For her perfecting she awaits the return of her Lord.

6. Jesus Christ will come again to the earth personally, visibly, and bodily — to judge the living and the dead, and to consummate history and the eternal plan of God. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

7. The Lord Jesus Christ commands all believers to proclaim the gospel throughout the world and to make disciples of all nations. Obedience to the Great Commission requires total commitment to “him who loved us and gave himself for us.” He calls us to a life of self-denying love and service. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

If you want to learn more about our Essentials of the Faith, I’d encourage you to go listen to episode 165 of our church podcast where Laura and I discuss them.

Now — if you’re not a member of Gateway Church — you may be wondering, “Well how do I become a member?” Great question! Your first step is to take our membership class. And it just so happens that registration is open for our next membership class which begins on February 19. The deadline to register is February 8 — so you still have time to sign up for the next class — which I want to encourage you to do. Even if you don’t end up becoming a member — I promise you’ll know more about Gateway Church than you do right now — just by attending the class. And you may just find the faith family you’ve been looking for.


‌Now — let’s talk about the benefits of being part of this church family. In addition to some of the benefits we’ve already discovered — having folks to rejoice and weep with you, for example — as a member of this church family you have one of Gateway’s elders assigned to you as your shepherding elder. Now — before I explain exactly what that means — here are some passages that explain the role of elders in a local church. Peter writes…

1 Peter 5:1–5 (NLT)
And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: 2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly — not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 4 And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. 5 In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

And the author of Hebrews writes…

Hebrews 13:7 (NLT)
Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

As well as…

Hebrews 13:17 (NLT)
Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

As a member of Gateway Church, you’re assigned an elder who will care for you. Who — in being eager to serve God — will watch over your soul knowing they’ll give an account to God. Your elder will give you an example of how to follow Jesus — of what it means to be a disciple who’s a Word and Spirit Christian, who’s generous, who’s Kingdom-minded — as they disciple and lead you as a member of this faith family. What an intimate relationship between the members of this church family and the elders — the shepherds — called to lead and protect this family. 

Know that — if you’re not a member — the elders don’t have responsibility to shepherd and care for you in this way because you’ve not given us the authority to be your shepherds through church membership. And we won’t force ourselves — as shepherds — on anyone. Membership is a choice — being part of this faith family isn’t forced on anyone — it’s a benefit for those who choose to be part of our family. 

The folks who are part of my shepherding group could tell you of regular emails they get from me — keeping them up to date on what’s going on at Gateway Church and asking them for prayer requests. I make sure they know they can come have Thanksgiving lunch with the Hanson family if they’re spending the holiday alone. And — folks in Matt Buttermore’s shepherding group — even got an invitation to spend Thanksgiving with my family because Matt forwarded my email to his shepherding group — and he didn’t even tell me! And if that doesn’t let you know that we’re really a family around here I don’t know what will convince you.

Other benefits would include serving opportunities that are reserved for family members only. Now — just because you are a member doesn’t mean you will serve in these ways but — if you’re not a member — you don’t even have the possibility. This would include serving as an elder, or deacon, or as a Life Group leader. These are key roles in our church family so being a member of our family is required.

Finally, one last benefit of church membership — and know that this has been the informal practice — for the majority of us — at Gateway Church for years — but recently the elders made the decision to make this the formal practice. Baptism and child dedications are a family benefit. In the book of Acts, the apostle Peter stands up and preaches the first sermon about the resurrection of Jesus to a large crowd. And…

Acts 2:37–39 (NLT)
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away — all who have been called by the Lord our God.”

Those who believe are to be baptized. For baptism is a sign of what Christ has done on behalf of all who turn to him in faith — it’s a promise to believers and their children. Now some may question, “Well why would we connect baptism and child dedications to church membership? See, Josh, they believed and they were baptized — there’s nothing here about membership in a local church.” And that’s because we haven’t gotten there yet. In verse forty-one we read…

Acts 2:41 (NLT)
41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day — about 3,000 in all.

Do you know what we just saw? The first church membership rolls being recorded. In the Old Testament we see all kinds of examples of what we’d call church membership rolls — all of those lists of names we love to read. And — here in Acts — those who believed were baptized — but they weren’t left to be independent Christians. They weren’t Christians who were members of the “universal church only”. They were added to the church that very same day. Which church? The church in Jerusalem. A local church who went from around a hundred members to over three thousand in one day! And if the Word of God — which we’re committed to submitting ourselves to as our authority — if the Word of God shows us a link between baptism and local church membership — well — then we want to make sure that we keep them linked here at Gateway. 

And I know that — just like we all come from different family backgrounds — that there are many different church backgrounds and experiences among us — some of us coming from churches that didn’t even practice membership. But — in this faith family — we see baptism and child dedications as a family benefit. It’s our way of living out Acts chapter two — where all who are baptized — here at Gateway — are formally added to our faith family through membership. Might there be some exceptions that we run into? Of course! We know that there will be exceptions. But we’ll figure those exceptions out as we allow our regular practice to be the practice of the early church as we see in Scripture. 


‌Gateway Church exists to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ. And — specifically — we’re making disciples who are part of a faith family. Who understand what it means to be part of this family — that there are characteristics and expectations of our family members — and who are blessed by receiving the benefits of being part of this family. And in a world that’s plagued with loneliness and being unknown, we have the opportunity to display something that’s compelling, intriguing, and alluring — what it means to be a godly family. Which might just cause others to ask, “How can I be part of your family?” Which will lead to gospel conversations that — I pray — will result in many people coming to know of God’s love for them in Jesus Christ. Let’s pray.


‌Heavenly Father, thank you for adopting us into your family. You created us. You called us out of spiritual darkness and death. You raised us to new life, adopted us into your family, and gave us a new family name.

Holy Spirit, give us eyes to see each other as fathers and mothers — as sisters and brothers. With respect and purity — with patience and love. Help us to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and to weep with those who are weeping — to neglect neither — for being a godly family means we’ve been empowered by you to do both.

And — Jesus — to you our Savior, Lord, and Older Brother, thank you for being a faithful Son to our Heavenly Father. Thank you for showing us what it means to be a faithful family member. And thank you for giving your life so that we could be adopted into your heavenly family. And if there’s anyone wondering, “What must I do to be saved?” May they believe in you, Jesus. For you are the only Savior. And we pray all of this in your name. Amen.


‌May you go with a commitment to being a faithful member of this church family. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.