SERMON TITLE: Looking Ahead
TEXT: Psalm 95:1-6; Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:9-12; Hebrews 10:24-25; Ephesians 4:11-16; Matthew 28:18b-20; Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — I want you to know that God loves you and I love you too.
And if you’re a guest with us — this is a different kind of series that we’re in right now. Usually you’ll find us spending weeks at a time in a book of the Bible. But for two weeks we’re taking time to look back and look ahead as we just passed the one year mark of me being the senior pastor here at Gateway.
Last week, we took time to look back at some things God has done in and through us this past year. And today, we’re going to look ahead — we’re going to look at who God is calling us to be as we move forward together. And the bulk of this sermon comes from something I teach during our membership class here at Gateway. So if you’re one of our newest members — this will be familiar to you.
But for those of us who’ve been members at Gateway for some time, think of this as a reminder as to what it means to call Gateway your church.
And for those of you who aren’t members of Gateway, I hope this sermon will challenge you to take your next step with us.
A couple of weeks ago, the staff and I were having a discussion about risk versus comfort. We were asking ourselves what are some seemingly risky things — things that will force us to live by faith — that we should be praying about, considering, leaping towards. And — believe it or not — the place where the staff thought we should begin was by me teaching on the importance of church membership— because they believe if we — people who call Gateway “my church” — that if we understand and value the importance of membership — our church will be sent on a trajectory of living by faith in a whole new way.
Well — new — isn’t exactly right — because focusing on membership will bring us back to our roots of how Gateway first began.
If you don’t know Gateway’s story, this church began in a pretty dramatic way. Long before I was here, a bunch of you — led by pastor Ben — got kicked out of a denomination. The building you worshipped in got locked up and you weren’t allowed back in. You had no money. No office space. No building. No supplies.
You had nothing — and — you had everything — because you had a group of committed church members who were determined to live by faith for the glory of God. And here we are nearly two decades later. And it’s now easy to be comfortable. It’s easy — as we sit in comfortable chairs or pews, as we walk around not one but two campuses, as we sip our coffee and eat our cookies — it’s become easy to lose that zeal — to lose that passion — to lose that fire that was there at the beginning of Gateway’s story.
And that’s why we’re going to focus on church membership. Because we believe that if we get back to our roots — the future for us is beyond what any of us can imagine.
So we’re going to focus in on what it means to be a member of Gateway as we look ahead to the future. And like last week — when we looked back — we’ll be looking ahead using our church values as our guide.
So if you have your Bible please turn with me to Psalm 95. We’ll be looking at verses 1-6.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text it in to the number on the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
Now — while you’re finding Psalm 95 — I want to show you something about our church values.
Our values represent our discipleship process — how we help you grow in your faith. And our values are how we accomplish our mission of “connecting people to Jesus Christ and to one another.
So — our discipleship process — how you grow as a follower of Jesus — and how we accomplish our mission — are the same thing — they’re what we call our values — here at Gateway.
And you probably know that…Our first value is worship
In Psalm 95 we read, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Psalm 95:1-6 ESV)
We’re to sing and make a joyful noise and come with thanksgiving as we gather together to worship our Creator, our King, our great God. And this is our goal when we gather together during our weekend worship services.
We do this by making sure that our worship services are Gospel-centered — meaning we’re not ashamed of the gospel.
The songs we sing, the sermons we preach, the prayers we pray are all intentionally centered on the gospel — the good news of God’s saving work in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Our worship services are soaked in the gospel — are shaped by the gospel — are focused on the gospel.
We also contextualize our worship services. Meaning — like good missionaries — we study the culture around us so we can best reach the people in our community with the gospel. From the language we speak and the clothes we wear to the instruments we use — we view our surrounding community as our mission field and want to present the gospel in a way that’s understandable to them.
And finally, we try to do all things with excellence. We’re serving the Lord first, and He deserves our very best. In the Old Testament, God gives the Israelites specific instructions as to what their worship was to be like and — if you’ve ever read the book of Leviticus — one thing you’ll find — in all of the rules and regulations — is a demand for excellence in their worship. And the same is true for us. We’re told that — no matter what we’re doing — whether eating or drinking — whatever we’re doing — we’re to do it for God’s glory — so it should be done with excellence.
Now an area of worship that I don’t want to skip over — because excellence definitely applies here — is our giving — and specifically — I’m talking about giving money to support the work God is doing here at Gateway.
I know money’s a touchy subject. I know there are guests among us and you may be thinking, “Well here we go — this is what I was expecting the preacher man to bring up — money!” But if you attend Gateway regularly — you know that money isn’t a hobby horse I bring up every week.
But when it comes to worship, it’s insufficient to talk about doing everything with excellence and not talk about our giving. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24 ESV)
Jesus saw a poor widow give all the money she had to live on into an offering box and He praised her for her generosity. And He chastised the rich who gave more money than her — but weren’t being generous like she was.
Jesus tells many stories about stewardship and what it means to be entrusted with money. And His point is to teach us how we’re to view money — not as ours — but as God’s — and how we should use God’s money for His glory — how we should use money in a way that’s worshipful and done with excellence.
Paul writes, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:9-12 ESV)
Do you see Paul’s warning? In pursuing money some wandered away from the faith — they stopped following Jesus! Money — itself — isn’t evil — the love of money is what’s destructive. And the lie we so easily tell ourselves is “I’m immune to loving money.”
But there is an antidote to the love of money — and that’s radical generosity. Someone has said, “Radical generosity is an act of love toward God and toward others that exponentially increases love. It moves us from seeing money as a currency of status and power to instead seeing it as a currency for loving God and others.
We love God with our money when we treat it as His, not ours, and send it out to the things He loves.”
If you think you’re immune to loving money, let me challenge you to pray a prayer I came across in a book: “Let me never put financial security before love. Let me use my money to love people who are poor, to love people who don’t know [God], and to love people with needs in my family and Christian community.”
And know that I bring this up because I love you and don’t want any of you to wander away from the faith because I didn’t warn you of the danger of loving money.
Our worship services are Gospel-centered, contextual, and done with excellence. Here’s the bottom line when it comes to worship. Our expectation is that our members will attend a worship service on a weekly basis.
This isn’t a new expectation — this is an expectation that’s been around long before I became your pastor — but as we’re looking ahead — looking to the future — I want to remind our members what you committed to when you became a member. So let me say it again so you don’t miss it or dismiss it.
Our expectation is that our members will attend a worship service on a weekly basis.
Now immediately you may be wondering about “this and that and all of the reasons why you may not make it to church.” So let me tell you what I mean.
We believe that a follower of Jesus will prioritize worshipping with God’s people. So that means part of the weekend is already booked on your calendar. You have a reoccurring event that you plan on being at and you schedule the rest of your weekend accordingly.
Now sickness happens — and we’re not against vacations — we know that college students may go home for the summer and snow birds may be gone in the winter — but what we’re saying is that all too often worshipping God in a local church can become more of an “option we’ll do if our calendar is open” instead of a “priority we plan all of our other weekend activities around.”
And we believe that anyone who’s a member of Gateway will make it a priority to worship with us weekly. We don’t have this expectation of non-members — this is what sets apart our members from people who haven’t made a formal commitment.
In Hebrews chapter ten, the author writes, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)
We’re to not abandon meeting together for worship…and in other ways. Which leads us to our second value…Which is connect. As our mission statement says, “we connect to one another.”
And here at Gateway, the primary way we connect to one another is in our Life Groups. Many of you are already in a Life Group, but I want to remind you what our groups are all about.
We want you in a Life Group so you’re meeting regularly with a group of people where the Bible is applied and where care for one another takes place.
You hear the sermon at one of our weekend worship services and then you go to your Life Group to discuss how the sermon is — or should be — changing your life. The goal isn’t just to hear God’s Word — the goal is to be changed so that you obey God’s Word.
And the people in your Life Group will pray for you. You’ll feel more comfortable sharing what’s going on in your life that’s in need of prayer because these people will be some of your closest friends in the church.
So prayer happens in these groups as well as care. Our Life Groups are our first line of defense for your care.
As you know, we’re about to send one of our pastors out to lead a church in NY. And that will leave us with two pastors on staff for the over 1,700 people who are currently here every week. So guess what? Two pastors can’t care for all of you. We love you, but that’s way too many people for us to care for. It’s why you don’t see a mom and dad with 1,700 kids — it’s too much.
But besides our size, in Ephesians chapter four we see our job description as pastors. Paul writes, “And he (Jesus) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV)
And our Life Groups are our way of equipping you to do the work of ministry — of caring for one another — so that no need goes unmet in our congregation.
And our expectation is that all of our members will connect in a Life Group. This isn’t a new expectation — this is an expectation that’s been around long before I became your pastor. And we don’t have this expectation of non-members, but this is what sets apart our members from people who haven’t made a formal commitment.
So, we worship together and connect to one another in Life Groups. And we…
Serve one another. Our third value is serve — we serve each other in the church.
If we continue in the Ephesians passage, the pastors’ “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:12-16 ESV)
You’re to serve the people in this church because — when you don’t — Paul says...
You keep us immature.
You keep us from unity.
You keep us from measuring up to the fullness of God’s love.
And our expectation is that all of our members will serve this congregation.
Children’s ministry, youth ministry, worship team, tech team, greeters, ushers, parking lot attendants, Life Group leaders, prayer team — these are just a few of the many ways you can serve this congregation.
And expecting all of our members to serve isn’t a new idea — this is an expectation that’s been around long before I became your pastor — this is who Gateway has been from the beginning. And we don’t have this expectation of non-members, but this is what sets apart our members from people who haven’t made a formal commitment.
And our final value is go. In Matthew chapter twenty-eight Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20 ESV)
Jesus said, “If you believe in Me, be sure of this, I am with you forever.” That’s an amazing promise. Have you believed in Jesus? If so, He’s with you forever.
Now, I just set you up — because if you just said that Jesus is with you — then you can’t ignore what He said just before He gave His promise to always be with you. Because He told you to go and make disciples. And the reason why you’re to go and make disciples is — well — because — Jesus is with you. See how that works?
To be a Christian is to be a disciple maker.
To follow Jesus, means you follow His disciple making lifestyle by being a disciple maker yourself.
You may like Jesus, you may think He’s a swell guy, but you’re not following Him unless you’re going and making disciples like He commanded.
And our expectation is that all of our members are goers.
To be a member of Gateway means you make a commitment of being a goer along with us.
A goer here in Findlay — sharing your faith at work, with your neighbors, your roommates, by inviting people to Gateway.
A goer here in the US — taking advantage of mission trips we have where you can go to people in our country and share your faith with them.
And even a goer around the world. In the past two years, I’ve been to Asia multiple times. Why? Because we’re a going church and I’m called to be a goer — just like you — if you follow Jesus.
And with as new as this value is for Gateway — even this expectation began before I became your senior pastor. And we don’t have this expectation of non-members, but this is what sets apart our members from people who haven’t made a formal commitment.
These are our values. Worship — Connect — Serve — and Go. This is how we help you grow in your faith. This is how we disciple you. This is how we accomplish our mission of “connecting people to Jesus Christ and to one another.”
Now hopefully you picked up on something I’ve repeated a few times. After every one of our values — I gave a very specific expectation that we have of our members. We expect our members…
To worship on a weekly basis.
To connect in a Life Group.
To serve this congregation.
And to be a goer.
And then — after every one of the expectations — I said, “We don’t have this expectation of non-members, but this is what sets apart our members from people who haven’t made a formal commitment.”
Beyond the biblical expectations — which we’ll look at in a moment — this is why membership is important. You’re making a formal commitment — you’re setting yourself apart by saying, “Hold me accountable to these expectations.”
Now some of you may be thinking, “Boy this is nice and all, but there’s no way I’m going to make that kind of commitment.” And if that’s you — here’s my advice — please don’t become a member. And if you are a member, please reconsider if you should continue being one.
I mean why join a gym if you know you’re never gonna workout?
Why sign your kid up for soccer if they’re never gonna make it to the practices or games?
And why become a member of a church if you don’t want to be held accountable to the membership expectations?
I just want to make sure that you understand what kind of expectations we have of our members. And what kind of expectations members can have of the leadership of Gateway.
But here’s the biblical reason why membership should be important to you. In Hebrews chapter thirteen, we read, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17 ESV)
Now there were many words I could’ve stressed, but I went with the “yours” because they’re all singular. Meaning they don’t refer to a group, but to an individual. Not a congregation, but a Christ-follower. Not we, but me — and you and you and you.
And here’s why we want membership to have an even greater importance as we look ahead to our future as a church — and this is straight from the verse I just read — so if you don’t like these questions — take it up with God.
Who are your spiritual leaders — the spiritual leaders you are obeying?
Who are your spiritual leaders — the spiritual leaders who have the responsibility of watching over your soul?
Who are your spiritual leaders — the spiritual leaders who will give an account to God for you?
Who are your spiritual leaders — the ones who you are making it a joy to lead you?
Now before you answer, let me make a ridiculous illustration.
If you’re married, who’s your spouse?
If you’re an employee, who’s your boss?
If you’re a student, what’s your school mascot?
Seemingly random questions, but they all have a similar answer. Your spouse, your boss — even your school mascot — are “yours” because you have a formal relationship with them.
You’ve got a marriage license, a W2 form, or an acceptance letter from your college…showing that you have a formal relationship making them your spouse, your boss, or your school.
Now I don’t have those things so…
It’d be creepy for me to walk up to your spouse and start saying “Hey honey.”
And I can show up to where you work, but I’m not going to get paid and — bonus — I don’t have to listen to your boss!
And walking around your college campus doesn’t make me a student, does it?
So I’ve got to ask — what makes Gateway your church? Is it just saying, “Gateway’s my church” or walking around one of our campuses or participating in one of our programs?
It’s none of those things.
What makes Gateway your church — is membership. Where Gateway and you say this relationship is formal — that it’s official — that this relationship matters.
Where the church leaders make a formal commitment by saying, “We’ll watch over your soul. We’ll give an account to God for you.” And where you make a formal commitment by saying, “I’ll follow and obey your spiritual leadership as you follow and obey Christ’s leading of this church. Hold me accountable to these membership expectations.”
That’s what membership is all about — that’s why it’s important — that’s why it separates those who merely attend from those who’ve made a formal commitment.
Now please hear me — you’re welcome to attend Gateway all you want without becoming a member, but you’re not committed to Gateway until you do become a member.
Until then, you’re leaving your options open.
Until then, we have zero expectations of you.
And until you become a member, you don’t have to listen to or obey the leadership of Gateway.
But listen — and know that I love you when I say this.
Until you become a member, I’m not your pastor — not because I don’t want to be — but because you haven’t said — through membership — “You’re my pastor. The elders are my spiritual leaders. I’m asking you to give an account to God for my soul and I will make it a joy for you to lead me.”
Now I know there are legitimate reasons why someone might not become a member — maybe you’re here for only part of the year and you’re a member of a church where you live the rest of the time — some of us are in ministry and your sending organization requires you to have membership in their church — I get it. But those kinds of exceptions are few and far between and we’ll do our best to shepherd and care for you while you’re here with us. But those are the exceptions — not the norms.
Now some of you have been members of Gateway for a long time — so why did we just spend an entire sermon on the importance of church membership? Because you know people who’ve been attending Gateway for years and they’re still not members — maybe they’re sitting next to you — don’t look at them — that’d be awkward.
But some day they’re going to have a crisis — could be that she tells her husband “I don’t want to be married to you any longer” and leaves him for another guy — or he’s got a drinking problem and loses his job and the family’s in crisis — could be whatever. And one of two things will happen. They’ll either start saying something like “My church wasn’t there for me when I needed my church to be there” or — especially if they’re the one causing the crisis — they’ll say something like, “You can’t tell me what to do — you’re not my pastor.”
And here’s what I need from you.
Encourage them to become a member now before the crisis hits.
Encourage them to come talk to their campus pastor about the importance of church membership.
Encourage them to make their relationship with Gateway a formal commitment.
And show them — if you’re a Gateway member — show them what it means to be a healthy church member. Someone who worships with us weekly, gives generously, connects to others in a Life Group, serves, and goes.
Because we want to be their shepherds — I want to be their pastor — we want to lead and shepherd everyone Jesus has entrusted to our care. But the people we’re responsible for — the people we’ll give an account for — are those who’ve made this relationship formal — those who’ve committed to us and have asked us to commit to them— those who are members.
But there’s another reason why I’ve taken an entire sermon to talk about the importance of membership. Because as we look ahead as a church — and begin to hope and pray and dream about year two together — as pastor and congregation — and beyond — we need every member doing their “work of ministry…[we need every member] building up [this local] body of Christ — [and we need every member to do so] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God — [until we — as a church — become] a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature…[we need all of our members to] practice the truth in love, [so that] we [together as a church] will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. 16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one — [as each member] — does [his or her] part, the body [of Gateway Church will] grow in love.” (Ephesians 4:12b-13, 15-16 NET)
Gracious Father, thank you for saving us from ourselves, from death, and from Hell. Saving us — not to be individuals who follow You all on our own — but saving us into a community of faith — a church — that follows You together. Help us to take Your Word seriously — Your Word about our interconnectedness and our interdependence of one another. Help us to commit to one another and to invite others to hold us to Your expectations of us.
Father — for all of us who follow You — we’re either building this church up or we’re holding it back from growing into the church You tell us we can be. Spirit give us an honest assessment of how we’re doing and an irresistible desire to do our part in building this church up to its fullest potential.
And Jesus — for anyone here who doesn’t believe in You — I ask that You would reveal Yourself to them in that beautiful, mesmerizing, life changing way that only You can — so they believe and receive the eternal life You are offering them.
We pray all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
May we all go, committed to building up this church...so we reach our full potential in Christ. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.