SERMON TITLE: Looking Back
TEXT: Philippians 1:3-11; Psalm 100:1-5; 1 Peter 4:8-11; Romans 12:15; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 3:14-21; (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 — one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
And we’re beginning a new series this weekend — a short series — as — believe it or not — we’ve hit a milestone. We’ve passed the one year mark of me being your senior pastor. Just over a year ago, Pastor Ben and I stood before you during an evening communion service and changed roles. And it’s been quite the year.
And what we’re going to do today is look back at this past year — our first year together as pastor and congregation — and then next week — we’ll look ahead — look to the future. And there are all kinds of ways to do a series like this, but I thought that we’d look back and look ahead through the lens of our church values — our values of worship, connect, serve, and go.
And we’re going to be in a few places in the Bible today so if you have your Bible you’ll want to go ahead and grab it. And I hope that this will be a time of celebration — as we look back at God’s faithfulness — a time of encouragement — as we remember God’s blessings to us — but also a time of conviction — as we allow God’s Word and Spirit to challenge us to continue to grow and be transformed into the church that God has created us to be.
So if you have your Bible, go ahead and open it up to Philippians chapter 1. We’ll be looking at verses 3-11.
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 your question in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
And also — if you’re new to Gateway — here’s what I want you to know. Today you’re going to get a sneak peek — a behind the scenes look — at who Gateway is. You’re going to hear about things that — if you’re new — you won’t have experienced. You’re going to hear some names and some stories that won’t mean much to you — but all of this will give you an insider’s look as to what kind of people are surrounding you. What do they value? Why are they part of this church? And why you should consider being part of what God is doing here.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
So with that in mind, here are the words found in Philippians chapter 1. Beginning in verse 3.
The apostle Paul writes, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:3-11 ESV)
There are times — when I’m reading the Bible — that I come across a prayer — like Paul’s prayer here — and I make the biblical prayer my own as I pray. I do this because I’m not that great of a pray-er and so praying the words of Scripture helps me. And this prayer of Paul’s is such an encouragement and challenge to me — because in this prayer we see that Paul has a remarkable outlook on life — and on these Christians in Philippi — and really his outlook on things is just an incredible encouragement and challenge to me.
Here’s a man who’s in prison as he writes this letter — in jail because of his faith in Jesus. There are people who are trying to make things really hard for Paul while he’s in prison — and yet — he’s thankful. He’s joyful. He’s prayerful.
And as he prays for these Christians he says that — while thinking of them — he’s filled with joy.
He sees the work that God is doing in them and he’s thankful and confident that God will finish the work that He’s began.
Paul’s grateful for the partnership he’s had with these Christians in spreading the gospel — the Good News of what Jesus has done in His life, death, and resurrection.
He tells them that he holds them dearly in his heart because they’ve experienced the same grace that he has.
He has a longing to be with them because of their common faith in Jesus.
And he prays that their love will continue to grow — as well as their knowledge, discernment, and righteousness — all so that God will be praised and glorified in their lives.
What a prayer. What a love shared between Paul and these Christians. What a holy bond — a commitment to one another — a concern for one another — a care — a hope — a joy — because of one another. What a picture of what could and should be the experience of our commitment to one another as we share a common faith in the same Savior.
Now — to be sure — Paul doesn’t ignore or overlook their sin. He tells two women to stop their bickering and get back to working together for the gospel. But even though these people are sinful, broken, stumbling saints — Paul’s filled with joy because of what God is doing in, for, and through them.
So — in the spirit of Paul’s prayer for the Philippian Christians — I want to share with you some things I’m thankful for — things that give me joy — when I look back at our first year together.
Beginning with our value of worship, I’m thankful for our team of volunteers who lead us in worship every weekend at our two campuses. We’re a blessed church when it comes to musicians, vocalists, tech team volunteers, first impressions folks who help people get parked, find their way around our campuses, get seated, and — for many of you — most importantly — get a cup of coffee. We want everyone who comes to Gateway to feel welcome and you do just that week after week after week.
I’m particularly thankful for the two guys who’ve come on staff in our worship department this past year. Shaun Meloy came back on staff — the prodigal son returned — Shaun leads our worship team at CR9. Jon McKanna joined our staff this summer and leads our North Main congregation in worship. I love these guys — and their families. I love how they concern themselves not just with preparing some songs for us to sing — but they concern themselves with leading us in worshipping God together through songs that will teach us — and reassure us — of the hope we have in Christ.
As the psalmist writes, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:1-5 ESV)
Shaun and Jon — and the worship teams they lead — remind us each week — through the songs we sing — the Scriptures we read — and the prayers we pray — that our Lord is God. He made us. We are His people. We are His sheep and He is our Shepherd. That our God is good and that He is faithful. They remind us to sing with thanksgiving and to praise Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
One fun memory I have — this happened before Shaun came on staff — but in a sermon — I said the word “partay” — which Shaun felt was an out of date word that would best be put on a “never to be used in a sermon again” word list. So I did what any self-respecting pastor would do and promised his then — six year old son — an ice cream cake if he would say “partay” all week long to his dad. Which he did. Which...was awesome. And so I brought the Meloy family an ice cream cake — with what else — but the word “partay” written on it. It’s fun to have fun with each other.
If you were here a year ago, you may remember that just before Ben and I changed roles, I met with many of you in informal meetings. Every Life Group got an invite to attend these meetings and a few hundred of you came out to get to know me and my wife better. One thing we did — during these meetings — was get feedback from you as to how we were doing as a church — what were our strengths and weaknesses. And two things you mentioned — that needed some improvement — and I hope you’ve noticed that we listened to you — was our infrequency of communion and you wanting us to bring in guest speakers.
And in response to your feedback, we started celebrating communion on a more regular basis this past year — both during our weekend worship services — and in evening communion services where both campuses come together to worship.
We’ve also had guest speakers this past year. Troy Wilson was here in April and spoke to us about the importance of church planting and shared with us the ministry work he’s doing in California. In July, Pastor Hikmat — and his family — came and spoke to us about life in a Muslim country. I met Hikmat while I was in Beirut earlier this year and we’ve been able to develop a partnership with his church — Resurrection Church Beirut — and will be sending a team on a missions trip to Beirut next year. His teenage son spoke to our youth group and one of their daughters spoke to our 5th graders about what it’s like being a Christian in a predominantly Muslim country.
And in two weeks, we’ll have another guest speaker. His name is Ray Ortlund Jr. — a name some of you may be familiar with. He’s the pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, he’s written quite a few books, served on the Old Testament translation team for the NLT and ESV Bibles, serves on the council of the Gospel Coalition, and loves to hunt — which is how we got him to come to Ohio. Some Gateway folks were visiting Ray’s church in Nashville and started a conversation about hunting and it didn’t take much persuading to get him to come and preach for us as long as the guys took him hunting while he was here. So you’ll want to be here the weekend of Nov 24/25 when Ray’s visiting with us.
Now when it comes to worship, there are some things we’ve been wrestling with. One is how to do this thing called multisite better — better meaning biblically better and also practically better. For now, we don’t want our two campuses to become independent of one another — that’s why we started North Main as a campus and not as its own independent church. But there’s always this tension of wanting to be one church, while also desiring some campus independence. So we’re trying to figure all of that out and we just ask for you to be patient with us. And please pray for us — that we’ll be guided by God’s Word and Spirit as we lead a multisite church.
And I think this tension — of being one church in two locations — is why I’ve really enjoyed our evening communion services — when we all come together to worship, to hear God’s Word preached, to pray, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and even celebrate baptisms as we did last weekend.
Our second value is connect. The apostle Peter wrote these words to Christians facing some difficult circumstances. He writes, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:8-11 ESV)
When it comes to our value of connect, something I’m thankful for are the 61 life groups that 700 of you connect to one another in. Roughly 42% of our weekend worshippers — not counting kids — are in a life group. And I’m thankful for your commitment to connect to one another. I’m thankful for the 15 new life group leaders who’ve recently stepped up to lead a life group — and if you’re one of these new group leaders — know that we need you — because we keep getting more requests from people wanting to join a life group and we currently don’t have enough places to put folks. This is a great problem to have — but it’s a problem we don’t want to have for too long.
I’m thankful that we were able to bring Ed Grable on staff to lead our life group ministry. Up until Ed joined us on staff, our life groups were led by two part-time staff members. They were doing they best they could with their limited hours — but we’ve seen — and hopefully you’ve experienced this — that bringing Ed on has helped us give our life groups the focused leadership they’ve needed for some time. We’re wanting to do everything we can to help you better connect to one another.
This was part of the feedback you gave us a year ago and we heard you loud and clear. You let us know that we needed to do a better job of helping you connect to one another — to be discipled — to help you grow in your faith. And bringing on a full time staff member is part of our response to your feedback.
We’ve also had a team — made up of elders and staff members — who’ve been studying this whole area of our church — this area of connecting and discipleship. They’ve been assessing our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to helping you connect to one another and grow in your faith. The team isn’t finished with its work yet, but they’re gaining clarity as to things we need to do better — going forward — so we continue to be a connected to one another church.
One of the personal delights I’ve had in this area of our church are the weekly meetings I’ve had with some guys I’m discipling. It’s been a joy for me to see these guys — of all ages — that’s my pastorally kind way of saying one of the guys isn’t as young as the others — but it’s been a joy for me to see these guys reading their Bibles, studying their Bibles, coming with questions, and really wanting to better understand who God is and who they are according to God’s Word. And if you’re a Christian — and you’re not investing in someone else’s faith — let me just say that you have no idea what you’re missing out on. It’s one of the greatest blessings you can ever be given as you see someone grow in their faith because of your investment.
It’s why Paul had such an affection for the Christians in Philippi. He had personally discipled many of them — helped them grow in their faith — and just like it’s a joy for a parent to see their children grow up and mature — it’s a joy for a spiritual parent to see their spiritual children grow up and mature in the faith.
Our next value is serve. Now we don’t really have a serve department — meaning we don’t have a staff person dedicated to this value — because serving is something that happens in all of our ministries.
So serving — in many ways — has already been mentioned. I mentioned our worship and tech team servants. I’m thankful for our parking lot, and ushers, and greeters, and security team, and cafe workers. I’m thankful for all of our life groups leaders. And our kidway volunteers — from those holding and praying for the newborns in our nursery, to those serving our families who have toddlers and preschoolers, to our elementary, middle and high school, and college volunteers who are shaping the hearts and minds of the next generation here at Gateway. I’m especially thankful for the faithful ladies who serve our special needs students every week. You ladies are doing a good work. I’m so thankful for all of you who serve this congregation — who do the work that God has called you to do — to help this church — your church — mature into the church that God’s called us to be.
Outside of our Gateway ministries, we’ve had many of you serve families in our congregation who found themselves in difficult circumstances this past year. From serving families grieving the death of a loved one to making sure mom and dad have prepared meals in the fridge when they bring their newborn home — Gateway you are a congregation full of selfless servants. You do well in fulfilling Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome, where he writes, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15 ESV)
I think of those of you who’ve served the Kroskes. Many of you have shown them the love of Christ as you’ve helped make their home a safe place for Julie. I think of the friendships formed between strangers simply because they found themselves serving with each other on the same team. There are so many things to be thankful for when it comes to how you serve one another. And one of my joys — as your pastor — is to hear stories of you serving one another that were completely off my radar. I had no idea that something was going on — no way of communicating to you that there was a need — and yet I hear of story after story of how you serve and show love for one another.
Yet, I know there are some ways we can improve here. One particular area we’re wanting to improve is our care ministry. This would include everything from the physical needs of folks in our congregation to things — like — getting a more organized counseling ministry going. And a biblical role — that we’ve been neglecting — is the role of deacon — deacons are chief servants in the church — and they assist the pastors by leading with their hands in service so the pastors can lead the church with the Word and prayer.
And we’re putting a plan together to form a healthy deacon team to come alongside the pastors of Gateway so — together — we can lead, shepherd, and serve you better. We’ve come to realize that being a large church — and a multisite church — is no excuse for not being a caring church. And with all of the great acts of care that are happening, we know that we can do some things better and make it easier for us to care for one another. We want to be known for our love for one another — so we’re going to focus on getting our care ministry better organized and I look forward to seeing us grow in our love and care for one another this coming year.
And — finally — our last value is go. As I’m sure you’re familiar, Jesus said to His disciples, “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)
Or as Luke records — in the book of Acts — “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."” (Acts 1:8 ESV)
Our desire is to be a going and disciple making church. Going locally, nationally, and globally to people so they might connect to Jesus Christ and to one another.
This is another department where we’ve added staff. Ryan Rebold came on staff this past summer — giving new life and energy to our go team. And I’m so thankful for the many ways we’ve been a going church this past year.
Locally, we built bridges in our community by participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. unity walk on a cold wintery evening. Three hundred of you served the 650 kids who attended VBS in the summer. We’ve continued to build relationships with our local schools in both the Findlay and LB school districts. And one of the exciting things — for us locally — is that our North Main campus is now one year old — we made it through the first year and have learned a lot! Something you may not know about our North Main campus is that we’ve been able to offer free office space to our community’s Young Life ministry as a way of partnering with them as they reach students in our local schools.
Nationally, as — you know — we’re sending out Mike Barnhart and his family to serve an EPC church in NY. Additionally, we’ve continued our partnership with Troy Wilson and his church — The Table — out in San Francisco. We’ve started a partnership with an EPC missionary — Shakil — a native Bangladeshi — who’s reaching Muslims in the Detroit area and many of them — who come to faith in Christ — go back to Bangladesh to plant churches among the people there who don’t believe in Jesus.
We’ve shared with you stories from our Campus Outreach partners who are serving and reaching students at BGSU. For years, we’ve had a focus on reaching students at UF — which we’re continuing to do — but we saw an opportunity with BGSU as Chris and Casey — and their team — were part of our congregation long before we ever supported their ministry. And I’m so thankful that God brings to us others — who are doing works of ministry — that we get to step in to partnership with.
We’ve sent some of you to Pikeville, Kentucky to serve the community there. One of our members went to Florida — after the hurricane — to take supplies and help the folks affected by the storm. We sent money to support churches in the Carolinas that were serving their communities affected by their hurricane. We’ve been busy this past year going nationally.
And globally — this past year — I was able to go halfway around the world to Sri Lanka to see the work of one of our missionaries — Terry Jones — and the Bible College that is training up pastors to lead churches in a country that’s over 80% Buddhists and only 1.3% Christian. I spent time in Beirut, Lebanon with another of our missionaries who is reaching Muslim families in this Middle Eastern nation. This was the trip that began our relationship with Pastor Hikmat — who I mentioned earlier — a relationship that’s blossomed into short term mission trips that are being planned for 2019. We sent two groups to the DR this year — one group made up of our high school students — the other a team of medical professionals.
I’m so thankful for all of the ways that we’ve been a going church this past year. But — like our other values — there are things we’re looking to improve. For starters, we’ve learned a ton about being one church in two locations. I’ve mentioned this already, but I can’t tell you how much we’ve learned by making mistakes this past year. Thank you for being patient with us as we continue to figure out exactly what we’re doing as a multisite church.
And I’ve realized that I need to be much more intentional about training and raising up pastors and church ministry leaders. It’s easy — believe it or not — to get distracted by lots of little things that take away your focus from the most important things in ministry. And one of the things God called me to do — years ago — was the training and raising up of pastors and ministry leaders. And I need to focus more of my attention there.
One resource that I want you to be aware of are these cards that are available at the What’s Next Wall at your campus. Both have a question on the front. One asks, “Are you interested in being an EPC Missionary?” and the other asks, “Are you interested in being an EPC Pastor?” And on the back of the cards are steps you can take if your answer is “yes” to either of these questions. As a going and sending church, my hope and prayer is that we will be known for raising up and sending out many pastors and missionaries in the years ahead — so if you think God may be calling you to be a pastor or missionary — be sure to grab one of these cards.
Gateway, we have much to be thankful for. God is doing great things among us and my hope is that we will continue to step out in faith and follow His lead in becoming the church He wants us to be.
We’re going to close now in prayer now — and I’m going to use the apostle Paul’s words again — which are much better than mine. Let’s pray.
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 NLT)