Hey everyone! And for all you Moms, If you haven’t heard it enough already, Happy Mother’s Day! I know today is a bit different for a Mother’s Day as I wanted to share my heart with you as I am stepping into this new role as senior pastor. First off I wanted to welcome all of our campuses today, and also to say a huge heartfelt thank you for how you honored both John and Kathy over the last few months, and how you have welcomed and loved on Libby and me, and our family. For those of you who are brand new, maybe visiting us today, last week we had a big moment in the life of our church. Our founding pastor, John Burke, officially stepped away as our Senior Pastor, and entrusted the responsibility over to Libby and I moving forward.
So as you can imagine, it has left us with nothing but moments of looking back on the journey of our church and the path of our own personal lives. I often find myself asking two questions in this season: 1) what have I left behind in the first 27 years of ministry life? 2) What will I leave behind in the second half of my life? The word that best sums up what I’m talking about is the word Legacy.
Legacy is defined as:
- an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.(a legal imprint)
2. the long-lasting impact of particular events, actions, etc. that took place in the past, or of a person’s life. (a lasting impact)
So on this mother’s day, Libby and I wanted to honor two people who we think embody a lasting impact, and they have had that impact on our lives.
Dodie & Ilene – (will join us on stage as we honor them for not only being mothers to their own children, but for leaving an impact on us as encouragers, prayer warriors and godly supporters)
It’s been said that everyone ends up somewhere, but not everyone ends up somewhere on purpose. So, If my goal as pastor is to help ensure that we make a lasting impact as a church, then there has to be some intentionality to our decision making, and intentionality in the way we live our lives. Today’s message is entitled commitments that last, and these are the commitments I am making to you and to the city God has called us all to love, life by life, the greater Austin area. But these are also commitments I believe we can ALL make in some way or another.
To get us going in the right direction and introducing the first two commandments, let’s go to Matthew 22.
Matthew 22 – 34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
- Commitment to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength
This is not a new commitment, but more of a recommitment. I was a sophomore in college when I was alone in my room and discovered for myself how real God was. I committed that day on the floor of my room that I would follow Jesus all the days of my life. It was radical, bold, brash, and I didn’t know what it meant when I said it, but somehow I believed it. As I grew in my knowledge of Jesus, I learned that it is a holistic growth. That I had made an intentional decision from my heart, but that I was also charged with leading my soul, growing my mind, and giving all the strength I have to know this Jesus. I will continue to do so as the pastor of Gateway!
- Commitment to love my neighbor as myself
I’ve never been on staff at a church that was as adept to knowing their neighbors like we do here at Gateway. You would be so proud of your staff and leaders. I hear stories all the time of spiritual conversations they are having, and how they know their neighbors. LIbby and I love Paula and Karen, our neighbors to the left, and we know Scott and Carolann, our neighbors to the right, and we’re working on some new neighbors who would rather not talk, but that’s ok…I’m committed now more than ever to know my physical neighbors and those who are in my sphere of influence.
- Commitment to radical obedience to God’s leading and vision for our church
As part of this journey of succession, I was challenged over and over again to read the book of Joshua (in scripture). Joshua was following Moses, the one who would go down as a foundational leader of a great nation, who would be used to help free them from slavery, and who would get them to the precipice of their promise (the promised land). Joshua had big shoes to fill, but God acknowledges he is with him when he says this.
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
- Commitment to teach from Scripture in an uncompromising and bold way
Many people do ascribe being biblically established as traditional, and I want us to restore the beauty of scripture in our everyday lives.
I’m not a deeply traditional person, but I have to understand that we are here, 2000 years removed from Christ’s life, death and resurrection, not by accident, but because of the global church and its stance on keeping true to scripture. That stance has kept God’s church firmly rooted in being bold in its mission, and we will continue that part of the tradition.
8We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious… I Timothy 1:8-9
- Commitment to continue reaching those who are exploring God
When I first was asked to consider being the pastor of Gateway, and then offered the role, it was all under the impression that THIS would never change. For those who years ago found us and found us a safe place to explore who Jesus is, thank you. For those who are newer here and are still exploring God’s reality and this church, welcome. We will always be a place for those who need a place to belong before they ever believe!
Matthew 28 – The great commission! According to Barna Research, 51% of church goers say they have never heard of the Great Commission.
So that we’re clear and on the same page. The great commission comes from scripture, and it’s found in Matthew 28:18-20 – 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I grew up in a church where the great commission was for the pastors or the missionaries who went overseas, but at Gateway we want this to be true of every person who follows Jesus. You don’t have to go overseas to find people who are searching spiritually, and you have shown that in your kindness of helping Gateway be a place where people know they can come with their doubts and struggles while they are exploring.
- Commitment to walking in mutual submission with those God has placed in our leadership
You may not know this, but we have a governing body that keeps me and our staff accountable. Our spiritual overseers keep us on track with our mission and theology, and our board of directors keeps us in line with fiduciary responsibilities and legalities. I am not the chairman of either of those bodies, but I am a voting member. I love these men and women, and even though I am their pastor, I choose to submit to the decisions made as a body, and they in turn choose to submit to my leadership. These are CEOs, lawyers, business owners, retired engineers, they are black, white, Latino, Asian, and we work together in submission to one another.
- Commitment to love my wife and my family as a matter of first priority
Part of becoming pastor was a willingness for LIbby and I to continually work on our marriage, and we have committed to each other and to the church that we would do so. She is my helpmate, she is the one who is with me on late nights, when I’m stressed, when I’m concerned about church matters. She’s with me as we lead staff and she knows when I am weak and when I am strong.
To my kids, the church is not my first love. God is always first, then your mom, and then you all. I have a calling to be a father, but it starts with you before anyone else. Carlos, Bella, Ava, Zoe and Maxwell, you are my main small group, and we are committed to your maturity in Christ.
- Commitment to living a life of integrity and character in all aspects of my life
Around here we encourage everyone to have a running partner. Someone who challenges you, pushes you, prays, cries, laughs, reads, consoles you in your spiritual life. I am committed to not doing life alone. Lifeway’s research on pastoral health reveals that 28% of pastors have a mental health struggle around friendships and feeling alone. I am committed to not being one of these statistics. I have men like Nate Ruch, John McKinzie, Jeremy McCarter, Brian Carpenter in my life..they all bring a different perspective that both encourages and challenges me.
- Commitment to modeling humility and having a teachable spirit
Patrick Lencioni wrote a book a few years ago that centered around The Ideal Team Player. In the book he writes about the tensions and also the need for us to reconcile the three areas that make us an ideal team player. Those areas are: a HUNGER to accomplish, the SMARTS to navigate work and emotional intelligence, and the last one is HUMILITY.
“Truly humble people do not see themselves as greater than they are, but neither do they discount their talents and contributions.”
At Gateway we define humility like this:
Humility is confidence in who God is and who God says I am – no more, no less.
- Commitment to grow as a leader.
The first part of our mission statement is that we would be a place that would help people explore God. If we are not careful, we assume that means that we are ONLY a place for people who are exploring the realities of God. The danger in that thinking is that we slowly begin to lose the wonder of who God is. We need people who are continuing to explore God even after we believe he is real and present with us. Hear me out church…we do NOT graduate from the gospel (the good news about Jesus), but instead grow into maturity. This my friends is what I mean by a commitment to growth.
The culture is saying that a big church like us only cares about growing numerically, but I can confidently say that if we grow in our knowledge of God, and live out his intentions for us all, health will come! When we are healthy, we are growing in so many ways, and this is what I want to do as our pastor…keep growing!
“Commitment is staying true to what you said you would do long after the mood that you said it in has left.”
The women I mentioned at the beginning, just like so many of us, have made commitments like these whether stated or implied, and that my friends, is how we leave a legacy! Because when you live for something, and someone, greater than yourself, your story outlives you! Your spiritual and relational DNA is carried by all those you have impacted, and all of this is because of the work of Jesus the Christ. The one who came to this earth, and took on flesh, to be one of us, so that we would be in right standing with our creator.
When we say we are committing to these things that will last, we are able to speak so confidently, because we know we will make mistakes, and fall short, but we will also be sustained by God’s grace. Let’e pray together!
CP Note: I will pray on live stream, as you come on stage. And when I’m done praying, you should be ready to take the handoff and close out with a charge similar to what I’m doing below at North. (2-3 minutes and the reflection song set up). The band should underscore you as you give the charge and then go into the song.
As a campus pastor, I’m able to make these commitments because they are commitments all who follow Jesus should be committed to live out. You may not be a pastor, or a staff member of a church, but you are called to this body, this community of faith, and we all have a role to play.
And if you’re here and you aren’t ready to follow Jesus or you are still working out what you believe about God, I want you to know that this is a safe place for you to explore. And when you are ready to begin this relationship with God through Jesus, we want to help you grow in addition to the way we want to help you explore. And by the way, God helps us fulfill these commitments, we cannot do it without his help!
I Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Every time we see a word like “Now” at the beginning of a verse of scripture, it points us back to the context of that passage. For today’s purposes, the “now” is pointing us back to these commitments that last. In light of all these things, that may seem too big, insurmountable for some, “now” you are the body of Christ, and you have a part to play in it. You too are called to leave a legacy, wherever God has called you.
As we close out celebrating the very reason we can walk in this confidence, because God is faithful and we can trust his word, and we are called to be his representatives in the earth. So instead of celebrating our faithfulness, our commitments, let’s celebrate his faithfulness, his greatness, that he is Emmanuel, God with us. Let’s take God as his word!