Back To School – “You Belong”

Back To School – “You Belong”

Did you know that there’s a safe way to truly cross the street? I know as teens
and adults crossing the street is second nature to us, but if you were going to
teach someone how to cross the street, how would you teach them to do so?
Take about 10 seconds and figure out how many steps it takes to teach
someone how to cross the street?
What was your answer? 3 steps, 5 steps, 7 steps?
I googled how to cross the street and the most extensive list I found was the

  1. Find a strategic place to cross
  2. Stop at the curb where you decided to cross
  3. Look to the left for oncoming traffic
  4. Look to the right for oncoming traffic
  5. Listen for oncoming traffic
  6. Once clear, walk briskly across the street
  7. Make sure you walk in a straight line across the street
    That was 7 steps to consider, when in my mind it’s really 3…Stop, Look and
    “Don’t be so dramatic, Carlos!!!” Oh really, according to the Insurance Institute
    for Highway Safety, there were 7388 pedestrian deaths in 2021. As a matter of
    fact, the death rate has plummeted since the 1970’s, but since 2020, that
    number is going up.

And get this…the lowest age demographic to get into these accidents, children
between 0-12 and those over 70, and the two highest, those 20-44 and 45-69.
So don’t blame it on those who are too young and those many people consider
too old.


This seems so trivial, but as we’re learning in this series, there are times to look
back on our spiritual journey and return to a few of the basics of faith. And in
many cases learning these basics can be the difference between spiritual life
and death.
So what basic building blocks will we discuss today?

The basics of knowing YOU BELONG. Our Kids
ministry puts it like this:

You Belong: Engaging in healthy community can, and should, be a
spiritual habit we develop. Whether it is a church, at home, or at school,
everyone wants to know that they have a place to belong!
Around here we say things like:
“You can belong here before you believe.”
“You can belong before you know how to “behave.”
…and we mean it. Why is there such a grace in building community before people know the
protocols? Because we know that being in relationship with others is so important to growing
our faith. Community is the space where we are fully known, and where we all want to be in
relationships where we are- speaking to be known, and listening to understand.

To put it as basic as we can, we believe that WE > me. How does this make us stronger/better?
Because we forgo a life of isolation for a life shared with others, and there is strength in
“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”

― Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book
We see this played out in scripture in the book of Acts. This is a passage so many people refer
to when speaking about community, but I want us to take a closer look at the choices made and
the effects of those choices. It’s like at your place of employment, when you make a goal, and
you have to decide what is a lead goal, something that you can control or impact, and what is a
lag goal, something that is a byproduct of doing something else well.
So here’s the breakdown: Jesus has come to earth, lived a sinless life, goes to the cross for all
of humanity’s redemption, rises from grave, and ascends to heaven. Now, those who have
followed him, believed him, and are waiting for his return have a decision to make…what now?
Now, they wait for the promise of God’s holy spirit to come, and then they are to live out what
they know. And what they know is that Jesus said in John 13:
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love
one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one

So these disciples of Jesus follow his command and begin to live life with one another
out of obedience and love for Jesus and one another. Now look what happens…
Acts 2: 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the
breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders
and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had
everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had
need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke
bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and
enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who
were being saved.

  • Being in a constant state of learning (vs.42)
  • Shared life with others (vs 42)
  • Breaking bread together (vs 42)
  • A life of prayer (vs 42)
  • Stayed in a constant state of awe (vs 43)
  • Lived generously (vs 45)
  • They went to the church building together (vs 46)
  • They praised God together (vs47)
    These are all things that were in their control. LEAD goals if you will. They could
    posture their hearts, their meals, their souls to line up with their community.
    But what follows are the LAG goals/results they could not control.
    The byproduct of living intentionally for this group of people was over the top.
  • They saw miracles take place
  • They shared everything
  • They not only met the group’s needs, but they met the needs of the poor and
    marginalized in their vicinity
  • Carried a heart of worship (lifting up and honoring the name of Jesus)
  • Shared meals with great joy
  • Each day God was moving on people’s hearts as they received the good news of
    Jesus in a deep and personal way.

We read that God was pleased with the way these people were intentionally
living in community together, and saw fit to move on people’s hearts to be a
part of this community through they’re belief in Jesus. And shouldn’t this be our
Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not
giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one
another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

What does this mean for us?
Where am I being obedient to Jesus’ command to love one another?

Good Christian liturgy is friendship in action, love taking thought, the covenant
relationship between God and his people not simply discovered and celebrated
like the sudden meeting of friends, exciting and worthwhile though that is, but
thought through and relished, planned and prepared — an ultimately better
way for the relationship to grow and at the same time a way of demonstrating
what the relationship is all about. – N. T. Wright
What kind of group is my next step?
We have options for the group that might just be where you are in life. At each of
our campuses you have an opportunity to explore your faith in an Alpha group,
explore the bible, grow in relationship with others, to find healing from hurts and
hangups with our heal groups, a place to belong based on a common interest.
We don’t know your next step, only you do.
What does this mean for Gateway?
If you are calling Gateway home, and we are so glad you do, just know that
groups are not an idea, a ploy, an efficient way to get people to find friends…NO,
groups are who we are and what we will continue to be. We are a church of
groups, because we know that that is where we are more lined up with Christ
than any other place.
If you asked each person who has been in a group over the year, each person
would share the same kind of heart, but may have different ways to describe the
group. Much like we talked about how to cross the street and how simple we can
make it, each group, no matter what kind of group you are in, has 3 simple
elements that may play out differently, but keep us all like minded.
Lean IN to community – We will always lean into relationships to be known and
know others
Look UP to God – We will always want our relationships to be God centered (a
cord of three strands) through prayer and scripture

Step OUT – We will always have a next step to put our faith into action by
listening to the God sized prompts in our life.
Much like crossing the street has life and death implications, so does the simple
“crossing the street” to be in relationship with others. You belong and have every
right and opportunity to live out the value of WE > me.

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About John and Kathy Burke

After ministry in Santa Barbara, the former Soviet Union, and Chicago, in one of the […]


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