Pastor Tom asked us to begin to consider looking at our mission statement, “Helping people experience God” and see if we can better define who we are. Personally, I like the statement. I think it is a goal worthy of achievement. We live in a time when so many people don’t have a clue about who God is and what the Christian life is all about. I feel Gateway does know God and we have experienced God in so many ways. So I am comfortable with the statement as it stands.
But I want to honor Tom’s request to consider changing it. So I’ve thought about the statement and evaluated it in the light of where we are today. Is it still relevant? Does it communicate effectively who we are as a body? Does it tell people what God has called us to do as a body of believers? Gateway has undergone serious changes in the last several years. Perhaps a new vision is appropriate for reflecting these changes and what God is doing in us and through us now.
With that background I must say there is a need to evaluate the statement, if not change it altogether. It may well be the right mission statement for us. It may not be. So I’ve been thinking about how can I go about searching out this most important element of our existence as a local expression of the body of Christ. I would like to share some of my thoughts with you.
The first thought is this: Gateway is a body of believers who have survived serious struggles. As I look at Gateway I see people who have survived:
• Addictions of all kinds
• Family murders
• Sexual and child abuse
• Financial setbacks
• Abandonment of all kinds
• Cancer Survivors
• Heart attack survivors
There are a lot of Gateway members who have been here for years. That tells me they don’t run when the going gets tough. They are not quitters. Mature believers trust God when times are tough. Gateway members know how to persevere through tough times.
The second thought is this: The members of Gateway pull together for each other when the need arises. It doesn’t matter what it is, we pull together. That would include financial hardships, accidents, hospital needs and any other need you can think of. I’ve been here for close to 25 years, and I can’t think of a time when there has been a need we haven’t risen to the challenge. Not one time.
The third thought is this: Gateway is familiar with suffering and pain. The challenges we have faced have molded us and shaped us to be more Christlike as we walk hand in hand with the Lord to deal with very difficult issues.
It is this third area I want to talk about. Over the last 23 years, I don’t remember a time when we purposely set about to study what God’s Word says about persecution, suffering and affliction. What is God’s perspective on it? I think if you look at Gateway, you see people who have suffered. While you can always find someone who has suffered more than you and less than you, there is one common element between all of us: suffering is a part of life.
I think it would benefit us as a body to study this very important subject together. Lets study what God says about suffering. Lets talk to Him, argue with Him and question Him. Lets ask Him for His perspective on this most important subject that affects everyone in the human race. I believe if we take the time to work through this subject together, being guided by the Lord, we will gain some fresh perspective about who we are at Gateway.
Many of us have seen people come to Gateway hurting and in bad shape emotionally. We’ve seen them come with physical pains such as cancer and other diseases. We’ve seen them bear the death of loved ones. I believe with this study, the Lord can give us valuable insight in a subject people need help with.
The book I would suggest we study is “The Goodness of God” by Randy Alcorn. It is a short book with 11 chapters and 104 pages. It is packed full of Scriptures and would generate a tremendous amount of discussion and thought.
I’ve thought about how we could implement this study. I was going to offer a class on it, but quickly decided that may not be the best method for this study. Tom Crane suggested I blog the study. That way people can access it at a time of their own choosing and if a class is warranted, people will make that known. I like his idea.
So starting this next week, I will begin the blog-study on suffering. I ask for your prayers, because I believe this will be a very difficult study, but very rewarding. I don’t have answers. I used to have all the answers, but that was eon’s ago. The longer I live, the more questions I have. I get some of them answered, but more often than not, the answers lead to more questions.
I ask for your participation. We all need to hear comments and feedback. This study will be no different.
My first posting will have the outline I propose to follow and then we will be off and running!!!!
I look forward to a significant class that I believe the Lord will use to guide us to much fuller understand of who we are as a body and where He wants us to go.
Lord: Please guide us and show us what you want us to do and how you want us to minister to the Athens community.