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Wit and Wisdom of Gateway Church Athens GA

As we begin our new church life … so too a new blog!

Category Archives: Calling

As I sit here on a rather balmy new years morning I contemplate 2011 and reminisce on 2010.  Last year was certainly a year to remember.  Think about it: we had one pastor for 25 years and now we are on our 4th pastor in 6 months.  When I look back at Gateway’s progression through 2010 and see a church that has withered storm after storm in leadership.  Yet the core of believers that has stayed has been faithful and even though our numbers were reduced, we are still standing.  God has brought us through event after event.  You each know what I am talking about.

I want to encourage each of you to look forward to 2011 with great anticipation.  There are many good things on the horizon.
To start with, we have a spirit filled pastor as our lead pastor.  We have a very creative team approach to ministry with Joseph Slife, Tom Atkins, Bob Beckwith and Gene Acuff.  All of these men are well known by the members of Gateway and are men of God we have asked for time after time to preach for us.  Our prayers have been answered.  Hallelujah! 

A significant event I believe has been the request by Tom Atkins for us to read “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Jim Cymbala.  It is a book full of encouragement about God’s faithfulness in difficult times.  I also encourage each of you to review the story of Gideon in Judges chapter’s 6,7 & 8.  If you tie together the prophecy the Lord gave us in 1998 concerning Gideon and Cymbala’s book you can see that God can and will do a lot with a small group of believers that trust Him.  I would remind everyone that Gideon lost over 99% of his church before he was ready to take on the overwhelming odds against him.  “Fresh Wind” shows how God can and will do the same type of things today.

It is with that background that I want to launch into 2011.  We have started our Wed night prayer group.  I want to encourage everyone to join us on Wed night to pray for one another and our sister church Gateway of Shreveport.  Also Latina Mission in Athens.  If prayer is what the Bible says it is, then nothing we can do is more important than praying.

I want to share something I read in “Approaching God” by Steve Brown: “I’m often asked about the purpose of prayer before a sovereign God.  ‘If God knows what I’m going to ask before I ask it, why pray?’  It’s a good question, but it misses the point.  We pray not to get what we want, but to want what God wants, and we do that with the awareness that He is sovereign and that He knows best.”

For me, this puts into perspective why I pray.  It’s not for me to clarify to God but for God to clarify to me.  This means prayer is a two way street: me talking to God and then listening.

Let me show you how I put this into practice. I have prayed about God “fixing” my past.  It sounded something like this:  “Lord, fix this, make it go away, PLEASE!”  (This sounds similar to Paul’s prayer in 2 Cor 12).  I wanted help.  I didn’t know how or what that would entail, but I prayed as best I knew how.  Through “listening” to God in all the ways He speaks to us, I discerned through my counseling sessions that I needed to attend Onsite.  I did and I received much more than a simple “fix” like I wanted.

Steve Brown has a very common sense approach to prayer that I understand.  I believe his approach will help me be a much more effective lay leader and man of prayer.

I also want to mention what I believe is a budding relationship with Latino Mission.  I sense the Lord wants us to engage in dual ministry with them.  I want us to pray about a Sunday night praise, worship and healing service.  If you carefully review the Gospel of Mark chapters 1-3, you will see that Jesus did what He was called to do.  He was a man of prayer.  He was baptized in the Holy Spirit.  As a result, He had more people coming to his services than they could accommodate.  I believe this Sunday night service will have the same effect, IF (NOTE ALL CAPS!)  we diligently pray about it.

I want to add this note.  I spoke to a pastor friend of mine and shared with him about the possibility of a prayer and healing service.  He immediately warned me that all healing wasn’t from God and that many of the healing services aren’t from God.  I nodded and quickly left the conversation.  I felt as if the Lord was telling me the people that will be drawn to the services will not be religious folks.  It will be the exact persons He talked about in Luke chapter 4 18-19: The poor, the brokenhearted, captives, blind, oppressed and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord!  He came to heal the sick, not the healthy.

I sense God is getting ready to blow the roof off the place (so to speak).

Lord: Give us boldness to speak your word fearlessly and to be willing to go where others are not going and to be willing to do what others will not do.

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Tonight we had the first prayer gathering since we started reading “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire”.  There were 7 people and while we really didn’t have a schedule or structure, we just started praying.  We prayed for our Sister church Gateway of Shreveport first and then the Lord opened our hearts and I started “scribing” the prayers.  It became apparent that no one was going to be able to read my writing so I decided to type the summary and then post it on our blog. 

We have taken some steps to encourage our young prayer ministry.  We have established a  prayer journal at the front of the church on the communion table.  In it will be the summary of the weekly prayer time and a place where you can write prayer requests.  In addition, there will be 3X5 cards you can take and write prayers for us to pray over or use it to copy a prayer request and take home to pray for.

This ministry is just beginning.  As the old saying goes a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  This is a first step of what will be many steps as we move into the fulfillment of the ministry God has called us to.  Our partnership with Gateway of Shreveport is really important as we have a sister church fighting with the same issues we are and they too need our help and support.

Here is the summary of our first meeting:

I.    Gateway of Shreveport – 5 Things
     .    Finances
     .    Annual Business meeting January 26th
     .    Pastoral Staff Wisdom
     .    Annual missions conference in February
     .    Increase in souls saved
II.    Gateway of Athens
     .    Pastoral team: Wisdom, vision and leadership
        1.    Tom Atkins (Lead Pastor): Both houses will sell.
        2.    Bob Beckwith
        3.    Joseph Slife
        4.    Gene Acuff
     .    Finances
     .    We gave thanks for Dr.  Whetstone and his leadership and sensitivity as we finish this very difficult year of 2010.
     .    Remnant of both congregations: The people that stayed in both churches would find strength and help as they move forward in faith and remain faithful the calling God has laid on their lives.
     .    Tom Atkins: Tom has a heavy travel schedule due to his evangelistic association.  We pray for God to protect him and keep him safe.
     .    Holy Spirit: We pray for a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit.  We give Him permission to convict us of the things we need conviction of.
     .    Christmas Eve Service
     .    Alex and Audrey and entire music team: We asked the Lord to guide Alex and the music team to minister as He wants them too.  We prayed for special anointing for all members as they play and worship.
     .    Rudy and Martha Baker: We thanked God for their ministry in the role of interim pastor.
     .    Fresh wind, Fresh Fire: We thanked God for guiding us through Tom to this book.  We asked for wisdom and vision for Tom Crane as he works through this book.
     .    Show us how to minister the way you want us to minister Father.
     .    WE CLAIMED 100 NEW SOULS FOR THE KINGDOM THROUGH OUR MINISTRY IN 2011.
     .    Alton prayed for both churches and their general business needs.
     .    Alton prayed for prosperity to our homes.
     .    We asked God to guide us in Stewardship.
    ♡.    We prayed for the Lord to guide us to opportunities for ministry as we go through our daily schedules.  We asked for boldness to speak when God leads us to new opportunities.

Special Note:

The pastor from the Latina Mission (our old Boggs Chapel building) showed up towards the end of our meeting.  His 37 year old daughter just died from cancer.  Their church needs a much bigger building for the service and through Dr.  Whetstone’s leading, he suggested we offer Gateway.  We agreed and pastor Effriam came over to look at the building.  We invited him in and we started to pray for him.  He sat in a chair and we gathered around and prayed.  Frieda was weeping and asked God to minister as she knows the pain of losing a child of that age.  After a time of prayer, we suggested perhaps we could do joint services.  He was overjoyed with the idea.  So the Lord may well have opened an opportunity for us to have a combined service with the Latina Mission.  How exciting is that!!!!

Last Sunday in our adult class, we discussed the book “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire”.  We talked about the need for prayer and ministry to those God wants to lead to our fellowship.  Well this Wednesday, we start our prayer ministry.  I will be at the church at 6:30 PM and we will start praying as the Holy Spirit leads us.

I am very excited about where we are at this place in our ministry.  God is providing us pastoral leadership in abundance.  Tom Atkins has a wonderful plan for TEAM ministry with Bob Beckwith, Joseph Slife and Gene Acuff.  These are men we love and respect.  They are familiar with us and we with them.  They love God, and have agreed to join our ministry.  That is good news.

However I want to elaborate on a few points.  I believe God has given us a great start for 2011.  But these men represent one part of the equation.  I believe their joining with us in ministry is a missing key for us.  But now they are on board, we must focus on OUR responsibilities.  God will lead people to Gateway in response to our cries for ministry.  But to be effective the Holy Spirit will be critical.  Our willingness to hear the Holy Spirit as He leads all of us into ministry is a necessary element of our fulfilling our calling.  We are asking God to send us those who haven’t been churched, those who have issues to deal with that aren’t easy.  Please keep in mind that our responsibility is to love them as God sends them.  It is HIS job to clean them up.  But we must all be willing to be “cleaned up” as well.  God accepts as we are, but he doesn’t LEAVE us as we are.  None of us. 

To that end, this Wednesday the 22nd of December will be our first prayer time dedicated to our new direction.  Please come and join us in prayer as we lay our lives before God and ask Him for guidance in “helping people experience God”.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Today is Monday the 6th of December.  Julia and I are on the very last leg of a 4500 mile 2 week trip.  We are literally out of gas.  Yet we are encouraged by the events of the last several days.  By now, everyone knows about our new Pastoral appointment, Tom Atkins.  I have spoken to Tom several times while on the road and I am incredibly excited about his arrival.  Several things have happened to give me great encouragement about our church.

Tom asked us to read “Fresh wind, Fresh fire”.  Since we were on the road I downloaded the audio version of the book.  We listened to it as we were passing through the various moonscapes of Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.  Like many of you, I read the book years ago, but had forgotten it.  Well as we listened to the book my heart was stirred with passion for the mission I believe God has asked us to complete: Helping People Experience God!

Over the last year I have been asking questions of God, Tom, Frieda, Hope, Missy, Julia and anyone else that will listen to me.  I’ve been trying to see how we accomplish our goals.  Who is our target audience?  Who will lead us?  How do we get there?  I’ve not felt comfortable with the various “program” approaches that have been suggested.  While these were not bad in and of themselves, I knew our growth and success would not be because we did so many mailers to such and such neighborhood with a given response and we would get “X” number of members.

I am reminded of one of my favorite scriptures, 1 Corinthians 2:2 For I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified. 

My question concerning this scripture has been “What would it look like today if a Christian resolved to do the same thing Paul did?”  As Julia and I listened to “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire”, I saw it clearly.  The growth “model” I have been looking for is in the book.  It is called Prayer.  Wow, Tom Atkins was telling me that upon our first conversation and as the book unfolded, my heart was saying “yes, yes, yes ..  This is what we’ve been looking for”.

It is 05:30 in Meridian MS as I write this.  Julia and I will be leaving in a few minutes to head home.  I have much more to write and tell you about, especially from yesterday’s meeting at Gateway of Shreveport.   This church is a special church and will be intimately involved with us as we go forward.  In the meantime, please look at their website:

http://www.gatewayshreveport.com/

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Learn about them.  They are standing with us shoulder to shoulder as we weather the storms and they are praying with us.  Their church is a praying church.   The youth of the church came forward during worship and raised their hands and praised God!

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The leadership of the church called Julia and I up on the stage and they prayed for us, anointed us with oil and there were encouraging words of prophecy for us.  More will be coming later this week!

Please read “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” as soon as you can!

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Recently I’ve been reading and listening to Jack Hayford’s book “Rebuilding the Real You”.  Jack makes the case that Nehemiah’s leading of the rebuilding project in Jerusalem mirrors the Holy Spirit’s work in our own lives.  As I’ve been thinking about the entire rebuilding project, the subject that keeps coming to my mind is foundations.  You can’t rebuild a building or a life without a strong foundation.  The classic scripture I think of is in Matthew:

Matt 7:24-25 So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them [obeying them] will be like a sensible (prudent, practical, wise) man who built his house upon the rock. And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

All of this leads me to where we are at Gateway.  What are our foundations?  As we go forward, what do we build on?  What do we do good and what are we not so good at?  Over the years I’ve wanted to “whiteboard” our congregation many times.  By “whiteboard” I mean getting people in a room and talk through a positional-directional analysis.  In other words, where are we now and where are we headed.  Without this type of analysis I’m not sure we have a good picture of exactly where we are.  We have a good mission, “Helping people experience God”.  Are we structured as a church to maximize our mission statement?  Do we as individuals understand our gifts and our callings?  If we had a Sunday where we had 10 new families come to our service, would we have the processes and procedures in place that would help them feel comfortable?

These are questions I have been thinking about.  I know our congregation has a strong love for God and makes people feel welcome when they come to Gateway.  I know there is no better place to be if you are hurting than within the friendly confines of Gateway church.  Being friendly and helping people in need is one of the strengths of Gateway.  What I am concerned about is do we have the structure for dealing with growth?

We have the next three months with Rudy Baker as our pastor.  Rudy is gifted in the areas of organization and administration.  I believe the Lord has sent Rudy to Gateway in this time of need.  I believe it would be wise for us to take advantage of his skill set and focus on building a foundation we can grow on.  I don’t know what that will look like, but over the next several months we have an opportunity to find out.  Lets pray, study and work to show ourselves willing to do what we need to do to be what the Lord wants us to be.

Lord: Help us establish a strong foundation to grow upon so we can help people experience God.

Last Sunday, Frieda announced that Dr. Rudy Baker will be appointed as our interim pastor.  It is imperative that we prayerfully support Dr. Baker as he leads us during this critical time in the life of our congregation.  As such the church leadership has sent Dr. Baker a memo showing our support for his appointment.  I wanted to share the memo with you.

Dr.  Baker:

As you well know, Gateway has undergone some extreme changes in the last year.  After 25 years of pastoral stability, we’ve undergone 2 changes in a matter of months and we don’t have a permanent replacement in sight.  Dr.  Whetstone has been a tremendous ally in helping us work through these changes.  We are experiencing the strength of the connectional system as the district is helping us work through financial difficulties with our mortgage.

We have placed our confidence in the Lord and the proper authority structure of our district.  It is through prayer and careful consideration that you have been asked to serve as our interim pastor.  I believe I can speak for the leadership at Gateway we look forward to working with you.

A quick word about our congregation.  While our numbers have dwindled over the last couple of years, those that are left are committed to completing the mission God has given us: “Helping people experience God!”  We stepped out in faith to build our building.  We were able to complete our obligations for 3 years before things became unmanageable.  We do not understand why people chose to leave our congregation, but that is in the past.  We look to the future with hope and confidence that God will fulfill Phil 1:6 in the life of our congregation.

Our leadership is strong as we keep our eyes focused on Jesus.  You will be in our prayers as we believe the Lord has chosen you for the faith and unique set of skills you bring to Gateway in this time of need.

I look forward to meeting you and working with you.

In Christ,

Andy Hines
Lay Leader
Gateway Church