“…But Don’t Stay That Way” (video message)

Mar 22



…But Don’t Stay That Way | February 5, more about 201 from Gateway Church on Vimeo.

I spoke at Gateway’s McNeil campus and our new Central series on Feb. 5th. Here are some of the thoughts I shared:

“At Gateway, we use this phrase a lot: ‘Come as you are, but don’t stay that way.

In the Scriptures there is a story in the life of Israel where the world they knew was falling apart. Chaos and destruction had become the norm, but the prophet Ezekiel promised that there was a way out – a path of hope. Ezekiel challenged his people to align their behavior with God’s ways in order to experience restoration and healing.

Here are four insights from the story of Ezekiel that will help us live new lives.

First, we need to listen to the watchmen in your life.

If we are tired of where we are now, are we willing to make different choices? What sacrifices do you need to make to become who were meant to be?

Second, we need to care enough to be a watchman in the lives of others.

A loving community allows people to come as they are and cares enough to help people not stay that way.

Third, the way out of their current situation began with taking personal responsibility.

There comes a time in our lives (and it is sooner than we think), that we need to learn to feed ourselves.

Fourth, trust God. The great news is we are not alone in this. God is here for us.

God promises you a better future with Him than you’ve experienced without Him. The war over your future is not over. You may have lost some battles, but there is hope! You and I can take personal responsibility for our future, and we are not alone. God is here to help us.

Next Steps:

For more notes from this message, go here.

14 Principles for Missional Living – John Burke

Nov 21



At a training event sponsored by In the City For the City, viagra 40mg a group of Austin area pastors and ministry leaders, John Burke, our lead pastor at Gateway Church shared on the topic of “Missional Living: Grow Your Church Out of the Culture.” Here are some of his insights he shared:

The church in the Western world is in decline. The U.S. is becoming more and more post-Christian. We need to see ourselves as missionaries in our culture.

2 overarching questions to consider:

  1. How do we remove barriers between the message of Jesus and those who want and need to hear it?
    “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” – Acts 15:19
    If only 10% of our city shifted to follow Jesus out of those who don’t already, an entire city would be transformed! Just 10% is the tipping point for social transformation.
  2. How do we build bridges? (Acts 14, 17)
    In Acts 2, those hearing the message of Jesus already knew the stories of the Old Testament. When Paul was in Athens, he acknowledged the new context and built a bridge from where they were (quoting one of their poets) to the full message of God expressed in Jesus.

5 Barriers to Faith Created by the Postmodern Experiment:

  1. Trust – more abuse and more divorce than ever before plus a distrust of those in authority. Build a bridge to help others see that God’s ways are for their protection and the result of His love. Recognize where people are at and still welcome them.
  2. Tolerance – the two most common questions from the culture include: what do you think about those who live a different lifestyle & what do you think about other religions? The way we answer will either shut the door completely or keep the door open for more conversation and opportunity. Tolerance is a cheap substitute for grace, an undeserved love. People long to experience grace, but because they haven’t experienced it, they settle for tolerance.
  3. Truth– This isn’t as big of a barrier as you’d think. More than truth, people are repelled by arrogance. Too often Christians give off a vibe that we don’t have anything to learn from others. Being willing to listen changes this misperception.
  4. Aloneness –People long for community even as they struggle to trust others. Community is an incredible apologetic. We should be experts at creating community! People should be allowed to belong before they believe. Jesus did this – He allowed Judas to be in his small group, and He made him the treasurer.
  5. Brokenness – The cost of the postmodern experiment has been brokenness. Here is what our culture looks like:
  • 1/3 of women have had an abortion
  • 1/4 of women have been sexually molested
  • 1/2 of people will have lived together before marriage
  • 1/5 of people will struggle with substance abuse
  • 1/5 of people smoke
  • 1/2 of marriages end in divorce
    If our churches don’t look like this then either people are hiding their brokenness or we aren’t connecting with our culture.

    We all have areas of brokenness. Even “the rigtheous” weren’t actually healthy (they were the ones responsible for crucifying Jesus) when Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13).

4 Ways to Create a Culture of Growth:

Church culture can be your greatest ally or your greatest enemy for the mission of Jesus. God causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-9). We have a part to play – creating the environment where people can grow up best.

  1. Leadership mindset – A mature Christ-follower is on mission “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). A person cannot claim to be spiritually mature and not be about what Jesus was about.
    So how do we respond to the Christ-follower who says: “feed me more!” Jesus reminded us that the food for the mature is doing “the will of God” (John 4:32-36). Maturity equals obeying the Scriptures not knowing about the Scriptures.
  2. Training and values – help people understand why you do what you do and what you are called to do. Do our people have friendships with others in the culture?
  3. Visionary storytelling – help people see hope in who they can become and remind those in faith where they came from and why you’re doing what you are doing.
  4. Organization – The church is to be an organism not an institution. Are you organized in such a way that you can follow what God wants you to do?

3 Ways to Create a Culture of Grace-Giving Acceptance:

The world totally gets this: “I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.” – Rom.  7:15
The world does not naturally understand this: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” – Rom. 8:1

  1. Accept the person first. (Romans 15:7)
  2. Have a process view. Look at the masterpiece which is covered by the mud. How long is too long to invest in someone?
  3. Create a culture of dialogue. Allow people to ask their questions and share their doubts.

For more resources from John Burke, check out:

“Field Notes” by Ed Stetzer

Mar 18

Ed Stetzer wrote the “Field Notes” for chapter 9 in Not Like Me.  Here are his insights:

“The past few decades have seen American Christians going in two different directions. One group in the church regularly pits scorched-earth, view “come out and be separate” teaching against another group proposing the “love your neighbor as yourself” command of Jesus as paramount. Some what to save America, visit while others want to save Americans. Many believers have been taught that we should shun nonbelievers, site since any friendship with them might cause us to stumble and fall into sin ourselves. The response is to construct a protective boundary that keeps us at a safe distance from those “living in sin.” It results in a subculture of churched people who are the equivalent of evangelical Amish.
While it is important for Christians to have and proclaim the moral standards as we have received them in God’s Word, our challenge is to avoid arrogance. Becoming prideful of our standards can have the inadvertent side-effect of us thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.

Here are a few ideas to help us retain humility as we engage those who believe differently than us or even have no belief at all.

Be willing to acknowledge truth where it is found. In our day, many conservative Christians have bought the political ruminations of talk radio and believe that “incrementalism” is the worst enemy. As a result, many such people brush aside anything spoken or written by one with whom they disagree, lest that political or theological opponent appear to gain an upper hand. Jesus did not do this. In fact, He was quick to affirm when and where His opponents were right, even as He spoke to their errors. When we approach an unbeliever as a person to correct it usually seems to come across as we have all the answers. If we really want to impact people’s lives, we should be willing to learn from them what we can while openly admitting that our own knowledge is limited. The Scriptures are inerrant, but we aren’t.

Learn to recognize unbelievers first as people loved by God. Does “For God so loved the world” only apply to people who are like us or people whom we like? We must remember that all people who choose to reject Christ are still loved by God. Who are we to pick and choose persons we will love? When we recognize unbelievers first as people God loves, it will be easier for our love to follow.

Learn to recognize unbelievers as victims of the enemy. The Scriptures say that all unbelievers are under the deception of the wicked one. They are not the enemy; their souls are enslaved to sin and held captive by the enemy. They have the same need to be rescued as we had before our own salvation through Jesus Christ.

Intentionally befriend an unbeliever who is “out there.” People are not projects; they retain a marred version of the image of God and desperately need to be restored to wholeness of the life of Christ. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, he did not say, “Well, well, well. What have we here? A rebellious, God-hating tax collector!” On the contrary, he invited himself to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner and a conversation. With Zacchaeus, Jesus was willing to push beyond the surface of obvious differences to his actual point of need. It is a place that Zacchaeus might have ignored or not even known existed, but it is a place that can be uncovered by a friend.

Commit to befriend and genuinely love people even when they do not come to faith in Christ. This is not to say we stop sharing the gospel but that we remain faithful friends even if others are resistant to it. If we predicate our friendships simply on “an opportunity to lead them to Christ” without a passionate commitment to the relationship itself, we will come across as disingenous and may even turn them away from the faith we declare.

It is not without reason that Jesus said, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). It lends power to the description of Jesus as “a friend of sinners.”

Infiltrating culture with the gospel is the first priority in the context of mission. Those who live in the West will move forward when we relegate the culture wars to the back burner in favor of living out the love of Christ.”

Other articles in Not Like Me were written by Amena Brown, Margaret Feinberg, Kevin Harney, Dr. Gerardo Marti, Kim Martinez, Lon Wong, Mark DeYmaz, Princess Zulu, Dan Kimball, and Erwin McManus (Foreword).

What are your thoughts on Ed’s advice?

“Field Notes” by Ed Stetzer

Sep 29

Ed Stetzer wrote the “Field Notes” for chapter 9 in Not Like Me.  Here are his insights:

“The past few decades have seen American Christians going in two different directions. One group in the church regularly pits scorched-earth, order “come out and be separate” teaching against another group proposing the “love your neighbor as yourself” command of Jesus as paramount. Some what to save America, here while others want to save Americans. Many believers have been taught that we should shun nonbelievers, since any friendship with them might cause us to stumble and fall into sin ourselves. The response is to construct a protective boundary that keeps us at a safe distance from those “living in sin.” It results in a subculture of churched people who are the equivalent of evangelical Amish.
While it is important for Christians to have and proclaim the moral standards as we have received them in God’s Word, our challenge is to avoid arrogance. Becoming prideful of our standards can have the inadvertent side-effect of us thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.

Here are a few ideas to help us retain humility as we engage those who believe differently than us or even have no belief at all.

Be willing to acknowledge truth where it is found. In our day, many conservative Christians have bought the political ruminations of talk radio and believe that “incrementalism” is the worst enemy. As a result, many such people brush aside anything spoken or written by one with whom they disagree, lest that political or theological opponent appear to gain an upper hand. Jesus did not do this. In fact, He was quick to affirm when and where His opponents were right, even as He spoke to their errors. When we approach an unbeliever as a person to correct it usually seems to come across as we have all the answers. If we really want to impact people’s lives, we should be willing to learn from them what we can while openly admitting that our own knowledge is limited. The Scriptures are inerrant, but we aren’t.

Learn to recognize unbelievers first as people loved by God. Does “For God so loved the world” only apply to people who are like us or people whom we like? We must remember that all people who choose to reject Christ are still loved by God. Who are we to pick and choose persons we will love? When we recognize unbelievers first as people God loves, it will be easier for our love to follow.

Learn to recognize unbelievers as victims of the enemy. The Scriptures say that all unbelievers are under the deception of the wicked one. They are not the enemy; their souls are enslaved to sin and held captive by the enemy. They have the same need to be rescued as we had before our own salvation through Jesus Christ.

Intentionally befriend an unbeliever who is “out there.” People are not projects; they retain a marred version of the image of God and desperately need to be restored to wholeness of the life of Christ. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, he did not say, “Well, well, well. What have we here? A rebellious, God-hating tax collector!” On the contrary, he invited himself to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner and a conversation. With Zacchaeus, Jesus was willing to push beyond the surface of obvious differences to his actual point of need. It is a place that Zacchaeus might have ignored or not even known existed, but it is a place that can be uncovered by a friend.

Commit to befriend and genuinely love people even when they do not come to faith in Christ. This is not to say we stop sharing the gospel but that we remain faithful friends even if others are resistant to it. If we predicate our friendships simply on “an opportunity to lead them to Christ” without a passionate commitment to the relationship itself, we will come across as disingenous and may even turn them away from the faith we declare.

It is not without reason that Jesus said, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). It lends power to the description of Jesus as “a friend of sinners.”

Infiltrating culture with the gospel is the first priority in the context of mission. Those who live in the West will move forward when we relegate the culture wars to the back burner in favor of living out the love of Christ.”

Other articles in Not Like Me were written by Amena Brown, Margaret Feinberg, Kevin Harney, Dr. Gerardo Marti, Kim Martinez, Lon Wong, Mark DeYmaz, Princess Zulu, Dan Kimball, and Erwin McManus (Foreword).

What are your thoughts on Ed’s advice?

“What are we Waiting for?” By Jamie Locklin

Sep 03



Jamie is Lead Architect and Conversationalist for Mosaic Lake Houston in Houston, treat Texas.

“Growing up I knew I had an Uncle named Matt who lived in the Seattle area. He was my father’s brother and he sent me wrestling action figures like Bret the Barber for Christmas. Other than that though, I knew nothing about him.

Then one day he moved back to Houston to be closer to his family. I was excited to meet my new Uncle but my family seemed a little hesitant to introduce him. That’s when I met him and his partner, Joe. My world was thrown for a loop. Growing up in the suburbs of Houston, TX you just don’t talk about homosexuality—that’s something that happens “somewhere else”. But there he was, and at the ripe age of 11-years-old I was thrown into a world I had never known or even thought about it.

Over the next 18 years that have passed since the day I met my uncle, I have come to find out that not only is he a homosexual man, but that he is also a Buddhist who is living with HIV/AIDS. To some Christians, that is enough to put my Uncle in a category that would make him untouchable and unmentionable. He’s someone to hide under a rug that you don’t talk about, but for me, it’s been an adventure in learning what it means to truly embrace persons of all backgrounds.

My Uncle has taught me what it means to serve, to love, to care, and to sacrifice without conditions, without judgment. His efforts to change the world around him have inspired me to be a more devoted follower of Christ.

I wish I could tell you that I always thought positive things and never judged him in these 18 years, but I can’t. I am guilty of being the “typical” American Christian who despised not just the sin, but also the sinner. Despite all the insults hurled at him, despite all the roadblocks put in front of him, my Uncle still loved and cared for those around him.

I have been fortunate enough to serve beside him over these 18 years with those who are suffering through HIV and AIDS, to serve those who are openly homosexual and to learn what it means to love with God’s love. It’s strange actually that a homosexual Buddhist taught me what it means to really love and to see people with God’s eyes, but it’s true. I saw more of Jesus in my Uncle than I ever saw in the “Christians” around me growing up and it became a huge wake up call to me.

Don’t misunderstand me; I never doubted that God was real, or that Jesus was the answer to the problems that plagued our world. I did, however, doubt that the faith that had been handed down to me was whole and complete. The experiences with my Uncle are what led me to become a pastor. The interactions with my Uncle led me to explore my beliefs, to seek a deeper understanding of myself and why I did the things I did and believed the things I believed.

And for me, I think that is what really keeps us from embracing those who are different from us. We have been taught, purposefully or accidentally, that questioning God or our own faith will lead us to a dark place or down a road that ends in destruction—so we avoid people or experiences that might cause us to question ourselves, doubt our beliefs, or stir emotions that we don’t know how to process.

The reality is that answering questions is what God is good at and He loves to do it. God is crying out for us to embrace the diversity around us. There is so much to experience, so much to learn, so many questions that God wants us to ask Him. So what are we waiting for?!?”

“I am Hopeful” by Esther Mercado

Sep 02

I have read many books on spirituality searching for the answers and looking for a closer relationship with God. Yes… I know the answers are in the bible. I guess that’s why I never read the other books all the way through. I was looking for one of them to validate me and my alternative lifestyle. Something that would interpret the bible in a language that said my lifestyle was really okay with God. Not Like Me is not just another book on spirituality as I initially anticipated. This was dispelled when I started reading and quickly found myself relating to each chapter from beginning to end. I thought, hospital whoa! Who is this guy Eric speaking to me and reaching my spirit? How can he just spill out his shortcomings with what seems like ease and in that bring hope into my life? No way… I can do what he has done.

I was once told I could not be baptized until I first changed my lifestyle. So, try I went somewhere where they didn’t know me. They just knew I was seeking to be washed clean with the blood of Christ. To be honest, before that moment and even now, I don’t even know why or how I ended up living an alternative lifestyle. It was not something I chose. It just was. I also didn’t know what it was to have a relationship with God until the age of twenty-one, when I first accepted Christ in my heart. However, I walked out of the church and did not go back. I had no idea where my life was heading. At some point after accepting Christ for the first time, I thought I could reap the benefits of both worlds. Since then, I have accepted Christ in my heart twice, renewed my relationship with him, been baptized, felt the power of God upon me, laid hands on others, prayed in tongues with the Holy Spirit and have humbly won people to Christ when I was on fire for God and not living my way. When I allowed the enemy to attack, I went back out into the world trying to find love and living in alternative relationships that quickly dissolved before my eyes. Within this time, I had many times stopped praying, closed my eyes to what God was calling me to do, lost connection with God and the Holy Spirit, and was in no position to win people to Christ. I have felt the difference between being at peace and living in bondage. It was and is proof for me I could not and cannot live my way while trying to live God’s way. I have kept myself in bondage that I am certain has caused me to miss out on the many blessings God has been waiting to give me, including a loving relationship with the one He has chosen for me.

I have yet to find a book based on scripture that validates an alternative lifestyle. God’s word has the answers that one must be willing to accept in faith. My perception of God looking down upon me is like someone watching a horror movie. He has watched me open the wrong door and walk down the wrong street in the dark that will ultimately result in complete separation from Him. Amazingly, I know that God has not given up on me as I have many times given up on myself. He has been trying to get my attention and I believe He has. Sometimes the mountains God moves comes from the words people use. A simple invitation from a wonderful friend of mine led me to the Feast of Festivals at the Mosaic in Whittier, who then introduced me to Christa, who introduced me to Ink and Not Like Me, who in turn introduced me to Eric Bryant, who has encouraged me to share my shortcomings. I have since renewed my relationship with God and I am hopeful again.