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Courageous Witnesses

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On Sunday, Pastor Ed Allen preached a sermon from II Timothy 1:3-14, a passage we'd recently read as a church in our Deeper Wider devotionals.

He mainly looked at the question:

What enables us to be courageous witnesses about the story of Jesus?

Three things that propel us, enable us, and empower us to be courageous witnesses about Jesus' story:

1)  God has given us a spirit of power and love and self-control.

From verses 6-7.  The word "gift" is the Greek word charis.  And the charismatics have got it mostly right.  There is more!  God does want to touch you and fill you with His power, love and self-control.

Ed does what he does because of an experience like this.  Here he told us about a call from God that came when he was 17 years old.

Encounters with God are not always wildly dramatic, but sometimes they are.

Whatever experience you've had with God, whatever calling, whatever gift -- fan it into flame!

If you haven't yet had an experience with God, we're going to ask God to touch you.

2)  We are sustained in our suffering by the power of God.

Why aren't we courageous witnesses all the time?  Because the story of Jesus sounds ridiculous.  (It's either Truth, or it's ridiculous.)

Our faith doesn't solve all our problems.  We still suffer.

Paul told Timothy not to be ashamed of him -- he was in prison.  In fact, he called himself the Lord's prisoner.

We can be courageous witnesses because we are sustained through our suffering by the power of God (vs. 9-10).

We're called to a holy calling.  We're sustained through all things.  We don't need to shrink back.

3)  We know we can trust Him.

Verse 12:  "I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed..."

I don't know all the whys and hows, but I know the Who.

"guard the good deposit" -- what we're giving away is what we've been given.

Fear makes our witness very awkward.  Move out courageously.

What Is Church?

Today was Gateway Community Church's 21st Birthday!  So we did some reminiscing and remembering what things were like in 1998.  Then Pastor Ed Allen talked about what's next for Gateway?  Things are going to be the same, only different.

They will be the same, in that the church hasn't changed.  What is the Church? 

The word in Greek is ekklesia and means "called out ones."  We're not here by accident, we're called out by God.

The church is not a building; church is people.

We looked at Acts 2:42-47, reading what the early church was like to see what we should be like today.

They devoted themselves to:

-- the apostles' teaching

The Bible is central to everything we do.

-- fellowship

*Community!  This is especially important to us at Gateway.  In northern Virginia suburbs, where people move frequently, we have lost that sense of community in our neighborhoods.  So we need to be very, very intentional to have it in our church.

"We exist to be used by God to draw others into authentic Christian community."

-- breaking bread

Think more fellowship; think family.  This is also about the special meal remembering the Lord.

-- prayer

Communicating with God.  He's what it's all about.

Church is a Christ-worshiping-God-honoring-all-in-deeply-devoted-to-God-and-to-one-another community.

Church is a network of relationships that rely on the power of God.

This part will stay the same for the next 21 years!

What will be different?

We spent 21 years building an infrastructure to support the kind of ministry God wants.  In some ways, the church body is like a human body going through developmental stages.  It's time for us to be an adult!  Yet we're still working on some of the earlier stages.

We looked back at Acts 2:42-47 to look at ways we need to launch into adulthood.

The Lord extended their ministry with signs and wonders.  The church took care of all who had need.  The Lord added to their numbers greatly.  Reflecting on that:

We will look actively and increasingly to God for Him to do amazing (supernatural) things through us and our ministry.

We expect to see healing of all kinds.  We expect to invest in causes and see God make changes.

We will get better and bolder at telling God's story.

We will give crazy amounts of money, time, and talent away to meet the needs of those around us.

At this point, Ed told about a world-class school we're going to help build in the Dominican Republic through our sponsored missionary Ina York.  This will not be the last school we will build!

We have been given an abundance of resources to share with people in need all over the world.  When we do so -- we end up learning from their faith and joy and end up with the better end of the deal.

As the years go by, we will do more and more of this!

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