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Grand Opening Celebration!

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Today was an amazing day for Gateway, we might call it the beginning of a new chapter in our church's story.

With that in mind, it is useful for us to remember some of the milestones of our journey -- and these are highlighted below -- as part of a responsive chronology read by some of our members -- to help us remember where we have been.

There are so many people who made this journey possible -- and Pastor Ed tried to mention as many as he could before he was overwhelmed by tears of gratitude for what God has done for us through all of these amazing people.

Our story chronicles the Lord's favor despite our own limitations including lack of foresight,  recession, leadership failures, policy restrictions, impatience, and frustration.   The Lord worked through the congregation and others around us -- to make our building a reality.

At this critical time in our history, we must also remember why we built this building...  from the human perspective, this building isn't even for us.  Our purpose for building it was to serve the community in which we live -- this is why the building also serves as a children's center and recreational center for the community as well as being the home of our church.

But the most important reason for building this center, is that by doing so we can, in some small measure honor and glorify the God we love and the God we serve. 

Here is the Celebration Responsive Reading we declared together this morning:

By faith First Baptist Church of Alexandria received a vision to plant 5 churches in the Northern Virginia area.

 By faith First Baptist called an inner city Pastor in Boston to plant one of these NoVa churches.

 By faith that inner city Pastor responded to the call of NoVa to start a new church.

It is no accident that God called this Pastor and his family to this place.

 CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

 By faith a NoVA land developer followed God’s directive to lead a local church to 31.5 acres of land in an undeveloped area just south of Route 50 and West of South Riding with the vision of that location becoming Center and Main street Loudoun County in the future.

 By faith that developer pursued giving this land to a church when initially rejected by the Pastor of a new congregation.

 By faith that developer went to the Virginia Baptists Extension Board in Richmond to present the vision for this land so they would buy it for a church.

 By faith this board bought this land with the vision of a church being planted there and taking root in that fast developing area.

It’s no accident they bought this land in the name of a brand new small NoVa congregation who had no name or no money.

 CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

 By faith this congregation set aside the thought of this land and for years pursued authentic Christian community and relationships.

It’s no accident that God brought many people during those years whose lives were impacted by God’s presence and forever changed.

CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

 

By faith this congregation bought the 31.5 acres from the Virginia Baptist Extension Board after 5 years, then the next year bought an adjoining 1 acre of land with house to serve as the church office.

It’s no accident that the County of Loudoun, on its own, zoned the majority of the land as ‘CLI’ which allowed the construction of a church on it by right.

CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

 By faith this congregation felt God’s leading to build a building on the land and conducted the first Capital Campaign giving over $800,000.

 By faith this congregation followed God’s leading and paused the first building project to focus on Him and His people.  This decision was excruciatingly difficult; but God moves even in the difficult.

CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

By faith the decision was made to use $450,000 from the Land/Building fund to pay down existing debts – a decision that would pay dividends in the future. 

By faith, and God’s immense grace, this congregation moved forward through a difficult, desert time of testing (a recession; staff challenges; leadership failures; declining energy and attendance). 

CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

By faith an experienced land developer followed his heart and gave his life to Jesus.  No one knew what a vital role this developer would play in the future of God’s plans … well, God knew.

It’s no accident that this developer lives 2 doors from the Senior Pastor and sought his counsel as his faith blossomed.

CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

By faith this congregation moved from Herndon to Mercer Middle School in Stone Ridge to be closer to the land even though this meant many members would not be making the journey.

By faith two congregations combined to become one, bringing new strengths and talents to help lead the congregation and a second building project.

Over the next few years, by faith, many new people from the Dulles South area joined the congregation 

 

By faith the decision was made, as this congregation emerged from a time of discouragement, to follow God’s direction to restart the building project.

It’s no accident the new Building Team had the right skills and talents to lead this project and navigate through all the activities to make this a success.

CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

By faith it was decided to follow God’s new direction for the building and land to make it a Community Resource Center to better serve the surrounding people.

By faith this congregation conducted a second Capital Campaign pledging $2.2M and giving $539,000 (24.5% of pledges) the first 15 months of the campaign.

By faith the Virginia Baptist Extension Board loaned this congregation $350,000 interest-only the first three years, and NorthStar Association loaned this congregation $150,000 interest free for three years, based on the vision of this congregation.

By faith this congregation made the decision to sell the South Parcel to a development company.  By doing so, it provided for the Tall Cedars road construction across our land, a sewer connection, and turn lanes into our main church parcel saving millions of dollars.  It also provided $1,200,000 for the Building fund.

By faith, this congregation accepted a loan from Middleburg Bank which enabled it finally to actively pursue the vision God had planted. 

CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

By faith, this congregation prayed for dry weather and it did not rain, then prayed for rain and it poured. 

CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

By faith, this congregation watched as the facility rose from the ground – vision becoming steel and stone.

CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

By faith, this congregation has overcome every obstacle because of the power and grace of Almighty God and the provision of our Savior and Master Jesus Christ and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

And by faith, strengthened by the encouragement of God’s past repeated faithfulness and movement, this congregation looks forward with great anticipation to what God will do and where God will take us to reach those that live in this immediate area and serve those that will come.

CONGREGATION: THANKS BE TO GOD

Celebration Sunday

Today was Celebration Sunday at Gateway!

Alex York started us off.  He talked about how he has only attended Gateway for 4 years, so he doesn't know all the stories from Gateway's first 11 years.  And he is in good company -- we have many who have attended Gateway less than 5 years.

So he told a few stories -- stories of what God has done recently at Gateway.  He told about people whose lives have changed drastically, who have been blessed and who are now blessing the congregation as a whole with their service.

We want to be like Abraham, whom God promised to bless -- but God also promised to make him a blessing to all the nations of the earth.

The kids were in the service with us today, and I liked that they asked the children during the service to draw some pictures and make some lists, answering the questions:  What do you want the children's room and playground to look like?  What do you want in our new building?

Then Pastor Ed gave the message.  He looked at how God's promises throughout the Old Testament were focused on place.

Clearly, place is important in God's mind.  We got an amazing land deal for our new building, and we do believe that our property came to us because God wanted to build a church in that place.

The Old Testament is a story of the importance of place to God.

Genesis 12 -- When he first initiated a relationship with Abraham, God talked about a place.

Genesis 15:1-21 -- God made a covenant with Abraham, in which God promised to keep both sides of the covenant.  The covenant was about the land he would give to Abraham and his descendants.

Genesis 26 -- God confirmed his covenant with Isaac -- about the land.

Genesis 28:10-15 -- God told Jacob, "I will give you this land."

God did this to accommodate himself to us.  He gave them a place.  His blessings always included a place.

Exodus 3 -- God called Moses to lead his people out of slavery to the land promised to Abraham.

He brought them back to the land that had been promised to them for generations.

Then they looked at circumstances, and didn't go in.

Deuteronomy 1 -- "See, I have given you this land, so go in and take possession!"

Joshua 1 -- It called for sacrifice, unity, strategic planning, and fierceness.

Joshua 21:43 -- God gave them the land, and they took possession of it.

Years later, when God rebuked them, he took them from the land.

The land was always a central focus of God's activity and a central means of blessing God's people.

Two Contradictory Truths:

1.  It was all about the land.

2.  It was not about the land at all! 

II Chronicles 6:14-18 -- God doesn't dwell in a place.

God's house is his people.

We are God's house.

And we built up God's house this morning with four baptisms.

Three sisters from the Fick family all got baptized this morning, as well as Anthony Moaf, whose mother has been attending Gateway since the beginning -- and praying all the while for her son.

It was a beautiful and inspiring way to finish off Celebration Sunday, by hearing all four testimonies and seeing them join God's house.

Welcome to the family, Laney, Carleigh, Evie, and Anthony!