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Tearing Down the Walls Between Church and Community

Gateway Church Austin and 20+ other churches in Austin are teaming together for an initiative to tear down the walls that hold us back from our best. These walls pit people against each other, keep neighbors distant, keep churches from working together or from serving our city. We all face walls. We all get stuck, but we don’t have to stay stuck.

Ted Beasley spoke at the McNeil campus, and Bruce Gilson spoke at the South campus. Here are some of the main points:

“Today, we’re taking a long, hard look at another wall – the partition between church and the community. The church door is more than just a physical barrier; it is a demarcation line of two cultures with different approaches to truth, different values, different ways of relating. But Jesus never set out to institutionalize religion, to generate a bureaucracy, to found an exclusive social club with secret handshakes and buzz words.

In Matthew 23, Jesus tells his disciples: “Be careful so that you don’t build a religion and in the process build walls.”

Let’s spend our time this morning discussing three different walls between church and community we didn’t even know we were building. Three types of walls we have to tear down.

#1 The Wall of Weirdness:

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18: “The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hell-bent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation, it makes perfect sense.” We think it makes perfect sense to people, but from their perspective, it’s just weird. Stories of guys being swallowed by giant fish. Red Sea being parted. Virgin birth. Jesus being crucified somehow forgives sins?

Levi, also called Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples, figured out a simple way around the Wall of Weirdness. He threw a party for his friends who were not following Jesus. In fact, Jesus’ reputation was tarnished for even attending this party with so many people known as the worst sinners in society. (Luke 5)

We might say that we don’t discriminate and that the people in our sphere of influence are always welcome, but are we being proactive?

We’ve created networks to remove the walls between our community and us. We gather for social events, learning opportunities, and to work together to meet spiritual and physical needs in your immediate vicinity. Medium size groups are a more natural place to connect with people. They are spiritual families. Networks are all about helping you do what you really want to do – remove the church weirdness for you and your friends.

#2 The Wall of Hypocrisy:

In ancient Greek societies, hypocrites were actors. Rather than having a large cast to perform a play, there were only a few actors, but they switched multiple masks in order to play various roles. A hypocrite is someone who wears a mask, who preaches one thing, but does another. Church hypocrisy bugs people who are outside the walls.

We represent Jesus to those near us. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus says: “You are the light of the world so let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Wall #3 – The Wall of Indifference:

We never meant to create a wall between the church and the community, but the more we ignored real needs right in front of us, the higher the wall towered between us. James 4:17 reminds us: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” When you have a strong sense of the right thing to do, but you equivocate, you leave it for someone else to do and walk away, you’ve violated your conscience. The pain of other people is our business!

In Matthew 10:5-8, Jesus says, “God intervened in your broken life; now it’s time for you to get involved in the brokenness of others.” With our families, small groups, and networks, we can make a difference in the lives of others far beyond what we could do on our own.

There are real walls between the church and the community. We don’t notice them because we are so used to being on the inside; we forget what it’s like on the other side of that window. Tear down the wall of weirdness. Decimate the wall of hypocrisy. Break through the wall of indifference.”

To watch or listen to this message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

For a list of small groups in Austin and small group materials, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/walls.

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ebryant@churchleaders.com'
Dr. Eric Michael Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin as the team leader for Central and South Austin and as part of the teaching team. Eric previously served at Mosaic in Los Angeles and his books include Not Like Me: A Field Guide to a Influencing a Diverse World and A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be. Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership.