WASHINGTON, November 5, 2016 –Robert Morris, Founding Senior Pastor of Gateway Church (Dallas/Fort Worth, TX), provides his perspective on a number of key and relevant issues important to contemporary Christianity in an exclusive interview with CommDiginews .
CDN: Pastor Morris, thank you for giving us an opportunity to speak with you today.
Pastor Morris: My pleasure; glad to speak with you.
CDN: Some have been critical of your messages about tithing (i.e.: Christians giving 10% of their income to the local church). What do you say to the critics who believe that your pitch for tithing is a veiled attempt to get funds into the church to support the ministry, salaries, and expenses?
Pastor Morris: Well, I know that some ministers believe the PRIMARY purpose of tithing is to support the local church. I am not persuaded to embrace that position. The truth is: GOD DOES NOT NEED OUR MONEY! He is able to provide for all things that involve His work here on earth.
Therefore, we must know and understand WHY God invented tithing.
The purpose is to open the door of blessings in our lives. We, as Christians, are called to a life of faith that God will provide for our needs. When we tithe, we are showing in a tangible way that we trust Him. In God’s Word, we see overwhelming evidence that faith and trust in Him through obedience is the key to our receiving bountiful blessings. For this, I make no apology. God wants to bless His people, and He has chosen the tithe as an instrument of obedience for them to access these blessings. And besides this, there is a real joy in giving.
CDN: You share many instances of God’s intervention in your life that was nothing short of miraculous. Please share the process of how God was able to build up your faith from earlier years.
Pastor Morris: It’s no secret that I once lived a very immoral and sinful life; I have openly shared this fact with our congregation. Then, at the age of 19 (in a motel room), God miraculously saved and redeemed me in an instant. Because of this transformation in my life, I found it very easy to surrender to the will of God in my life. His work in my heart and life made it not much of a stretch of faith to trust Him.
One early instance of God’s working was when He led me to give a waitress a $50 tip. I obeyed, and God’s manifest blessings were returned the next week when my employer told me that he wanted to give me a $50 bonus.
Another miraculous intervention was when God gave me a word of knowledge when I met a body builder at a gym. I received a strong leading or impression from the Holy Spirit to tell him something. I went up to him and said:
“God said when you were a little boy, you said you wanted to grow up and be strong just like Sampson. You said if you could do this that you’d live for God and serve Him. You grew up, and He enabled you to be a world class body builder and a winner in many major competitions. God kept His part of the deal, but you haven’t.”
With that, the man stated that my account was spot-on, and he had just told his wife about this conversation with God for the first time that day. The bodybuilder and his wife then received salvation by asking Jesus into their hearts as their Lord and Savior.
These two accounts anchored in my heart the fact that our faith is built through obedience. There is no shortcut. It is incumbent upon us to trust and obey!
CDN: Bill Hybels (Founder and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church) has candidly stated that Willow Creek was founded as the result of a neighborhood survey, where he and his associates went door-to-door to find out about church-going habits of those in the community. Is there any parallel between how Gateway Church was founded and that of Willow Creek?
Pastor Morris: No. Our founding was not the result of a survey of any kind. But it’s possible there is a remote, indirect connection. My approach was looking at things from a business model perspective. It’s all about meeting the needs of the people you serve. I sought God with earnest prayer, and He gave me the direction. He also surrounded me with others who were likeminded in the same vision.
Another aspect is that the ministry at Gateway Church looks to bring the Word of God, fill each service with praise and worship, and create a spiritual environment that enables the open (yielded) heart to actually encounter the presence of God in a way that meets them where they are in a life-changing way. Children’s church is another important aspect of ministry. We believe children should have fun and learn about God. Some believe it is somewhat heretical to say that kids should have fun in church. But the plain truth is that if kids don’t have fun, are they really learning?
CDN: With a ministry the size of Gateway Church, how do you balance congregational needs with the oversight of a large ministerial staff (and volunteers) across several campuses?
Pastor Morris: For that, I have three hats: a) employer hat, b) leader hat, and c) pastoral hat. When there are no significant employee or volunteer issues, I have more time to direct the vision at Gateway Church as well as concentrate on the myriad of responsibilities I have as Senior Pastor. But even when issues arise on the staff, I can put on my employer hat and remind the individual (whether they are a salaried employee or volunteer) that there are duties and responsibilities that we all have. I can tell them: “I love you” and can befriend them, but I can also separate THAT from my charge as an employer.
This is vital and necessary for the integrity, synergy and effectiveness of any and all organizations.
No one is exempt from accountability. If someone cannot take (or follow) instruction, they are a detriment to the organization. We strive to keep a positive working environment through periodic employee evaluations, building relationships within the staff (and volunteer corps), and soliciting open and constructive feedback from all involved.
There are also times when things don’t work out for a variety of reasons. When this is the case, I compassionately counsel them that “maybe this is not the right job for you. Let’s see if you have another area of gifting that you can step into (whether it’s here at Gateway or somewhere else).”
CDN: You (as Senior Pastor of Gateway Church) and Matthew & Laura Crouch have a special bond and affiliation at the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). The late Dr. Paul Crouch told his son (Matthew) that he felt that your ministry and “The Blessed Life” series was an important connection on TBN. What aspect of TBN would you like to share?
Pastor Morris: I appreciated Dr. Paul Crouch in the time I got to know him. TBN is undergoing a change model right now. They are in the process of establishing four (4) core principles to their outreach focus: 1) Grace, 2) Hope, 3) Blessed (i.e.: you get from God in order to give; you don’t give in order to get), 4) Holy Spirit (outpouring of blessings from God).
CDN: There may be some ministries that are not cooperative or willing to reach out with Gateway Church. How do you reach out to them to encourage unity?
Pastor Morris: It is time for all who are likeminded, of the same faith in Christ, to come together in these Last Days. I do not mean that we are looking for uniformity; absolutely not. But even though various ministries have distinctive characteristics, we should see ourselves as one river, with separate streams (i.e.: individual churches) flowing toward the same destination (God’s eternal destination according to the Word).
CDN: Would you mind providing a quick statement about the following ministers?
Pastor Morris: Billy Graham: Great Evangelist; always gave a prime, relevant message in his preaching.
Oral Roberts: Compassionate.
Jack Hayford: Apostle Paul for the 21st Century.
Jimmy Evans: Phenomenal insight in marriage counseling and intervention. He also has a great understanding of church government and organization.
Pat Robertson: Great spokesman; contemporary voice of reason and truth amidst political correctness
CDN: Pastor Morris, we appreciate your sharing your time with COMDIGINEWS.
Pastor Morris: You’re welcome; thank you giving me the opportunity.
Quick Facts about Gateway Church:
Main campus location: 700 Blessed Way, Southlake, TX
Active Members: approximately 36,000 (cited by Outreach magazine as the 4th largest church in the USA).
Founder: Robert Morris (felt a leading to start the church on 9-16-1999). First service was held on 4-23-2000. Pastor Morris was a former Associate Pastor at Shady Grove Church.
Gateway Church has the following satellite campuses:
North Richland Hills: started in November 2007
Frisco: started in July 2010
North Fort Worth: temporary campus in August 2012 (permanent campus: July 2013)
Grand Prairie: started in March 2013
Dallas: started in March 2016
Gateway Church (Scottsdale, AZ) is an independent church with similar vision, but is NOT a campus extension of Gateway Church, Southlake TX. Gateway Church, Scottsdale was founded by Pastor Preston Morrison, who was the (former) first youth pastor at Gateway Church, Southlake TX.
Gateway Church has administrative oversight of The King’s University, which was founded in 1997.
Television & Electronic media:
The Blessed Life (broadcast on Daystar, Golden Eagle and TBN)
Gateway Live (online webcast, accessed via: www.gatewaypeople.com)
Bill Randall is a contributing writer for ComDigiNews. He is an author, retired U.S. Navy Master Chief, and resides in Dallas, TX.