GOD GAVE ME THIS VISION for ministry in a dream one night in 1993. I had been reading through the Bible during my quiet time, and the very next morning I read 1 Samuel 11:8: “When he numbered them … the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.” Immediately, the Lord confirmed in my heart the dream I had the night before was from Him!
At the time, I was on staff at Shady Grove Church (which is now our Grand Prairie Campus), and Pastor Olen Griffing, the founding senior pastor, had been talking to me about being a senior pastor one day. Almost seven years later, I went to the Prayer Center to spend a day with the Lord, and He started speaking to me about planting a church in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, northwest of Shady Grove. I shared what the Lord had spoken to me with Pastor Olen. He was disappointed to see me leave but knew it was the Lord. Pastor Olen and the elders gave me their blessing and said they thought it would be a good idea if I traveled and rested for a season before planting a church, so they graciously gave me a two-month sabbatical with pay.
Later that day, I called my friend, Pastor Jimmy Evans, to let him know I was taking a break and traveling some. I told him I wasn’t jumping into a new church plant right away, so I was available if he needed me to come speak. Pastor Jimmy immediately said, “I want you to travel and speak to our Trinity Fellowship Association of Churches [about 70 churches]. Whatever Shady Grove has been paying you, I’ll pay you.” I had resigned not knowing where my next paycheck was going to come from, and within a few hours, I was hired by Trinity Fellowship Church at the exact same salary.
I obeyed the Lord’s leading and stepped out in faith, and God immediately provided. It’s like I had taken a step, but my back foot left before my front foot landed. To me, it was another confirmation the Lord was in this.
WHAT’S IN A NAME
The Lord gave me the name for Gateway Church in my quiet time one morning. A few days later, I came across the twenty-eighth chapter of Genesis. In this passage, Jacob had a dream where he saw heaven open up and angels ascending and descending between heaven and earth. In this dream, Jacob had an encounter with God Himself in which God made a remarkable promise to him. When he woke up, he exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place …. What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” (Genesis 28:16–17, NLT). That one phrase leapt out at me—the very gateway to heaven.
That was exactly what I wanted for Gateway. I wanted it to be a place where people encountered the presence of God. Where people who had never experienced the love, power, and peace of God would feel His presence the moment they walked in the door, and they would declare, “Surely the Lord is in this place!”
I had been feeling like Southlake was the place we were to begin the church, and Debbie and I were driving out there to have dinner with some friends one night. Right as we were taking the exit onto Southlake Boulevard, I said to her, “I feel like the Lord gave me the name of the church.”
“Oh! What is it?” she asked.
“Gateway!” Right at that moment, we saw a huge sign that said, “Coming soon! Gateway Shopping Plaza.” (It’s the same shopping plaza that’s there now, but it wasn’t built yet. There was just a sign.)
We picked up our friends, and I began telling them about the name and seeing the sign. We drove back to show them the sign, but when we looked over to see it, there was no sign. We thought maybe we couldn’t see it from that angle because we were driving in a different direction. So after we ate, we drove back and took the exact same exit. As we turned left to drive over the bridge, I said, “Look, you’ll be able to see it really well.” But there was no sign. We never saw that sign again.
God was equally vocal and specific about the timing of our first service. In the early months of 2000, Debbie and I were praying about when we should have our first service. One day, I was reading a book in one part of the house, and Debbie was reading a book in another part of the house. In the book she was reading, there was a story about a church that had its first service on Easter. Instantly, the Lord spoke to her and said, “Gateway’s first service should be on Easter.” In the book I was reading, a pastor was praying for revival, and the Lord told him, “I’m going to send revival to the church on Easter.” At that moment, the Lord said to me, “Start on Easter.”
Immediately, I went into the other room and said to Debbie, “I know when we’re supposed to start the church! The Lord just spoke to me.”
And she said, “Well, the Lord just told me too.”
“What did He tell you?”
“Easter,” she said.
And of course, I agreed, “Easter.”
Right after that I was talking to Pastor Jimmy on the phone, and I told him the Lord gave us the date we were to start the church. And he said, “Well, I know when you’re supposed to start the church because He told me too.”
“Well, what did He tell you?” I asked.
A short time later, I was leading a prophetic meeting with Pastor Wayne Drain. He asked a man to stand up and started giving him a word when he suddenly stopped, turned around and said, “Robert, the Lord says, ‘Easter, Easter, Easter.’” And he turned right back around and kept giving the word to the man.
These confirmations proved what the Bible says: “‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established’” (Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1).
There was no dispute. Easter Sunday, April 23, 2000, would be Gateway’s first service.
CONFIRMING THE PROMISE
Three months after we planted the church, I was having my quiet time and was again reading through the Bible. I had forgotten about the scripture the Lord used to confirm the dream He gave me seven years earlier until I got to 1 Samuel 11. I read those words again, “When he numbered them … the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.” The Lord said to me, “I’m going to remind you what I’ve called you to do. I’m going to confirm these numbers to you again.” Right then, I remembered that when we planted the church, Trinity Fellowship gave us $30,000 to start.
Later, that same day, I had lunch with a man who had visited our church twice, and at the end of the lunch he said, “My family and I are going to join the church, and we’re excited about it! Every now and then, we have some resources we can sow into the kingdom. The Lord put an amount on my heart, and I want to give this to the church.” He handed me a check and said, “He told me to tell you this amount is going to confirm something to you.” I thanked him and told him how grateful we were. We said goodbye, and after I got in my car, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the check—it was for $300,000! The Lord had confirmed both numbers that He had given me in a dream seven years before!
There’s no doubt in my mind these numbers are from God. He wants to do something, and my part is to passionately serve Him with all my heart. It’s up to God to accomplish His word; it’s up to me to obey! In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “I will build My church.” Another way of looking at is, “I [Jesus] will [meaning there’s no doubt] build [He’s the One doing the building; I’m not the one doing the building] My [it belongs to Him] church [it’s a body; it’s all of us; it takes all of us to do it].” I knew God was telling me if I would take care of the depth of my relationship with Him—by having a personal, daily, intimate, thriving relationship with Jesus Christ—He would take care of the width of my ministry. He would take care of the numbers.
HE’S STILL THE ONE
When we started Gateway, the first message I preached was about Jacob recognizing the presence of God and His presence in our lives even when we don’t know He’s there. Fifteen years later, we still see God here, and we recognize His presence. He’s here through worship, through kids ministry, through equip classes, through freedom ministry, through groups, and many more ministries! He’s the One who’s made the difference in Gateway Church for 15 years.