Author Archives: Eric Bryant

About Eric Bryant

*Eric Michael Bryant* serves with Gateway Church in Austin and as part of the The Origins Project , a movement of people committed to Jesus, Humanity, and Innovation. Eric helped with a church plant in Seattle and as a navigator at Mosaic in Los Angeles for 12 years. Eric's book, *Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World*, is a guide for overcoming the negative Christian stereotype by embracing the people Christians “love to hate.”

How Should We Treat Tax Collectors (And Others Like Them)?

There is a passage in the Bible that I think I’ve misunderstood for years.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” – Matthew 18:15-17

I’ve always thought that this meant, you excommunicate the one who wronged you. You cut them off. They are now dead to you!

Back in the days of the Roman Empire, tax collectors were considered the lowest of the low. Not only did they come to collect the taxes due, they often demanded more than was required. They were unscrupulous, evil, and corrupt. Why would anyone want to have anything to do with them?!?

That cannot possibly be what he meant.

We should always interpret the Scriptures with the Scriptures.

This message from Jesus was retold by Matthew who was a tax collector. Matthew chose to follow Jesus. He changed his ways but not his friendships throwing parties in which he hosted other tax collectors and prostitutes so that Jesus could meet them and help them find life.

Matthew included these other passages in his Gospel:

“When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” – Matthew 9:11

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” – Matthew 11:19

If Jesus told us to treat the person who has wronged us like tax collectors then I think He means we need to love them, serve them, invite them into our own homes. We need to win them back.

Other passages written by Paul indicate this same idea about our enemies:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” – Romans 12:20

How can we truly learn to love our enemies? When have you seen this work in your life?

7 Ways to Catalyze Community

Last month I shared some of the principles from Not Like Me at the Organic Outreach Conference.

Here are seven principles for Catalyzing Community whether you are trying to start a small group, ministry, a non-profit organization, or a church:



Principle #1: Cause creates community
Our cause = moving people to become the person God created them to be.

Principle #2: Meet the needs of those around us
We need to seek to meet the physical, emotional, economic, and spiritual needs of those around us. We should be pursue helping change the environment and change the individual who is looking for change.

Principle #3: Reach out to Xenos
Hospitality means loving strangers. A similar word, “hospice,” means “a safe place.” Our homes, our businesses, and our churches should become safe places for strangers to experience kindness and love.

Principle #4: Develop authentic friendships with those you know
Are we loving, serving, and influencing our family, neighbors, co-workers and friends?

Jesus was willing to ruin His reputation to reach out to others who were far from God.

Principle #5: Allow people to belong before they believe
We should never allow our convictions to become a litmus test for friendship. In fact, we should actively pursue friendships with people – even people with whom we may disagree. Go to for more on the staff process at Mosaic.

Come as you are, and you don’t have to stay that way! (see

Principle #6: Raise up a team of leaders to replace you
MPAC = Ministry through a pastor, assimilator, and catalyst
We need to make decisions based on who is not yet here rather than who has been here the longest.

Principle #7: Start Over

**For the rest of the notes, email me at with “Catalyzing Community” in the subject or you can listen to the conference call at my site’s audio messages at Catalyzing Community – 2nd audio from the bottom. You will also find interviews with Dan Kimball, Kevin Harney, Erwin McManus, and many others.

What have you seen bring people together?

14 Principles for Missional Living with John Burke

At a training event sponsored by In the City For the City, a group of Austin area pastors and ministry leaders, John Burke, our lead pastor at Gateway Church shared on the topic of “Missional Living: Grow Your Church Out of the Culture.” Here are some of his insights he shared:

The church in the Western world is in decline. The U.S. is becoming more and more post-Christian. We need to see ourselves as missionaries in our culture.

2 overarching questions to consider:

  1. How do we remove barriers between the message of Jesus and those who want and need to hear it?
    “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” – Acts 15:19
    If only 10% of our city shifted to follow Jesus out of those who don’t already, an entire city would be transformed! Just 10% is the tipping point for social transformation.
  2. How do we build bridges? (Acts 14, 17)
    In Acts 2, those hearing the message of Jesus already knew the stories of the Old Testament. When Paul was in Athens, he acknowledged the new context and built a bridge from where they were (quoting one of their poets) to the full message of God expressed in Jesus.

5 Barriers to Faith Created by the Postmodern Experiment:

  1. Trust - more abuse and more divorce than ever before plus a distrust of those in authority. Build a bridge to help others see that God’s ways are for their protection and the result of His love. Recognize where people are at and still welcome them.
  2. Tolerance - the two most common questions from the culture include: what do you think about those who live a different lifestyle & what do you think about other religions? The way we answer will either shut the door completely or keep the door open for more conversation and opportunity. Tolerance is a cheap substitute for grace, an undeserved love. People long to experience grace, but because they haven’t experienced it, they settle for tolerance.
  3. Truth- This isn’t as big of a barrier as you’d think. More than truth, people are repelled by arrogance. Too often Christians give off a vibe that we don’t have anything to learn from others. Being willing to listen changes this misperception.
  4. Aloneness -People long for community even as they struggle to trust others. Community is an incredible apologetic. We should be experts at creating community! People should be allowed to belong before they believe. Jesus did this – He allowed Judas to be in his small group, and He made him the treasurer.
  5. Brokenness – The cost of the postmodern experiment has been brokenness. Here is what our culture looks like:
  • 1/3 of women have had an abortion
  • 1/4 of women have been sexually molested
  • 1/2 of people will have lived together before marriage
  • 1/5 of people will struggle with substance abuse
  • 1/5 of people smoke
  • 1/2 of marriages end in divorce

If our churches don’t look like this then either people are hiding their brokenness or we aren’t connecting with our culture.
We all have areas of brokenness. Even “the rigtheous” weren’t actually healthy (they were the ones responsible for crucifying Jesus) when Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-13).

4 Ways to Create a Culture of Growth:

Church culture can be your greatest ally or your greatest enemy for the mission of Jesus. God causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-9). We have a part to play – creating the environment where people can grow up best.

  1. Leadership mindset – A mature Christ-follower is on mission “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). A person cannot claim to be spiritually mature and not be about what Jesus was about.
    So how do we respond to the Christ-follower who says: “feed me more!” Jesus reminded us that the food for the mature is doing “the will of God” (John 4:32-36). Maturity equals obeying the Scriptures not knowing about the Scriptures.
  2. Training and values – help people understand why you do what you do and what you are called to do. Do our people have friendships with others in the culture?
  3. Visionary storytelling – help people see hope in who they can become and remind those in faith where they came from and why you’re doing what you are doing.
  4. Organization – The church is to be an organism not an institution. Are you organized in such a way that you can follow what God wants you to do?

3 Ways to Create a Culture of Grace-Giving Acceptance:

The world totally gets this: “I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.” – Rom.  7:15
The world does not naturally understand this: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” – Rom. 8:1

  1. Accept the person first. (Romans 15:7)
  2. Have a process view. Look at the masterpiece which is covered by the mud. How long is too long to invest in someone?
  3. Create a culture of dialogue. Allow people to ask their questions and share their doubts.