Texas megachurch Pastor Robert Morris gave his first sermon since a near death experience earlier this year, receiving a strong applause from the Gateway Church community.
On Saturday, Morris returned to preach his first sermon, a three-part series, titled "Eternity: Your Choice," after suffering complications from hernia surgery in April that led to severe internal bleeding.
"I'm glad to be back," said Morris to the Gateway congregation, joking that despite being away for months "the pulpit still fits."
Before beginning his sermon, Morris reported that he was "fully recovered" from his illness and that Gateway Pastor Jimmy Evans, who filled in for Morris while he was ill, was going to continue to help with leadership as a senior pastor.
"Pastor Jimmy is going to help me a little more in leading the staff on a day-to-day basis," said Morris, who noted that he remains lead senior pastor and will be able to preach more often as a result.
Morris' first sermon back was titled "Whosoever Will," in which he expressed his opposition to Calvinism, or the belief that God alone chooses who is saved and who is damned.
"I really believe you determine where you spend eternity and that God is a just and merciful God and gives every person a chance to accept Jesus Christ," Morris said.
"Whatever belief you have has to be consistent with the nature and character of God. And a God that would love the world so much that He would give His Own Son for the world, I believe gives everyone an opportunity."
Morris explained that while he's OK with other Christians professing Calvinism, he believes that Calvinism hinders church outreach.
"I think, if we were to believe something like this, that God chose some people to be saved and others not to be saved ... why tell anyone about Christ?" asked Morris.
In March, Morris suffered pain in his abdomen. A doctor examined him and found that he had a double hernia. The pastor underwent surgery on April 2.
On April 8, Morris experienced severe weakness. Paramedics sent him to a hospital and it was discovered that he had a hematoma and had to have emergency surgery for internal bleeding.
Following additional invasive surgery, Morris required seven units of blood, equal to half the blood the pastor needed to survive. By April 11, the bleeding had ceased, but Morris was suffering from pneumonia.
On April 15, Morris was finally well enough to leave the hospital and later that month he was undergoing what he described at the time as a slow healing process.
"My night sweats and headaches are better, and my blood levels are rebuilding themselves. And I got a good report from the doctors. It's a slow process, but I am going in the right direction," Morris said on April 24.
In June, Morris returned to Gateway Church, not to preach a sermon, but rather to give an update on his health situation, declaring that "I'm here because of prayers."
According to Morris, while being airlifted to the hospital he had "an encounter with the Lord" which made him feel "extremely peaceful," as well as "happy" and "excited."
"I didn't go to Heaven but the Lord's presence filled the helicopter and I felt like I was about to go to Heaven," Morris recounted in June.
"I was excited that I was about to see Jesus, that I was going to Heaven. I thought about my family and my church family but ... I just knew God will take care of them."