We are called to know well the condition of our flock. As Christians our job is to care for those that are here, through them as they're equipped and encouraged that others will be reached.
Parable of the Sower: What Is the Soil of Your Heart?
An Evening with Eric Metaxas: Miracles
Don't be a WENI - Christlike Communication
Remembering Our Core Values: Examine Your Life, Excel Still More
Get Busy: Individual Next Steps
The Exclusivity of Jesus
Living Life in the Grace and Sufficiency of Christ: Baptism Celebration 2014
The Continuing Story of Easter
Todd and Greg Answer Questions About the Faith
5 Characteristics of Relationships that Succeed
A Tender Word for Pharisees
Stewarding the Life of a Shepherd
Love is Always Better than the Law
Welcome. I will say this to my friends in Fort Worth. I apologize for my voice. We've done everything we can to get it back. I did not want to miss this opportunity to be with y'all today. What we are doing this morning is so central and core to everything we've ever done that we even delayed something we're doing to reach people we've always said are the most important people in our church. Let me start with that.
I have said almost from the very beginning that the most important people at Watermark are the next 100 people who come, but I have never said that without saying the second statement right there with it. It's because those people are so important that we invest so much in those who are already here, because the people who are already here are the means through which those folks are going to be reached, challenged, encouraged, helped, discipled, and grown into be everything God wants them to be. In other words, we're only going to reproduce that which has always been reproduced. It's part of the law of nature.
As much as we've tried to convince ourselves over the last couple of hundred years that we evolved from a different species than we are. It is the law of creation, and there has never been any scientific evidence that there has ever been anything but this that has happened. God said creatures should reproduce after their kind. The exception to that is a miracle. The exception to that is when God enters in and creates ex nihilo, which means from nothing, or he takes something that is dead and makes it alive, something that is unregenerate and regenerates it.
This is why Jesus used the phrase, "If you want to have a relationship with me you must be born again, because what fellowship does light have with darkness? I'm God. I'm holy. You can't have a relationship with me unless you are like me, and you'll never be like me; therefore, I'm going to do something for you that's so wonderful. I'm going to take that which is red as scarlet and make it as white as snow."
Only God can do that. The one who created in the first place. The one we left. When we left the God of life we became death. When we left the God of light we became darkness. So God, in his kindness, makes us new again, but having been brought back into relationship with us he calls us to be conformed in the image of his Son.
We spent all last week reminding you there is nothing we could ever do that would allow us to earn God's love. Until you understand there's nothing you could do to make God love you more and nothing you could ever do to make God love you less you don't know about grace and you don't know about God.
I spent an entire hour here explaining how you can experience more of the love of God. Go back and listen to my messages in John, chapter 14, where he says, "I will love you more, but it doesn't mean in terms of commitment or a desire to have a relationship with you; it means you will experience more of me if you want more of me when you seek me with all your heart."
We have always said the most important people here are the next 100 who come. I have used stories from Scripture to explain why we say that. It talks about how the shepherd leaves the 99 to find the one or how the woman who has 10 coins but can't find one turns the house upside down to find the lost coin.
What I've always shared with you is that the reason we're going to find these lost sheep is because God cares for them and he gave his life for them, but he cares deeply about those who are going to reach them, love them, shepherd them, and disciple them. As pastors, as men and women who shepherd one another, as leaders of this church, we are called to know well the condition of our flocks.
We are told to shepherd the flock of God among us. We're not told to go run away from the flock. He says, "Anybody who has a heart like me will seek and save the lost," but he also says your job is to care for those who are here, because it's through them as they are equipped and encouraged that others will be reached. In fact, most of us are here this morning because somebody loved us enough to say, "Come and see. Come and consider who Christ is. Come and see what God's doing in my life and the lives of others."
Some of you are here because you drove by and saw this building. Some of you are here because you've heard about what's happened here. Again, that is because others have served you by creating a place and becoming a part of a people that has become salt and light to you. You're drawn to it, so you're here.
I had a buddy who said this recently to another friend in ministry. He said, "Too many preachers are just concerned about the mail, and they need to be more concerned about the ponies." Being a boy from Missouri, that is an allusion to what started in St. Joseph, Missouri, up there in the northwest part of the state and delivered mail all the way through to the West Coast: the Pony Express.
If you get more focused on the mail and don't care much for the ponies, that mail you're concerned about isn't going to get very far, because you need ponies to carry the mail. Sick ponies don't get the mail very far, and sick ponies will create other sick ponies.
While we care deeply for the lost (and Jesus came to seek and save the lost, so if we love him we ought to do the same), we're going to explain to you this morning why we have to double down so much with what's right here. It's how we are commanded as shepherds to steward our lives. It's how we are commanded as people to live and love one another. We are called to do good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Let me start just by reading to you something that was written probably about 60 years ago now by another guy who had a similar passion to me. He said, "One of our most pressing obligations today is to do all in our power to obtain a revival that will result in a reformed, revitalized, and purified church. It is of far greater importance that we have better believers than we have more of them.
Each generation of believer is the seed of the next, and the degenerate seed is sure to produce a degenerate harvest, not a little better than but a little worse than the seed from which it sprang. Thus, the direction will be down until vigorous, effective means are taken to improve the seed."
Let me remind you why I did what I did last week. I was reflecting on some things. You know, a lot of people say me, "Todd, aren't most religions fundamentally the same and only superficially different?" No, it's quite the contrary. Most faith systems out there are only superficially the same and fundamentally different.
What we spent the entire time last week focusing on was the fact that Christianity alone among the faiths of the world has nothing to do with us earning our way to God and has everything to do with God coming and crashing into our darkness and rescuing us. It is not what we do; it is what he has done. We are people who are loved; we are not people seeking to appease Allah or to escape the illusion of this world.
We're not trying to appease the many gods; the one God that has always existed is running radically after us and is doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. We are not a group of people who are seeking to be accepted by our performance; we are a group of people who are performing out of our acceptance as an expression of our love. We are not reconciled to God by what we do; we are recognized by the way we love because he has first loved us.
Gang, love does, and this morning I'm going to explain to you what love does. Love commits. I'm going to start by saying this. We're 14 years old as a body. I'm going to walk you through the first seven years, the last seven years, and what we hope will be the seven that are about to come before us. We think our best days are ahead of us.
The first seven years we were this new work that started. We met in about 20 different locations all over town. We used to always say, "If you can find us you can hang out with us and worship with us." We literally met in the dark. We met without heat. We showed up to meet and the doors were locked.
We couldn't get word out about where we were going to meet because places were shifting and moving on us. We were without a place to meet. We scrambled in every way we could to be able to gather together that we might be of one might, intent on one purpose: that we might encourage and care for one another. We always gathered that we might scatter effectively. We did that the best we could for a long time, for seven years.
Seven years ago we, really for the very first time, moved onto this site where we began to gather here consistently on Sunday morning. There were a number of years we met here during the mid-week in that office tower, but as we began to have a place we could gather on Sunday we came to be a place that looked like a large gathering of people. What many folks thought we were was a large place that would do whatever we could to get more people to come, and that is never who we intended to be.
Many of you only know Watermark as this "big box church," this megachurch, where everybody is pretty and things have always been easy, and you need to know I don't care what we look like on the outside. We are not pretty because of what we look like; we are redeemed, and we are being conformed in the image of the beautiful one. That is all we have to offer.
Read Lonnie's story. Lonnie is on our staff. I always take our staff away in January for three days. We'll spend some time praying for you, reminding ourselves what God has done, and sharing with each other our big dream for 2014, which is how we can help each other be informed by what we're doing with one another and just build into relationship with one another. We care for the shepherds before we try and multiply shepherds and care for the sheep.
We just went around that circle, and as people shared some of their stories, you need to know these are not people who were born somewhere in the Billy Graham lineage and have been memorizing Scripture since they were 2. We have been rescued from darkness. We have wrestled with every kind of perverted sin struggle you could possibly wrestle with. We have murderers. We have people with sexual identity issues.
We have people who have been incarcerated. We have people who have been in broken relationships. We have people who are struggling in every way you could struggle, but they have found their hope and provision in Christ, and God has put them in a place where they have done that so well and so consistently that we would ask them to join us in loving and serving others.
I know we look like a pretty place, but what you need to know is we serve a powerful God; we're not a pretty people. What we're inviting you into is to jump in with us these next seven years, because here's what was the same in the first seven, the most recent seven, and the next seven: we exist for the purpose of calling everybody to be fully devoted to Jesus Christ. We're trying to rescue each other out of dead cultural Christianity and out of confusion about what it really is to have a relationship with God.
We want to do that by being absolutely centered on God's Word, its perfection and its sufficiency. We believe that full devotion to Jesus is normal for those who say they know him. We believe that even people who are fully devoted to Christ are going to, at times, quench the Sprit, grieve the Spirit, and not do what God wants, and because of that you're going to need to forgive them and extend them grace, just like God extended you grace.
We believe we can't do that without a deep dependence on God and an abiding continual passionate expression of our dependence through prayer. We believe we need to be authentic and not act like our lives are pretty but humbly walk through this journey of being conformed in the image of the Son with one another. We believe we need to be committed to each other in biblical community.
We believe we need to be committed to those who aren't committed to Christ yet. We believe we should do that as innovatively and a relevantly as we can. We believe we should use the gifts God has given each one of us for the purpose of building into one another and glorifying our Father. Those things have never changed, and by the grace of God they won't change.
If you're here this morning, I want to let you know why we do the things we do. It's because God has called us to this. I'm going to share with you my job description. I'm going to share with you your job description. We are a kingdom of priests. Whenever a church was formed they were commanded by God to appoint leaders…elders, pastors. That pastor's job would be to raise up a community of pastors.
Look, I don't know what you did yesterday, but maybe football was some part of it. Let me just say this. Certainly, over the last six weeks you probably were around a game of football. Football has well been described for a long time as a sport where 80,000 people desperately in need of exercise stand and watch 22 men desperately in need of rest.
Now, while that might be a fine description of football, it was never supposed to be God's description of his community of followers, and too often that's exactly what church has become. A bunch of people show up, and they decide they're going to come back and watch those guys exhaust themselves again. I've said this many times. You have got to stop paying people to have the privilege of ripping you off from having the privilege of doing ministry.
Everybody here on staff at Watermark exists for the purpose of equipping you, encouraging you, empowering you, and helping you be faithful when you stand before your King to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Fort Worth, you need to know something. We did not come to Fort Worth in order to start a ministry there you would like to come to.
Dallas, you need to know something. We did not start Watermark so you would have a place you could come to. We wanted to be a group of people who partnered with others who had become radically aware of the grace of God and then who were going to not have a place they'd like to go back to but who wanted to be the people that others, God said, would be drawn to as they walk with him.
I say it this way to a lot of young guys who want to start churches. "Don't you dare go try and figure out what people want and start a church for those people that they will want to go to and build an audience. You go find a group of people who by the grace of God want to be the church for others in their community."
Can I tell you, if you know Jesus Christ, who you are this morning? You're people God expects to be the church who will give its life away for others in its community. He wants you to be radically committed to shepherding, stewarding your life, and giving your life away for others the way he has given his life away for you.
Here's what Paul said in Acts, chapter 20, verse 28, to men like me. "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." Don't grow weary. Don't be lazy. Watch them continually. Jesus gave himself for them. They matter to him. He loves sheep. If Jesus loves sheep, then how much do you think he loves those who are going to care for those sheep?
Jesus says, "If you love me…" Now, look. He's not talking to Todd. He's talking to anybody who loves him. "If you love me you will do what I do." In John, chapter 21, Peter was being reminded again of the love and grace of God, who although he failed him at the ultimate moment… Being put on display with, "Do you know this man?" Peter replied, "I don't know that man."
When Jesus was resurrected he said, "You go tell the disciples and Peter that I am exactly who I said I was. I've defeated the grave. I've died for their sin. I'm not ashamed of them. You tell Peter he can still love and serve me because I died for his failure and his weakness." Peter, though, was scared. He had gone back to his old business, his old way of life. He was fishing up there in the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus appeared to him again on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. In John 21, verses 15 and following, it says "So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' […] Jesus said to him, 'Tend My sheep.'""I'm going to know you love me by the way you care for those around you."
There have been a lot of conversations about what that text means but, bottom line, whatever it means, we do know Jesus was pretty clear. "If you love me you're going to love what I love. If you love me you're going to do what I did. I'm not going to love you more because you do what I did. I'm not going to love you more because you love me; I couldn't love you more, but if you love me, love does. Love is committed."
Folks, here's what I want to talk to you about as we move into our next seven years. The Scripture says the mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps, so I don't really know what God's going to let us do. Our goal is not to get bigger. Our goal is to be more biblical. Our goal is to be more of what he wants us to be, because if we're not more of what he wants us to be then it doesn't matter what we reproduce. What we want to be is what God has called us to be, and we're calling you in again to be that with us.
From the very beginning…for the last 14 years and for these next seven going forward…we've always done the same thing. Every year at this time we kind of go, "Who is the flock of God among us? Who here knows about their desperate need for a Savior? Who has identified that Savior as Jesus Christ? Who wants to respond as fully as they can to him? Who wants to be shepherded here? Who wants to shepherd here? Who wants to be tended to here? Who wants to tend to God's business here?"
You need to know something. If you're not among that number we love you and we're going to seek you with everything we have, but what we're going to seek you with is a group of people who we're going to care deeply for, invest deeply in, and count among our number, the people who rightly can say, "Watermark is the family of God of which I'm a part."
The rest of you are people who might say, "When I go places that the people of God gather… I go to Watermark, but I'm not a member there. I'm not a shepherd there, and I'm not shepherded there." All we're really doing this morning is just reminding you why we invest in each other the way we do and what it looks like to invest that way.
Over the last year, the other leaders and I have been meeting on a regular basis with smaller communities of believers here at Watermark. We've always said life change happens best in the context of relationships. One of the things we've seen is that we spend an inordinate amount of time when we meet with people and are trying to shepherd people who go, "I don't really think I want you to shepherd me. I don't really think I recognize your voice. I don't think you speak with authority when you speak from God's Word. I'm not really sure I believe what you believe. Yes, I go here, and yes, I call myself a member here, but I don't really care. Leave me alone!"
What we're really saying is you can't shepherd sheep who don't know your voice. In fact, we're not even called to. We're called to seek those sheep, love those sheep, and warn those sheep, but it's amazing the amount of time spent here…even in communities of Watermark people…trying to shepherd people who have no desire to be shepherded.
That's why at least once a year we go back through and say, "Listen. Are we all acknowledging Jesus is our King? Are we all acknowledging he is our Lord, that God's Word is our authority, that we are accountable to one another, and that we should live our lives together for the purpose of responding to his kindness and grace in our lives?"
This is what it says in Hebrews 13, verse 7. This is a commandment to me. It says, " [Hey, Todd.] Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith." Then Hebrews 13, verse 17, says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."
Gang, we are called to shepherd the flock of God among us, to know well the condition of our herd. So what we have done every year we've existed is we've spent the early part of every year saying, "Hey, who's here? Who knows their need for Jesus? Who wants to be shepherded here and shepherd others here?"
Some years we've dragged that out for a long time and spent a lot of effort and time chasing people who just couldn't get around to letting us know, but as we've gotten bigger, this year we're just saying, "Listen. We're going to take the next 30 days to try and do the best we can to communicate that, but we really want you to know that if you're here, now's the time to spend a little bit of time asking yourself a few basic questions about the faith and re-covenanting with other people, 'Is this my home? Is this where I am going to be about the Lord's business?'"
If so, we're going to invite you to be about the Lord's business like never before. If not, we still love you, we're still highly committed to you, and we're going to come after you. We're going to preach to you and care for you. We're going to model for you. We're going to remind you what you're missing. The rest of us, we're going to get busy, and we're going to double down on the ponies so we can carry the mail more effectively and farther than ever before.
This little thing we've come up with that actually was the little bumper video we showed to begin with… We've always said our goal is to help people believe in Christ, where they can belong to his body, where they'll be trained in truth, so they can be strong in a life of ministry and service. We're going to ask you to sit down, go to our website, click on the little 4B thing, and just fill it out.
Ask yourself some basic questions about how you've done this last year. That information then is sent back to you for you to share with others in smaller communities of men and women who are committed to those things. You shepherd one another toward that end. Let's be honest. Some of you guys are really hard on yourself and you need encouragement. People need to say, "Hey, you were a lot better at that than you thought."
Others of you are probably a little too easy on yourself. You need someone to look at that self-declaration and go, "You know, you said last year you answered every situation you were in by running to God's Word and responding to it. Can you even give me three examples where I should have seen you do that?" Lovingly walk each other through that and spur each other on. Come up with a plan.
The 4B form is available and there for you. If for some reason you don't have access to a computer or if for some reason you are form adverse, we would love to meet with you personally. There are men and women out there today with 12 computers set up, and we have folks who will meet you throughout the week who will respond to you, but we're asking you to let us know.
Now, look. If you don't… I'm not going to read the whole letter, but I'm going to tell you there's going to be some communication coming to some folks who have done it in the past and who will not do it this week. There will be some communication, and in the middle it will say something like this.
"The intent of this letter we're sending you and the whole 4B process is to annually connect with you and help us measure how we are serving you in our effort to spur you on to a deeper relationship with Christ as well as provide you with an easy tool you can use with others in your community to help them excel still more.
It is always our desire to continue our partnering and honoring, serving, and pursuing Christ with you. However, if we fail to hear from you we will consider your lack of response as communication to us of your desire to discontinue our previous commitments to each other, in which case we will remove you from the list of the souls we watch over and give an account for as leaders."
Listen, gang. All we're going to say there is, "We're not saying you're going to hell; we're saying you don't want to run after heaven with us." We love you, and God wants us to run hard after heaven, because I don't know how much longer I have to run, and the days are short. It's crazy to try and get people to do what God wants them to do when they haven't decided they really care what God wants them to do.
We are going to double down on those who are far from God, the unmoved, the culturally inoculated Christians in our midst, the dead-churched, the de-churched, the un-churched like never before, and God wants us to do that with a kingdom of priests. Let me just read you some more Scripture.
I can't think of a better way to spend this morning than to remind you of what Peter said to us who were going to follow after him. This is the guy who said, "I do love you," to which Jesus replied, "Then you tend my sheep." "I do love you." "Then you love and shepherd my sheep." In 1 Peter, chapter 2, verses 1-12, Peter, in relationship with God said,
"Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house…" You all, as living stones…every one of you here who knows Jesus…are being built up, the Scripture says, "…for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.'
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, 'The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very cornerstone,' and 'a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense;' for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…" This is why you're here. To tell others about what he's done for you. Not so he'll love you but because you've been loved.
"…for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles [those who don't know God] , so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation."
Now who do you think you should do that with? Because here's what I want to share with you. What we have observed is that many of us are in community with people who don't even yet consistently profess to be about the things the chief Shepherd has told us to be about, and we're spending an inordinate amount of time trying to convince people who aren't sheep and don't want to be sheep to act like sheep.
We don't want to do that. This has never been a behavior-modification program. This has always been about somebody who gave his life for those of us who could never behave in a way God wants us to behave, but because he has accepted us and demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners and he died for us we are a group of people who just say we'll never get over that.
We say, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith. Not by feeling, not by what seems right, not by the ways that my energies and feelings are pulling me but by faith that God's Word is true, right, perfect, and lovely. I want to be corrected by it, admonished by it, encouraged by it, helped by it, and reproved by it.
I want other believers to speak the truth of it to me in love so that I might grow to the full measure of man God intends me to be so I can serve him for his glory and others might be rescued from that from which I was rescued," but when you've got people who just say they're not really sure they believe that yet, we want to care for them, but we don't want to call them brothers.
Now let me just say something. We have made a really big deal about getting connected here in community, but let me make something really clear about what we have always meant when we've called you to live life together. Watermark has always been about making disciples, multiplying itself, being strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the things which you have heard from us in the presence of many witnesses.
We have been about teaching these things to other faithful men who will also teach them to others. We have been about reproducing ourself in the way God calls us to, but that doesn't mean on Sunday mornings when you're here and you're listening to the preaching of the Word of God we've thought you were with us. Just because you're here it didn't make you a part of God's family.
These illustrations have gone on and on for years among pastors: Just because you sleep in a garage doesn't make you a car. Just because you show up at a church on Sunday doesn't make you a Christ follower. Just because you are part of something called a Community Group doesn't mean you are a part of the community of faith.
What we have always really been talking about when we talk about smaller communities is smaller gatherings of the church where godly men and women would shepherd others in smaller communities where you could be really known and really cared for. Do you know the truth about Watermark? Watermark is only as healthy as every single church that makes it up. Any relationship is only as healthy as the least healthy person in it.
If we have a bunch of folks in smaller churches, gatherings of believers, who don't honor God's Word, who don't shepherd each other from God's Word, who don't stay committed to each other and practice the one anothers of Scripture, who don't abide with Christ and exist to plant churches and make disciples, then the larger community will not be healthy. In other words, a large community of dead communities is a dead community.
The very first thing you should do if you're going to fellowship, to do business… The Scripture uses the word koinōnia. It's the word for go into business together. If you are in the business of following God with people who aren't really sure they want to follow God you're not going to follow God, very assuredly.
The very first thing you want to do is just stop and say, "Hey, listen. I love you. I'm not going anywhere. But let's agree we shouldn't say we are about the same thing if you don't have the same King." Who's your king? Who's your master? Because once you know your master that determines your mission. Once you know your mission then you can wisely select a mate.
This is 2 Corinthians 6:14. Scripture says. "Do not be bound together with unbelievers…" It doesn't say don't be friends with unbelievers. Jesus was a friend of sinners. He was not bound with sinners, he was not a companion of sinners, and he did not do business with sinners, but he sought them, he spoke the truth in love to them, he cared for them, and he ministered to them, then he was gone.
He said, "Follow me. I love you. Do you want to get well? Come. Receive the grace and the healing of the Father." He didn't just say, "Hey, why don't we just dumb down following God at the level you're comfortable with until you're ready to follow him the way I am, and then we'll build the church that way.
Don't be bound together with unbelievers. "…for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with [the Liar, the Devil] , or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?" Here are some steps for you to do.
1._ Don't leave your non-Christian friends._ Keep praying for them and keep ministering to them, but don't start a mission agency with them. The very first thing you have to do is look at your little community and simply say, "Do you want to follow Jesus with me this year?" I'll follow Jesus with anybody who will basically say, "Todd, I believe. Will you help me in my unbelief? Will you admonish me and encourage me? Will you be patient with me? Will you love me? I do believe, but I'm going to need some encouragement."
But people who go, "I'm not really sure I want to believe, and I'm not going to follow Jesus because I don't think I believe," I just want to say, "You are now a mission field, and I love you. I'm not going anywhere. I'm not going to love you more if you agree with me, but I'm certainly not going to do church with you. I'm going to be the church for you." Gang, I want to ask you a question. If every community at Watermark was as passionate about following Christ as every member of your community, what kind of church would we be?
If every single member of your Community Group read God's Word the way you do, memorized God's Word the way you do, shared Christ's Word the way you do, admonished the unruly the way you do, encouraged the faint-hearted the way you do, was patient with men the way you are, was on the alert the way you are, was strong the way you are, and did everything in love the way you do, what kind of church would we be?
What I'm sharing with you this morning is that we're really going to tell you why as leaders we have to double down and clarify who's among us, disciple them, and then reach with all the grace of God working in us and all the humility we can those who are not there yet and let them see what it means to really follow him. This is a day and age where like never before the world wants to see if there's somebody who truly believes.
If everybody in your community gave to the mission with their time, their treasure, and their talent the way you did, what kind of church would we be? By the way. Can I just share something with you? A number of years ago there was an issue that happened here with a member who needed to be admonished and encouraged and was acting in an unruly way, inconsistent with his love for Jesus Christ. As we walked through that with him, he didn't want us to continue to do that so it spun out into a very public conversation.
The way it was played out in the media it looked like we wanted to stand before the thousands of folks at Watermark that morning and share with every single person what this individual was up to. That was never the case. I think there were about 14 people then out of the several thousand folks who were a member of Watermark who ever knew his name, and to this day that is still all who know his name.
Why? Because when the Scripture tells you to tell it to the church it says, "Tell it to those who know you. Tell it to others who are around you who will understand how to love you and care for you in the midst of that thing." So if you're at Watermark and something happens over the course of this next year where you need to be admonished, encouraged, or helped we're not going to stand up here and tell every single person, "Hey, you know that person you don't know? Can I tell you what you don't know about them?" That is called gossip, and there's no reason to do that.
Do you know who you're going to hear about if they've fallen off a consistent followership of Jesus Christ? It's somebody who all of you know. If something goes awry in my life you're going to hear about it, just like the Scripture says you should. But with one another? You don't need to live in fear here that we're going to tell everybody who doesn't know you what they need to know about you. But the folks you're doing church with? Yeah, they ought to all know you. They ought to all be able to encourage you and help you.
See, the Scripture, when you understand it, is very, very sane; it's very, very clear; and it's very, very helpful. We love you, and we want you to dive in with us. I want to ask you this. In your church, your smaller communities where every single person is connected to me in some way, if there's something going on in your smaller community, gathering of believers, church that I have some asset, resource, theological insight, shepherding ability your group needs and I'm the right person to be there because we're part of a larger family together, I'm going to be there.
But what you need to know is I've spent the last 14 years of my life multiplying leaders, building into them so they can love you, care for you, and be very present for you. I'm trying to help you be that for one another. I'm trying to get you to not have to have me rip you off in having the privilege of doing what God wants you to do. But mark my word. We are members of one another, and if there's something I have that you need it's going to get to me, and I'm coming, and I believe the same is true of you for me.
I want to ask you this. When you gather with your friends…not just in forced potlucks every other Wednesday; I'm talking about daily…are you doing these things with one another? Do you want to find a biblical definition of community? Here it comes. In Acts, chapter 2, it says, "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they ** began **** selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."**
Has that been your personal experience this last year? Because, if not, we want to help you get there. That ought to be true of every single smaller community of faith in our midst. If that has not been your experience, if you've not seen people come to Christ through you, if you've not been daily in Scripture, if you've not been gathering with those with gladness and sincerity of heart, can I just say this to you?
Anybody who has ever pastored, and by that I mean anybody who has ever been in Watermark in biblical community, you know what a beating that is. Sheep smell. They are stubborn. They are prone to wander away. They are defenseless. I speak as one to you. There are a lot of folks who have looked at me cross-eyed and said, "Todd, I'm busy. I go to church so I don't have to be the church. Can't you care for these folks?"
I look at them and say, "No. you're never supposed to go to church. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say you go to church. All the Scripture ever talks about is that you come to Jesus, and when you understand who he is then you become his disciple. If you're too busy to do what God wants you to do…to give your life away for one another and shepherd each other through deep, long, hard, difficult sadnesses and rebellions…then you're too busy to love the one who gave his life for you." Jesus, in John 21, says that is telling. That is telling.
So why do I spend this morning doing this? I'm going to tell you. If you're here and you're far from God, I'm doing this because I want you to see there are still some people who are trying to radically and fully respond to what Jesus said. Watermark is not a place you go to; Watermark is a verb. It's a group of people who live authentically, as excellently as they can, in response to what Jesus has done that they might leave a lasting impression in your life and in this world for what Christ has done for us.
Church is not a destination; it's a called-out group of people. If you're here this morning and you want a shepherd and a Savior, come. If you're here this morning and you have a shepherd and a Savior whose name is Jesus, we're calling you to be a part of the church where you are shepherded and where you shepherd, where you have believed in Christ, where you belong to his body, where you are being trained in righteousness and truth, and where you are being strong in a life of ministry and worship.
We ask you to take some time over these next weeks. Be faithful with that 4B form. Share it with those who are in community. If you're not in community with others I'm going to let you know what we do all the time. We're going to create a place where you can be in community where you're not yet a follower in Christ, where in the context of relationship you can process the truth of the God of relationship, but we're not going to call that a church. Nonbelievers are welcome here; we just don't take advice from you and we don't let you tell us what we're going to do. Frankly, we don't tell each other what we're going to do. We follow Christ.
Gang, I'm going to close with this. The reason we're doing what I'm doing this morning is because the number-one factor that makes individuals here at Watermark take off is that they live in accountable subjection to one another just as God's Word says as they abide with Jesus Christ. They abide with him, they practice the one anothers of Scripture, and they are about the Master's business.
The number-one determinative word as to whether or not a group does that effectively is the word commitment, and let me tell you what's happened in our country. For the very first time in the history of the United States more children are being born to non-committed mothers under 30 than are being born in intact families. Let me say that again. More children with mothers under the age of 30 are being born to mothers who are unwed than children are being born to mothers who are wed.
Can I tell you what's happened to the church in America and why it's so weak and sick? It's because we are the church of cohabitation and not commitment. Can I tell you something about cohabitation? This is just free for those of you who are here who may not know Jesus. I'm going to tell you why God tells you everything. The reason God offers any advice to you is because he loves you and he wants it to go well with you.
Depending on what statistics you look at, 60 to 80 percent of people today are living together before they get married. Now, when you cohabitate what you need to know is you're not testing the waters. What you're doing is you're laying a foundation. It is a fact that people who cohabitate have more affairs once they're married. It is a fact that people who cohabitate don't get married more than people who just pursue each other outside of a relationship. In other words, they never commit.
It is a fact that once they commit, not only do they have more affairs they have a 50 percent higher rate of divorce. It is a fact that people who cohabitate have more physical abuse in their marriage. It is a fact that people who cohabitate suffer from sexual abuse relationships more than in marriage. It is a fact that children of cohabitating couples are more prone to physical and sexual abuse.
It is a fact that if you get married without living together you have a higher satisfaction in your marriage. It is a fact that if you commit to each other without living together you have more sex once you're married. It is a fact that if you commit to each other before you dive in together your economic future is brighter. In other words, just doing what seems right to man as we just kind of float along with each other cohabitating, everything you want to go up…satisfaction, success, sex…goes down, and everything you want to go down…poverty, abuse, isolation…goes up.
That's the way that seems right to the world, but it's not right to God because he loves you. Gang, can I tell you something? Some of you guys are cohabitating with your faith, and you wonder why everything you want to go up goes down and everything you want to go down is going up. Jesus says, "Come on. Get all in."
I love it. Jon sits here with us. He hears us talking, and he pursues Jesus with us, and that's the song that flows out of his heart, and it's the song that should flow out of your heart. There's a reason we close with that. It's not just to have music but that we might profess together what we want to be about.
If you're here this morning and you don't know that you are loved, can I tell you we love you? Jesus loves you. Jesus gave his life for a wretch like me. I'm not better than you. I am a sinner who has been saved by grace. I would tell you the closer I get to Christ the more I'm convinced I'm the chief of sinners.
This week my dear wife had to look at… We've had a great 3, 4, 5 weeks together with, frankly, not much conflict, but my wife had to look at me, and she said, "You know what though? We've just been existing really well together." That's not what a guy that loves Jesus should hear his wife say to him.
I'm not here just to get along. I'm here to be one with her, pursue her, date her, cherish her, and honor her. I see all the time… I'm not running to give my heart away to other things, but I'm not running after what I should give my heart to. I love it when my wife whispers to me and says, "Hey, you've lost your first love a little bit. Come on."
Your bridegroom, I think, is saying that to you this morning. He loves you. He's not mad. My wife wasn't mad at me. She was saying, "I got into this thing to be with you, not to run an effective household with you and not to raise kids with you but to be one with you, to enjoy with you, and together to change the world for the kindness and goodness of God."
Have you lost your first love? Maybe you don't even know you're that loved. Please, come let us tell you. Check that box on the perforated tab. Put in there, "I want to know how to have a relationship with God through Jesus." Then look at your Community Group. Look at your church. Ask them.
Are you're in? If you're not in we're going to minister to you this year, but we're not going to take advice from you. We're going to advise you to follow the King. Amen? All right, church. Let's be the church. Let's worship him. Let us love one another. God bless you. Have a great week of worship.