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Most people want to change the world, but nobody wants to change themselves. Frequently we focus on what others need to do than what we need to do ourselves. In reality, we all need to examine the next steps we can take individually to become a healthy follower of Christ. We need to quit talking about needing God and actually follow Him. We need to get busy following Him, and the world around us will start to change.
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
Todd Wagner: Good morning. It is great to be here. I am diving back in because we have some stuff we want to share with you this morning that is a little time sensitive, so I want to interrupt these amazing last two weeks we've had from JP. Has it been a blessing if you've been here? I absolutely love learning from him and others who teach up here. It is a privilege to be a part of this body and be fed here and encouraged, and I hope this morning I can do my part to be one of the guys who gets to encourage you.
I often say I really believe it's God's intention that every single time people who love him gather together he intends for that to be a place that folks who are really hurting and broken, who are alone and scared, who are frustrated, who are beaten down, who are hopeless feel welcomed, cared for, and loved. People who are radically in love with Christ are being discipled, and their gifts are being unleashed. I am convinced God wants every single faith community to be like that. If every single church is going to be like that, that means this one has to be like that.
So we spend a lot of time talking about how we can make sure this is a place where people who are far from God can ask questions and be loved and treated with dignity and respect and that we don't treat them as projects but love them as people and communicate to them the truth of who the gospel is. We spend a lot of time making sure folks who come here really belong to a body where they're cared for and loved and celebrated and experience tangible care, affirmation, celebration, and encouragement.
We spend a lot of time giving people a chance to really grow here and be equipped, that they might be mature and unleashed and their lives would be useful to God and his eternal purposes, because if every church in the world is going to be that kind of church, this one has to be, and this is the only one we have direct influence over. We're not so myopic or self-focused that we don't really care about the rest of the world, but the truth is most people want to change the world, but nobody wants to change themselves.
Everyone wants to talk about what every other church or every other individual in the church needs to do, but very few people focus on what they need to do individually. Do you want to make this a great place? Then I'll say it again, ripping off a twelfth-century Reformer: you ought to draw a circle around yourself and change everything in it and then radically invite other people into that circle as that transformation happens.
If we're going to be a collective body of faithful people who love lost people and treat people with dignity and respect without in any way compromising the truth, that means every single one of us has to be a front that if somebody walked in and sat next to you this morning they'd feel loved and cared for, that if they needed to know the gospel you could explain it to them, if they needed to be discipled you could be the one who said, "Come follow me. Imitate me as I imitate Jesus Christ." So we are all in with helping you and investing deeply in that way.
This morning we're going to talk about self-leadership, and then I'm going to share with you what we need to be able to do corporately to continue to allow us individually to be part of a collective whole that is bringing glory to God and how we, as individuals who have been entrusted with you with being forward thinking for us corporately, have been thinking so we can be a family that investigates what God would have us do next together.
But before we talk about corporate next steps, I want to just meddle in every one of our lives and talk about individual next steps, because any relationship is only as healthy as the least healthy person in it. This church is going to be a healthy church if we're healthy individuals who walk with and abide with Christ. About 35 years ago, I was beginning to be out of parental sponsorship and making a bit of income for myself. The guy who supervised me left this piece of paper on my desk, and I've kept it and reread it often.
This is what it said: "I'm tired. Yes, I'm tired. For several years I've been blaming it on middle age, iron, poor blood, lack of vitamins, air pollution, water pollution, saccharine, obesity, dieting, secondhand smoke, yellow wax buildup, a dozen other maladies that make you wonder if life is really worth living, but I now find out that ain't the problem. I'm tired because I'm overworked." This is about 35 years ago, because listen to these stats.
"The population of this country is 200 million. Of those, 84 million are retired. That leaves 116 million to do the work. There are 75 million in school, which leaves 41 million to do the work. Of this total, there are 22 million employed by the government. That leaves 19 million people to do the work. There are 4 million in the armed forces, which leaves 15 million back home to do the work.
Take from that the 14,800,000 people who work for the state and city local government, and that leaves only 200,000 people to do the work. There are 138,000 folks in the hospital, so that leaves 12,000 to do the work. There are 61,998 people in prison. That leaves just two people to do the work, you and me, and you're sitting here reading this stupid note, so no wonder I'm tired." That was my boss friend's way of saying, "Get busy, man. I'm doing all the work."
Have you ever felt like that? I picked my kids up from camp yesterday. We drove home. I got home like 2:00 in the morning last night, and I was fired up to get here. I got here early this morning to be with some friends and talk about what we're going to do because we're sticking this in here a little bit. You might go, "Man, I'm tired," but I'm not just talking about day tired; I'm talking about you're just tired.
Well, I'm going to tell you this morning that God cares about you. He doesn't want you to be tired. In fact, the Lord tells you you should get your rest. You should be somebody who knows he works for you even when you're sleeping. That's part of our expression of faith. Do you guys know that? We don't work our fingers to a nub, because God is always at work. Psalm 127 says, "The Lord gives to his beloved even in their sleep."
If you're overworked and burning the midnight oil because you can't do everything you need to do to have the life you want, you're not following the God you need. He says, "Just trust in me. I've wired your body to need to rest as an expression of faith." He tells you to build that even into your waking hours. Let's talk about what he wants us to do.
I want to start by looking at Psalm 46. Even if you don't think you know it, you're going to recognize some language in this psalm. It's a great psalm, and it's one that talks about the fact that God wants you to experience his kindness, goodness, and provision. Psalm 46: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." You might go, "Wait a minute, Todd. You don't know about my trouble. I don't feel like God is very present."
To you I want to say one of the ways God wants to be present today is through his people. Paul wrote in the New Testament, "I am continuing to fulfill what is lacking in Christ's sufferings." In other words, Jesus when he was here, God in the flesh, physically endured things for the good of other people. Paul is saying Jesus is not physically here enduring things for the sake of other people, so you, Christ in you, need to be individuals who are the presence of God who literally, audibly speak words of hope. You don't make them up; you just share the Father's words of hope.
The Father is not present, but his children are, and the Spirit of the Father is present in his children. I have a friend right now who is saying goodbye to his wife. She can't say goodbye back to us. She's in hospice. I don't know how much longer she's going to be with us. She has already said her physical goodbyes to her children, young ones, and yet they're not going through this alone. It's very painful, you can imagine, but they're members of our body.
I've known them for years. I share life with them. Our lives collide through kids and other things. They would tell you God has been a very present help, not just individually spiritually, meditating on God's Word, but because they're connected here, in community here, loved by many people here. When you walk into that situation, they are experiencing God's very real presence. If you're not connected in that way, you don't know the truth of that verse in that way.
I'm inviting you this morning to make sure you're not going to make some cold call to a church that you show up at one day a week. You're going to have a community of friends you don't even need to call because they already know what's going on, who are, in fact, extending the circle of care from God's people by calling others in the community that exists, of which they're a part, to jump in, even as we're doing.
This couple I know have a Community Group, and then there's an extended Community Group we're inviting others into because we love them and they're known here. So when that verse says God is a very present help in trouble, it's a true spiritual fact that God is always there even when we don't sense him. God's intention is that you should experience that with human touch, audible human voice. That doesn't happen unless you really belong to his body.
This is what the psalmist says. "Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change…" Doesn't it? It changes all the time. "…and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea…" You're like, "Oh my gosh! Mountains falling into the sea. That's crazy! That's big-time stuff." Unless you live in California, and then it's not a big deal. It happens all the time. No, think about it. Seriously. It's just saying these earth-shaking moments.
Mountains are often a picture of government in Scripture, so it's saying when the world is flipping, when Crimea is no longer Crimea, Ukraine, it's now Russia, and a hundred other stories like that…the Arab Spring, and things are just topsy-turvy and missiles being fired at Ashkelon and Hamas and all this different stuff. It just says, "Hey, you need to know something. God is sovereign over all of this."
"…though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah." Just rest. Just meditate on something. God is very present. "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted." God is sovereign over all that, even though we can't see it. He's always at work. He's never surprised.
"The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold." You read that and you might go, "'The God of Jacob is our stronghold.' Yada, yada. Who cares? What's that about?" There's a reason the psalmist David wrote this. If God was mingling at some dinner party and bumped into you and you were meeting him for the very first time, he might say, "Hey, man, how are you doing? I'm Jehovah. I'm the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
He leads with a résumé. It's one of his favorite ways to express himself. The reason he does that is he expects you should know Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are guys who have a very storied past and a very present history. God made a covenant promise that he would bless them just to reveal to others who he was.
What God is basically doing is saying, "Go back and check out the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Insecure swindlers who lied about who they were and who their wife was, had major failures in their lives, acted as if there wasn't a God who cared for them and had to protect and care for themselves, and yet God kept teaching them and bringing them to the end of themselves, that he might show them that he is God, and he never once let them down. Never once.
If I ever have a Sunday when I don't have much time and we have to get in and get out, I'm going to preach a message titled "The Mistakes and Apologies of God." It'll be a very, very short message. There's not much to it. I'll just wrap it up, and I'll say, "Well, here's one: Todd Wagner." Other than that, the list isn't really long.
But I'll even talk about how he's redeeming this mistake and making it a source of good and blessing to others, as Todd and other sinners abide with him. There really isn't a mistake here. I've left God. That's the mistake, and God has reconciled me to him, and it has been an amazing thing.
When it says, "The God of Jacob is with us," what it says is, "Go back and look at Jacob. Go look at Abraham." Abraham is an old man. He's impotent. He has no kids. God says, "I'm going to make you a great nation. I'm going to give you descendants. They're going to be more numerous than the stars. All the world will be blessed through you and your descendants." Abraham is like, "Are you kidding me?" God kind of fulfilled that.
Then there's Isaac's story, and it's numerous in its illustrations. Then there's the Jacob story, which is the most extensive of the three, frankly. Jacob's name was changed to Israel. Jacob is a liar. His name means to grab at the heel and to trip up, because that's what he was. He was always a guy trying to make it happen on his own, because he didn't trust God. He tried to make it on his own way, but God said, "No, you're going to trust me, and I'm going to do something great with you when you really do trust me," but he had to let Jacob get to the end of himself.
There's a moment in Jacob's life where he had done all the manipulating and deal-cutting he could, and he was still very, very nervous about an impending confrontation he thought would probably cost him his life. It was at that moment that God, in a very present, theanthropic way, appeared to Jacob, and they wrestled until eventually Jacob tapped out. God dislocated his hip, and Jacob was like, "You've got to bless me. I'm not going to let you go."
Even in his pain he was getting ready to say, "I don't have much left, but bless me before I let you go." God said, "Who are you? What's your name?" God knew his name, but he wanted Jacob to say, "My name is deceiver. My name is Jacob. I trip people up. I manipulate. I don't trust in God's blessing. I know I had a vision about ministering angels that care for me all the time and have my best interests from heaven always being brought forth before the throne of God. I don't trust in that; I trust in me."
He basically said, "I'm a sinner who doesn't know there's a God." God said, "I'm going to change your name now that you know you're not God. I'm going to make your name Israel, which means God strives with." Israel: the Lord struggles with or strives for. That's what Israel means. "I'm for you. Trust in me."
That's what the psalmist is saying right here. We'll come back to that. Verse 8: "Come, behold the works of the Lord , who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; he burns the chariots with fire. 'Cease striving and know that I am God…'"
That is to say, "Know that you're not God. Just know you're not God, that you don't need to make this thing work. You can't make it work. There are enemies you're going to face that will fire you into the sea. The mountain will fall on you. You'll be crushed. You don't command things to happen and they happen; I do," God says. "I know sometimes I'm not commanding the way you want, but that's because you don't know what I know. Just trust in me."
"Cease striving…" Literally, that word cease is appropriately translated fail. Just fail. Tap out. Acknowledge, "This is a major fail." My relational history is a major fail, because I'm striving to make relationships work the way I make it. My sex life is a major fail. It's always wracked with guilt and shame. My finding significance in this world is a major fail. No matter how much success I have, I know there's still something that is very short-lived to this thing. What it's basically saying is, "Admit there is no life apart from God. Know that I'm God and you're not."
By the way, if you're here and you wonder what the next thing is you need to do and you have never, ever just acknowledged that you're not God, that is the very first thing you have to do. You just have to get to the end of yourself where you go, "I'm not going to try to figure this thing out anymore. I'm not going to keep leaning on my own understanding. I hate to break up my five-decade losing streak, but I think I'm ready. I think I'm ready to say, 'Let's let somebody else run this thing.'"
Another fair translation of this is just "Shut up." Really. "Shut up. Be quiet. Be still, and know that I am God." Some of your Bibles say that. "Shh. Stop it. Trust me." Watch what it says. This is that verse I said you'd recognize even if you didn't know where it was. It's Psalm 46:10. "Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
"I'm going to show myself to be who I said I am, and if one of the ways I do that is by leaving you broken and hurting and alone because you're not in relationship with me, I'll do it. I love you enough to let you do that." We all want pleasure. We all want life. We all want light. We all want meaning, but here's the thing.
God says, "I am life. I am light. I am truth. So if you don't want me… If you want my job, then I'm going to let you go for it, but because life and light and truth and goodness and all pleasure are rolled up into me, if you don't want me, then don't blame me when you don't get life and light and truth and goodness. I'll just let you eventually get to the place where you'll go, 'This is not working out well,' and all of a sudden you'll cease striving and start surrendering."
Here's the deal. It's God's job to exalt you; it's your job to humble yourself. Mark my word. If you try and do God's job, he will do yours. Did you follow me on that? It's God's job to exalt you. If you try to do God's job (exalt yourself), he will do your job. What's your job? Cease striving. Be still. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. That's what God is doing. Some of you guys are here this morning, and you don't feel like God is a very present help in time of trouble.
It's because you are your own god. Life is chaotic and insecure and nerve-racking, and you don't have the health you want or the life you want. I'm just going to offer to you this: you have not listened to God, and that is very nerve-racking, so in his kindness he has brought you to a place where you're going to have to start to look up, which is the one place we finally start to look when we're flat on our backs.
God sometimes wants us to get to a place where we're not telling him how desperate our lives are. He wants to get us to a place where we're not even speaking. We're just tapping out. I don't know if you guys are much into MMA. I don't watch it very much, but I get the basic premise. That guy is going to bring you to a place of submission where you just tap out and go, "I'm done. Let go." That's really what God, in his kindness, does. That's why pain is a great gift. I mentioned this the last time we were together. It tells you, "Something is not as it should be. This needs to stop."
Now watch this. Cease, fail, be still, be quiet, and shut up are all appropriate translations. I'm going to show you from the book of Joshua that's really what God says to you when you're trying to figure out, "What do I do, Todd? What do I do next if I'm at a place where I want to change my world? I don't want the world to change; I just need to change me. God says this world is going to have trouble. I just have to be different so I can go through this world without this nerve-racking sense of despair."
Well, here's what he would say to you. In the book of Joshua, in chapter 7, there's a little event going on where the nation of Israel had just gotten through wiping out Jericho. They're 1-0. They're undefeated. They're the heavyweight champs of the world. There are seven nations that are right there in this little area that God said, "I'm going to have you go drive them out. I'm going to put you in their place. I'm going to give you vineyards you did not plant. I'm going to give you gardens you did not grow. I'm going to give you cattle you did not raise."
They're 1-0, and they're feeling pretty good about themselves, because time for judgment had fallen on those people. Centuries earlier, God wouldn't let Abraham's descendants go there, because he was still trying to call those people to repent. They didn't repent, so the flood of judgment was coming in the form of this group of people, just like, later, Israel was brought into judgment when it started to live like the Canaanites they were supposed to drive out. But I digress.
This was the moment they were supposed to go 7-0 and just dwell in the land. They're 1-0, and there's a group of people up there in a little town called Ai they were going to go defeat. So they got together and said, "We don't need to send everybody up there. That's just a third of the town that Jericho is. Let's just send a couple thousand guys up there." A couple thousand guys go up there. Well, they get their clock cleaned. Thirty-six of them are killed. So this is what Joshua does. We'll pick it up in Joshua 7:5.
"The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water. Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord** until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel…" All-day prayer session."…they put dust on their heads."** They're repenting. "God, what did we do wrong?"
"Joshua said, 'Alas, O Lord God ** , why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?'"**
Basically, what he's saying is, "Listen, God. We were a rather impressive people. Folks heard that the God who delivered us from Egypt was now delivering us into the Holy Land, and our enemies' hearts were like hearts of water, but now Ai. The Cleveland Browns just destroyed us. Now what's going to happen? Everybody is going to want to play us. They'll go, 'Look. We have Israel next on the schedule. It's going to be a win. Ai just whupped them.'"
So Joshua is heartbroken, and he's praying. Don't you think God will be pleased with that? He's saying, "O Lord, what should we do?" Do you know what God says to him? "Shut up." That's what he says to him. He goes, "Shut up. Get up, and be a big boy. Shut up, get up, and get busy. I told you what would happen if you didn't walk with me. You didn't do what I asked you to do." There's an explanation for that in Joshua 6.
Basically, God said, "I want you to utterly destroy everything in Jericho," and a couple folks went in there and went, "We're not going to destroy that. That is awfully nice." So they kept a few of those things for themselves, and God said, "No." Because the people took these things and hid these things and Joshua wasn't dealing with it like he should… He was just saying, "Lord, this is awful. We're a .500 team. McNeese State just routed us."
All of a sudden God says, "I don't want you to pray. I don't want you to repent. I don't want you to tell me how miserable you are. Of course you're miserable, because you're not walking with me. Shut up, get up, and get busy." In other words, "Repent." God doesn't want you to pray the sinner's prayer. "O God, you're very good. O God, I'm very bad. Oh, you've done something very good. Jesus died for me. I believe in that very much." Those are just empty words.
Jesus calls you to repent, not just to say words. He calls you to go, "I'm not God. When I do things my way, it doesn't work out. I have to stop acting like I'm God. I have to stop leaning on my own understanding. I have to stop having God-given needs met in God-forbidden ways. I have to stop demanding that you perform on my schedule, because, God, you're good; I'm not. So I'm going to trust you. I'm not going to tell you how sorry I am that things are rotten; I'm going to start trusting in the one who there is nothing rotten in."
This is what God says. Do you think I'm being too harsh? Look right here in Joshua in verse 10. "So the Lord said to Joshua, 'Rise up!'""Quit your crabbin'." (Sanctification at work. I was going to say flabbin'.) "Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things."
He's saying, "Just shut up, Joshua. Just know that I'm God and you're not. You have to do it my way." A couple of years ago I did a series called Vacate. This series was done to teach people about what prayer really is. I got that from Psalm 46:10. If you have some time this summer and you're on a road trip, go back to the Watermark app, hit the "Series," go down to Vacate, and just listen to it or watch it.
I talk about what it means to vacate the God position and start to be somebody who says, "I want to do, Lord, what you want. I want to stop working this thing and telling you how bad it is. I need to let you be God and start following you." In that series, I brought a friend of mine up here. Her name was Karen. Karen was a prostitute in Dallas for a number of years.
I had Karen come specifically, because I knew that Karen, after prostituting herself and giving herself over in ways that always made her feel dirty and ashamed and still impoverished and poor, would then take whatever money she made and buy drugs and alcohol and just try and numb the pain with that stuff.
Every time, the guys would leave her room, and she would get at the end of the bed on her knees while she was shooting up or drinking and just cry out, "God, save me from this life. I hate my life. I hate my life." She prayed that prayer earnestly with tears, she said, for years. Go back and watch her story with me.
I knew the answer, but I asked her right here on stage in front of you, "Karen, why didn't God answer your prayer? He's a very present God in time of trouble. Why didn't he answer you when you were sitting there for hours sometimes, dust on your head, crying out for God to save you, a woman who was pimped out initially by her mom? For years, that was just the pattern you fell into. Why wouldn't God rescue you from that?"
She just looked at me like, "Because God didn't want me just to keep praying. God wanted me to respond to his offer of redemption. My words were like Joshua's words, and God was just going to say to me, 'Shut up, Karen. Quit telling me how miserable you are.'" Let me just stop that story for a second. I'm going to show you that's exactly what God did. There's a guy who was paralyzed for 37 years, and he cries out for Jesus to help him.
What would you do if you're Jesus and a guy has been paralyzed for 37 years? How about this? "Do you want to get well? Do you want to trust in me or are you going to trust in a little superstition about angels stirring the water and somebody getting you in it? Are you trusting in me? Is that why you're here, because you believe me, you believe I'm God? Why don't you ask that guy if he'll help you? Are you asking me? Because I'll help you. Do you want to get well, though? Because you have to do what I'm about to ask you to do."
Guess what Jesus says to him. "Shut up, get up, roll up your mat, and follow me." You might be like that paralytic. You're like, "Dude, I'm paralyzed. I can't do that." Jesus would never tell you that you can do something you can't do. He knew you could. He's going to give you the ability in your paralyzed, addicted, broken, pimped-out state to get up and do something you think you can't do if you'll trust in him.
What Karen finally said was, "I quit praying, and one morning I got up and just started to do what I was asking God to do." Jesus says, "Come." Jesus says, "Follow. You have to stop doing what you're doing, stop running your offense, and start following me." She said she walked down to the jail and said, "You guys have to take me in." They're like, "What do you mean?" She goes, "Well, I'm a prostitute. I use drugs. I destroy people's lives. I'm destroying my own life. You need to arrest me."
They go, "You don't check into jail, dear." She goes, "No, I'm checking into jail. I am guilty. I confess." They go, "We haven't caught you." She goes, "Yes, you have. Look my name up. Many times, and I'm doing it again. Do I need to slap you? What do I need to do? Because we're going to jail."
She went there because she knew that in that jail she had been to many times there were people there in this faith-based dorm that she could have gone to (some of whom will come through Glow a week from here on Monday) who were there to help her if she wanted to quit praying and start dealing with her sin by acknowledging that her strategies weren't working. And she did.
She went in there and confessed that she was a scared, broken, maybe entitled because of her tough life little girl who kept doing things the way that made sense to her, and she was tired. She said, "Todd, I was just finally sick and tired of being sick and tired. I quit talking about God and my need for God and just rolled up my pallet and followed him. I started changing my world instead of the world around me needing to change. I let Jesus in, and I let him be my King."
Now Karen is caring for other women who are right where she was in this city. It's a beautiful thing, God's redemptive story. What I'm going to share with you this morning is that I don't know what you came in here thinking, but I want to just tell you as pastorally as I can, "Shut up, and quit telling me how bad your life is." You have to get up and take the next step. You have to do something. You have to come and say, "I am not God."
I don't know if that's really scary for you or not, but welcome to this church where we are a group of people who say, "We are not God; he is, and he is very good." We sing songs about him to remind ourselves of things that are true, and we seek to follow him, which means we don't run our offense. By the way, we drift back. We get a little winning streak going, and we think we don't need that God in our lives, so we start to go our own way.
We need to encourage each other, be known in community, where our community will see us and go, "No, no, no. This is what our loving Father said. This is where we're going to go. We're heading toward a losing streak that way. Come back with him. Trust in him." Gang, can I just tell this to you? We really care about you, but you can't just come in here and sing songs and even pray in desperation and walk out of here quietly and think your life is going to change, because God is going to say to you, "Shut up." You have to rise up and get busy.
You go, "Todd, you don't understand. For 37 years I've been a paralytic. I don't know anything but what I know." You just have to come up here and say, "Nothing can help me. Maybe Jesus can." That's where we come alongside of you and go, "Yes, he can." Let me read to you a First Impression I received here from somebody who comes. You need to know this. Some of you guys have been here for weeks or months. Some of you have been here for years, and your life hasn't changed, and you wonder why. I want to let you know something.
Every single week somebody here doesn't just pray; they get busy doing what Jesus says they should do, which is believing in him. Not praying a sinner's prayer, but living a broken-sinner, God-dependent life, asking for his mercy and truth to inform everything. They start every conversation with, "I'm not God, so I'm going to quit dating like I'm God. I'm going to quit spending money like I'm God. I'm going to quit using my discretionary time like I'm God. I'm going to let God tell me what to do with these things, because God is good and I am not."
Every week, somebody's life is being changed here. Listen to this First Impression. "When I first came to Watermark, I walked by the greeter with a name tag that said, 'How can I serve you?' I bumped my head on a banner that said, 'Get connected here.' I stepped around a welcome table full of people ready to help. I cut my finger on the tear-off section of the Watermark News that said, 'We want to help you get connected.' As I sat down, I thought, 'This place is so big it must be impossible to get connected here.'
It was impossible for me, because I neglected every provision God was making through his people. The second I took them at their word, everything changed. This place became smaller than my hometown church of 120 people, which, by the way, I never met God there. I've never been so connected. I've never grown so much. I've never experienced community like this. I've never served with my talents like this. I've never given like this. I've never learned like this. I've never grown like this. I've never loved God or my life like this."
The guy who put that First Impression in has preached at Watermark the last two weeks. That was his story. He sat here for two years crying out how miserable he was, trying to find life in Lower Greenville, and then finally he just said, "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired," and he just made a move. I'm inviting you to make the move this morning.
We're about to talk to some very time-sensitive opportunities we have as a body, and we're going to talk about corporately how we want to offer to lead you and see if corporately we want to go somewhere. That one is an option we're about to get to in the next two minutes. This is not an option if you want to live. You have to go, "I'm not God. This thing is not working out."
If it's still working out, I'm going to tell you… If you like what you have, keep doing what you're doing, but I'm going to warn you if you keep doing what you're doing, you're not going to like what you have very soon. What I want you to do is take your Watermark News. Put your Watermark News in your hand. I'm going to show you what next steps are.
You might be out there and say, "I want to learn my Bible. I've been here since the beginning. I don't know what to do next. I just walked in the door for the first time. I've been in church my whole life. I've given up on the church. I'm hiding sin. I have an addiction. My marriage is failing. God feels far from me. Parenting is difficult. I'm scared to share my faith. I don't know how to share my faith. I need to be discipled. I need to disciple somebody. I'm an empty-nester. I have a problem."
I don't know what you're saying out there, but guess what. It's right here. Sweet Kelsey started by saying, "I don't want this to be the same kind of year I've had as I move into my junior year in high school." She said, "God, I want to be somebody who lives differently this year." This is Kelsey's story about how she lived differently and it changed into an internally transforming experience for Kelsey and for Hailey.
Look inside your Watermark News. There's something right there. Look on that right side. "Welcome to Watermark." You need more info? Go to connect.watermark.org. You don't have a pen? We figured that out finally. If you have a pen, cut your finger on the perforated section. You want to find out more? There's a place called First Step that's coming up. You can just go in there and ask questions about this place. Is it a safe place?
Are you ready to connect? In just a few weeks you can go in and actually begin to get connected, where you're known by others, loved, shepherded, and held accountable. Looking for a Community Group? There you go. "I don't know, Todd, if I can really trust this Jesus. I have some real questions about my faith." There's a Great Questions class tomorrow night at 7:30, where you can come in in a very safe environment. We're not looking to argue with you.
We're looking not to pander your intellectual arrogance but to really, really love you with your intellectual integrity, because if this is true, no amount of scrutiny will affect us. Let's go. Let's talk creationism. Let's talk "Is the Bible trustworthy?" Let's talk about the narrowness of Christianity. Let's talk about the problem of evil. Let's talk about other books that claim to be divine. Let's go. We'd love to love you through that stuff.
Look over on the "Equip" side. You're a guy? You want to get running with other guys? There's an opportunity coming up this fall. That's too long to wait. Just hang in there. I don't want to make you wait until the fall. Same thing with women. I don't want to make you wait until the fall. Right there in the middle. "Todd, the Bible is a big, intimidating book. I really don't know what to do when I open it up. It doesn't make much sense to me." Well, guess what.
All you have to do is give your email address at jointhejourney.com, and we will email you every morning about 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. an email that is somewhere right now in the New Testament, where somebody will introduce themselves to you as a member of this body. Somebody will give you the central truth of the passage. They'll title it. They'll give you the key verse, and then they'll let you read it on your own.
Then they'll even go, "If you're confused what that means and how to apply it, here are 300 words that will help unpack it, and here are three questions of application." And then guess what. You're not in community yet, so you don't have anybody to talk about that with, so you could actually jump on there and say, "I have a question. Would somebody meet me and talk about this some more?" I promise you Sue Bohlin will respond. I promise you Bobby Crotty will respond. Hope will be on there.
You don't have to go through the Bible alone tomorrow. There's no excuse. We're trying to take away the excuse. As lovingly and pastorally as I can say it, shut up. Come on, let's go. We want to help you. Look at the very back of your Watermark News. I'll just walk you through these six. "I want to discover, develop, and deploy my gifts. I want to be used for God in a significant way. I want to be known by others, cared for. I want people to show up in my life when things are hurting. I don't want to make a cold call to the church and say I'm a regular attender."
I want to say it to you again. If you're here and you're not practicing the "one anothers" of Scripture, if people are not loving you, if you're not under spiritual biblical authority, you are not a regular attender. If you say you know Jesus and that's what you're doing, you are an irregular believer, and it's not going to go well with you. You're a single parent. You're hurting. "I want to find encouragement." Right there it is.
Are you somebody who's just hoping the debt problem is going to go away, your spending habits, your poor stewardship is going to change? Your first step is to go to Moneywise. Let us jump in with you and help you. Do you want to see how good you have it? Do you want to jump in with us and help serve some people who have less? Go to Glow with us a week from Monday. Watch us love some of these gals I was talking about.
You have a new relationship that's moving toward marriage? You want to start with a biblical foundation even if you don't know Christ? Come to Merge. Are you all alone? Come to GroupLink. You have to do something, because every moment leads to another moment. Have you ever wondered how JP got up here? He just did the next thing. It took him two years. Don't wait two years. Just say, "I'm going to do the next thing," and then the next thing will lead to the next thing.
We want to help you. You have to figure it out. Do you have an addiction? Do you have a problem? Come to re:gen tomorrow night, where there's a room full of people who just walk in there saying, "Hey, I'm here, and I don't think I'm God." That's the only thing you have to do. Then we're going to dive in. We don't care how that lack of previously thinking you were God manifested itself. We're just going to invite you to come in. Every step leads to a small step.
Do you guys know Louie Vito? A guy who has won five different X Games medals in snowboarding, a guy who has been part of our Olympic snowboarding team, a guy who four out of five years in a row won the Grand Prix of snowboarding in the United States of America? He was born in Ohio, but there was just a little decision he made that led to another decision that led to another decision, and all of a sudden this guy is one of the world's greatest, and you wonder how it happened. It started with one small thing. That's the way it's going to happen for you. Watch this.
There it is. You have to take that one little slide down a driveway. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but you go into the arms of people who know God and love God, and it can turn into an eternally changing moment, but you have to do it. You have to not say, "God, help me." You have to move to the God who is here this morning in the person of his people saying, "Can we help you?" You have to lead yourself.
You just have to tell us the next thing you need to do. Every single one of us. I have a next thing I'm going to do after today. I know what it is. Is it your marriage? Is it learning how to work through conflict? Is it learning how to be a disciple maker? Is it knowing how to share your faith? Is it coming to faith? You have to slide. You have to go. Our job as leaders is to think about where we go and how we go there together.
What we're going to do is tell you what we have collectively been believing and thinking and asking God and watching God turn us about next big things for us. You guys know that about two years ago we told you we felt like God was going to have us expand what we were doing here and share leadership and resource with Forth Worth. We've told you we believe God now wants us to expand and share leadership with Plano and allow others who are already a part of our body…
It's going to be very different than Fort Worth, because we started Fort Worth about 20 or 30 people who were a core. Now it has grown 500 percent, 95 percent this last year, to where there are now 500 or more folks who are part of that core over there who are really starting to get after it. Plano is going to start with probably two or three times that. So the kind of facility we're going to need to start this thing in Plano is much bigger.
Our plan was to start with a facility that was going to cost us about $3 million that had some acreage we needed to develop. It was going to cost us about another $20 million to get that to where it needed to be eventually. About five weeks ago, we were with that real estate team. We came up with a plan for Fort Worth. We looked at our needs in Dallas. We looked at our needs in Plano. We had five different things we were going to do.
I ended that time by saying, "Lord, thank you for these men and women who are gifted in helping us think through this stuff. If there's something we're doing that we shouldn't do even though we can't see it and we love our plan, would you just stop us? Would you protect us from ourselves?" Within seven days, four of those things radically changed. One of them was where we thought we were going to go in Plano, we saw something else that's going to save us upward of $10 million.
We have a spot in a better location that's ready for us to move in sooner and is going to cost us anywhere from $10 million to $15 million to $20 million less. It's amazing. We're ready to tell you this morning where that is, and we're ready to tell you what we need you to prayerfully think about with us for that to happen. This is where I'm going to shut up and let John update you on what we're doing in Fort Worth, Dallas, and Plano.
John Cox: We are thinking about what our next step is as a body. So what I want to do this morning is just share with you what the next steps are in Fort Worth, in Dallas, and in Plano. Here's a map that shows you where we are now. As you can see up there, our Fort Worth Campus, which is about a year and a half old, is right off Camp Bowie Boulevard off of 30. That campus has grown just under 100 percent this last year. It has really taken off.
In response to that, what we're doing is saying the next step for us in Fort Worth is to add to our staff. So we're growing our staff from four to eight over there, and we're securing some office space for it, and then we're just going to continue to watch God do great things. Eventually the plan will be… We have one service right now. We meet in a movie theater, and we'll go to two when we need to do that. So that's Fort Worth.
Dallas has also been growing. Not quite as fast as Fort Worth, but last year Sunday morning attendance at Dallas grew 15 percent. You think, "Well, that doesn't sound like a lot," but what that means is every single week there are 1,200 to 1,500 more people on Sunday morning than there were this time last year. You probably realized that as you drove in and tried to park today. You're thinking, "What is happening?"
Our services at 9:00 and 11:15 are full, so the question you'd ask is, "Why don't you start another service? That would open up all kinds of room." We've been thinking about that, but the problem with that is we're also full during the week. If a lot more people started coming on the weekends, we wouldn't be able to disciple them right now during the week. Every single week at Watermark, Monday night through Thursday, we have over 6,000 people on our campus.
Monday night is our re:generation recovery ministry. There are more than 600 who are coming to that. Tuesday night is The Porch, our young adult ministry…3,000. Wednesday night is our marriage ministry. We have more than 375 coming to the marriage ministry, and last year over 800 couples went through our pre-marrieds class. Now to put that into context, that represents 5 percent of all of the marriages in Dallas County last year.
Can you imagine what's happening when that number of marriages are being changed even before they start, so they're getting off to great footings? So if you come here Monday through Thursday night, there is no more space. A big thing we've been wrestling with is how we create more, because it's not about the numbers, but it is about having opportunity for people to come and be changed, be transformed.
We've looked at all kinds of other facilities around here, other churches. Where can we go meet during the week? We've been in negotiations the last couple of months with the building right next door. In fact, it's the building immediately to the east of our tower, right on 635. Just this week, we were able to secure a long-term lease, a 10-year lease on that building. That'll just about double the amount of midweek space we have, and it'll open up all kinds of midweek opportunities for additional ministries and more people to come.
Todd: The reason we do all of those things, those next steps, whether it's Prodigal or re:gen or re|engage, is they're discipleship opportunities. We never wanted to just fill up a midweek facility; we wanted to raise disciples who were effective in the community. Well, guess what happens. A number of you guys have heart for sexually abused people, for folks who are addicted, for marriages that are falling apart, so we've created ministries.
People in our body have created ministries that need a place to meet, so you use this facility all week long to disciple. Equipped Disciple. It's here. I don't know the last time you tried to get a space here, though, and we've had to tell you there isn't a space. That's why we can't just add a Saturday service. We already have a Sunday night service, because we don't have place to put those people to really help them move forward in Christ.
These are all discipleship opportunities where you can grow so you can be effective. So that's what this building is going to allow us to do in the middle of the week: give you chances to build into others or to be built into so you can serve our community. John, tell them about the details of that.
John: So that's what that'll do. That will really open up a chance. It's interesting, because every week more than 2,000 of us gather together to get equipped during the week. On the one hand you go, "That's terrific," but on the other hand you say, "Hey, there are 8,000 of us who come here on a Sunday morning, and only a quarter can come back during the week?" So what we're trying to do is create space to help people fall more in love with Jesus and be changed.
Then what I want to do is talk about what we are doing in Plano. This is a map. Every single red dot is someone who filled out the 4B spiritual self-assessment form this January. What you see is there's a huge concentration around a dot right in the middle, which is where Watermark is today. What you see by that is most of the people who are involved here on a regular basis live within 10 to 15 miles. You go, "Okay, that makes sense."
But here's also what happens. If you live farther away than that, you're likely to come on a Sunday, but you're not likely to come back during the week. In fact, the farther you live away, the less likely you are to be involved. That's a problem. In addition to that, if you live 20 or 25 miles away, you might be willing to come that distance, but your friends who are unchurched won't drive that.
So one of the long-term strategies for Watermark is to say, "Where do we have a bunch of people who are driving from a distance away, and then how do we go take the church to them so we can be right in their neighborhood?" At this map, when you're looking at it, what you'll see is there are a bunch of dots up north toward Plano, and what we want to do is send a core group of people up there to start a satellite that will then reach that entire area for Christ.
We've been looking for facilities. You heard Todd mention we finally found a place. It's right up just north of Spring Creek right on 75. It's being leased by a church now that has chosen to leave, so it's almost ready for us to go. This week we entered into what's called a letter of intent to potentially purchase that campus. The cost of that will be $9.5 million. On the one hand you go, "Okay, that's a lot of money," but guess what. We already have $5.5 million in cash toward that.
So what we need to do now, as a body, is all come together, and we need to come up with $4 million so we can finish the purchase of that campus. Then that will create the place where we'll go next. The plan is that anybody who's interested in being a part of the Plano satellite is going to start meeting on August 17 here in the Loft at the 11:15 service. The plan, essentially, is that core group will meet there and grow there in the fall.
We hope to close on the purchase October 1. We'll make some renovations, and then effectively January 2015 we'll move into that campus up there. We think it's a terrific opportunity to reach an entire new area of Dallas. If you live up in that general direction, we want you to know you can find out more information about that by either emailing email@example.com or you can go to watermark.org/plano, and we have a lot of information about that campus.
So that's the next opportunity in Plano. When we talk, then, about what the needs are financially, the first need is we need to find $4 million so we can buy that Plano Campus. Once we get that done and we're ready to move on there, then over the next six months we need to raise another $6 million to $7 million that will do two things.
First, it will help us to build out the building next door that we're leasing. The second and third floors of that building are vacant right now, and the plan is to build large-group meeting space so we can expand our midweek ministries. That'll help us to do that. We'll also then have some money to do some renovations on the Plano facility and to equip it with things like audiovisual equipment and to set up the area for children's space. So that's the intermediate need.
The great thing about the building next door that we're leasing is that we have an opportunity to buy it in four years. So if God allows us to expand our ministry and we're using it effectively, in November of 2018 we have a chance to buy it at a set price. God willing, we'll do that come 2018. That's our plan.
Todd: Which will, in addition to all that, secure our long-term parking situation where we will have access to that entire surface, not just after the hours of 8:00 to 5:00 but all throughout the week, as well as solidify our long-term user agreement, which won't put the way we use this building currently at risk.
We are sharing this with you today for this reason: we want you to pray with us. Watermark has never done anything by debt. We're not going to obligate this body by debt. Debt is not a sin according to Scripture. It's just strongly worded against. The building you're sitting in has been built by people who believed God had given them the resources. We released the money, and when God gave us the money we moved.
We have a need between now and October 1 to close that little gap so we can purchase that building. We believe God wants us to take to Plano this mission, create more opportunity here for us to invite thousands more, have thousands more invest more deeply up there in Plano with us, and then to begin to use that building over here there's some more resource need.
All this information is on our website. There's also going to be more staff put in Fort Worth, more midweek office space in Fort Worth as we invest there, but again, the need in Plano is much, much more immediate, because we're going to seed that with probably two to three times what Fort Worth has today when we start up there.
So today, when we're done, you can go if you want, pick up your kids, and then the elders and some of the folks who have been a part of all these processes, evaluating things, are going to be in the Loft. They're going to be back there tonight at 5:30 if you can come. There will be an opportunity for your kids to be ministered to during that time.
At 5:30 there's an opportunity to come and ask questions, get more information, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions and you can't make any of those times. You'll also see some Wednesday dates here. All this information is on the website, and we'll also email it out in the Current on Tuesday.
What we want you to do as a next step corporately is to pray. "God, what would you have me do?" First of all, individually, as I make a move to the next thing to get more serious about what it means for me to know God or follow God. Then all of us collectively have to decide if this is what God would have us do as a body.
We have opportunities in Dallas, Plano, and Fort Worth we're pursuing that, as leaders, we're bringing to you. As a family, you will confirm, as stewards of God's resources, if he's going to give you permission to release his money to do this or if we need to continue to do what we're doing. Let me pray and close us right now.
Father, thank you for this morning and a chance to come and talk about next things. We want to start by saying, Lord, our first and biggest concern is individual response to you. So help every one of us lead ourselves in a way that would bring glory to you and joy to our hearts. Then, Father, we corporately come together now. We go, "Okay, Lord."
We may not have enough to do a ton, but some of us might have enough to begin to slide toward the millions of dollars necessary to do the next thing, and others of us have a lot you might want us to resource toward that direction. I pray, Lord, that you would protect hearts here from doing what they shouldn't do and you wouldn't let them miss what you want them to do and we would continue to be about making disciples and growing as disciples ourselves.
For the glory of Christ and the good of your name, help us to be people who belong to your body and are being trained in truth and being strong in a life of ministry and worship because we believe in your Son and we care about your name. We love you, Lord, and we pray that whether we're sinners this morning who need to take a step of repentance or saints who need to go another step forward that we would be a city that marches on our knees. Lead us. Amen.