Jeff Ward explains the ministry of "External Focus", defines what "missions" is, how Watermark evaluates local ministry partners, the various buckets of External Focus, and reminds us to always be on mission wherever we are.
Admonisher and Admonishable, Two Things We Must Be
External Focus: How Watermark Serves Its City
Don't Let Your Mouth Be a Minaret. Counsel Biblically
Pursued and Pursuing: Our Story, Our Script
The Authentic Life and the Life That Comes With It
The Danger of Fools and How Not to Be One
My name is Jeff Ward. I get the privilege of serving you guys on the External Focus team here at Watermark. Thanks for being in here with us this morning. It is a lot of fun to see you guys. I have about 12 minutes with you, so I'm going to talk fast so you can hit one of the other breakouts and still have time to visit with some of our partners.
Let me start with a question: When you think about missions, you think about… What? Africa. Come on, I said be honest. Africa, right? That's why I wore this prop that my friends in Africa gave me. I think our tendency is to think about people who are far, far away; who speak a very different language; who come from a very different culture. So I want to take a few minutes today and I want to try to change your perspective. I want to tell you a little about how God views mission and tell you a little bit about how Watermark views local missions here in Dallas.
What is External Focus? Why do we call it External Focus? This is one of the questions we get. We have to start where God starts, which is... Let's just start with the word mission. The root word is missio (Latin word), which means sent. The realty is, we are all sent. So in reality, we are all on mission every day, intentional with the people God puts in our path.
We start where Jesus started, which is Matthew 22, the great command, and Matthew 28, which is the Great Commission. Synthesized down to its essence, it is to love God, love others, and make disciples. With that definition, we are all on mission. We are all missionaries called to serve wherever God has us with the people he places in our path.
We talk about External Focus, and one of the things about the phrase External Focus is it reminds us to do something that doesn't come natural to us. It's very easy for me to get focused on myself, the distractions in my life, what's going on in my house, what's going on with my kids, and what's going on in my Community Group, and not necessarily to have an outward focus.
When we say external focus, it's a reminder to be outward focused and to move those concentric circles outside of me. The realty is, again, we're on mission with everyone God brings across our path. So instead of focusing inward, we focus on missional engagement. Missional engagement starts at home. While I do hope God takes you to Africa or the Middle East or to Haiti or to other places in the world to see what's going on around those places, we don't start there. We might end there, but we start right here at home.
Whatever our calling might ultimately be international, we know we are called here. We are planted, we are rooted, we live, we work, we play right here in Dallas. If you're in Plano, you're planted there and in the Collin County community. If you're in Fort Worth, over in Tarrant County… We are called to be on mission here.
Now, you might have a missional engagement uniform that looks different. It might be your suit and tie as you interact with the folks where you work. It might be your tennis shoes and your shorts with your running group or whoever you work and play with. Your missional engagement uniform will look very different, depending on who you're around.
You are going to be proclaiming the gospel and demonstrating the gospel to people who know the language you speak, whose culture is very similar to your own, who you don't have to fly to go and see, but who are all around you. Your external focus today might be your Super Bowl party or might be walking your dog. Both are vehicles to interact with and get to know your neighbors and the needs that are right around you. That might be your place where you begin to have an external focus.
While we hope you start there, we also hope you don't end there. That's because this is a big city with a lot of needs and a lot of opportunity for the church to be the church, to be the hands and feet of Christ, to be salt, and light. The city needs us to love them and serve them and to continue moving to those concentric circles, even into communities where we don't necessarily cross paths with folks in our cities.
When we talk about places like Vickery, Hamilton Park, South Dallas, Cornerstone Heights, West Dallas… The way we do local ministry is we look for ministry partners who live and work in those communities, who know the culture there and the language that's spoken there. We work through ministry partners to help us reach those neighborhoods.
There are many organizations doing it well all across the city, and we look for them. Here's one of the questions we get all the time. "How do you evaluate the partners? How do you vet the ministry partners you see out here?" Here are a few ways we do that.
We look for alignment in terms of mission, vision, and focus. We look for organizations that are thinking about discipleship, as we're all about discipleship; leadership development; and things along those lines. We look for trusted leadership in those organizations, because we know organizations stand or fall on the quality of their leaders.
We look for trusted lay leadership. That's you guys; somebody in our body who raises their hand and says, "I'll be the champion for that ministry. I will help shepherd the folks that get connected here," because that's a huge part of what we do, discipling ourselves as we disciple and lead and help and serve others.
We look for opportunities for deployment, because missions mean more than just stroking a check. We look for boots on the ground, in the trenches, opportunities for you to connect, to build relationship, to disciple and serve in the communities where we serve. We also look for ministries that think about impact and not just activity.
It's really easy sometimes to go, "Hey, we served 300 people today in our homeless kitchen," or, "We had 600 people come to this event." It's very easy sometimes to get into this mindset of measuring activity and not really thinking, "How are we really impacting the lives of those we're touching?" so we look for opportunities for ministry partners who think along those lines.
We also look for ministry partners who are thinking beyond just meeting the immediate felt needs and looking for ways to move people down a continuum of self‑sufficiency as they grow in their faith in Christ, as they grow in their freedom in Christ, and they become economically and financially free, and their relationships are restored. We look for holistic ministries that are thinking along those lines.
One thing we've learned is all charity is not created equally, so we ask a whole other set of questions around… God has made us in his image and he has given us intrinsic value, worth, and dignity. When we serve we want to be really careful we're preserving that dignity, that value, that comes from being an image-bearer of God. We look for ways where there's a mutual value exchange in what we're doing. We work through partners, and we organize these partners into four key buckets, or impact areas:
Poverty. In the poverty bucket are things like construction ministry and our ministry to homeless folks, all the way through this continuum of care that ultimately leads to job creation. Faith at Work is one of those initiatives, where we're matching people with Watermark employers in a discipleship context so they're free to be faithful men and women, mothers and fathers, becoming all God intended.
Education and mentoring. If you're a data guy like me and you want to know empirically how the needle moves in this city, a lot of that is getting to kids early, even by fourth grade, before cycles of poverty, teen pregnancy, gang-related violence, and things kick in. We mentor about 200-plus kids in West Dallas through Mercy Street, which is out here. We also partner with public school in West Dallas. We partner with a school in South Dallas that focuses on at-risk kids.
Justice. This is our legal professionals. Some of the things they're doing are bringing nuisance lawsuits against crack houses and brothels in West Dallas, and they're working internationally with some of our partners to work with lawyers overseas. That also includes prison ministry. As folks who were incarcerated transition out, they are reuniting with kids. They need a lot of help, both spiritually, again, as we disciple, and also just the assimilation part of that.
Families and health. This is our pregnancy resource and the ways we promote life across the city. A big, new part is our medical clinic, which we launched a little over a year ago. We're really excited. About 4,000 people have come through the doors of the QuestCare Clinic, which is about 3 miles down the road, in the last year, all getting amazing, excellent, quality healthcare, but also getting way more than that.
We have folks there who provide prayer, who provide connection to ministry. Again, a whole array of pastoral care. It's really phenomenal. We're even thinking this year, as we move into dental care, of even scaling the staff to take care of those people who are coming through the door without compromising the mission, which is, again, gospel centric.
So those are our four buckets. You can find a lot more information about that on our website. Let me end by telling you how most all of this got started in the first place. The reality is that you are our missions committee. We don't have a missions committee that sits in a little room somewhere and makes decisions. You guys are our missions committee.
Ephesians 2:10 saysyou are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that he's prepared for you to do beforehand. That means you have a ministry, a personal ministry, that God has given to you. If you remember the Home Depot slogan from years ago, it was, "You can do it. We can help." That's our philosophy as staff, is to come alongside you and support your ministry.
There are many, many of you who have caught a vision for the community, have seen a need, and said, "Man, I'm going to go after that," again, in a gospel-centric, discipleship‑based way, "and I need the staff and Watermark to come along, support, and help coach that." You guys are that for us. There is nothing we do around this city or in Plano, in Collin County, or in Fort Worth, that is staff-driven, staff-centric. You are our missions committee.
So what is your next step? Our prayer is we would remember wherever we go, around the block or around the world, we are loving God, loving others, making disciples, and we are intentionally engaging the people God has put in our path to just be salt and light, the hands and feet of Christ, loving and serving those who we are called to serve right here.
Today we're going to give you guys lots of opportunities to get started. Probably the easiest way to get ahold of our team is to email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us your questions, your comments, the things you're already doing, stories we can celebrate. Just feel free to email us there. With that, I'm going to pray and then I'm going to let y'all get after it.
Lord God, I thank you for this day. I thank you for Ephesians 2:10. I thank you for the passages that tell us we are on mission and that you have got a plan for us to engage, love, and serve those around us in our city and around the world. Thank you for the privilege we get to partner with you and that we are your plan A and there is no plan B.
So, Father, give us wisdom and discernment as we do that. Father, help us to be honoring to you in the way we do that, developing people holistically and carefully and then always telling them the hope that is within us that comes through faith and trust in your Son. We love you so much. It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.