The four elders of Watermark Community Church, Todd, Kyle, Beau and Dean, share what they learned from the most recent 4B regarding the current state of the Watermark body. They explain their heart and plans for serving the body of Watermark so it may "excel still more" as an expression of Christ to the world. They also explain the "why" behind their positions on a variety of important topics, including leadership and the role of the elders, evangelism and outreach, community, conflict resolution, devoting daily, international discipleship, giving and stewardship, marriage, divorce and remarriage, sexuality, and women's role in the church.
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Todd Wagner: Good evening. How is everybody doing? Let me just start by introducing these guys. Since you guys see me all the time, you may not know the rest of these men as well. The title of elder is very unfortunate, and it's an uncomfortable one for me. Something about pastor feels warm. Something about elder sometimes feels hierarchical. I want to tell you that our leaders, our pastors, at this church are guys who model Mark 10:45. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
These are men who have been appointed by you, the body, and selected by leaders to pastor the church. Elder and presbyter and pastor are all used synonymously in the Bible. These are not guys on a board that I report to. These are men who lead with me the work of God among us. Sometimes people say, "How can only four guys lead a church this big?" For a church of 14,000 people who are here every month, if you want to have elders who shepherd 10 to 12 people each, we'd have a lot of elders.
We think we have a lot of people doing the work of an elder, but in terms of leadership and gathering and meeting, there are right now four of us, but these are guys who aren't thrilled with the office. They're overwhelmed with the humble privilege of serving you, and they do it dozens and dozens of hours a week. We're together every Monday morning. We're together every Friday morning to pray. We're together to study God's Word and to do things ministry-wise and community-wise probably another three or four times every single week.
I'm humbled to lead with them, and I want to let you know that these are not guys who are officers; these are guys who are leaders and servants, and I love them. They're my community and my friends, and they love you, and that's why we're here to share with you what we believe God wants us together as a body to pursue some more. So Kyle Thompson, Beau Fournet, and Dean Macfarlan are here, and Kyle is going to get us started. We're so encouraged to see how many of you guys are here with us tonight. Kyle, why don't you lead us?
Kyle Thompson: Let's pray, and we'll get kicked off.
Father, thank you for the privilege of us getting to be your church and just the way we get to love people, we get to do ministry, just the ways you use us to pierce hearts so that lives are transformed and miracles are done every day. I just pray for our time. Thank you for the sweetness of our time, where we can just gather and talk and celebrate and be encouraged, talk about where we see you leading us. Just thank you for the joy of getting to follow Christ together. Be in the midst of all we do. Thank you for Christ, amen.
This is the first time we've done something like this in this format, and I want to give you a little bit of background on why we're doing this tonight. As our ministry continues to grow and expand, we're always praying, talking, wrestling with how we can continue to be increasingly faithful. "God, what would you have us do?" As Todd already said, our role as elders is really to care for, to lead, and protect the flock, which is the flock here at Watermark.
A number of years ago, we instituted and started this 4B form and used it as a way for us to be able to self-evaluate. How are we doing in following Christ? How are we doing in being committed to the core values we say we're all committed to? How are we doing at re-upping and saying, "Hey, I want to commit to follow Jesus together in this flock"? As Todd said today, how are we doing in acting on what Jesus calls us to?
As we reviewed that information this year collectively, there was a lot to celebrate. We were really encouraged by it, and we thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to gather the body together and just talk about some of the things that came out of that?" So tonight what we're going to do… Part of it is just sharing what we learned from the 4B. We want to talk about how we're using our resources to further ministry here, what we're doing as we consider adding space.
We are increasingly running out of room. We want to continue to make room for the folks God is bringing as you do ministry in your neighborhoods and workplaces and schools. We're going to talk about that. We're going to give you an update on that tower that's east of the existing tower, where we are with that, and then other topics we are spending time with, things we're praying about, things we see God leading and directing us in.
There's a number there for you to text questions. A lot of your questions may be answered as we go through this, but if there's something that comes to mind as we talk, that's the number we'd have you text your questions in to. On the next slide you'll see some general information about who we are. Two-thirds of us are married. One-third of us are single. We continue to be a very young body, which is really encouraging. We view that as very healthy.
The average age in Fort Worth is 32, and the average age in Dallas and Plano is the mid- to late‑30s. You can see we have a lot of young families here. On the next slide it just shows that we're one church with three campuses, and 80 percent of our members are here in Dallas, and the other 20 percent are up in Plano and over in Fort Worth. Fifty percent of our members have been here less than five years, which, again, we view as a very healthy indicator, because as we continue to grow, God is continuing to bring folks into our body who are jumping in with us. It just reflects that.
The next slide is just helpful for us as we think about where our members live. As we talk about adding space, it makes sense for us to look at the areas where our members live, because we are all on mission together. We're trying to be intentional with the way we love folks in our community and neighborhood, so when we have a heavy concentration of members already loving people, that's a good indicator, as we make additional space, of areas that we want to look to create potentially another campus and how we can continue to make room here on this campus.
Todd: So here are a couple of high-level observations from the 4B form we thought we'd just celebrate with you, things we want to be encouraged by. First of all, based on your responses, with being fully convinced of what we would call the seven core essentials of the faith, we're almost 100 percent unanimous on all of them. In other words, there is unity about what the gospel is that was once and for all delivered to the saints. That's a really good thing.
Seventy-five percent of our body say they are more intimate with Jesus Christ and effective in living and abiding with him than they were a year ago. I hope that is true of me, and we want that to be true of 100 percent. Seventy-five percent say their marriage is better. If we are a community that is marked by love and we beat our swords into plowshares, that ought to be one of the places it shows up. Marriage is a great testing ground for whether or not we were deluded in the way we said we're more effective in our walk with Christ the previous year.
It's not surprising to me that those two numbers are similar. Fourth, our Community Groups are sharing authentically. Ninety-five percent are open with the highs and lows in their marriage and just using community as a means to find encouragement in the midst of their marriage. Our body is on mission, serving all over our city and our world, and people know… They've discovered, developed, and are deploying their spiritual gifts. Ninety-eight percent are comfortable sharing the gospel and their personal testimony.
It's funny. I look at that and go, "What 2 percent aren't? I want to spend time with them and help them." If it's a comfort thing, it's always a little bit uncomfortable when you're talking about a God who became man and died for sins 2,000 years ago and it affects everybody's eternity today. There's a piece of that that's uncomfortable, but if the 2 percent of people who are uncomfortable aren't comfortable because they're not sure of the gospel, then we have to do a better job with that 2 percent.
We're encouraged that people want to know what's happening here. Our Current, which we've embedded video in, has really helped us a lot. If you're not currently signed up to get the Current, we're really working hard. We don't want to read announcements to you on Sunday morning. We want to point you to where announcements are, and then Tuesday we remind you of what some of the strategic, time-sensitive things are.
You can see that our open rates have gone from less than 4 percent to well beyond 35 percent at this point, and we hope that keeps going up, with excerpts from sermons and videos we showed on Sunday and Real Truth. Real Quick. episodes and the like. Next, there is much we can do better still. In Thessalonians, that little phrase "We want to excel still more…" The idea that we are witnesses and that that is part of our primary purpose is leaking, and it's always the first place a body needs to be admonished and encouraged.
If helping people believe in Christ, belong to a body, be trained in truth, and be strong in a life of ministry are the four areas a healthy body functions in, you would think if you put 25 percent of your focus on each of those areas they would all kind of grow along together. Well, it's not true. You need to put almost 50 to 60 percent of your emphasis on reminding people that lost people matter to God.
While we have 98 percent of our people who say they're comfortable sharing their faith, only 6 percent of our body on the 4B form said they do it consistently. That might be because you're tough graders on yourself and you only do it once a week or it might be because you just don't do it. If you add in the "often inconsistently," it takes us up to 20-some-odd percent. You can hear just from the book of Acts this morning, if we are not about that, something isn't right.
Now maybe we're doing a good job of saying, "Come and see," and we're inviting and inviting. You guys did a great job of that with Easter. I was really proud of the way you encouraged your friends to come, but that's an area we always want to grow in. Twenty percent of our body is not giving at all to the mission here, which would seem to suggest there's not a healthy… The Bible says, "Where your heart is there your treasure will be also," so their heart isn't with us. It seems odd that that's the case.
An area we can excel still more on is while 95 percent feel great about sharing their highs and lows with community, we are not as encouraged with the way our community talks about how we are shepherding each other financially. That's an area we need to really grow in. The Moneywise curriculum is fantastic. Jesus talks more about money than he does heaven and hell, and the reason he does is because it's a great indicator of where we really have our hearts.
One-fifth of our body is not even engaged here in that way. It might be because they have absolutely no means to do anything, but we think that's a very small percentage. It probably is because people think they're on scholarship here and that there's no need, and that's just not the case. We'd love to see even more people serving externally. You can see that of our Community Groups, about one-third of them actually have ministry they do together outside our church with some of our strategic partners.
Twenty percent serve in their neighborhood or apartment complex. About 40 percent have their kids do stuff with them, and 33 percent report doing something externally locally. We've always said if the only people who would care that Watermark ceased to exist as a body are the people who drive here on Sundays we're not the church Jesus wants us to be.
Dean Macfarlan: Beau and I were just out in Plano doing very much the same thing with our expression in Plano, which was a blast. They are so excited about what God is doing in their midst, and we can rejoice with them. I just shared with them personally where I am right now in my heart. Only 40 percent of us are actively ministering to the poor, and Tawney and I are praying through that right now. I personally three years in a row have not checked this box like I'm doing all I need to do.
This is an area in my own life I need to grow in. Sue Bohlin did an awesome Join the Journey this week (I think it was Matthew 25), where she challenged us to think about who the "least of these" are in our lives right now. That ministered to me. I have to have a constant awareness of people God is putting in my path who are the least of these whose need my abundance can meet. If you're at all like me… This is an area I need to grow in, and I'd just encourage each of you if you're a part of that 60 percent.
Todd: Here's the great news. The way we solve both those last two problems is the same. Many of our external focus ministries are to the under-resourced, so if you'll just gather folks… We have a large team of servants on our staff (that's what they are) who are there to facilitate opportunities for you to engage those who are under-resourced.
By the way, if you give to Watermark, part of our Charis fund is anybody in our body who is a member and abiding and a "widow indeed," as the Scripture would say, who comes to us and says, "This is where we are financially…" You are actively caring for the poor if you are giving to Watermark, because there are people here, members of our body, who we're helping with housing, with food, with education out of the wealth of resources of our body.
As we walk with their community, as we go through their budget, as we help them work through patterns in their life that got them there and how they need to get forward, we're caring for the poor here among us, but a way to up that is to jump in and dive and take advantage of the external focus things. There's an email that goes out every month that I will put in the Current this week, where you can sign up and they email you opportunities with our strategic partners every month that you can step in on.
Beau Fournet: The next thing we're going to talk about is community and the importance of community. There are three verses I spend a lot of time reflecting on as I think about the importance of community. One of them is, "Whoever walks with the wise will become wise. Whoever walks with fools will suffer harm." Just the incredible privilege there is of walking with wise people. Remember in Proverbs, "Wisdom is a fear for the Lord and a knowledge of his Word."
The second one is, "A human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked." The things I am capable of doing every day are ugly, and if I am in isolation it's worse. The third thing is in Hebrews. "Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another." Community is really important in two ways.
First, we think it's critical for each of us if we want to be and make disciples, and then as elders, it's the only way we're comfortable with the awesome privilege and responsibility of shepherding the flock. I think the ability of four people to shepherd the flock ends at about 40 or 50 people. If you think about how you limit the size of your Community Group to make sure you know everyone, it's no different with having the responsibility of shepherding the flock, which is why we call everybody to be in a Community Group.
One slide we don't have in here but we shared in Plano is when we did this, we only had 1 percent of our body that was not in a Community Group and had not signed up for GroupLink, which is something to celebrate, but we're focused on making sure the 1 percent is in community and that all of us do community well. There's some stuff to be encouraged by. People are being authentic in Community Groups, sharing their hurts, sharing the highs and lows in their marriage, for those who are married, but there's room to grow here.
Only 30 percent say they pursue their group outside their scheduled meetings, and that is not going to end well for a Community Group, if you're only getting together if you have something scheduled. I'd really encourage you to figure out how you could do life on life together. If you were at our Better Together this year or last year (we also have all that online), we talked about the importance of finding ways to do things together…dinners together, serving together, fun events together, going to one another's big events in life to make sure you're getting time together, because quality comes out of quantity, and the more quantity you have together, the more quality you'll have together.
Only 36 percent of Community Groups encourage and challenge each other to regularly share the gospel. I would encourage you to make this a primary focus of your time together. If we all want to grow in sharing the gospel… As Todd mentioned, only 7 percent or so of our body is doing something we think we're all called to do in the Great Commission. This is an area to grow in.
I shared in Plano that with my Community Group, about three years ago, I committed that every week I wanted them to ask me about who I was sharing the gospel with that week, and I was committed to letting them know everyone I shared the gospel with that week, and for that six-month period I shared the gospel with at least one person every week for six months, because it was a priority for me, and my Community Group was leaning in and admonishing me if I wasn't taking it seriously.
The last point we'll note is 22 percent said they've never experienced conflict in their Community Group. This is really important. Conflict is something we invest time in coaching one another on how to do that in a healthy way. If you don't have conflict in your Community Group, I challenge you to ask yourself whether or not you're leaning in and sharing hard things and asking the probing questions when somebody says something like, "Well, I'm struggling there, but I'm struggling well" or "I'm doing okay there, but can we talk about something else?" Lean in for the last 2 percent.
Todd: What we want to do is we're going to roll those two slides, and we just want to take the next several minutes to commit these items to prayer. We're going to bounce back and forth between the slide before, where we feel like we can excel still more, and I'd ask you to grab some of these and pray and ask God to show you where you yourself can grow. The Scripture says, "These things which you have learned and received, heard and seen in me, practice these things."
If everybody in our body shared in community, shared their faith, gave, served like you, what kind of church would we have? Then ask yourself how you can spur on your Community Group, and pray for folks you know are far from God who you've never had a chance to share with. I'd just encourage you to do that with the folks you're sitting next to or just quietly go before the Lord. It was part of the agenda tonight, to stop a few times and pray. This is where the first one showed up in our time together. So would you guys do that? Then we'll close you from the front, but let's immediately go to prayer together.
Father, we thank you for the chance that we can boldly come before your throne and we can do what the early church did, that we can gather together and be devoted to the apostles' teaching and to prayer and to the breaking of bread, sharing life with one another, and, Lord, that we can come to you and say, Father, we're so thankful for the way your Spirit is accomplishing eternal good in and through our lives, and yet, Lord, we want to excel still more.
We want to rest in Jesus and celebrate his finished work. Thank you that there is nothing you expect from us to make us pleasing in your sight, but, Father, would you just grow our understanding of eternal things? Would you help us to be breaking continually free from addiction to self and this world, which clings to us, and help us to grow into the full measure of a man or a woman you intend for us.
Thank you for the way you're going to use those prayers your children are crying out to you. "Dad, shepherd us. Make us strong. Let us bring glory to the family name. Let us be your ambassadors. Let this embassy be a place you want folks to come and see." Thank you that you are bringing lost sheep here. I pray we'd care for them well. Lord, we know for us to do that we have to care for our hearts personally in our relationship with you. Would you help us to hate sin and love what is good and to seek justice and to honor the King? In Jesus' name, amen.
Dean: One of the things we love celebrating is that 75 percent of our marriages are articulating that they're better this year than they were last year, and a big part of that is the ministry of re|engage, where folks can come for everything from a crisis to just tweaks along the way. Personally, my wife has had the opportunity to serve in that ministry under John and Pam McGee and Susan Cox and Ryan Nixon and many others who are involved in that ministry, and it's just super exciting to see what God is doing there.
Over 500 people started closed groups in 2015. That is remarkable, but the really interesting thing… This is one of the largest entry points of our church: re:gen and re|engage. Over 60 percent of the people who are coming are not already connected to Watermark and many are not believers, so this is a wonderful evangelistic tool, allowing the Spirit of God to transform hearts, heal marriages, and really bring people into a relationship with Christ.
There were 930 couples who went through Merge in 2015. That is extraordinary. I think that is having a massive impact not just in our local expression of this church but across this whole city. Frankly, I don't think we're going to see the impact of this for years to come.
Todd: Just so you know, I love the goal our marriage team set, which is to have X percent of all marriages in Dallas County go through Merge. They started that goal at 5 percent. For every 100 couples, 5 out of those 100 couples would go through Merge. They surpassed that, and they are climbing very quickly.
Now their goal is that 10 percent of all couples that are married in Dallas County would come and go through Merge. That's why you see Wednesdays it's always full. That's why it started in Fort Worth and Plano, why we're adding to our Merge staff to serve and equip and reach more people.
Dean: To see the momentum that's building in Plano, for example… Re|engage has already started in Fort Worth. There are over 40 people involved as leaders. Out in Plano there are, I want to say, 300 people who are already coming. That ministry has launched in an exponential way. One of the things that happened that we learned about planting that work…
You saw that it met here for a full year before that was ever launched out in Plano, and that had allowed a lot of the foundation for re|engage to gain momentum quicker. Leaders were developed and trained, ministry vision was cast, and folks bought in at an early stage of the game, which has paid great dividends.
Todd: I thought of this too, because John shared this with us. One of the things we're doing… I don't know if you know this, but re|engage, which started here, now has over 100 churches in the country that are also now using that as a tool to disciple people through the felt need of broken relationships. One sample. A church in Phoenix, Arizona, this year had 600 couples come through their re|engage. That's 1,200 people. Three hundred of those trusted Christ.
This is our outreach. The pastor at that church… His wife had an affair about six years ago, and they led out of their brokenness and found Watermark and our re|engage team and said, "You have to help us. Our marriage is a wreck." They got their marriage healed and started leading in their church, and now that's what's happening in Phoenix. That's part of the outreach and the mission to the universal church we're a part of by investing here.
Dean: We're so encouraged by the high percentage… Ninety-seven percent of you can articulate their story of grace. That is so encouraging. We just want you to know when we pray on Friday mornings, when we see things like that, we know God is moving. He's the one who's crafting these stories in each of our lives. The Spirit of God really is allowing us to share that hope we have with others. First Peter 3:15: "Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you have, and do this with gentleness and respect."
That absolutely encourages us. Fifty-three percent of the body reports being able to be in the Scripture five to seven days a week. Again, an encouraging stat. We want to see that grow. We'd love to see all of us getting a daily chance to abide with Christ. There's no substitute for deeply being devoted to Jesus and hiding his Word in your heart, so we really want to encourage the rest of those folks who aren't getting a chance to do that every day to do so, but we're super encouraged by the 53 percent who are spending time with the Lord.
Todd: One of the simplest ways you can do that is through the Journey. Wherever else you're in the Scripture… This year we're not reading through the Bible in a year. We're just doing the New Testament. It's a much slower pace. We ought to all be together right now in the Gospels at the end of Matthew, and it should be a normal part of our conversation, like, "Hey, man, did you see today…?" And that person ought to say, "Yes! Wasn't that awesome?" or "Hey, I haven't gotten to it yet."
That simple tool of expecting you to be in Matthew with me would drive that number up, whatever else you're reading. It literally takes less than five minutes to do the Journey, and it has application questions at the end and, by the way, a chance for you to type questions down about what you read in that passage, and I promise you Sue Bohlin or the team of folks who blog there every day will respond to your personal question. They wait for it.
Dean: So the majority of our body is able to use the Scripture to answer questions about society and cultural issues. Literally, at the end of the day, hiding God's Word in your head is not useful. Making sure it's in your heart so that you act on it throughout the day, that you have a word for someone who's dealing with the issues of the day that we all run across, those sovereign appointments… God puts someone in your life who needs to hear the hope you have in Christ and the instruction you gain from relying on his Word. So way to go as we endeavor to excel still more in that regard.
There are a lot of people taking advantage of Equipping classes, Core classes. Nine hundred thirty-five attendees. Moneywise is exciting. Todd already mentioned that. What an important aspect of training us up to redeploy God's resources in a faithful way. Training Day, Equipped Disciple… We've had the benefit in our own home of Tawney's service in that ministry. Bill Roberson has done an amazing job making disciples through Equipped Disciple.
So there are really cool things happening, and we just want to celebrate those with you, but as always, there are things we could do better, so we highlight those for you. We already mentioned this, but only 6.4 percent responded "often" to sharing the gospel intentionally with nonbelievers. That's a disconnect from the 97 percent who said they're able to, so we just want to ask our friends, "How are you doing sharing the hope you have in Christ?"
Beau already highlighted a story for him. These guys help me share the hope I have by asking, "Hey, who did you get a chance to share the gospel with?" I'm not discouraged by that; I'm encouraged by that. "Today, not a soul, but you know what? I have tomorrow." Just talking about it with each other and making sure it's at the forefront of our thinking and we're disciplining ourselves for the purpose of godliness, having that be on the edge of our tongue and ready to give those encouraging words to people and lead them to the cross.
Of the body, 46 percent report being in Scripture less than five days a week. We talked about that already. Topical Scripture knowledge memory seems low. Only 38 percent strong in this area. This is a highlight for us right now. Kyle has been encouraging the four of us. We all memorize Scripture, but he said, "Hey, let's do something together."
So two weeks ago, we started on 2 Timothy, chapter 2, and we're just going to memorize that together. I have pieces of that chapter, but we're just going to do the whole thing together. Now Christ may come back before I finish that. Kyle has it knocked out already in about a week, but it may take some of the older people longer.
Todd: Remember, a large percentage of our body has been here less than five years. We have a lot of young believers here. If 100 percent of our believers were fully devoted followers of Christ who had memorized the New Testament, it's not a healthy church. Do you know why I say that? We're a dying church, because there are no newborns here who we're bringing along. So don't be rattled by some of this. This is evidence that we are reaching young believers
What we do is go back and look at some of these stats. "Hey, have people been around for three years, five years, ten years now, and they're still not doing these things?" That's a problem. So some of this is weighted, because we are growing with a lot of new believers who are here, but make sure, mature members of the body, that when they grow up to what you are they're going to grow up to the full measure of men that God intended.
Kyle: So, externally focused. Piggybacking on what Dean said, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, starting out in Matthew 5, talks about how he wants us to lead out in loving the oppressed, the downtrodden, the people who are hurting. He wants us to be salt of the earth, light of the world. Those are great opportunities to share the gospel, to share where hope is found, as we love on folks who are in the midst of heartache.
Those people are not only in your neighborhood and next door. They're all over our city. We have tried to be increasingly intentional the ways we let you know what we're doing. That area, locally, is led by Jeff Ward and Benson Hines. It's really fun. As Todd said, we're trying to build that into the Current so you can jump in with us and love folks in our community.
One of the things that's incredible to me that I think will be a shock to you… We are a diverse body. Members at this church were born in 76 different countries. Is that not shocking? It's a melting pot. Dallas has a lot of refugees who are coming into our city, so there's a multitude of opportunities. The great thing about that is as we get around folks who are hurting, share our stories, and encourage them, it helps disciple and equip us to be more ready to give an answer for the hope that's in us, to be praying, "God, give me an opportunity."
As you get to know your neighbors, that God would even create an opportunity that's supernatural. One of the things we started actually was started by a guy who went on the Haiti discipleship trip. As they were going through, loving communities, loving on people, he just said, "Hey, why don't we do this in our community?" He was really convicted that, "Hey, I'm going to Haiti to do some things and be discipled and trained for things I'm not even doing in my own town."
So they started these Unashamed weekends. There was actually one this weekend. The singles went downtown and loved on folks. It's really a week-long urban discipleship trip. It just helps us more effectively live out our faith in our community. In 2015, we had eight weekends that we did this, over 5,500 single adults, and we've expanded the opportunity to include marrieds and families. This is a great opportunity for you to continue to get equipped and just love on folks you cross paths with.
Todd: Just so you know, those run every month. There's a three-week training that goes up to it. We train for three weekends and you go on a weekend, but it's not a week long. It's just a weekend, Friday to Sunday. You get an international servant experience right here in our city. So that's an area that you and your community go, "We have to get on the docket for one of those in 2016 and 2017."
Kyle: We talked a little bit more about our QuestCare Clinic. If you guys have not been there, you ought to drop by and just see what's going on there. We served over 5,500 people last year, and these are hurting and vulnerable folks who have medical needs and are not able to meet those needs. We have a clinic in a neighborhood that allows us to minister to those folks and not only meet their medical needs but pray for them, meet the pastoral care opportunities that come with that, encourage them, and refer them to other ministries.
Dean: If Jeff Ward was up here, what he would tell you is that QuestCare specifically has built a bridge between this church and the city of Dallas maybe like nothing has before. When they see people actually put their faith into practice, meeting the needs of other folks, they take notice. It has been an incredible thing to watch that partnership begin to flourish, to have Jeff have favor at the city. It's super encouraging.
Todd: What's great about that is I see his community rubbing him. I see Randy giving Matt a hard time. That started not because staff sat around and said, "We need to do this." That started because members of our body, who are leaders at Medical City, had a felt need. "We have a crowding in our emergency room. It's a financial burden on our hospital, and it's a burden on people we're trying to serve. The church cares for folks. What could we do together in a partnership?"
That started because members of our body are thinking like believers at their place of work, so together we started this thing. Ministry happens here. The job of staff is to facilitate, encourage, and execute with you. Who knows what the next idea is that's sitting out there this evening?
Kyle: The fun thing is they're getting to share the gospel not only in English but in Spanish and Arabic, so you're getting all types of folks coming into that clinic. Our international ministry partners we have… Again, we're trying to help other local churches in other parts of the world be the local church, so what we do is take folks who are being effective and intentional here and have discipleship trips.
Last year, over 300 members of our body have gone on these short-term, what we call DiscipleshipTrips. We've been in Burundi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Turkey, Haiti, Egypt. We're looking at expanding that to Asia and more countries in the Middle East. Again, it is an opportunity… As we get out of our culture, God often grows us even more as we see the faithfulness of folks in other cultures.
That led to this opportunity. Most of you are familiar with the almost 600 kids we help care for in Uganda. The beauty of that program is it's done through the local church. These are not kids in orphanages. These are kids who have needs. Often it's a child leading a household, and they've lost their parents. So we have an opportunity to come alongside local churches in Uganda and provide for those kids, encourage them, and disciple them.
Todd: Right now, because we ask if you do that you do more than give money; you write to those children on a regular basis and receive correspondence back from them… We just sent one of our staff members, Suzanne Sanderson, over there for 10 days to meet with every single one of those kids and every single leader of the church that is caring for those kids to get an update on how they're doing spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
There are some members who were giving money but weren't engaging personally that we have asked to stop supporting those kids, because those kids want to have an American family that engages with them. So there are about 30 kids who are available. You can go to watermarkworldwide.com and adopt one of those 30 kids.
We're also going to bring opportunities to you in the future where you can collectively work with us to engage with other kids around the world through the local church in the months ahead. Stay tuned for that, but pick up those other 30 to 50 kids who are available out there right now if you're interested.
Beau: One question we had emailed in earlier this week is relevant to the last point on the slide, so I'll hit it here. Someone had asked why we don't do more missions trips and why more people aren't able to go overseas. I would note a couple of things there. First, 307 members went overseas last year, so that's 5 percent of our members, and we're very purposeful to call them Discipleship Trips, not Mission Trips.
All 6,000 members should be on mission every day in Dallas, and our focus in going overseas is to raise up the local church overseas, and we view a strategic opportunity to disciple our key leaders here by having a shared discipleship experience overseas. That's our mission. Our objective is not to create opportunities for hundreds of people to go overseas in a traditional missions trip. There are opportunities elsewhere, but that's not how we're investing our resources in international partnership right now.
Todd: We want to send overseas our best and brightest, people who are trained, who are already actively doing ministry here. We're not trying to run a travel service where you do a vacation with a purpose. When we send you, we're sending you on mission internationally. Why would we do that if you're not evidencing that you're on mission locally? Everybody who goes is equipped and trained, and one of the ways to get equipped and trained is to jump into an Unashamed weekend. That's where we identify folks who are ready to go.
We'd love to send more out there, but it's a burden for a local church over there to take us sometimes. We only go where there are three things: a core competency they've identified in our local body that they could benefit from with a trusted local church partner where there's a mutual benefit. We believe that's the consistent scriptural paradigm through which we go. Now we do have a number of members who are serving overseas full time, and that's a separate category altogether, but in terms of sending people, that's the answer to the question we received.
Dean: Todd mentioned before that re|engage is serving over 100 churches around the country. Really, that number is 132. There are really exciting things that are occurring in that ministry. If you would, put that on your prayer list. We want to be faithful. We also want to be diligent and not overwork our staff. It is a big responsibility to find and develop these relationships with partner churches around the country, how we resource it. Our staff is involved in helping equip and train them. That's why they do marriage conferences and bring those folks back here.
I would ask you to just put that on the top of your prayer list, not only for re|engage but also re:gen, Prodigal, and many of the ministries that, as Todd said, have grown up by faithful members. The content is developed. It is excellent. God is using it here, and folks are asking to use it in other places. So just pray for us as we have wisdom to try and discern how best to distribute that and not wear out our team in the process.
Merge, our eight-week pre-marriage ministry, is offered at 25 other churches nationwide, Foundation Groups at 14. Re:gen, in addition to Dallas, Fort Worth, and Plano… Two thousand four hundred seventy-five people came to re:gen in Dallas in 2015. The Church Leaders Conference… We're really, really excited about it. It's coming up here shortly. One of the things we want you to know… Todd, I'd love you to pick up on this a little bit, and JP when he comes up later for facilitating Question and Answer.
You just need to know we don't think we have all of the answers. We hold this ministry with open hands and ask God to lead it every single day, but there are some incredibly unique things happening here. The body of Christ that has been aggregated here has certain gifts and talents that are useful to the church at large other places. We are trying as best we can to be faithful and offer that help to other people. I think over 800 or 900 folks are coming.
Todd: Well, we capped it at 750, just so we could really serve those churches our first time out of the chute. A week from Tuesday, there are going to be about 130 to 150 churches here in teams, senior pastors, elders, lay leaders like you, who are coming together to get a vision of what the local church can be. Our goal is not to tell them, "Look at what God is doing with us." Our goal is to remind them what God wants to do with them, to share the resources and the values and the vision and the shepherding you guys are doing with one another with them so the church around the world can be strengthened. That's the purpose of that time.
By the way, do you really want to love them? There are opportunities to serve, which in the Current this week we'll have a link, potentially, that you can sign up and say, "I want to be here to greet, to welcome them," because one of the things they can't believe is that members of this church are going to be here to love and encourage them and be a part of that, parking and greeting and serving them lunch throughout the time that's here.
Now is our second time to stop and pray. We're going to ask that you would pray with us right now for that conference, for churches that are using the discipleship curriculum we've put together here, and for some of the things we have already covered up to this point. Pray for the Church Leaders Conference, for all of those different things Dean just mentioned, and we'll flip back through, and you'll see some of those other areas we want to excel still more in. So let's spend a few more minutes in prayer about these things.
Beau: All right, everyone. We'll just come back together. We appreciate the privilege of everybody praying together for the opportunities we have as a body. We're now going to roll to the next slide, which is information that could be read in a number of different ways, but our heart in this is to celebrate what God is doing, to be praying that each member of our body would be faithful to all that they're called to be faithful to.
Remember, our focus is to be and make disciples, and as we mentioned earlier, financial stewardship is an opportunity to be and make disciples. We could celebrate the generosity of a number of individuals, but once again, as elders up here, we can't speak to the individual generosity of every member of Watermark, but because everybody is in a Community Group, we can be confident that we have leaders on point to wrestle through the topic of stewardship with every member of our body.
If you can't vouch for where each member of your Community Group is with respect to whether or not they're being faithful in stewardship, my prayer for tonight is you would feel challenged and work through that topic with them. The first thing I would note with our budget is we often get asked, "How much of your budget goes to missions?" What we would always say is 100 percent of our budget is missions focused, and if it's not missions focused, then we need to cut it from the budget, because our mission is to be and make disciples.
With respect to the size of the budget and how we steward that, you see that our fiscal year, which is July through June (so we're about 10 months into the budget), is approximately $22 million, and I'll note a couple of things with this. First, we're excited there's not a line item in here for debt service, which is I think rare but something we are really excited about.
It was such a privilege to sit down earlier this evening with the body in Plano, many of whom have only been around for a year or year and a half and don't know the story that our body in Plano, with the rest of us, is debt free because members here in Dallas came together and provided $15 million to open that campus debt free to have roughly 2,000 people part of that body on a weekly basis gathering. That's an exciting thing.
Another thing is people ask about what our external partnership budget is. You see the number of roughly $2 million, which is money we're using directly to support our partners both locally and internationally, but once again with the focus that Todd mentioned earlier, which is we have a specific gift, there is a specific need, and we can meet that in a way that has mutual benefit through a trusted partner. So that's what we're doing, but that is just a part of what we're doing more broadly.
The other thing I'll note is that we want to continue to pray for those in our body who are not participating with us financially. That is a privilege, just a story of being a part of that in our body, so I'd just encourage you with your Community Groups to understand if part of the 20 percent that doesn't want to lock arms with us are in your Community Group, and see if there's a financial need there where they're not able to participate or if there's something else going on where you have an opportunity to come alongside them and love them.
The next thing I'd like to do is provide a brief update on the building next door. If you recall, we talked about that in October of last year, where we said the entire need was approximately $19 million, which was $12 million to buy the tower next door (which is a tower that looks just like our tower; it's just one story taller), $6 million to renovate the first four floors of that building for midweek ministry, and then $1 million for a number of other things across the three campuses.
If you recall, we kept getting stuck on whether or not we could add services to the Dallas Campus, because we didn't have room for midweek ministry. We have 7,500 people using the campus Monday through Thursday on a weekly basis, and there was simply not enough room. Thus far, God has provided approximately $15 million of the $19 million toward this opportunity, which is something we pray about. We thank God for where we are, and we just pray that everyone would continue to be faithful to how it is they would participate.
If you recall, we talked about the opportunity to lease the building next door with an option to purchase that building. Through a number of things that have gone on, we have not gotten to the point where we've had to start making rent payments on that building, so we are actually transitioning right now the agreement to close on a purchase of the building for cash in June without having rented the building at all.
We're working on that. We're excited to be able to have that opportunity to actually close on it sooner than what we had originally anticipated. Then we're trying to figure out how to start using that space for ministry as soon as this fall. We have a number of tenants in there, so once we purchase the building, we'll have to figure out how to properly manage that, and we're working through making sure we can optimize the space for our ministry use. I'd like to show you on the next slide an example of how we're thinking about using the floor plan there.
You can see a couple of large group spaces, which is one thing we mentioned. Monday through Thursday, the only time we have for large group, being defined as over 100 people in a room, is this worship center a couple of nights a week, but nothing in the 100 to 500 range, so this is one footprint where we would have a 70-person room and a couple of 300- to 400-person rooms on a floor. So we're working through how to do that on floors one, two, and three and making sure we can honor all of the commitments we have with the tenants.
With this, you know we continue to have parking challenges. We use up all of our space and the space next door, so we're working through agreements with our neighbors to both expand the number of parking spots we have every night as well as extend the term of that agreement and the ability of either side to walk away from that agreement substantially longer than where we are today, which will allow us to optimize the space next door as well as this building. So we're excited about that.
In Plano, we continue to be full there. I was with the re:gen leaders earlier this week, and we started re:gen with, I guess, closed groups about eight weeks ago in Plano, so we have small group rooms, similar to Dallas, where after you have large group time you go down to small group. Less than eight weeks in, we have two empty rooms in Plano for small groups for re:gen because of how quickly it's growing. We continue to pray that God gives us these challenges, because that means we have opportunities to be on mission.
Kyle: The next slide touches on a number of issues we spend extended time on. We thought we'd just touch on those briefly. We spent well over three years wrestling through marriage, divorce, and remarriage. We recognize that God is serious about the sacredness of marriage, and as his followers and shepherds, we want to hold the high view that he has. In the midst of the Christian culture we live in, the number and ease of divorce continues to grow. Again, that's true even in the church.
As a result of that and the number of relationships around us that end in divorce, we were compelled to reassert a biblical view of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Again, we've wrestled through this. We wanted to make sure we were being firm where Scripture was firm and minister to folks in the midst of difficulties, knowing that there's tremendous hopelessness and hurt and brokenness in marriage.
One of the purposes of Community Groups is to be the folks who come in and love on and encourage in the midst of that and walk through that, so we developed a pastoral statement on marriage, divorce, and remarriage to help our Community Groups understand a biblical worldview of it but also our leaders and other churches.
We know that God hates divorce but loves the divorcee, so we wanted to be very loving and graceful in the ways we move folks toward God's picture of the gospel, which is restoration and forgiveness in the midst of brokenness. We've spent a lot of time on that. It has been a great tool for us and for groups to understand, because there's a multitude of issues. Every situation is different when you deal with this in relationship.
Todd: If you'd like to read that, that's available online. What I would encourage you to do is take a look at it and understand a theological view of marriage, divorce, and remarriage and how we, as a body, understand God's Word to lead us in our application of it. If you have questions, we have teams of folks here who can walk you through your specific conviction or specific situation.
What we're doing is reasserting what is clear in Scripture and acknowledging there are some calls you have to make, asking for grace on the calls we've made and extending grace to others who see it differently as we love one another, but that position is available. Just Google "Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage" Watermark, and it'll pop up. If not, we'll be able to make sure and put that somewhere on the web where you can see it.
Secondly, the one there with gender identity… We're not going to go long on these. People have asked, "Why do you guys talk so much about homosexuality? Why do you talk about gender identity?" My answer is that that's where people are attacking a biblical worldview right now, and the biblical worldview is God's picture of the best way for human beings to prosper. So wherever the attack is being made, you have to refortify the position.
Right now, stealing is not something that our culture says, "Hey, it's no big deal. Let them walk into your store, get a handful of stuff, and walk out." If it was, we would assert a biblical worldview on theft. Right now, though, the issue of sexuality and gender identity is being discussed and raised… There's actually a Real Truth. Real Quick. that answers that question…Why do we talk so much about homosexuality? I use that illustration and others. It would be great for you to listen to that in case folks ask.
Gender identity. It's amazing to me that we have to waste any breath or teaching time talking about this issue that boys are boys and girls are girls and that gender dysphoria is a mental illness. We love people who need to have their minds transformed in a way that would bring them life, but the fact is our society is now hesitating, believing that we can say, "In the image of God he created them, male and female he created them."
That's why you'll see us specifically, even this year on the 4B form, asserting a biblical view of anthropology, who man is and whose image they were created in and why that matters. Gay marriage is the exact same thing. We're not teaching on these topics tonight, but resources are there. Real Truth. Real Quick. and Sunday morning messages.
The reason we're talking about these topics is it's an area that you're going to be attacked in, and you have to be equipped and ready. If you're surprised by the question, "So are you against love?" and you don't know how to answer that, you're not ready in the way God would want you to be ready as a person who he wants to be salt and light in this culture. That's why we've put together those resources that are out there for you. All right. Role of women in teaching.
Dean: Yeah, let me take that on. JP, while I start this, why don't you come on up, because we're going to roll to Question and Answer in just a second. This is really important. I want to talk to all of the women in the room tonight, and I want to ask you to be our advocates in speaking to others who aren't here. We love you. We are for you. We want to see you reach your full potential as you follow Jesus and make disciples.
There are some difficult challenges in how Scripture is interpreted in regard to this topic. It is a topic of the day, and just like on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, there are people we dearly love who fall out on different sides of this issue. So we ask you to extend us grace as we wrestle through the Scriptures and, as best we can, hear from the Lord and in fear and trembling present to you how we believe this church should be led in this regard.
We're going to extend grace to those really faithful servants and very wise people who are on the other side of this position from us. Does that make sense? In other words, we don't think we have all of the solutions. We've just been charged with the responsibility of making the decision. We want you to know we love you. We're for you. Todd quoted Genesis 1:27. Men and women are made in God's image. We're equal in dignity and value.
There is absolutely no… This isn't an issue of rank; it's an issue of role, the biblical role of a woman and the biblical role of a man, as we work out faithfulness in the local church. A couple of Scriptures we spend a lot of time on… Obviously, Titus 2 and 1 Timothy 2. We want to do everything we can to help women deploy the manifold gifts of God they have. We want to be obedient, as instructed in Titus 2, and we don't want to compromise Paul's instruction in 1 Timothy 2.
We want to acknowledge the way some people have led has created tremendous pain in churches, in homes, in schools, in governments, and we want to acknowledge to you that, day to day, we're some of those people, but we want to do everything we can to support women here, to let them have the opportunity to teach and train other women, to encourage the flock.
If you have teaching gifts, there is a multitude of places throughout this church community for you to use that giftedness, but we believe, because of our reading of the Scriptures… In summary, we just can't, with a clear conscience, give a woman a role that could compromise her ability to be all that God intended her to be. For us, since we know God ordains all leadership… Romans 13:1: "For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God."
We believe the leadership responsibility in the church and family is given to men alone. The responsibility and the role to see the spiritual health of your family flourish, the spiritual health and the care and correction of this church… We believe that is given to men. We know there are others who take the other side of that, and we give them grace as we pray they give us grace.
Finally, just to wrap this up, our collective view of the reading of the Scriptures is that the teaching pastor and the office of elder should be held by a man. We know that many of you may have a different perspective, and we're always willing to listen. This discussion is not shut off. We want to be people who are seen as receptive and encouraging, but the bottom line, men, is we're to love our wives and women as Christ loved the church. We're to give our lives for them.
If we shepherd and love like we're supposed to, we should be men who are worth following. Philippians 2:3-4 is our guide. "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…" That's the goal: being others centered. We want to lift up women in this church. We want them to be able to be all they can be, making disciples, loving God, and sharing the hope they have.
Todd: We have some other information we need to relay. The reason we have invested the resources we have into Real Truth. Real Quick. is you can capture these positions in five, some of them as much as nine or ten minutes max on these topics, and then there are Sunday mornings to talk about all of this. Then through your community, people who are on staff to serve your community, and as ever wide the circle needs to be, there are more opportunities for you to be equipped in these areas. So take advantage of that.
You can see our understanding as leaders in charge with shepherding the flock of God among us on these issues of our day. There are Real Truth. Real Quick. episodes on each of those. Have at it. What we do want to make sure we do before we get to the Q&A is tell you that now that we have this building next door… Just to clarify, we have not paid any rent on that building next door, and it looks like we won't have to, because we won't get to use it until it's potentially purchased.
Now that we have that building, that creates an opportunity for us to potentially use this campus more. So we have been asking you to pray for some weeks as we reevaluated the potential of when we could put other services on this campus, and we made a decision recently, in concert with the staff and others, that we are going to begin a Saturday night service as soon as we can make sure that we staff it well to allow the body to serve in all of the ways we need to have folks serve to make a Saturday night service click.
We think the earliest that could be is with Promotion Sunday, which is in August, and that's what we're shooting for. So maybe as soon as August we'll start having one service on Saturday night, which we hope turns very quickly into two services on Saturday night, and right now the plan is to maintain what we're doing on Sundays. More information to follow with details on that, but as of August, we're going to get to use this resource that God has given us all the more.
That means if you're getting married here on a Saturday night, expect for 2,000 people to be parking out there with you. There's a give and take to everything, but we believed that was the best way to serve the body. Part of what we're going to do in concert with that… You guys know we love this young man. JP is committed to walk with Christ and grow in his giftedness and the way God has uniquely put his hand on him as a leader and a teacher.
One of the things we believe we should do at this point in order to steward well these gifts and to serve the body among us well is, just like Kyle Kaigler leads the Plano Campus and Gary Stroope is leading with the team over there as a campus pastor in Fort Worth, JP's title will become Dallas campus pastor. Part of that will also be an increase in the use of his teaching gifts. Because of the additional services we'll do, we're not going to make Saturday night a separate communication from Sunday morning.
What we are going to do is probably JP will show up more on Sundays, I'll pop in a little bit more on the Porches, and together we'll teach the flock of God among us. JP is going to begin to serve in that role. We're going to begin to serve the body by giving you more opportunities to invite people to come and see and use this campus and the facility you guys have through your resources made possible to the maximum of God's good.
Jonathan Pokluda: Guys, thank you for your time and clarity tonight. As questions were coming in, it seemed like the next slide answered the question, so that was really good. It has been really clear communication. You guys can continue to text in questions if you have them, and I will capture those live as well, and I will continue to take the ones that have been repeated. We're going to do our best to get all of them. The question we've seen the most is simply, "Will this information be available online?"
Jonathan: There you go. Heard it there first. This one has also been repeated throughout the evening, and even this week we got this. "There were 22,000 people here for Easter between the three campuses. Why only four elders?" Some of you said only three elders. Todd is an elder, so we have four elders. Why do we only have four?
Dean: Yeah, I'd love to take a crack at that one. Once we grew past 40 or 50 people, we four lost the ability to have a touch on each and every person, but what God intended we're trying to fulfill. I've been a part of a local expression in this city where I had the opportunity to serve as an elder previously, and that church had 30 elders, and I can just tell you it was very, very challenging to maintain the spirit of unity in the bond of peace.
So having seen that model and now having practiced in this one for going on 15 years, I feel really good recommending this to you, not necessarily because of the men who are here, although I can recommend them to you, but the model of maintaining oneness is really challenging to do once you get to a number bigger than four, five, six, or seven.
So although our church bylaws do allow for 10, and that could happen someday, what we're telling you is that it is critically important for us to practice the "one anothers" of Scripture ourselves and to maintain trust and unity, and that's very, very hard to do in the world we live in when you have a big number.
Todd: Yeah, relationship is what I would say.
Kyle: Piggybacking on what Dean said, at the same time, this ministry continues to grow and get more complex, multiple campuses. We are finite men, and it takes time. We spend a lot of time, and we also recognize that we are getting older. You heard the average age of our body. I think about the fact that I'm getting more and more irrelevant.
One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities I know I feel and the others do also is to have the opportunity to build into the next generation that is going to continue to be the elders after we're drooling on ourselves and a little bit senile and get removed, whatever it might be. What a great privilege for us to lead with those men, to disciple them, to encourage them, and to continue to serve as long as we're able.
We do wrestle with having a process to continue to raise up the men. We have a lot of people in our body who meet the qualifications of elder. They may not have the margin and the time to do that. It's something we talk about a lot, and at the same time, we don't want to neglect… If there is someone we should add who would help us lead and shepherd this flock better, then we're ready to do that as well. It's a very active discussion, and it's a fair question.
Todd: A couple of things we'd say to that as well. Watermark is not the same church it was 10 years ago. Obviously, it's a much more complex body of believers. If it's hard to make $1 million when you don't have any money, it's a lot harder to inherit $1 million. We take very seriously the fact that our success is going to be determined by our successor. It's one of the reasons I'm creating space for JP, because I believe that part of my stewardship is to raise up the next generation of leaders. We feel that same burden.
One of the things we are currently doing is looking… By the way, we have on all of our campuses campus shepherds who are not elders but who are leaders on those campuses who are working on those campuses specifically in concert with us to shepherd the flock there, even as we spend some time with that flock. Our staff is part of the leadership here. We have all kinds of lay leaders throughout the body who are "eldering" but aren't in the office of elder.
Like in any organization, it would be almost like saying, "Why are we a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 corporation and there are only eight men on the board of directors?" Well, because if you have thousands of people on the board of directors, you can't get in that room and meet and strategize. As the organization grows, you don't necessarily grow central leadership. That's the role. Remember elder is pastor. There's not one senior pastor here; there are four.
There's one who has the primary gift and responsibility of teaching, as the Scripture talks about, and we're raising up another one, and we think one day, if the Lord tarries, he will probably be in my role. We are working right now at cultivating that next generation of individuals who will lead with him, because we're not just saying, "Hey, you guys are going to go start a church." We're saying, "You're going to inherit a massive body of believers."
So we want to, as Kyle said, begin to pour into that generation. Not all of them will take the office, but we are already actively reproducing ourselves in others and have very specific plans to do that even more in the days ahead.
Jonathan: One we continue to get that I thought you addressed well was about women teaching but also women in the position of elders. I thought you covered that really well, Dean. I would just add that I wish they had the luxury I've had recently to see you guys wrestle with that. It has been a really humbling thing that you guys do not make those decisions in haste, but you pore over the Scriptures, seek out counsel, and try to continue to figure out places to push women to use their gifts and to teach and whatnot.
Todd: I'm going to just say one clarifying thing on that. God is the Creator. We're not training our young women here to grow up to be good fathers, and if there's a woman who says, "I want to be a good dad," I'm going to go like, "I'm sorry. That's beyond my pay grade. That's beyond my ability to do that for you. The way God designed you is to be a godly mother." So if your goal and your anger at God is you don't like the way he created you, so you want to be a father… It's not your role.
Likewise, for whatever reason, in God's economy the teaching thing is difficult, because you're like, "Hey, women are clearly teachers," but there is something in 1 Timothy 2 that says, "I don't want women to be in a position authoritatively as a role over men." There's order in the family, where there's a father and a mother and there is a complementary relationship, but they're not equal. They are coheirs, but they are different in the administration.
If you have an abusive husband, you have a problem, but if we're abusive elders who lord it over you, get out of here. We're an unbiblical church. We're also an unbiblical church if we say, "Guess what? Dads and moms are the same thing. Women can be dads, and dads can be moms." That's unbiblical.
We don't have the ability, if we're going to be consistent with Scripture, to put women in roles God said women weren't designed to be in, but we have a responsibility in that role to make sure we serve those who aren't in the role we're in. Now when it gets to teaching it's a little bit different, because you go, "Well, can a woman teach a 12-year-old boy or a 22-year-old man?"
What we do know is the Scriptures are very clear that women (Titus 2) should teach and disciple women to be godly women, which makes great sense, and that's exactly what's happening at Watermark. What I would tell you is if you're underneath leadership, be it male or female, that is abusive, self-exalting, and oppressive to you, get out. This isn't Russia. You can choose where to go to church. But if you find men who are here to serve you and don't lord their position…
Like I said, it's a humbling thing to be in this office. There's not a guy up here who walks around going, "I'm an elder." We walk around and go, "Thank you for trusting us as we do the best we can to set you up to hear the words, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.'" If we ever believe God would have us step away from that because guys could do it better… We are looking and we're praying all the time, "God, if there's anybody you want to be a part of this team who's not a part of it, would you show us?"
Part of that is the trust we have with you all. When we lose that trust, it's time for us to move out. You don't hear a lot about the elder office around here. You hear a lot about the call to be elders to one another. The Bible says you should aspire to be an elder. It doesn't say you should aspire to the office.
Kyle: In our role of being good fathers… The only way I can be a good father is if I have an excellent wife. We know in Genesis that we are yoked as one with our wives. It's one of the reasons God talks about in the qualification of an elder that you have to have an excellent marriage, where you are a man who is serving and loving your wife. The fact that we have a very, very high bar for us in our marriages… If we're not doing that, then we're not capable or able to do anything other than that.
We can't shepherd anybody if we're not loving and serving our wives well. So in the midst of that, that is a great part of what we do. I often say you're seeing half of us up here, because if I'm yoked as one with my wife, there's nothing I do apart from her. That is a huge complement to everything we do that you have to take into account when you're talking about that. It's a big deal because God says it's a big deal.
Jonathan: Thank you for continuing to clarify that. Another question we got consistently over and over was around Community Groups. "It seems that we've chosen a closed Community Group model. Could you elaborate on that or explain why?" The question implied that we're asking everyone in the group to be members as opposed to an outreach Community Group model so that we would say, "Hey, come here first before you attend on Sundays."
Beau: Sure. I'll address that one initially. Our goal is that we want to shepherd the flock and we want to be and make disciples. I want to come at it from both sides. If we want you to be able to be and make disciples within your Community Group and we're encouraging you to do that, then we want to make sure you're with sheep and not with wolves.
If you take a really broad definition, I want to make sure that if I'm entrusting your Community Group to shepherd you, as well as have my call to shepherd the flock by having your Community Group shepherd you, those are people who are equally yoked, who believe in the seven essentials of the faith, who are spending time in their Word, and who are under our authority.
When we have conflict in a Community Group and we jump in to try to help them or a Community Group director on staff jumps in to help them, if there are people in that Community Group that we haven't identified whether or not they agree with the seven essentials of the faith and they have not said they want to be under the authority of our leadership, then that becomes very problematic when we're trying to use Scripture to be firm where Scripture is firm and flexible where Scripture is flexible.
Now separate from that, we said that 35 percent of Community Groups are doing externally-focused mission work together, and we want to up that percentage. So as a Community Group, if you want to reach out to your lost neighbors or to neighbors who are being faithful but you think they might be in the wrong church and you want to invite them to come and see, then by all means do that, but there's a difference between hanging out with them and saying that that's your accountability group.
Todd: Spiritually and biblically speaking, in Philippians 2, Paul says, "Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose." So if you're not members of the same local community that is pursuing Christ together, it's going to be a violation of that.
That's part of what we're saying. We're called biblically to be members of a local body, and if you have somebody who goes, "I don't think that's a big deal…" By the way, we want to tell healthy believers, "Go back and be connected. Practice the 'one anothers' where God has you."
We can still be friends and hang out together if you pick your favorite church, and we should encourage each other and get together, as it says, and spur each other in love and good deeds, but why would we say we're going to shepherd the flock of God among them when the Scriptures say shepherd the flock of God among us?
So what we're trying to do is encourage you guys to make disciples. Elder one another and be intent on the same purpose and be equally yoked in all of those ways. That's the reason for that.
Jonathan: Along the same vein, "Is GroupLink the only method of getting in a Community Group?"
Todd: No, it's not. We have other means, part of which is through affinity groups or people who maybe have been through re|engage or re:gen together. They're members and go, "Hey, we want to be in community." What we're asking is that you and at least two other people who are members of the church would raise your hand and say, "Hey, we want to shepherd each other."
Every Community Group here has a staff person assigned to that Community Group who's available to give them counsel, help them practice the six core essentials of community, to live authentically, to pursue relationally, to counsel biblically, to admonish faithfully, to be on mission together, and to individually devote daily.
There are people here as a resource. When you get stuck, you can refer to them, and we'll bring in every resource we need. There are only four or five degrees of separation from every member of this church and the guys who are sitting up here. By the way, if we don't know the answer, we'll find it in the universal church, but a way to get into a Community Group is through GroupLink or to be an individual…
We're about to start a new process, in fact, through our Core classes, where we're going to let people who want to be members who don't have community yet to go to Core classes and begin to be equipped, and we'll start to allow you, inside those Core classes, to sit together with others not in community and see if out of that relationships form that will allow you to practice the "one anothers" of Scripture as you go forward.
Jonathan: Awesome. This is one that was repeated throughout the evening. "Why have we chosen the satellite model, and are there any plans in the future to spin those campuses off to be their own?"
Beau: I'll take my stab of how I address this, which is I pray every day that we have the option if we want it to have any campus become a church, and for that to be true we need to have elder-quality people on every campus, which is why we have campus shepherds and we have the 3C class, which is a class that Kyle Kaigler and Rob Barry are doing in Plano to raise up men to lead. That's a prerequisite. We have to be faithful in doing that. If we ever feel like we want to do that, I don't want that to be a reason not to.
Another reason we may not be able to have a campus be a church is if we put them in a position where they can't financially sustain their commitments. We're committed to not having debt, and we're committed to making sure that everything in our budget is 100 percent mission minded. That being said, we don't feel like we have to turn a campus into a church to accomplish our mission right now. In the next year, two years, five years, we don't know what the answer is going to be, and we're holding it lightly.
Todd: A practical reason also is because if you look at the satellite model versus a church plant, the success rate of a satellite model is well above 50 percent and the success rate of a church plant is well below 50 percent. So what we're doing is trying to get healthy churches and communities of Christ followers to gather in a way that's going to lend itself to future success. Whenever we have this conversation, Plano and Fort Worth, specifically, get jittery, like, "Are you trying to get rid of us?"
No, but we're also not trying to hold on to you. We're trying to have the body of Christ thrive in other communities. Just so you know, there are other places around the state and around the country that have said, "We're streaming your messages every Sunday. We want to be a Watermark. Can we be a satellite campus?" and we say, "No, we don't believe that's physically possible and feasible for us to really be engaged with you in the way we need to to feel good about that being a satellite, but you're welcome to the resource."
You can go to certain churches' media pages, and it says, "This week, the book of Acts, Todd Wagner." That's what they're studying together, but we're saying, "You shepherd the flock of God among you." Some of those churches are coming to the CLC, but we're saying, "You're not a satellite. We want you to be an effective church with godly elders and your own ability to care for yourself."
In regard to some of our satellites, we're just saying our goal is to set up a healthy, thriving body of believers, and when the elders are there, the teaching gifts are there, and we believe that Christ can be better served there, we'll celebrate that the body of Christ is off and running, and we think it's more likely to prosper and succeed than if we just push out 50 people and say, "Go be a church." From a very practical level, it makes the local church healthier, but it's not so we can put pins on a map, because we're not committed to that and, in fact, have said no to a number of those opportunities.
Jonathan: I love it. Let me give you these three questions. These are the last three I have on this page that have come in. You can hear all of these and take them in any order you want. "Why don't we talk more about how to give, and why can't I give via credit card?" is one. This may be the only church that is getting that question.
Kyle: I'll give you our thoughts on it. Giving is an act of worship, so we want to foster and encourage folks as they give to let that be an act of worship. What we've been resistant to is having something set up that's automatic and that potentially could lead to being encumbered by debt. With a credit card, there can be an element of that, so we want to be careful that we don't enable something…
God doesn't prohibit debt, but he never encourages it. Every time debt is used in Scripture, it's used in a negative connotation. To the extent that we would allow you to make a transaction that could lead you into bondage is something we're not fully convinced that that would be wise for us to do. So the credit card piece of that, specifically, is why we've resisted that.
Todd: Even the recurring payment that goes out… Some people have chosen, "Hey, every month I want a direct deposit made." We used to drop that after 12 months, and it was an annoyance to people, but what we're trying to do is say, "Giving should not be a mindless act." We're not to give a certain percentage as a rule. The New Testament model of giving is don't give any more than Jesus did and to be a generous and joyful giver, a cheerful giver.
That doesn't mean "I have to do this, so I'm going to do some math right now, plug that in, and it'll take care of itself from here on out." We're concerned that we're facilitating a legalistic or rote mindset instead of really giving people that opportunity to give in the way we think honors God and blesses them, because it's not about the money.
We've heard from enough folks who go, "No, listen. I really am prayerful about this. I look at it and talk about it with my wife on a regular basis," so what we try to do is send out a reminder once a year now, saying, "Hey, just a reminder. It's still happening. Is this still prayerfully what you believe you should do?" Not that some folks don't do more beyond that. Some people like that as a discipline, and they are thankful. Every time they get their paycheck, they see a certain percentage has come.
In addition to that, they ask God, "What should we do with what we kept?" That's really the mindset of giving. The question is not, "How much should I give?" A better question is, "How much should I keep?" When God gives me resources, it's not to up my standard of living. It might be to up my standard of giving. I'll be honest. I've said this before. Maybe our lack of teaching on this topic is as close as we've had to pastoral malpractice as anything we do.
I think if you'll go back and look, there are a lot of series we've done on this. The most recent one is Switch, which I would encourage you to go look at. We have begged our Community Groups to go through Moneywise curriculum. If you're looking for a curriculum to do as a Community Group, please use Moneywise, because it addresses this issue from a biblical perspective. It's a topic on which we want to keep spurring each other on.
Jonathan: Okay, Todd. You scared the people. I'm getting, "What is Todd's role moving forward?" Can you bring clarity to what you said earlier? I was very encouraged. Candidly, you scared me a little bit.
Dean: Let me start, and then Todd can answer for himself. This has been a major topic of conversation for us for five years now: the healthy transition of leadership of this body. Todd has been the primary communicator, and God has blessed all of us because of it. It's incredible, and he's not going away, but there are a lot of other things in his life that God is putting there for a reason, and he needs time to try to decide which of those he's going to pursue.
You heard him mention the book this morning. There's the Awaken opportunity that he and JP may pursue we can tell you a little bit about. God is just putting a multitude of things in his life. His primary responsibility has always been this body, the local expression of the church of God at this intersection, and that's not going to change. That is never going to change, in my opinion, and he can correct me if I'm wrong.
But what we are wanting to do is give other younger, faithful people who are displaying gifts and talents that we think God is going to use here for a long time, so JP and others like him… Todd has been amazing at giving away ministry. He's not going away. He's not retiring. At least he hasn't told us he was.
Jonathan: He's not sick. Some have asked about his health.
Todd: No, it's not that.
Dean: Okay, six kids. He has six. That is a huge responsibility, and it's his primary responsibility next to his relationship with Christ. He wants to steward those young men and women in an amazing way. Some of them are growing older, and there are opportunities… They're only going to be in his house for so long. As this body has, frankly, gotten more complex and he has been stretched in new and exciting ways, we just want to make sure he doesn't exhaust himself and in some way compromise his ministry. That's all this is. We're, frankly, still trying to work it out.
Todd: All that's true, but it's not so I work less hours. That's not the motivation. It is so I develop and am responsible with the stewardship of developing the next generation of leaders. A lot of times what you'll see in churches like this is the guy in my role gets insecure when he sees a gifted young person. I'm trying to identify gifted young people and lift them up and be the wind underneath their wings. I'm trying to set them up for what God wants them to do, not hold them down while I'm in a certain role.
As I do that, there are other things I will be able to do with my time, so there are some things I will do as the stewardship to the larger church. Part of what we'll do as we resource other churches, along with re|engage and CLCs and things like that, is part of my time will be increasingly stewarded to serving the broader church. In a crazy way, because of the renown of faithfulness that happens in this community, there are other churches that are curious about our leadership and what we've done here, so I want to serve them.
We're probably not going to form a Watermark association, which is what some churches have done, but what we're probably going to do is begin to steward a certain percentage of all of our staff, in a sense tithe a certain part of all of our time to serve the bride of Jesus Christ outside of Watermark Community Church, and I'll have some leadership role in that. Because we want to get younger and because of the love we have for each other…
When I was a young guy I committed not to be an Absalom, and I'm committed now, as I grow older, to not be a Saul. I want to have the heart of David, and I want to serve God in whatever way he wants me to serve as long as he wants me to serve. I pray it's here at Watermark. I've said no to a lot of things for a long time, because I want to shepherd this flock. I want to be a part of this body, and I want to do an effective job here.
Part of doing an effective job here is to develop the team and the staff and to make room for gifts. JP is going to let me jump in a little bit more at The Porch, because I want to connect with that part of the body and serve them and because I also want to create opportunities here. Going to that Saturday night service, we're really looking at how we're going to do that.
Are we going to record messages earlier in the week that may be shown on Saturday and then we teach on Sunday? Do sometimes we teach on Saturday and then Sunday catches the video, just like the other campuses do, and I could maybe go and be at other campuses? All of those things we're holding like this.
What we don't want to do is fracture the body, like, "Hey, if you want to go hear Beau teach, go to Plano. If you want to hear Kyle teach, go Saturday night. If you want to hear JP, go Tuesday." What we're saying is we're going to together teach God's Word. We're going to be one body with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, for the glory of God. So I will be a steward of my gifts, and if I ever am not doing my share here, I will make sure this body is aware of that and what I do other places.
By the grace of God, it's not my health. My cancer… I've just passed three years, and God has chosen to keep it tampered. Sarcoma always wants to run to the chest, which is where it gets you, and that hasn't happened. I'm done with regular MRIs on my foot. I didn't lose my foot. I'm not going to lose my foot unless God wants to bring it back, and it looks like it's not going to run to my chest unless God turns it back on.
So my health is great, and I love what I do, and I love who I do it with, and I think we'll do it better if we move to multiplicity of leadership. We used to get calls like, "Is Todd teaching on Sunday?" and we would never answer the question directly, but now it's like, "Is Todd teaching on Sunday?" Adam Tarnow does a great job. John McGee does a great job. John Elmore does a great job. This guy has gifts in that area, and this is not my mound. I want to go, "What does God want to do? Let's do it well together."
Jonathan: I'm going to have you bring clarity to one question from earlier. A lot of you have asked questions that, candidly, are on our website, you know, our values, our mission statements. A lot have been covered through Real Truth. Real Quick., just to make sure that's available to you. That's an app you can get, where Todd addresses a lot of the questions you've asked in five to seven minutes.
So make sure you're aware of those resources. If I haven't answered your question, it's just because it's already out there really clearly. One of the things we need to bring clarity to is some folks are wondering how we're going to purchase that building in June if we still need $3.4 million. Can you guys bring clarity to that?
Beau: I shared there, so I wasn't clear. I'll try it again. The purchase price is $12 million. So far we've raised a little over $15 million, so we could fully pay for the building and close in June. We said there was going to be another $6 million for renovations if we want to use the first four floors fully renovated, so we'll do that in stages, and we have enough money to do some of those stages, enough to get us started. The need toward the $19 million is still $3.4 million, which would complete the finish-out of the first four floors there as well as a couple other minor renovations here and in Fort Worth.
Todd: We have enough money to purchase the building, it looks like, and we'll develop the floors as the assets are there and begin to use them, which is going to be more Equipping classes, more opportunities to connect people for more training so those percentages grow, as young believers come into our midst, and more opportunities to connect in community will grow.
Jonathan: I love it. Well, we did get a question. If Todd has more free time, can he run for president?
Todd: I'm going to get to this. I know you said one of the ones that came in earlier in the week (and this is just a good model for you) was "Why is Watermark a cessationist church?" Here's how I would respond to that. "Well, tell me what you mean by cessationist." You're going to hear more about this as we go through Acts.
What some people think is a cessationist church is a church that doesn't believe in the practice of the miraculous gifts. I would go, "Where have we ever said that?" I have never heard any of us say that we don't believe that God is in the business of doing miracles. We can't wait to see him do more miracles. In fact, I think I said today that more miracles have been done here in the last 30 days than were done in all of the Gospels combined.
Now what those miracles look like, what their purposes are, how they show up, and what the giftedness of the body is… We're going to get to that as we teach through Acts and see the way the gifts were used and the purpose and what the gift of tongues was and what it never was and whether it is for today.
Whenever you hear somebody ask you a question like, "Is Watermark a Spirit-filled church?" I always go, "What do you mean by Spirit-filled church?" Then when they describe it, I might go, "I sure hope so" or "I don't know if that's what I would define as a Spirit-filled church, but if that's your definition…" then I'd answer it a certain way.
Anyway, it's going to be fun. It's going to be a great book. We thank God for you. The reason Watermark is being used… I can tell you stories of people I have met who have been through so much heartache and have told me stuff like, "God brought me… I can't even explain to you how I got here."
If you were here a number of years ago when Albert, a Buddhist monk in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime, literally had visions of a man in white who led him to a cobra-infested jungle, all the way through Taiwan, as men who survived made their way into a refugee camp and then eventually got over here. When he showed up, he said, "The man in white showed up to me again and said, 'This is where I want you to grow.'"
When I hear stories of God leading his sheep here because members like you sit next to them on Sunday mornings and show interest in them and love them and engage them and invite them to lunch and help them get connected… We hear stories all the time of people who have been here three weeks and are assimilated, and then we hear stories all the time of people who have been here for five years and can't find a way to connect. The difference is you.
You are the body of Christ. We are servants of you, and if there's a way we can help you be more faithful or grow or be more useful to Christ, would you tell us? That's why we're here. We are here to equip the saints, encourage the saints, empower the saints, and protect you in every way we can as men who, by the grace of God, are committed to God's Word. We love you, and you all are doing amazing. You are a church that I am proud to say "Come and see" to.
I think if there were more churches like you, the church of Jesus Christ would be loved in this city, country, and world. Keep it going. We're thankful we get to lead you. Hebrews 13:17 talks about how we're going to give an account for your souls and how you are to treat us, and you're doing it, and we are thankful. Bless you. Would one of you guys pray for them? We love you guys. Thank you for letting us have this incredible privilege.
Kyle: Father, thank you for the joy it is to be part of this body, the way you've used these people who are committed to follow you as an agent to transform and change my life. I thank you for the sweetness of that, the way you remind us that apart from you we can do nothing. We want to act on what you've called us to.
Open our eyes to the folks you put around us every day who can experience the joy by living in relationship with you that you've given us. So help us. Thank you for the way you go before us, the ways we can celebrate all of the things you're doing and can look to be faithful tomorrow with what you have for us. We thank you for Christ, amen.