In Acts 13, we see Paul and Barnabas head out on their first missionary journey. The people they encounter respond with humility, wanting to know more. Todd reminds us that our lives of good works should do the same as the message we share, cause people to want to know more. Both good works and God's word draw people to relationship with God. Todd invites Jeff Ward along with four external focus ministry partners to share about how the Church is doing good and discipling the community. These ministers of the gospel encourage us and share with us practical ways to be God's men and women where we are and serve our community with the gifts and resources that God has given us.
Our Opportunity for Mission in Our Historical Moment: Truth Meets Myth
God's People: Quick to Go to Others and Slow to Leave Each Other
Inspiration and Invitation to the Proclamation and Demonstration of the Gospel
The Church our Mother and its Mission
The Proper Liturgy of the Church and the Proper Way to Deal With Sorcerers
Antioch: The Kind of Church (and Men) That God Uses
Good morning, Watermark in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Plano. We're glad we're together. This is going to be an amazing day. I always beg you to read the Watermark News, because it tells you a story of what God is doing that's evidence that he's alive, that he is risen indeed and is still working to bring grace to people. I want you to read today, because it's a letter affirming you.
I am spurred on to love and good deeds because I'm a member of this body. If you are here as a guest today, if you're visiting at one of the other locations, if you're watching online, you need to know the reason I love this place is because it's God's means of grace to me. I have his Word, I have his Spirit, and I have his people, not people who gather with me once a week but people who remind me of who God is, who evidence the goodness of God in their lives.
Read that Watermark News. See what you're doing as individuals who are part of this body. I hope as a result of being with us today you're going to be spurred on to further increase the glory and the renown of Jesus as he intended through his church. We're studying a book called Acts. Sometimes in your Bible, if you go look at the cover page, chapter 1, verse 1, of Acts, it will either say "Acts of the Apostles" (the word apostle means sent forth), acts of the ones who were the first to understand who Jesus was and what he had done and the purpose for which he came…
Some of your Bibles might say "Acts of the Holy Spirit," which is probably a better title for the book, because anything we do, those who are sent forth by the grace of God, can only be done if we live in relationship with Christ. Let me just say this at the beginning of our time together today. We don't want you to do more; we want you to abide more with Jesus. If you abide more with Jesus, you will do everything you're supposed to do.
It is impossible to have a living, authentic, growing relationship with Jesus and be a part of what I would commonly call the dead church. If you know God through Jesus Christ, you will serve God the way Jesus did. We're at the very end of Acts, chapter 13, and we're going to take a look at some verses we covered very quickly at the end of our last time together, because it sets us up beautifully for what we want to do this morning, as we set up with these next three months we have in our American culture in this thing commonly called summer vacation.
We don't want to take time off from serving our King. There is no time off from serving our King. We will have eternity to rest and enjoy him. Now is the time to, in relationship with him, do everything he has left us here to do. Look at Acts 13:42. We have our buddies, Paul and Barnabas and their gang, who have just hit the beachhead of Asia, modern-day Turkey. They made their way up over the mountain range into central Turkey where the Gauls were, where the heart of paganism was, where all Rome's industry, power, and self-sufficiency was deeply embedded.
Paul was zealous for them to know what he had come to know, which is the kindness of God revealed through Jesus Christ. He just got through talking about God's redemptive plan in history. That's where we were in Acts 13 from verses 1-41. In verse 42, it says, "Paul and Barnabas were going out." Going out from where? The synagogue, the place where people gathered together to be reminded of who God was.
Paul showed up, and they said, "Dear traveler, do you bring any news with you?" There wasn't CNN. There wasn't Fox. There wasn't Twitter. No one could post a picture on Pinterest of the cross and say, "This is what happened, this beautiful thing that happened in Jerusalem." So word got around as people carried it forward. They asked Paul what was going on, and Paul said, "I'm going to tell you what has been going on. God loves you. God is holy. There is a God who is out there who will bring us all into account. If you ignore him, you ignore him at your peril."
Paul began to talk about this idea that John later wrote about in the gospel of John. In the gospel of John, John starts this way: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was flesh, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Word is a philosopher's concept that had originated in Ephesus in about 6 BC by a guy named Heraclitus. We don't know much about Heraclitus because all of his books have been destroyed, but people adopted what he wrote, and we know a lot of what he said because he was referenced back in writings like Plato and Aristotle and others we still have.
The Word (logos is the Greek word) was a phrase that was adopted by philosophers that represented this immovable, ingrained idea that existed. It had to do with law and morality, and it was a force that if you mocked or ignored you did so at your own peril, like if you ignored gravity it was going to cost you. They had a concept that was bigger than just one element of physical science that was all metaphysical truth. It was called the Word.
When John shows up a little bit later and writes his gospel, he's telling people, "This Word, this immovable, absolute force that's ingrained in the universe that if you don't deal with, if you ignore, you ignore at your own peril… I know the Word. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. His name is Jesus. Jesus is the Word. He is God." This is basically the message Paul just wrapped up.
He said, "God is not mad at you, but you guys don't know the truth, and because you don't know the truth or because you are fallen in your ability to live according to the truth, your lives are a mess. You're a bunch of Gauls. You're a bunch of pagans. You're a bunch of people trying to find satisfaction to your spiritual thirst through experiencing material and temporal success, and you're never going to quench your thirst. But God is not mad at you. He has made provision for you."
I want you to hear me today. If you're here as a guest, this is the good news. This is what Paul preached in Acts 13. God isn't asking you to do anything but acknowledge that you can't live according to the embedded truth in redemptive history, and because you don't live according to truth, you're going to be separated from it, and truth is good. Truth is life. Truth is God. When you're separated from the God who is truth and life and light and all that is beautiful, you're going to get all that is ugly and death and dark.
God is just calling you home, and all you have to do is acknowledge that you need help and turn your affections toward Jesus and walk with him. He'll make your life right. He'll forgive you your sins because he paid your debt, and he'll enable you to be a source of light and life in the world as you walk with him. That's the gospel. It is not what you do; it is what Christ has done.
Let me ask you a question. If you were a pagan, a Gaul, and you were sitting in the middle of Galatia and heard that message, what might you do? You might go, "Now I'll be. That's rather interesting. Tell me more." Look at what happened. Acts 13:42: "As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next [time they gathered] ."
This is a mark of humility. The Bible sums up everything we're supposed to do in a few different places in the Scripture. One of them is in Micah 6:8. "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Galatians 5:14: "All the law can be summed up in this one idea: You should love your neighbor as yourself."
None of us love our neighbor like we should. None of us do justice and love kindness like we should, so we need to humble ourselves and say, "We need mercy and grace. Is there anyone who can save us?" Paul just got through telling you Jesus is the one who can save you. God made him who knew no sin to become sin on your behalf, that you might become the righteousness of God in him.
Paul later would say to the Romans, "If God loved us so much he gave us his Son, will he not also with him freely give us all things?" Cling to him, walk with him, pursue him, because he is life and light to you. Humble people always do this. "Tell me more of what is true and beautiful and good," which means, "Tell me more of Jesus. Show me more of Jesus if you know him."
One of the things I'm doing this summer is writing a prayer journal through Psalm 119. It's the longest chapter in the Bible. Every verse in Psalm 119 speaks to God's Word. Sometimes it's called his statutes, sometimes it's called his precepts, sometimes it's called his law, but every verse in Psalm 119 says something about God's Word. I'm just taking eight verses a day, because it's an alphabet psalm. It's broken up according to the Hebrew alphabet. Aleph is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, so there are eight verses that all start with the Hebrew letter A.
I just read the verse, and then I write a little prayer. This is a picture of my journal from a few days ago, where I just wrote down verse 1. I read it, and then I prayed, "Father, give me a deeper love for your Word, your way, the blameless way. Make me obsessed with the law of the Lord in word and deed." I read verse 2, and then I wrote a prayer into my heart. What I would encourage you to do is just want to be this kind of person.
Part of the reason I'm doing that is I saw humility and wisdom right there in Acts 13:42. Godly people, humble people, always say, "Let us hear more." So I just prayed, "God, would you give me a deeper affection for your Word?" Less of an affection for game two of the NBA finals. Less of an affection for whatever it might be that obsesses you. I'm not big-time obsessed in the NBA or anything like that, but there's plenty in this world that distracts me, and I want to hear more.
Verse 43: "Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.""Tell us more about this God who loves me." That's what we hope you do here. That's why we ask you to fill out that perforated section and not just show up and hear a message and check out but to say, "I want to run with God's people."
If you are truly humble, you won't just show up, hear a message, and then go on about your business. You're going to say, "Would you help me continue in the grace of God?" Verse 44: "The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord." Word got out that there was a story about this impersonal force being a person, about God not being an idea, not just being transcendent, but being immanent and present, so they came.
"But when the Jews…" Religious people who thought through their own efforts they could be good enough for God to say, "You're in." "…saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming." They were basically saying, "Hey, I think I can get eternal life and good and truth and right on my own," and Paul said, "Nope. The standard is well above what you are able." "If a man keeps the whole law and sins on one point," one apostle would say later, "he is guilty of the entire law."
You may not be Hitler. You may not be driving a white van across the London Bridge to mow people over, stabbing them, but there is in you lawlessness, and you are a lawbreaker, just like me, and you need mercy to meet the standard of perfection. "Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, 'It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first…'" The Jews, who were to be keepers of the revelation of God.
"…since you repudiate it…" What God is doing in fulfillment of what he said he was going to do. "…and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life…" Because they said they could get it on their own. We're going to turn to those who know what it's like to live apart from the law of God, the pagans, those who had never heard the law of God and righteousness revealed. "For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles…'"
This is a reference to God's man, the Messiah, but then to God's people who know him through his perfect Son. "I have commanded you to be a light for the Gentiles." That's a quote from Isaiah 49 and Isaiah 42 kind of blended together. You'll see that all Jesus did when he was here was reinforce what God had already said. That's why it says that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, the exact representation of the nature of God.
The old is in the new explained; the new is in the old contained. In your Bible, if you want to understand the Old Testament, read your New Testament. If you want to see where the New Testament comes from, read your Old Testament. If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. Here's Jesus. See if this doesn't sound like Isaiah 49 and Acts 13. Matthew 5:14: "You are the light of the world." He's talking to people who know God by having a relationship with him. "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…" Everybody should see you from a distance.
"…nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house." The purpose of being a light is not to draw attention to yourself. The purpose of being a light is to provide others provision in their darkness. Then he says these amazing words: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
We are not a bunch of do-gooders. We don't participate in random acts of kindness. Everything we do is for a purpose. It is to bring glory to the Father. In a world filled with hate… I tweeted this morning, "In a world filled with fools who serve Allah by killing people, we serve the true King by giving our lives away like he did." When they say, "Who are you?" we say, "We are servants of Jesus who gave his life for you, so you ought to see in us a little bit of us giving our lives for you."
We don't just do good works and not tell them why. We don't just tell them why and not do good works. There are two wings on an airplane. You can't fly without both. Good deeds produce good will that makes room for the good news. It's why we go. People go, "Who are you who love this way?" Answer: we're the people of God called by his name. There's proclamation and there is demonstration. We are not just people who are deluded in having said we heard and not doing. We are doers who have had good done to us.
"This is the good news. Watch its good fruit in my life." Paul says that's who we are. We are a light to the world, and the people ought to look at us and go, "Who are you?" Let me read you one more verse, and then I'm going to give you living examples of this and let you jump in with us. First Timothy, chapter 6. It is why Paul, when he was writing to young Timothy, who was going to be a leader of others, said this.
"Instruct those who are rich in this present world…" Who have all this world offers. "…not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches…" The fleeting weakness of earthly, temporal provision. "…but on God…" Why is that? Because God loves you and doesn't want you to be giving your heart to that which can never satisfy. He doesn't want you to try to meet your deepest longings with sugar water. Material success can never satisfy spiritual thirst.
"…but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works…" Later he was writing to Titus and said, "Have them be zealous in good deeds." "…to be generous and ready to share…" Verse 19 is where it comes to a crescendo. This is why. "…storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed."
What's God's motivation for wanting you to participate with him in serving the world? It's your best interest. Do you want to have a life that matters? Then don't try and get enough cotton candy in your cabinet so your tongue can always have sweetness on it. Your teeth will rot, you'll be unhealthy, and you'll be bitter. God is saying, "Let me show you where life is." It's really interesting. The early apologists, the people who gave a rational defense for the gospel, didn't talk about the reason to believe.
Early apologists didn't start with "Christianity is true." They started with, "Christians are good, and nobody else is like them." Now why would Christians be good? Because the Good One has rescued them from selfishness. It was said about them, "They share everything with one another except their wives," which is outstanding. We ought to follow that model. That's the way to start. Good deeds produce good will that makes room for good news.
Here's what we're going to do. Those of us who are here are going to hear from four living examples of the multitude, the hundreds of folks in this city who, like you, because of their love for Christ, are being rich in good deeds. This is my buddy Jeff Ward. Jeff leads us in our external focus. Jeff was a practicing attorney here in town.
You don't have to leave your job to be faithful for Jesus. Just follow Jesus where you work. Not drinking at the company Christmas party, I commend you to that, but that's not your call. Leaving your vocation at work to go serve with Elizabeth, if you're a lawyer, is not your call. Your call is to be God's man or woman right there in your law firm, just like Jeff was, being salt and light, loving people, being excellent in what he has done.
What we did was we went to Jeff and said, "Jeff, the excellence with which you serve Christ in your current vocation… Would you come serve him here and help us serve our city more, develop trusted partnerships with others in this city who are already doing things, so we can mobilize God's people to be salt and light in this city?" This is my buddy Jeff Ward. He's going to introduce you to others, and we're going to dialogue about it. Jeff, tear into it.
Jeff Ward: Thanks, Todd. Hey, I want you to meet these guys. I wish we could bring all 20 of the other ministry partners who are out there onto this stage so you could meet them as well and be inspired, as Todd said, with all God is doing around this city, but we have four this morning and a little bit of time. Let's start first with Wayne Walker.
Wayne and I met years ago. A group of friends and he went out on the streets of Dallas to serve meals to the homeless community. Out of that was birthed an idea and a concept with understanding who God is. He said, "Hey, we need to meet not just the physical needs, but we need to be all about the gospel, evangelism, and discipling this very hard to disciple population." So that is the core value that drives all they do. Wayne, tell us a little bit about OurCalling.
Wayne Walker: OurCalling is a discipleship ministry for the homeless. When you see someone out on the street and they've been out there for years, you often ask, "What can change them? Is there any possibility of this guy actually changing?" Well, that change only happens through consistency in a relationship and an opportunity to really disciple this person in a long-term relationship.
Right now, we're tracking details on about 10,000 people who are sleeping outside every night. Imagine. You could fill every seat in this room three times with the people who slept outside last night in this city, a city of wealth. There's opportunity for us to go out and reach them with the hope and the message of Jesus Christ every single day. Bible studies, addiction recovery, one-on-one mentoring… Just like what you're doing here at Watermark we're doing with the homeless all over the city.
Todd Wagner: This is what I want you to answer, Wayne, because it's a question that comes up. We did a Real Truth. Real Quick. on it. You and Benson did extended amount of time on it. How do I love the guy on the corner?
We were just having a conversation a little bit earlier about how one of the worst days for the homeless in Dallas is usually when the church shows up downtown with blankets and food and handouts and peanut butter sandwiches and shoes and why that's destructive to the homeless community, as opposed to what OurCalling is doing, one of our ministry partners, and we're so proud to be connected with you.
Here's the question. There's a phrase we use a lot around here from a book called When Helping Hurts. You want to make sure you're not enabling or sustaining a destructive lifestyle, but you want to help them in a way that's going to be really helpful. So why don't you explain a little bit about how to help the homeless without hurting them?
Wayne: First of all, when what you do is more about how it makes you feel and what you can post on Twitter or Instagram than actually being a source of light and life, it's broken. Our message is the gospel of hope and truth. When you pull up with a truck full of shoes and blankets and backpacks and Styrofoam plates of food, you actually help produce an economy downtown. You help enable people to stay there. You're helping to pay for some of the nastiest stuff that God's resources are not designed for.
It's kind of like when you give money to a panhandler. We know God has called us to give to those who have need, but not in that way. Jesus said, "When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat." He never said, "You passed two bucks my direction to appease your conscience and make you feel better and ignore me." People have real needs, and we are supporting drug trafficking and sex trafficking when we go out and just blatantly give stuff away.
We want to build long-term, healthy relationships. What can you do that's healthy? Roll down your window, ask the guy's name, and ask him how you can pray for him. If you have two minutes, tell him what the Lord has done in your life. Be responsible in the way you give. Get an opportunity to invest in a long-term relationship, discipleship. Come mentor somebody. Ladies, come be in a women's Bible study. Be actively involved in their life.
Todd: One of the things I'm excited about with OurCalling is the way they're using technology to help us do that. Wayne, tell us about the OurCalling app and how that's useful to their purposes.
Wayne: We made an app that you can carry on your phone. You just install it. Go to your app store and search for OurCalling. Our app shows you how to help the homeless. It gives you great opportunities every day to not only volunteer, but it will show you where they can eat every day for free. The homeless are using this app all over the city. "Where can I eat today? Where is the closest domestic violence center, shelter, rehab, detox?"
Then if you're driving around and see a homeless guy or see a tent in the woods as you're jogging around White Rock Lake, you can use the app to report that location back to us, and then our search and rescue teams will go visit that person and minister to them. If you travel around the country, the app works there too. All across the nation it will help you find those resources and answer the question, "How can I help without hurting?"
Todd: Here's what I would tell you guys. Use the app. Use the gospel to really love our homeless friends, and use the opportunity we're giving you today to be part of that search and rescue team, to teach Bible studies out of OurCalling, to sign up and be a part of the discipleship community that's building relationships with homeless.
I have homeless friends in this city I'm on a first-name basis with, because I stop and talk to them. I ask them their name. I pray with them. I direct them there. I use this resource. Some of you guys are going to be used as part of that team to go and encourage others. Today is the day that you can engage to begin to help the systemic problem that is propagated through the way we have an unhealthy welfare system and an unhealthy church. God bless you, Wayne. We're grateful for you and what OurCalling is doing.
Jeff: Let me introduce you to my next friend, Elizabeth Wirmani. Elizabeth is a long-time Watermark member, a lawyer, has a couple of kids, and has been a key part of our Watermark Justice ministry, which is a group of legal professionals looking at how we can advance the kingdom using skill sets like that.
A number of years ago, a friend of mine, Reid Porter, left his law practice and launched a really innovative and creative ministry in West Dallas, and now into South Dallas just this year, working with blighted communities and giving a voice to the voiceless. Elizabeth, tell us a little bit about ACT, Advocates for Community Transformation.
Elizabeth Wirmani: We are a ministry that really cares about the safety of communities, and the way we do that is by tackling crime properties, drug houses, prostitution houses, flophouses, things like that. Our model leverages the legal system and utilizes volunteer attorneys to represent families that are living around these drug houses, families that are suffering every single day by the activities that are happening at that property. We are trying to hold the owners of those drug houses accountable in a court of law. So really forcing these owners to do what they should have been doing all along, which is making their property safe.
Todd: Advocates for Community Transformation. It's a great model. Some of our doctors and nurses and medical professionals work with us at the QuestCare Clinic across town. Our attorneys in Watermark Justice… This is one of the branches where our attorneys, other than just being salt and light at their work every day and being godly in the way they bill their hours and love their coworkers, are using their gifts in stuff like Advocates for Community Transformation.
What I want to tell you is that there are opportunities there for you. You may not be an attorney. You may not be able to go through the legal processes and work with our housing and urban development people in the city of Dallas and shut down these flophouses. Elizabeth, what can people who aren't attorneys, who are interested in helping transform neighborhoods, do with ACT?
Elizabeth: Obviously, we've hit a sweet spot with the legal community, and we are incredibly grateful that the Lord has given us a path for attorneys to respond to their vocational gifting, but as we're walking with our families down this legal process, we're also pouring into them from a spiritual perspective, using that opportunity to be in relationship with them, to share the gospel if they don't know the Lord, to get them into Bible studies, to connect them with local churches. We use volunteers in all of those capacities to walk alongside our families in a spiritual way as they are going through the legal process.
Jeff: That's one of the things I've heard you guys say so often, which is if all we do is eradicate blighted properties but don't bring the gospel to bear in that community, then we haven't been successful.
Todd: Yeah, it's just going to be reproduced in the next house over. So if you want to engage in these neighborhoods where they're already grateful for your presence because you're getting rid of this thing that's not making it safe for their kids to play in the streets because there are prostitutes and drug dealers and needles all over the ground… We're getting rid of that flophouse, and they're like, "Why are you doing that?" Let us bring the gospel to every other house in that neighborhood. Jump in with ACT. That's the place for you to plug in. Way to go, Elizabeth. God bless you.
Jeff: I want to introduce you guys now to my friend Ben Solomon. Ben has been at Watermark since 2002, way back in the Lake Highlands days. He's married, has three kids, and is super passionate (that's putting it mildly) around educational achievement, gaps in achievement here in Dallas with our kids.
He works full-time for an educational nonprofit working on closing that gap, and then in all of his spare time agreed to step in and lead as a lay leader all of our School Impact initiatives we're doing here through Watermark. That includes our four corporate sponsorships with schools or connections with schools, as well as just coaching people in our body on how they can engage in their local schools.
Todd: Before you go to Ben, I'm just going to say this. If you want to serve the homeless community, God bless you. If you want to get in and serve blighted neighborhoods you don't live in, God bless you. But if you do those things and do not attend to the school district you live in and care for the teachers who shepherd your children… The Scripture says in 1 Timothy 5:8, "He who does not provide for his own household is worse than an unbeliever."
So listen to what Ben is about to tell you about what you can do in your local school and maybe in schools right next to where you are. We should care in all of the ways we've already talked about, but let us not be a bunch of do-gooders out there while we neglect our own children and the schools our children are in. So, Ben, talk about what you're doing.
Ben Solomon: So School Impact… We're just finishing up our first year. Basically, the easy way to say it is we are Watermark's school partnership ministry. We had three school partners this year, one in Lake Highlands, one in Richardson, and one in Plano. We're adding a fourth next year in North Dallas. I'm getting a foothold in Dallas ISD, which is really exciting.
Our purpose, our mission, is just to serve our local school. We really thought going into it that that would look like a lot of time with students, mentoring, tutoring, and things like that, but this year we've really been surprised by how many opportunities we've had with the teachers. They are the ones on the ground working 40 hours a week with these students.
Just amazing opportunities not only to care about the students and the faculty and the parents, but really just to love on teachers and show them what it feels like to be loved. A lot of these schools we're working with haven't had a PTA, don't have parent involvement, don't have room moms and things like that, so we've been able to fill that gap with our partner schools this year.
Jeff: One quick story, because Ben is too humble to share it. We got a call from RISD a couple of months ago, and they said, "Hey, we'd like for your School Impact team to come down to our board meeting, and we want to do a little celebration." So Ben and the School Impact team and I went down on an evening, and it was really phenomenal as RISD board members gave these guys some awards, and then they allowed the principal at RISD Academy an opportunity to have the mic, and she just went on and on about…
What was encouraging to me was not necessarily about what we are doing in the school but the relationships that were being built with that staff and those teachers and the impact they were having. What was really fun, to add proof to that, was the fact that 15 of their staff had driven over that night to just be cheerleaders and celebrate the work of School Impact. Ben even stayed after to address the school board himself around some other issues that were in the community. So we're grateful for the work of School Impact.
Todd: So there are a lot of ways to serve. You mentioned the school board. We had two Watermark members this last cycle in school districts right around us who ran for school board: Lynn Davenport in RISD (apparently, enough of you didn't know that, because Lynn lost just by a few votes) and Tom Sharpe in his school district. Some of you guys are going to serve at that level and support others who want to be God's servants in that way.
You can serve on PTAs, be room moms in your school. I've been a Dads Club president twice in my school district, which is kind of what the dads do in my district, like PTA, which is where the women are really involved. Find ways to get engaged, to be present, to know the administrators, to pray for teachers, to have relationships, to be present in your district. When you do a faithful job at your school, do what Ben did.
He goes, "Hey, our school is largely having its needs met." Then he looked over one elementary school where there wasn't parental involvement. So that's where the Solomons and the rest of our School Impact ministry said, "Let's go over there." We're doing this in West Dallas. We need to do it right here in some of our elementary schools in North Dallas that don't have a lot of parental involvement. Ben, last 30 seconds on what you would say about this idea.
Ben: The great thing about school ministry is that there's a spot for anybody. If you can pray, if you can pull weeds, if you can hang a marquee, if you can stuff Tuesday folders, if you can read, if you can listen to a kid read, there's a spot for you. We have a booth out there where we would love to get you plugged in. At Northlake, my wife's and my school, we had 100 spots on our SignUpGenius that were filled this year, which is awesome.
Those are 100 things that wouldn't have happened otherwise. We had 200 spots that went unfilled, and next year I'd love for that number to go down to zero, not only with this one school but with our three other partner schools also. There is just a ton of opportunity in public education. Hopefully we've created a vehicle for you guys, as salt and light, to get plugged into these schools.
Jeff: Let me introduce you to my next friend, Jerry Wagner. We call him the "other Wagner" in our lives.
Todd: He got more melatonin than I did. I'm jealous.
Jeff: He said he didn't get the height, though. I met Jerry years ago. I graduated Dallas Theological Seminary, as did Wayne, an Old Testament scholar. I got to know him, because he was a mentor coordinator through Mercy Street, which is our mentoring partner in West Dallas. Watermarkers currently mentor about 130 kids through Mercy Street. That's how I got to know Jerry. He was umpiring baseball games and keeping everybody in line.
Then, as the leadership of Mercy Street began to have this conviction grow that there needed to be a healthy, vibrant, discipleship-centric church in West Dallas, of course they tapped my friend Jerry on the shoulder and said, "Jerry, would you lead this effort for us? Would you be our pastor?" So he has been pastoring Mercy Street Church for the last three years.
It has been phenomenal and really fun. I got to go down there. I had the privilege of worshiping with my mentee and their family just a few weeks ago. I'm really excited about what God is doing through West Dallas. Jerry, do you want to tell them a little bit about Mercy Street and Mercy Street Church?
Jerry Wagner: Absolutely. We started the church about three years ago. It's cool, because we get a chance to plant a church in an urban community; however, it is multiethnic. When you intern to our space, you're going to see white, black, Latino, Asian. You may see someone who's from an affluent background and someone who lives check to check.
One thing we all have in common is that all of us need Jesus. What we say at Mercy Street Church is that we are unleashing healthy disciple makers in West Dallas to reach the world, and we've been doing that for three years now to the point that we're about to launch a church plant in South Dallas in September. God has really blessed us.
Todd: About eight years ago, I started mentoring a young man with my family in West Dallas through Mercy Street. He's about to be a senior now. He actually moved out of that district and is living over here right next to our QuestCare Clinic, but we continued the relationship. Jeff and the hundreds of others of us at the time who were doing this mentoring… We kept bringing our kids here and trying to get their families integrated here, but getting down there to get them and get them up here…
We were like, "Hey, listen. If we're going to really make a difference in that community, we need a church in that community." So we talked about planting a church in West Dallas, and then, effectively, our partners at Mercy Street said, "We have something better than you guys planting a church down here. Why don't you just help us and encourage us as we get one started? We don't need Todd Wagner. We have Jerry Wagner."
It has been amazing. Jerry is a light to the Gentiles in that community. He's there making disciples. Some of you guys live down that way. There's a church for you to connect to and plug into. Others of you are part of this community, and they need folks who would disciple and mentor kids who are in their church who don't have dads. That's our mentoring program. Dive in with them. Jeff, Jerry, wrap up our comments about that.
Jeff: Yeah, I want to follow up on that point, because I think it's really important. Jerry, would you just take 30 seconds and talk about the importance of churches like Watermark that are not physically present in your community partnering with local indigenous churches in these communities?
Todd: And how that has been done well and how it has been done in a damaging way.
Jerry: Absolutely. How it has been done well is that the community of West Dallas get to see the big "C" church come together in unity. It is phenomenal to see that there are churches in this community that are willing to work together, that don't have the ego of the logo but have the mission of making disciples. When they come together, they get a chance to see our family. We joke about it, but Todd and I are actually brothers, because in eternity we will be in heaven together. I'll still be black, he'll still be white, but we'll be in heaven together (Revelation 7:9).
Secondly, I would say that it looks good when we become like the Macedonian churches that Paul brags about in 2 Corinthians, chapter 8, how they were a resource to the expanding relief of the saints and to the extending of the kingdom of God. We need churches that are external to help develop leadership programs. We have a housing crisis in West Dallas right now, where 300 families are being displaced, moved out. How do churches like Watermark and other churches come alongside us to help us in this?
Todd: I love what he said. It's an amazing little pithy way to say this. We don't have the ego of the logo; we are eager for the logos. We're eager for the Word to get out, not for the logo that represents this local expression of the church of Christ to get out. These are friends who are helping us do that. What you have now is about 20 minutes to go and meet not just four… These guys represent our four major areas of emphasis: poverty, justice, education, health and family.
We have a multitude of other trusted partners we work with throughout this city, because we don't care about our logo. We do care about the logos of Jesus Christ being made known. Jeff, tell everybody what they're about to meet out there, what a trusted partner is that these guys are representative of, and it would be a huge mistake to think these are the only four places you could possibly serve in this city.
Jeff: We wanted to do two things this weekend, and then I'm going to tell you how we choose partners. We wanted to inspire and invite. Inspire you with what God is doing around this city. We know there are big problems, challenges, education, poverty, homelessness, teen pregnancy, all of those sorts of things, but we look beyond that and look at those as opportunities for the church to be the church, for you guys to be proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel.
We hope you're inspired by these guys and are going to be inspired by the other 20, but we didn't want to stop there. We wanted to invite you to participate. We wanted to give you a path to participate. So think about, "How has God wired me, gifted me, to be part of the solution to some of these problems in a gospel-centric way?"
One of the big questions we get is, "How do we decide who we partner with?" How we do that is by looking for trusted leaders. We look for other opportunities to be two wings of the airplane. Can we share the why behind our service at that elementary school or as we mentor kids? We look for opportunities to put boots on the ground. This is not necessarily check writing, although financial resources follow our feet.
We look for trusted lay leaders. We say our body is our missions committee. So is there a lay leader who will champion the ministry partner relationship for us? That's how we select partners. So we'd ask you guys as you release… We're giving you extra time to connect with these other ministry partners and think about the invitation part. Your kids are wrapping up their lessons over there, so if you would delay getting your kids and spend some time with these ministry partners, that would be terrific.
Todd: In fact, our children's area is going to be closed until 10:15 or 10:20, because they're running their full program. Our full program today is to invite you to jump in and meet others. This white sheet is going to be helpful for you. If the lines are too long, and they're going to be long this morning… There are email addresses for all of them, like firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to support these ministries, you can write a check to Watermark and put in the memo "OurCalling," and 100 percent of that goes to OurCalling. These are our trusted partners.
We hear from people all the time. "We have extra resources. We want to give to the mission here. We're giving generously to the mission here. We have more to give." Tens of millions of dollars every year are given by this body to other ministries. As we care for our opportunities around here and there's more stirring in your heart… As Jerry said, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 compel us to care for others, and so we do that.
Do you want to know people who have been vetted, who doctrinally and passionately are committed to what we're committed to? Here are about 25 to 30 of them. Our local partners are out there. Some of our international partners are out there. Take advantage of this. You have about 20 minutes to take advantage of that before you go get your kids, and about 40 minutes before you need to go get your car so the next service can come.
Let me pray for us, and then we'll get out of here. Let's thank these guys one more time and what they represent. I love it. Members of our body are being what God says the church should be. Watermark is supposed to be a lasting impression. If when we're gone evidence of the church of Christ isn't there, doesn't remain, then we have not fulfilled our task. We have to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Father, help us be the hands and feet of Jesus. I pray if there's somebody here today who does not know the heart of God they would see how the hands and feet of Jesus were nailed to a cross for their sin. Lord, we thank you that you are an active God who sought us and wasn't looking for a selfie but was selfless and gave his life for us. Help us to do the same. Lord, inspire your church. Invite them through your Spirit to now get busy for your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.