As we continue our series “Can You Relate?”, JP teaches about our relationship with Community. At Watermark, we bet the farm on Community. It’s how we shepherd one another, and the bigger we get, the smaller we must become. Community is a T-E-A-M sport (Time, Encouragement, Accountability, & Maturity) where every individual exists for the team, not for themselves.
How We Relate To God
Jon Abel: Well, today, as you know, we're going to continue the Can You Relate? series. JP is going to be focusing on community. My wife and I have been here with our family for over five years now, and we've been in Community Group that long. I can't tell you the amazing impact community has had on my life and my marriage, my children. So much so I wanted to write a love song to my Community Group. I hope you guys enjoy it. Here we go.
Hey, guys, I've been thinking
That there's something that I need
It's just so hard to keep in touch
When we hardly ever meet
I know our schedules fill up fast
I'd be remiss if I didn't ask
Do you think we should meet more frequently?
I'm glad that we agree
That's a big relief
That leaves me more time on my own
To face my struggles all alone
Would you like to share your sins
From this past week?
It's nice to finally have a group
Who doesn't move too fast
Let's don't go deep in sharing
If we want this thing to last
Relationships need time to grow
There's things I hope you never know
Would you like to go through Moneywise?
I was askin' more for y'all
My money's not at all
Entirely out of control
Not sure I'll dig out of this hole
Would you like to talk about our 4Bs?
We could never share it all
Let's get 'round to it next fall
Shallow is the way to go
Long as the elders never know
Do you think we should
Go back through GroupLink?
Jonathan Pokluda: My boy Jon Abel and the band. Man, it's crazy, because so much of that song… If you're here and you're in a Small Group, a Community Group, you've been meeting together, so much of that hits a little close to home. I mean, who wants to talk about community? Me neither. That's where we are in this series, and we believe this is an important topic, because the Scriptures call us to do life together, and it's hard. There's a part of that that's really difficult.
So I start by talking about an experience I had growing up. I ran track. I was in track. Anybody in track growing up? There's this debate whether track is a team sport or an individual sport. Have you ever had that conversation? That was one we would have growing up. How many think track is an individual sport? Okay, some of you. How many of you think it's a team sport? Okay. How many of you do not care about this question and you're like, "Stop making me raise my hand"? Great.
I didn't really run track. I jumped track…high jump, long jump. One of the most difficult things for me about track was at my small school, the track and field was across the street, and we'd have to get the high jump mat at the school and carry it about 100 yards to set it down. It was this really cumbersome thing. It was heavy and it would flop around. You couldn't do it by yourself, so you'd have to get a bunch of people. You'd have to go over there, lift, and all move the same direction.
The coach was always there. "Don't drag it! It's expensive! Don't drag it!" You'd have to lift it up and move it to the other side of the field. Just to give you an image for this, we've brought a high jump mat for you all, if anybody wants to show off their skills a little. Stop dragging it! It's expensive. There you go. This way, this way. Pivot, pivot. Watch the equipment, man. Watch the stage. Turn it. There we go. Give it up for my friends.
I can remember one particular time. We were moving across the street, and we got to the field. Whenever you see somebody who's not carrying their weight, you have to move over there really fast. It starts to dip down. It's like, "Oh no, no, no!" One time we didn't do that fast enough, and the mat kind of folded over. It caught the ground. The person fell, and then the entire high jump mat flipped over on top of them.
We're all like, "Whoa! Did that just happen?" You know, high school students. "Are you okay under there?" It's just this picture of everybody doing something together at one time to accomplish a task. So as we move through this series Can You Relate? today is…Can you relate to community? If you're a guest with us, you're like, "What's community?" It's how we say small group, home group, cell group.
It's a group of people, believers, who are meeting together. Here at Watermark it's defined like this: three or more members or three or more couples who are members who meet together regularly (and then the six core values) to be devoted to Jesus, pursue each other relationally, counsel biblically, live authentically, admonish faithfully, and engage missionally.
Every week we've talked in this series Can You Relate? we've given you a word to go with the topic. The word today is team. I want you to think about the word team. Your Community Group is like a team working together. Community is a team sport. Every individual exists for the team. So don't think, "What can they do for me?" Think, "What can I do for them? How can I help them grow closer to Jesus? I'm here to serve the group."
If you go in it with the expectation of "I'm here to get," I think you're going to be disappointed, but if you go into it with the expectation, "I'm here to contribute to these relationships," I think your expectations are going to be more aligned. But there's an aspect of it that's just difficult. Here at Watermark we've said we've bet the farm on community. It's the way we shepherd the flock with just a few elders.
We have three campuses and thousands of people. Thousands and thousands and thousands of people will be on this property today and on other properties around the Metroplex, and the way we care for the flock is through Community Groups, because here's the reality. If you get sick, if you're in the hospital, most likely Todd is not going to show up, and most likely I'm not going to show up. There's a really good chance no one from our staff is going to show up.
If we did, it's all we would do. There are that many people in the hospital at one time. Truly all we could do is go around visiting hospitals, but I hope for every person who is a part of this body, you're surrounded by pastors. Peter calls you a part of the royal priesthood. Those are your pastors. You guys are shepherding each other. When you can't make rent, they're coming and moving toward you and helping you out.
"They had all things in common. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, the breaking of the bread, the fellowship." You guys are sharing meals together, doing life together, and that is a picture of community. This is a big church. We've said it over and over. The bigger we get, the smaller we must become by this small group of people who know you and know where you are, that you're accountable to God through them. You're accountable to God, but they help you be accountable to God by the Spirit through them pointing things out in your life.
It's hard, and do you know why it's hard? Because relationships are hard. Do you know why relationships are hard? Because the only kind of people who are involved in relationships are the sinful kind. Only sinners are in relationships. When you take sinners and get them together and call them to do life together, it's difficult. Why is marriage hard? Because it's two sinners. Why is community hard? Because now it's like six or eight sinners, and it's difficult.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 says, "But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." The truth is if you're here and you're not involved in a Community Group, you are closing off an aspect of spiritual growth in your life, a way God wants to mold you into the image and character of his Son Jesus. You've shut that off. If you're just attending church on the weekend, especially a church of this size where you can get lost in the shuffle, you're not a part of church as God intended in his Word, and I hope we would change that today.
Today, I want to give you four words to help your community be a great team and, really (I'll just give you this up front), to help you be a great friend. I'm going to be in Mark, chapter 2, and I'm going to share a story to set up where we're going. I'm not really teaching this story. I'm just painting a picture of something that actually happened in history that I love.
A lot of times, you'll hear this story taught to identify who Jesus was. I want to show you something else, highlight something else in this story. It's about this group of friends that really loved and served and cared for each other well. It's here in Mark, chapter 2, but it also shows up in Luke 5 and Matthew 9. These are friends who are carrying a different kind of mat for a different purpose, and I hope to spur you on in your community and in your friendships as you see their example in the way they love each other.
It starts off like this: "…when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them." Imagine this. So Jesus comes to Capernaum. This is where Peter is from. Most likely he's in Peter's house at this time. I've seen this particular house. It's really small. It's not a big house.
The crowds hear… "Remember that guy Jesus?" There's this buzz going around about this guy Jesus. "Everybody, let's go, let's go, let's go." So they're coming into the house. They're folding into the living room. Jesus is in there teaching. They're listening. They have their ears to the windows, to the door. They're all bleeding out of the door into the streets. There's just a crowd surrounding this house, and Jesus is teaching.
It would be completely normal at this time in Jewish tradition to just invade someone's living room if you want to, especially if you know there's a rabbi in there and he's teaching. It's a free-for-all. Anyone can come. Everybody is invited. It says, "Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them." It goes on to say they couldn't get in because of the crowd.
I want you to see this. These guys wake up this particular morning, and they hear that Jesus is in town. They have a friend who can't walk. They have a friend that everywhere he goes he has to be carried. This particular day, they go to their friend (let's call him Matt) and say, "Matt, we're going to take you to Jesus today. Jesus is in town, and maybe this is your day. Maybe he can heal you."
So this man on this mat… It's probably like a gurney. We know from first-century art that this is more like a cot he's on. They grab a corner and say, "Hey, we're going to take you to Jesus." So they're going, and they're high-fiving on the way. They're like, "This is the day, Matt. You might actually be healed. You may, at the end of today, be walking. We're going to see the doctor. Let's go."
They're walking along, and they see from a distance, "Wow, there are a lot of people." They get closer, and they get closer, and they see it's kind of a sold-out show. Then they're like, "Hey, guys, my friend Matt needs to get in there to see Jesus." They're like, "Hey, buddy, go off. I'm listening to the sermon. Take your friend somewhere else." This is where in the story we would give up meeting together.
This is where we'd be like, "Oh, but not very many people could make it tonight, so I don't know if we have a critical mass to gather as a group." This is where we'd be like, "I can't really get in. Not a good place. Oh, we couldn't get a sitter this week. Not going to go." These guys are like, "Okay, man, we tried." This is still a great story in the Scripture if at this point they say, "You know what? Matt, we're sorry. We gave it our all. We wanted you to see Jesus, but we can't."
That's not what happened. Do you know what happened? They're sitting there and thinking, "Man, maybe we should go back home. We'll try some other day. Maybe tomorrow Jesus won't be so busy. My cousin is actually a doctor. He may know some physical therapy treatments or something." Or they take Matt home and say, "You know what, buddy? Today wasn't your day, but we're going to pray for you."
But that's not what they do. At some point in this story, they see the crowd and they're like, "We can't get in. We can't get in." One guy is like, "Should we go home?" but another guy, some bold guy there is like, "Go home? Are you guys kidding me? We're not going home. I came all this way. I brought my boy Matt. We're going to see Jesus." At some point the beat started playing. At some point you hear "Eye of the Tiger" in the background.
Have you ever heard Andy Mineo's "You Can't Stop Me"? It's like the hypest song that has ever been made. The dude is sitting there, and he's like, "They're saying we can't get in," and he just starts hearing Andy Mineo. He's like, "We're going to the roof! We're going to the roof! Get Matt, because we're going to the roof! We're going to get the brother up there." Let me read it to you. "Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on."
Hold on, Mark. It seems like he left out a lot of details there. How did they get on the roof? Did they grab a ladder? Did they create some sort of system? Were there vines on the side of the wall? Did they go Spider-Man on them? Did they create a human ladder, like they're standing on each other's shoulders? Did they climb up the neighbor's house and then jump over to the other roof while holding Matt?
Or were they like, "All right, Matt. Hold on, buddy. We're going to have to throw you up there. This might hurt. Okay?" Somehow they're on the roof. You have to love their diligence, because it just says they got on the roof and started digging. I've been researching first-century roofs this week. It turns out they're made of grass, dirt, a layer of clay, then clay tile, and then laths. Whatever laths are, they're there in the roof.
So they're digging through this, and Jesus is teaching. If this is Peter's house, you know they would be like, "Yo, Pete. Do you see what's going down? Those cats are defacing your property, man. They're tearing up your roof." Peter would be like, "Let me up there. Move. Get off the roof! What are you doing?" Have you ever replaced a roof? They're expensive. There's a reason roofers drive big trucks with big tires. They can afford them.
So they're tearing up Peter's roof, and Jesus is in there, and Jesus is teaching. I don't know if it's like the Sermon on the Mount. "Look at the birds of the air. They have nowhere to store, yet your heavenly Father loves them." He's bringing in this grand sermon illustration and sharing the gospel. Could you imagine? First, things start falling from the roof, some twigs or something, and you're like, "What's going on up there? Somebody is on the roof. This is not good." Jesus is like, "Hold on. Focus on me."
Then it opens up, and then someone… I can't even tell you how distracting… "Hold on, hold on. Hey, I'm teaching here. I'm teaching." I can't tell you how distracting it would be if someone started being lowered from the roof. They would have such a hard time. "Oh. Hey, buddy." It seems like whatever you're teaching at that moment the sermon just changed, because there's a dude on the living room floor. It's like, "Okay, we've got to talk about this. Let me show y'all something."
"When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'" We know he goes on to say, "Get up and walk." Do you see that? "When Jesus saw their faith…" How blessed is this man to have friends like that. It's not a typo. In Luke 5 it says, "When Jesus saw their faith, he said…" In Matthew 9 it says, "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, 'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.'"
Because of whose faith? Because of some friends who said, "No matter what our agenda is today, no matter what we have going on… We have some basketball games. I have this work deadline, but you know what? Jesus is in town, and, Matt, we just have to move you to him. We need to get you to a place so you can experience what you need most, and that's Jesus. We know it's going to take time and it's a big inconvenience, but that's okay. We don't feel inconvenienced, Matt, because this is our greatest opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
This might be, when we audit our lives at the end of our lives, one of those moments we stand before the Lord at the throne and he says, 'Remember that time you had all of those things going on but you stopped everything and cared for Matt? Well done, good and faithful servant. You were a friend in that moment. In that moment you were following Jesus. In that moment you were a Christian.'" Make no mistake about it, guys. This is the kind of friend the Scriptures call you to be.
Let's just imagine for a moment that you're going to Community Formation. You raise your hand. You're a member of Watermark, and you say, "Hey, I need help getting into a Community Group," and we say, "Hey, we'll help you." You can show up any Sunday to Community Formation. It happens in the East Tower at 9:00 for marrieds, at 11:15 for singles. You just walk into that East Tower, and we'll help you get into a group.
You're on your way there, and you're super excited because you're thinking about the new friends you're going to meet. You're like, "Man, these are my new life friends. They may be my bridesmaids in my wedding. Who knows? This is going to be amazing." You're talking to your spouse, if you're married, and you're like, "What do you think they're going to be like? Are they going to like us? Do you think they'll have a lake house? That would be cool."
You're just chatting it up, thinking about the friends you're about to meet. You get to Community Formation, and you sit down and look across the table. We put you with a group of folks because of the life stage you're in and where you are geographically, and you notice something about someone. They're a little awkward or they're not making eye contact with you. Maybe it's the way they talk.
At some point in that time of discovery you realize you're going to have to carry them everywhere they go and that God, in his sovereignty, who created everything, ordained your moments, created the good works for you to walk in, set you down at that table, and your lot in life now is this is now your friend and you have to carry them everywhere they go.
So now when you meet for community, it's no longer at your house. You are always getting a sitter and going to their house every time. If you want to go to a movie and you're like, "Hey, buddy, do you want to go to a movie with me?" Matt is going to be like, "Sure. Can you pick me up? I mean, literally, can you pick me up? Because you're going to have to carry me to the movies and into the movies." That's now your role.
How do you feel in that moment? Are you like, "Man, God must really trust me. God must really love me that he allows me to be the hands and feet of Christ like this for this particular individual"? Or do you feel like you drew the short straw? Are you on the way home thinking, "Okay, how do I get out of this situation? Let's just say I went on the wrong night. We'll go back, hit reset on this deal."
I hope what you do is exactly what these guys did. You grab a corner and say, "Let's go. I've got you. My life just changed. I had some dreams. I had some thoughts I thought I was going to do, but in a moment God trusted me with a different responsibility, and my life just changed. Now a big part of what I'm going to do is be loving you and caring for you. Thank you for that opportunity."
We're talking about how we can be friends and team contributors like these guys. Before I dive in, I'll just say if you're not a member of Watermark, the way you start this process is with Discover Watermark. You can go to watermark.org for all of that information. If you're not a member, start at Discover Watermark. But what are four things that will make our Community Groups a great TEAM?
1._ Time. What I mean by that is really prioritizing community in and of itself. It takes time. You're going to have to spend time doing this. At Better Together (which was our community conference, if you will) the other day, we talked about this. You can go access those talks on the app. I said, specifically, this illustration Stephen Covey gave us in the 80s, _The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People…
He said you have so much time. It's like a jar, and you have to put the big rocks in first. You have to be able to prioritize things by putting the big rocks in first, knowing what the big rocks are. The problem I have with Stephen Covey's illustration is there are so many big rocks. There's always sports. There are always work deadlines. There are always family issues. There are always other priorities.
So even all of the big rocks don't fit in the jar. What I'm saying is I believe the Scriptures are unapologetically calling you to make community a big rock that goes in first, because it's a rock that allows you to know what other rocks make it in. It's really a lens. It's a rock that goes in so you know what other rocks to put in after that. They can help you process in that way.
I can remember when I was in sales going through all kinds of different sales trainings, and one thing I heard over and over and over was this metaphor, this idea. They said, "Just imagine the more time you spend in the decision maker's office, the closer you are moving to the sale." Have you ever heard this? The more time you can spend with the decision maker, you're moving toward the close, moving toward getting their business, so try to spend as much time as you can with the decision maker.
I'm not here to train you on sales. This is not sales training, but I want you to know the more time you can spend with those other believers you're doing life with, you are being transformed, conformed to the image and the character of Jesus. That's called sanctification. Through God's Spirit working through them, y'all spending time together, you are being molded into the image and the character of Jesus Christ.
It takes time. It takes prioritizing that meeting. It takes not giving up the gathering together. That's Hebrews 10:25. "…not [forsaking the gathering] together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Twelve years ago, I was in a Community Group and I didn't enjoy it. I didn't really like who Watermark had placed me with. I wanted to get out.
I found myself at a dinner party, and at that dinner party was Todd Wagner. I had never met Todd, but I thought, "Man, this is my chance to meet him." He was in the kitchen, and I was thinking, "Maybe I could go ask him a question about Community Group, and maybe he's going to say something that would allow me to go back to my Community Group and say, 'Guys, listen. I talked to the pastor, and he said I don't have to do this anymore.'"
So he's in the kitchen, and I get the courage to go up and speak to him. Very approachable guy. I'm like, "Hey, Todd. Jonathan Pokluda. Great to meet you. May I ask you a question?" He said, "Of course. Ask me anything." "What would you say makes or breaks a good Community Group? What do you see that good groups do and bad groups don't do? What's the difference?" He didn't hesitate. He didn't stop and think about it. He answered immediately.
He said, "That's easy. T-I-M-E." He said, "It's like all relationships. They require time. An investment of time." And it's not just any kind of time. It's time spent having on your heart what is on the heart of God. That's discipleship. As you're together, you're thinking about the things of God. What's on your heart are the same things that are on the heart of God.
Proverbs 13:20 says, "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm." You're not just spending time together giving each other worldly advice, shooting from the hip. "Oh, I had an uncle once who tried that." No, it's "Hey, this is what the Scriptures say. This is what God's Word says. Let me show you the Scriptures." Time gathered around the Holy Scriptures. It's going to take time.
2._ Encouragement_. Let me say this. I've already said it a bunch of times. Let me say it again. Relationships are hard. Community is hard. It's difficult. It is so much more difficult without encouragement. It's so much harder without encouragement. If all you do when you get together is say, "Listen. I've been making a list of all of the things you need to work on. Hey, husbands, lean in. Wives, no elbowing right now…"
If you want a relationship to work, it needs a lot of encouragement, a lot of positivity, a lot of, "You're doing this great and this great and this great, and you're doing this so awesome. Hey, I just want to encourage you in this." First Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." In the same way a car can't run without gas, relationships can't run without encouragement. They will die out on the side of the road. If you do not give that relationship encouragement, it is going to die on the side of the road.
I love cars. I always have. As long as I can remember I've loved vehicles, automobiles of all kinds. In high school, I had an old 1979 Mercedes that ran on diesel fuel. I actually put gasoline in it on two separate occasions. Those people who just laughed know what happens when you put gas in a diesel vehicle. Nothing. Literally nothing. It's dead. It's done. It's hosed. It's cooked. I did that on two separate occasions.
It's funny. Being a car guy, always liking cars and appreciating them, I've never learned how to work on them. I can't even change my own oil. My wiper fluid in my truck has been out for 17 years. I don't know where the wiper fluid is. So whenever my car breaks down, I'm like, "Get it out of here." I love it. I'm a great car owner. I'm an awesome car owner when it works.
When my car runs, I'm like, "My car…" Driving down the road. "It takes me where I need to go, man. It's a good car. I'm a good owner. I wash her every now and then." When it breaks down I'm like, "I'm done with you." Even to this day, when I turn the key and it doesn't start, I just call my friend who works on cars, and I'm like, "Hey, can you just come and get this?" He's like, "Do you know what's wrong with it?"
"No, no. Can you figure out what's wrong with it and just fix it?"
"Well, do you want me to call you with some…?"
"No, no. Just call me when it's running again. I want it out of my life until it's running again."
I can be that kind of friend. Do you hear me? When friendships are good I'm like, "Yeah, let's talk. Let's catch up about the game. Man, how have you been? Want to sit on a patio and hang out? Let's go see a movie. Love movies. Man, it's so good to see you. Let's hang out." I'm such a great friend when everything is right. I'm a great friend. But then it's like, "Oh wow, something broke down? Okay, we have to talk about… Oh wow. You need some money? Oh man. Call me when you get that fixed."
I would never say that, but do you ever feel that? "Oh man, this just became work. Can you go get everything in order, and then we can be friends again? Can you go that way? I'm going to go this way, and when everything is working again, call me, and we can hang out." That's not a friend. Don't even use that word. It's not this kind of friend. It's not these kinds of friends.
You say, "Well, JP, let me ask you a question. What if I'm not friends with them? What if I have my friends and then I have community? I have friends over here, and then I have community, my Small Group. You guys kind of put me with them, and we're not really friends. I have friends over here, but I'm not friends with them." Here's what you can do: change that. You get to choose who you're friends with.
If you're in this small group of people, you can begin to pursue them, and you can be a friend to them. Remember the Samaritan on the side of the road? Jesus says, "Who was a neighbor to them? The one who loved them, cared for them, and met their needs. That was the neighbor." You be a friend to them. You pursue them. Not just consume from them, but you pursue them, you care for them. You're a friend to them. Make it a point to encourage them.
"I love the way you give. Your generosity encourages me. I love the way you share the gospel. You're always so intentional with other people. It spurs me on. The way you parent your children… You're so intentional there, and I'm learning from you. You know what? You all's relationship… The way you love each other and talk to each other is an example to me. Hey, I love the way you live out Matthew 6:33. You just prioritize the things of God. I love the way you walk through this Scripture." Just breathe encouragement into that relationship.
These guys were great friends. You can imagine what Matt is saying to them. They're carrying him. It's a sold-out crowd. He's like, "Guys, take me home. You don't have to do this, guys. I know you all have stuff to do. You have to go grocery shopping. Y'all have things you have to do today. Listen, it didn't work today. We can't see Jesus. Just take me home. Guys, just take me back home and set me down in front of the TV. I'll be fine." They say, "No, brother. We've got you. Lay back. We're going to the roof, my man. I told you you were going to see Jesus. You're going to see Jesus. Just hang tight. We're going to the roof."
3._ Accountability. It's not a fun one, but accountability. Let me just tell you what we do in my Community Group. If it's helpful to you, write it down. If you have something that's working great for you, just keep running your offense. If this would be helpful, though, this is what _we do. We meet as couples every other Thursday night. What that looks like is we rotate houses. Everybody else gets a sitter.
A sitter costs money. We don't have a lot of money, but we just determined, "This is an area we're going to invest in. We're going to prioritize this investment. Of all of the places we could spend God's money, we're going to spend some money here to get a sitter so we can go over there." We go to a host couple's house, and before we do that, everyone sends in their agenda item. An agenda item is like, "Hey, we were processing this thing at school today. The kids are struggling in this class. We're thinking about changing schools."
"Hey, we were thinking about buying a car; we'd love to process the wisdom of that with you guys." "Hey, we got into a fight (a marital dispute, if you will) this past Wednesday. We'd like to talk about that. Scratch that. We don't want to talk about that, but we believe we should talk about that. We know rehashing that is probably going to put us in a bad place all over again, but somehow, supernaturally, through the work of God, that's going to help us, so that's on the agenda." So we put that thing on the agenda.
Then we show up to that host couple's house, and we hang out for about 15 minutes in the kitchen. We move to the living room, and the host couple leads us in a devotional. They're just like 10 to 15 minutes. "This is what God has taught me this week." Just one thing. "This is what I'm learning through the Word of God this week." Sometimes we take Communion, sometimes we sing a hymn, but then we move to going through the agenda, couple after couple after couple after couple after couple.
Then how we do accountability is guys meet every Friday morning and the girls meet every other Thursday. So the off Thursdays that we don't meet as a group is when the ladies meet and do accountability. Guys meet every Friday morning for accountability. Guys, we just need more accountability. (I don't know if that's true, but it's just the way it works. I'm confident I do.) Here's the deal. We would struggle with accountability. It's like we would sit down and have coffee. "Anybody sin this week?"
"Yeah, I think I did once on Wednesday. Let me figure out what that was. Oh yeah, there was this double take. I clicked on a hashtag. Oh, you know what? I bought something on Amazon just flippantly." We would just struggle. Then one of the guys brilliantly said, "Hey, let's just look at the core values of Watermark, and maybe we can ask each other some questions." So we came up with three questions we ask each other every week. I'm going to give you the three questions so you can write them down if they'd be helpful to you.
We just ask each other these three questions every single week, and it has been a game changer for us. It has changed the way we do accountability. Here are the three questions. The first one is, "What has God taught you this week?" It's not, "What did you read this week?" Because you could have read the Bible every single day and not learned a thing, not had your affections stirred. So it's like, "What has God taught you this week?" "What has made you love God more this week?" if you prefer.
The second one is, "What thoughts or actions have hindered your walk with Christ this week?" That's the confession part. That you would share, not generically, "Oh man, I really struggled with lust this week," but very specifically. "On Wednesday when I was at this place, I saw this thing, and I did this." Very specifically. "This hindered my relationship with Christ."
"What thoughts or actions have hindered your relationship with Christ this week?" In James 5:16 it says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." It gives us kind of a formula, if I can even say that. We're not just to confess, but we're to confess and then pray.
We realized that in the group, so what we would do is one person would confess, and then the next person would pray for them, and then that person would confess, and then the next person would pray for them, and then that person would confess, and the next person would pray for them. We started doing that, and do you know what happened? We were experiencing some real victories in sin struggles when we began not just to confess but to confess specifically and pray right then and there, multiple times, as we gather for accountability.
The last one is "How have you helped others see or know Jesus this week?" These three questions embody the community values. "How have you helped others see or know Jesus this week?" This is the living missionally value, being externally focused, sharing the gospel, serving others in the name of Jesus Christ. "How have you done that this week?"
There are some weeks guys show up and it's like, "I can't think of anything." Then we're able to pray and say, "Lord, would you give us a specific…" We're not like, "Turn around. Let's give you a good paddling." It's not like that. It's like, "Okay. Listen, brother. We love you. We're for you. Have you thought about this? I know you said your neighbor didn't know Christ. What could we do to help you engage with them?" We're talking through that.
There's a part of accountability that goes outside these questions. It's where you're doing life with others and you start noticing patterns in their life that are unaddressed and you have to address them. It's called correction. I don't like correction. Do you guys know why I don't like correction? I don't like correction because I'm stupid. You say, "Man, you're being a little hard on yourself, JP. Why would you use that word?"
Proverbs 12:1 says, "…whoever hates correction is stupid." I didn't even change that verse. That's just the way it reads. That's in your Bible. Let me tell you something. As God would have it, in his sovereignty, in his sense of humor maybe, this past Thursday night (I knew I was giving this message) I was stupid. I was on the mat this Thursday night. What I mean by that… I don't know if you've ever had it happen to you, but you show up and there's an agenda and everybody has something they need to talk about, but it's like, "Clear the agenda. This is about you."
We spent about two hours on a lot of my junk. It wasn't fun, because I'm stupid. It wasn't fun, because I don't like that. The temptation is to think that they don't have my best interests. They can look back and look at the ways I've talked to my wife, and they're like, "You don't have to do that." This is the beauty of community. Why fight as a spouse? You come together. You disagree. "Let me hear you out. Let me hear you out. Do we still disagree? We still disagree. Let's go to community. Let's not talk about it any more. We'll just go to community."
Do you see how beautiful that is? I call it pursuing unity in a disagreement. But I can't learn that lesson for whatever reason. "Let's talk about it. I disagree. You disagree. I disagree. Let's keep disagreeing. Let's disagree some more. How about we disagree tomorrow? Let's bring it up again and talk about it some more. Maybe we can disagree some more." That's not fun. No, we could just go to community.
We can say, "Hey, guys, this is what is going on. This is what she thinks. This is what I think. Here are the facts. Here's the data. What do you guys think? Spirit of God, would you please speak through all of them? Help us." Do you see how beautiful that is? It takes trust, though, to do accountability right. Do you think these guys had trust? "Anybody want to climb up here, and I'll raise you up?"
"Who's up there?"
"I don't know, but we'll pull you up to the roof."
Have you ever heard of a trust fall at camp? This is a whole next level trust fall. The dude got lowered from the roof. There's some trust there. It takes trust. Not just trust in the person, though; trust in the Holy Spirit, trust in God's Spirit working through them. You can pray for that. You can ask God to do that. "God, I disagree with them. Would you help me see what they see? Would you show me my blind spots?"
4._ Maturity_. There's an expectation that you would grow and not stay where you are. That is Hebrews 10:24-25. "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
It says, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on…" Anybody know what a spur is? It's a sharp thing you kick something with to make it move. Community feels like that sometimes. Thursday night it felt like I was getting spurred. It felt like they were wearing spurs and kicking me for fun, but I know they weren't, because they were using the Word of God and admonishing me with the Scriptures.
I don't like to exercise. (Some of you aren't surprised.) Probably the only way I like to exercise is wrestling. I like to wrestle. There was a season where I was wrestling this guy. He was a lot bigger than me. We'd show up, and I'd get worked over. I'd always submit. I'd always tap out, but not because he put me in some brilliant choke hold or arm bar or leg lock.
It was always the same thing. Big dude, and he's just lying on my chest, and I can't breathe. I'd always say the same thing. "Dude, let me up off the mat, bro! Let me up off the mat!" That's what it felt like Thursday night. I'm like, "Guys, let me up off the mat! Let me up off the mat! I hear you. Let me up off the mat!"
"Not until we see Jesus. Not until you can see what God wants for you. Not until we can get you in that living room and you can see all that Jesus has for you; you can see your sins are forgiven, that you don't have to keep going, like a dog to his vomit, to those harsh words, to those non-cherishing ways, to that unkindness, to filling the schedule so full… JP, you know your wife likes time at home. Why are you filling the calendar so full? We're going to let you off the mat, but first we want to make sure you see all that Jesus has for you so you can grow to be like him."
It's called maturity, being conformed to the image and the character of Jesus. These guys knew what this man needed most in his life was to see Jesus, and they would stop at nothing until he was face-to-face with the one who could help him. That's a good friend. If you want to know what it looks like to be a good Community Group member, just be a good friend. It's that simple.
Think, "How can I be a better friend to these people?" and the answer will be… Fill in the blank with whatever you could do to make that Community Group a better team. Maybe it's speak truth to them. Maybe it's listen more, talk less. Maybe it's point them to truth, show them a Scripture, send them an encouraging word. Maybe it's showing up with a casserole. Maybe it's giving them a ride, paying rent or mortgage. I don't know. "How can I be a better friend to them?"
To make your Community Group a great TEAM, it takes time, it takes encouragement, it takes accountability, and it takes maturity, because community is a TEAM sport. Verse 10: "So he said to the man, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.' He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'"
You ask the question, "Does community exist for the individual or does the individual exist for the team?" The team exists for the church. Do you see what happened? As this brother grew in his relationship with Christ, everyone looked and was amazed, and the church was strengthened, and it grew and spread, and now we gather here today, because of brothers growing and sisters growing in these small groups of people who are committed to each other, to helping each other, to being helpful friends to one another.
When others saw the faith of these friends, they praised God. When Monica and I got into a Community Group right after marriage, we were so dysfunctional. We would show up and sit in the driveway. The group would start, and we would sit there arguing for another 30 minutes. Mascara streamed down her cheeks. I'm like, "Hey, could you make it look like you're not crying before we go in?" I was that kind of loving husband.
So we're sitting there. We're talking. "Hey, should we just go home? Let's just go home. Let's not go back in there." God, in his sovereignty, for some reason (common grace, I guess), in some beautiful way, every single Thursday, the only thing we did right in the midst of doing everything wrong is we showed up. We walked in. "Guys, we need help again. We need you to carry our mat again."
Those brothers and sisters in Christ, who we didn't even like, grabbed a corner and moved us toward Jesus. For the past 13 years, they've been steadily moving us toward Jesus. At some point I was called into vocational ministry, and they just kept moving us toward Jesus, moving us toward Jesus. It's interesting. One of those couples now leads a Foundation Group, and one of the things we had to process was the Foundation Group they were leading, because it had a lot of dysfunction in it.
In the midst of all the dysfunction, there was this couple who knew God and were raised in the church, and they said, "Hey, we want out." They were struggling with self-righteousness. So we processed that as a group. I didn't know who they were. It was anonymous. I do now. They shared this with me. "We were looking for a group where we could read the Bible, hang out, fellowship together.
Within the first couple of months, it came out that other couples were dealing with infidelity, abuse. They were already talking about divorce. We weren't in for carrying those kinds of mats. At first, our response was, 'We don't want to deal with that. We want out.' But our leaders helped us see our self-righteousness in this, and we decided to stick it out and walk alongside those friends. The very friends we didn't want to hang out with anymore then had to help us carry our mat." Would you watch the story of my friends?
Brett Billman: When we first got married and came to Watermark, we saw that there was something called Foundation Groups for couples. Our leaders led out really, really well in just a sense of, "Hey, this isn't just coming to hang out. We're going to share hurts. We're going to share hang-ups." After a year and a half of doing Foundation Group with these leaders, it was actually a natural transition to go into a Community Group.
Chrisey Billman: You are missing a piece, though. We came to our leaders at one point and said, "Yeah, we're not so sure we're going to stick with this." The leaders quickly looked at us and went, "Yeah, that's prideful, because you guys somehow think you're on a different level than these people are, and you're not."
Brett: We started realizing this is bigger than ourselves. Now, looking back at that group, I can't imagine not having them in our lives, because they have been such an integral role in both of our lives and our marriage.
Chrisey: We'd never before been the center of attention with our Community Group. After a miscarriage and a difficult first pregnancy, it was the first time we had really needed the love and support from our Community Group. After getting pregnant with our second child, I was feeling bad again and ended up in the hospital. During that hospitalization, the doctors ran some tests, and after doing a scan they found something, and I knew it was wrong.
Brett: So I'm sitting there at work and get a text message from my wife that says, "Come back now. I have a brain tumor." The first thing on my mind was, "Worst autocorrect ever. Please, God, let this be an autocorrect." So I called her, and as soon as she answered I knew it was not an autocorrect. She said, "I need you to come now."
Chrisey: The next day we met with our neurosurgeon. He gave us two choices. "Either you operate on this and you live or you don't and you die."
Brett: There had to be surgery. What we found out was that the tumor was on the back of her brain on her cerebellum and it was the size of a tennis ball.
Chrisey: After being diagnosed, we had our Community Group come over that Sunday. They all came over. They brought us meals and just basically were like, "How can I pray for you?" We all cried together.
Brett: Everybody comes over, prays with us, talks to us, and then just disperses, which was really neat, because the way they went was one couple went and bought preemie clothes. Another couple went and bought food, bought groceries. Everybody went and did something. Without us asking or even telling them what needed to happen, they just picked up responsibility and said, "Great. We've got this covered. You go."
Chrisey: Later that week we were scheduled for a C-section to have our son. By God's grace, he was healthy and did great. It wasn't long after that that I had to go in for emergency surgery. The tumor just had to come out.
Brett: After surgery, the doctor came in and let us know the surgery was a success. He got the whole tumor, and then later on, after testing, found out it was benign so we wouldn't have to go through all the cancer stuff, which we were so thankful for.
Chrisey: Two months after the initial brain surgery, I started having headaches again. This landed us back in the neurosurgeon's office, where he explained the glue that was holding my skull together was infected and it meant he was going to have to go back in and do another brain surgery.
Brett: She spent longer in the ICU that time around than we did for the initial surgery, and there were just as big of scares that second time around than that first one, which was not expected.
Chrisey: We'd been supplied meals every day for two months already, and then to have to go back to where we started and ask for more help for longer… We humbled ourselves, humbled our hearts, knowing we had never really been authentic enough to say, "I need help," and this is the Lord's way of saying, "Hey, I've supplied people, so let them be the hands and feet of me." So we did. We had to, and I was thankful for that.
Brett: Through all this, community was the tangible expression of God's love for us. This is what community does. They pick up your burdens when you are not strong enough to carry them yourselves. We are so thankful for our Foundation Group leaders encouraging us years ago. We're grateful that God doesn't want us to go through this life alone and he has given us the gift of one another.
[End of video]
Jonathan: There are going to be times in life where you're on the mat. If you're not there right now, you're going to be. I'm not trying to speak ill will into your life. I'm just telling you this is how life works. There are going to be times where you're on the mat. A lot of times you can't even anticipate them. There are some times in life you're on the mat, and there are some times in life where you're holding a corner and carrying somebody else.
I don't know where you're at right now, but you need to know where you're at right now. You need to know that role. What I love about that video… The very people they didn't want to be in community with because they weren't spiritually mature enough became the very people who helped them carry their mat when a brain tumor hit and pregnancy difficulties hit. We could have made 10 videos. That's the truth.
I asked on social media, "What's a story of your Community Group?" I could be here the rest of the morning. I went back and looked. Moments later there were 60. I wrote some down. "My car broke down, and I couldn't afford to fix it. I asked for prayer because I was so stressed. The next week they showed up with $1,000." Somebody said, "I didn't abort my second child because my Community Group talked me out of it. Praise Jesus!" There's a story.
"My house was torn apart by a tornado. My Community Group gave me a place to stay, food to eat, clothes to wear, and made sure we continued to meet, even though they often had to come to me." "When I processed a long-term mission trip to Albania, my Community Group helped me process, packed my belongings. They continued to support me halfway across the world through prayer and financially."
"My wife died right before Christmas, and they have been with me every step of the way, from meals to just getting me out of the house." "Overwhelmed with life, work, stress, overspending. My house was a mess. I was behind on laundry. Dishes were piled up. Everything was out of control. I confessed to them and came home the next day to a spotless house and a vase of fresh flowers."
"When my mom was sick, they made multiple trips to Houston to pray with and for me. When she passed, they helped me with the funeral arrangements and helped my dad move out of his house to my sibling's." "Through two very difficult pregnancies and two miscarriages, community showed up daily to help me emotionally and met all of our practical needs." I'm out of time. I could keep going.
Don't think about it as, "What can I get from this?" but "What can I give? How can I be a good friend to them? How can I deliver the necessary truth to them? How can I go back and have that necessary conversation? How can I make sure we're being intentional?" If you don't have this, please get it. If we can help you get it, please let us know. In that Watermark News just say, "Hey, I need community." We've got you. Show up next week and go into the East Tower.
If you're not a member, you can go to watermark.org. Discover Watermark. If we can help you in any way… Listen. This is important. If you do not know your community coach or your director, if they haven't visited your group this year, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make that happen. We have doctors ready. If you're struggling right now, we're moving toward you. Let us know. We want to help.
I love you guys. Have a great week of worship.