People have been flooding into Collin County for 30+ years for various opportunities. For the believer, it’s important to remember that God brings you to any place because of the gospel opportunity that exists among the people. And here in Collin County, it is no different. Though the outward appearance of our cities and county looks good, there are many wounds that exist among our people. Jeff looked at the history of Collin County to remind us of some of the wounds that have existed here while looking at the gospel opportunities that are coming Collin County’s way as more and more people keep coming from all over the world.
How We Relate To God
All right. Watermark Plano, I'm liking the energy in the room. I think I know the answer here, but how are we feeling today? All right! Good. Well, I don't know if anyone is asking, but if you are, I am doing just fine. Okay? I had a good night's sleep last night in my own bed with my own pillow. The temperature in my house was nice and regulated. It was a good night last night.
The two nights before that now, I was camping. That's not my favorite thing necessarily to do. We were out. There's nothing between my back and the ground except a couple of pieces of tarp. I didn't have my pillow. The temperature was most definitely not regulated. Last night was a sweet evening to get back.
Let me just give you first a pro tip here for you campers. If your wife asks you to go grab the pillows (plural), don't just grab your pillow or else you will be without a pillow while you're camping (and rightfully so), especially if your spouse is, say, pregnant. Anyway, that was just a pro tip for you. I'm not a camper, but that doesn't mean I'm not from Texas because I was born here in Dallas, Texas, at Walnut Hill in '75 if you care to know.
My family moved here in 1983 to Plano. They were looking for a quiet, rural neighborhood in which to raise my sister and me. They were choosing between Plano and Forney. If they were looking for quiet and rural, they chose poorly when they chose Plano, because Plano was anything but quiet and rural at the time. It was on the verge of booming.
When we moved there (if you're familiar with Plano), we lived on Parker Road in between Preston and the tollway. The tollway didn't extend that far north at all. Parker Road wasn't even called Parker Road at the time. It wasn't paved. It was just this bumpy, dirty road that led to our house and maybe two or three others. Our side yard was a place where cattle just spent time. By the time we left, it was where like two or three neighborhoods were. Things began to change while we were in Plano.
I was there from 1983 until my high school graduation in 1996. Then I worked a couple of summers in Plano. I came back for a little bit in '97 and '98. Then I got out of town. Quite frankly, I didn't want to come back. My time in Plano didn't end, though. My wife and I got married, and we moved to the Metroplex, but I wanted to kind of keep an arm's length distance from Plano. We stationed up in Dallas near downtown.
Then even when the Plano Campus here at Watermark opened, I just kind of stayed away from it. I wanted kind of away from Plano. Even as I began as this campus did open up and I met with a couple of staff members here, they were just so excited that I might have a history with this place and thus I'd have a heart for Plano. I just kind of in my heart was like, "I don't like this place."
It's not this campus. I don't like Plano. It was to my shame I say that. You know, I just looked back on my time here, and I'd just go, "I didn't like the things I saw here." There's a quote that sometimes gets attributed to Benjamin Franklin. I'm not sure he said it, but the quote goes, "Some people die at 25 and aren't buried until 75."
I think I translate that quote as some men at the age of 25 begin to pursue a path with their life. Either they get distracted, or they get hooked on something. They pursue this vice down a road. Or maybe they take good things, and they just make them ultimate things. They head down a path that, little do they know, leads to death. They walk that road the rest of their days spiritually dead until their physical death occurs.
By the definition of that quote, the reason why this place was hard for me is when I was growing up, I saw thousands of people die by the definition of that quote. To be quite frank, I saw plenty buried here as well. Now today I just want to tell you I love this town. I love this town, flaws and all. I'm so glad the Lord has planted me here, and I've been praying for this city in ways I never thought I would.
As recently as probably three years ago, I would have been maybe the last person who would want to give this message. Today I'm telling you I'm first in line. What I want to do this morning is extend the Can You Relate? series one more week. There we go! Good! Get a couple of whoops! in there.
I want to extend the Can You Relate? series to how we are to relate to Collin County and how we are to relate to Plano. Here are just a couple of caveats up front. When I say "Collin County," if you live in Dallas County, Rockwall County, or Denton County, I'm talking about where you live. Okay?
When I say "Plano," if you live in Dallas, Richardson, Sachse, or Wylie, I'm talking about your town. If you live in McKinney, Anna, or Allen (I live in Allen), I'm talking to you as well. Definitely if you're in Frisco or somewhere, I'll talk about you in a little bit. I am talking to you all. Let's relate well to wherever we live and wherever our sphere of influence is.
The second thing I want in your head is the key word, how I want you to relate to Collin County and Plano. That key word is opportunity. If you remember back in January and February when we talked about how we were to relate to God, the key word we wanted in your head was the word good. He is a good Father. When we talked about how we should relate to the Bible, the key word in our heads was treasure. We're to treasure God's Word. Whether it was marriage or whether you are single, the word we wanted in your head was it's a gift. It's a gift!
The word I want in our head this morning is the word opportunity because Collin County presents a lot of opportunities for all of us. We're going to dive into a little bit of that today. It might get somber for a little bit, but stick with me even as we kind of hit a couple of somber notes. I want you to have the key word in your head: opportunity.
We're going to investigate a little bit of Collin County's past, and we're going to then see the future of where this place is going. Then we're going to talk about what that means today here and now. Let's jump in. When you rate a city's infrastructure, when you rate a city's foundation, for most of us, we're going to immediately start looking at certain things. We're curious how good the roads are, maybe how well zoned some of the property lines are.
Before long, we're going to start looking at, "What are real estate prices doing in the area? Is this a good place to own land? Is this a place where there are good jobs? Is there a high quantity of jobs in this area?" These are things! If we're rating a city, we're going to go to these things. We want to know, "How much does the average job pay here?"
This is what we would consider as probably a foundation to a city and whether we would want to live there. If you're rating Plano on any of these metrics, we're scoring high marks. This land has been a place that over the last 20-40 years people could come for great economic opportunity, for great academic opportunity for our kids. There are good schools here. This is a safe place (or so we say) for families to raise their kids. There's good familial opportunity here as well.
This is the city's infrastructure. This is the city's foundation. Don't get me wrong. These are good things. Every city should strive for these things, but Christ, when he was here in his Sermon on the Mount, as he was kind of redefining some things he was talking about redefining the foundation that lasts.
As you kind of work through the Sermon on the Mount, he just starts with going, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…" That's the place where the foundation begins. Then from there, we're called to be salt to the earth, and we're supposed to be a light to it as well. We're supposed to be a city on a hill, which cannot be hidden.
We are to let our works shine before men so they may see our good deeds, not glorify us but glorify our Father who is in heaven. This is some of the foundation we're supposed to be building in our individual lives and through our city. Matthew 6. Jesus begins to just talk about how we are not to seek earthly treasures, but we are to seek that which is eternal. This is what builds the right foundation.
We're not to seek security financially. We're to seek the Savior faithfully. Jesus says, "This is the foundation I'm talking about." In Matthew 7, he says those words with which we're so familiar. He goes, "Therefore everyone…" Maybe every city. "…who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock."
Many of you came here for a lot of the opportunity Plano offers. There is incredible economic opportunity here. There's incredible academic opportunity, and yet why you came here for whichever opportunity, this morning I want to talk about the opportunity of why God really brought you here: because there's a gospel opportunity to which we need to get back.
You can trace the history of this city to the 1840s. If you're like me, you got a little tired of hearing this joke. I don't know if you've heard the joke, but I'll pass it along right now. It's that Plano got its name because someone asked one day, "Where are we?" Someone just said, "We're in Plain ol' Texas." I hated that joke. I'm glad you didn't laugh. Just be better than that joke. That's my only encouragement. Be better than that joke.
If you want a really good fact about Plano, we were almost called Fillmore, Texas, after everyone's favorite president, Millard Fillmore. Right? That one got voted down so we could name our city after the Spanish word for flat. We kind of struck out on all of those if you ask me, but it's Plano. Love it, all right?
We survived here on cattle farming and livestock grazing for like 120 years. There were a lot of cotton farms here and alfalfa farms. That's how Plano just began to grow. For about the longest time (for about 120 years), Plano's population was never more than 3,500 people. Collin County's population was never more than, say, 40,000 people. That's what it was like.
In the 1970s, the road system began to change. Quicker modes of transportation began to arrive. Our proximity to Dallas became just kind of an attractive means to people who were still working downtown. Then by the 1980s, Plano had shed its sleepy farming town persona altogether. EDS arrived here. In 1990, by then the reputation of Plano was soaring, and other Fortune 500 companies wanted in on what Plano had to offer. Frito-Lay came. 7Up came. JCPenney arrived. Along with it came all that opportunity that brought most of us here.
Plano was described nationally then as a place where above average was average. As I read here, it just said our homes were bigger. Our square footage was bigger. Our ceilings were more vaulted. Our yards were better manicured. Our teachers were better. Our schools were more excellent. Our population growth was better. We were no longer 3,500 people. We were up to 130,000.
Our median household income was $54,000, nearly 80 percent better than the national average. Statistically, we were one of the safest cities in America. We had one of the lowest homicide rates in all the country. Mind you, none of this is bad, but none of these things are the strong infrastructure Christ was talking about either. None of these replace the need to seek first his kingdom.
In 1994, the National Civic League named Plano the "All-America City." If you drive around town, you'll see that moniker on different billboards or different kind of advertisements that maybe hang off light poles. "Plano: The All-America City." They said we had Mayberry values and Leave It to Beaver morals. This was the place to live nationally. That was at least one of the narratives.
While that narrative was being written, there was another story that was being written. We were getting distracted by decadents. Parents were charging hard after earthly treasure during the weeks and pushed their kids hard with youth sports on the weekend. We were excellent in the boardroom. We called for excellence on the ball field. Yet we didn't strive for excellence in the home.
The relationships that mattered most, the marriages that were in Plano and the parenting of our kids, well, we collectively just decided that was inward stuff and it was more important to portray a strong outside architecture. We thought we'd be fine. Some of the first cracks appeared in Plano in 1983. That was the year I moved here. There was a string of teenage suicides that rocked the land. Many from the national media descended upon our land for the first time (and New York Times most notably).
It wasn't before long Plano earned the unfortunate nickname of the "suicide capital of the world." Here in this land we had that nickname. Suicides didn't stop in 1983. In 1991, I had a 13-year-old friend of mine who took his own life. That would just be a string of two, three, or four more that happened during my time here with people I walked with but who felt a despair. Their inside, the foundation, had crumbled.
This was not the narrative we wanted to write here. Even as we were bragging about our homicide rate here, we were suppressing the truth about our suicide rate. As one publication wrote, the determination to keep a lid on the story was spurred on by an honest concern for property values. So city officials would show up at conventions, and they would try to bury the story. Life in Plano moved right along, and our real estate prices kept soaring. We were above average nationally.
In 1993, my friend, John, moved to town. At this point, I was 15. I was a late bloomer, so I had spent most of my time with friends playing sports. Yet I'm not the…I don't know…physical specimen maybe I am before you today. Hard to believe, I can imagine. Yeah! I was well behind everyone, so I had to give up sports. I picked up the French horn. My friend John was a trumpet player.
We spent time getting through band and marching practice over and over again. We learned to crack each other up. We learned to be good running buds. We began studying together. We would do what I guess teenagers do. We were playing video games, and we were shooting hoops in the driveway. We even started working together.
My parents owned a hair salon. I mean, of all the things to own, I don't know why it was a hair salon. John and I were given the task of cleaning the hair salon every night for three hours. We would spend hours together cleaning up the hair salon, talking about just what mattered in life and what we wanted to pursue. We talked about what we wanted to be known for, and we just shared some of those things.
Yet I started to notice that over time, John's demeanor started to change. At first, I kind of chalked it up to we had the newfound freedom of driving a car around town. So maybe it had something to do with that. Before too long, I noticed this guy who was incredibly smart, got good grades, just academically started to not show up at class. I started to notice he was less dependable at work too, and things began to disappear around the salon. Something wasn't right with my friend, and yet I didn't lean in.
In 1993, about the time my friend John moved to town, another guy moved to town. His name was Ecliserio Martinez Garcia. He moved to McKinney, and he was looking for opportunity. He had moved up from Mexico, and he was trying to find some way to make ends meet in the area. When he laid eyes on Plano, he knew what he could do.
The business sector meant there was a booming population, which had brought a large amount of teenagers and young adults who had money to burn. There were distracted parents, or better yet, distracted parents who desired to just turn a blind eye. I'm reading now from a different publication. "There was an upscale market for Jaguars and Lear jets, but somehow nobody had thought to supply the place with high quality heroin."
So he seized the opportunity. In 1996, the string of heroin overdoses began. We had four that year. In 1997, we had nine. By halfway through 1998, we had another six. Nineteen kids in total in a two-year span died of heroin overdoses here. Nineteen of my classmates. Doctors, to this day are surprised it wasn't even more. They were on average treating three to four heroin overdoses each night.
By this time, John and I weren't friends anymore. We had kind of gone our separate ways. I just didn't know what he was up to. One day in the summer of 1990, I found out there had been a wide-encompassing drug bust of about 29 people. The story showed up in the Dallas Morning News. Just in the bottom corner of that paper, it just said there had been the drug bust. As you went into the inside of the paper, they just listed out all the names involved (those 29 people who were involved).
Most of those names read from like the Who's Who of my high school yearbook. Weeks and months ahead, a lot of those names became faces in the paper. Some declared themselves guilty. My friend John's picture showed up in the paper. All of my friends were showing up in that paper. It was their picture taken from their yearbook, basically. Those were my friends in there!
The world was stunned. For a second time, media descended upon here. Diane Sawyer came to town. 60 Minutes came to town. MTV did an hour-long documentary here. All the papers came back: New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles Times. All were wondering how in the world it could happen here. Newsweek, The Economist, Rolling Stone magazine all were doing stories. The national media kept wondering, "How could it happen here? This place is beautiful. It's gorgeous! How could it happen here?"
It's not the first time man has been impressed with outward appearance. Mark 13. The Scripture records one of the disciples coming up to Jesus as they were making their way into Jerusalem. He said, "Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" (referring to the temple). We know Jesus doesn't measure things by outward appearance. He was more concerned at the foundation that was crumbling.
Jesus responds. His response is recorded in Matthew 23. It just says, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!" As if to say here, "Plano, Plano, who leads distracted lives of empty pursuit, whose marriages are dead, whose families are withering within."
"How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.""Behold, I'm about to leave, but you are decimated." How did it happen here? I want to be really clear. In the 1980s, Plano didn't have a suicide problem. In the 1990s where we got the moniker with the heroin capital of the world, we didn't have a heroin problem. Plano has had and still has a gospel problem.
We have church buildings that dot our landscape, but we don't largely have faithful men and women who are willing to live as the church. In a place where we pride ourselves on being above average, in general our pursuit of Christ has been well below that mark. Why do I share this today? Why do I take us to this place? It's because if you don't see the wound you won't long for the cure. If you don't see the wound you won't long for the cure!
What's the cure? It's you. You are the cure. To be more specific, Christ in you is the cure. Christ in you is the hope of glory. It is the hope of Collin County and Plano. You are (Christ in you) his Plan A, Plan B, Plan C for Collin County, for Plano, for wherever he has you stationed. The other reason why I'm sharing this is, if you don't share the cure, when you are the cure and you don't share it to the wounded, there's regret.
I had countless hours with my friend John to talk about where life was found and what was truly worth pursuing, and I held onto it. My friend John went to prison, but I knew a few years later he got let out. So I went looking for him. All I can tell you about what happened to my friend John is some kids die when they're 15. They just aren't buried until they're 27.
I missed out on my chance with John, and yet I know I have other opportunities. That's the other reason why I want to share this with you today. The ingredients of what happened in Plano in the 80s and 90s are coming to Collin County again. We have another opportunity. We have another opportunity to be the shepherd Christ calls us to be in this land.
There was a time where Israel had a chance to reclaim its status as the shepherd for all nations. It's in Ezekiel 33 that the word of the Lord comes to Ezekiel. Reading in verse 2, it just says, "Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, 'If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then…'"
The fault lies with the people who hear the sound of the trumpet and do not take warning. "…a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head." Because he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, that person's blood is on himself. Verse 6: "But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand."
In verse 7, don't miss this. "Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel." Watermark Plano, we have been appointed a watchman for Collin County and for Plano. You're the watchman! You are the shepherd. If the shepherd doesn't do anything, the wolf will win.
The ingredients are back here. Back in the 1980s, it was EDS, JCPenney, Frito-Lay, and 7Up that moved into the area. Today it's Dr. Pepper joining 7Up. It's State Farm that you see the building at the High Five or President George Bush Turnpike and US 75. Toyota is coming, in process. Liberty Mutual is on its way. JPMorgan Chase, Fannie Mae…their regional offices are coming. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are coming to the area in the next 20 years. There are expected to be another two million people coming.
If you look at the population map from 1960 to 2000 and compare it from 2000 to what's expected to be in 2040, they look eerily similar. It's coming again. We have an opportunity to be a city on a hill. We have an opportunity to be the watchman we've always longed to be. Do you know who else sees the opportunity? The Ecliserio Garcias of the world. They see the opportunity too. They see the population. They see the money. They want to come and come after it.
How messed up is it that they would pursue lives with more vigor than we would? They see the wound, and yet all they're trying to do is deliver poison to the wound. We know the cure. As a church, as Watermark Plano, we cannot…we should not…be out-hustled by drug dealers. This isn't a heroin message. Look, if you're here and maybe you have tasted part of the problem, maybe you've been a part of it in some manner, I just want you to know you are not the enemy. We want to help you.
We have a ministry on Tuesday nights called re|generation where you are welcome. We would love to walk you through anything that's troubling you, especially if it's a couple of the things I've been talking about (suicidal thoughts or heroin). We want to help, because this much we know about the gospel.
Some kids die when they're 15. Some men die when they're 25. But the transformative power of Christ brings them back to life. The resurrecting King is resurrecting me. He desires to rob the grave. He desires to rob you from it. Psalm 68:20 says, "God is to us a God of deliverances; and to God the Lord belong escapes from death." You can be one of those. We are called to be one of those.
If that's your story and if you claim Christ, you've been rescued from the grave. Make no doubt about it. What do we do today? Christ said all the Law and the Prophets boil down to two things. Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second thing we do is we go love our neighbor as ourselves. I love it!
When Peter is restored as Christ has gone, robbed, and brought him back, John 21 captures the story of Jesus restoring Peter. He just asks Peter three times, "Do you love me?" as if to ask, "Do you love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind?" Peter's answer all three times is, "Absolutely, yes! Yes, you know I do, Lord."
Then Jesus responds three different times, "Then go feed my sheep. Tend to my lambs. If you love me with all your mind, all your heart, all your strength, then go love your neighbor." That's the question for us today, right? Do you love the Lord? Good. Then go feed his sheep. Go tend to the people here in Plano.
Go tend to your neighbors, which Scripture would define as our literal neighbors in our neighborhood, the people we work with, the people with whom we do other various activities. You go out to lunch today. As we talk about many times, that's a neighbor who is going to be serving you. You have an opportunity to see the wound and offer the cure that is the gospel.
As a church, we often get asked what our plan is for missions, kind of what our plan is for international missions. Everyone wants to change the world, and yet so often we forget that if we want to change the world, that means Plano, Texas, has to be changed. Collin County has to be changed. The question we really have to be asking is, "What is our plan for missions here?"
If it makes you feel better, we are doing things internationally. Don't get me wrong. We're taking the gospel to Central Africa and to the Middle East. We're in Haiti. We have discipleship trips that are going to the Amazon. We are doing things around the world, but if we're going to change the world, we have to start here.
As a great hero of the faith, C.T. Studd, put it… I like that name, by the way. C.T. Studd. I would have taken that one. He said, "The light that shines farthest shines brightest nearest home." The light that shines the farthest shines the brightest at home. We have work to do to shine brightly here. We want to shine brightly in Central Africa and the Middle East. Let's shine brightly right here.
It's not going to happen by accident. We need a plan. We need a plan for the opportunity that awaits us. One of my fears with a message like this is I just give you a couple of checkbox items, and I do the same. I just go home and go, "Okay, good. I checked that off the list. Now I'm done. I can kind of tuck that message aside."
The other fear is we don't offer anything, and we all kind of don't know what it is. So we need a plan. We need a plan for the opportunity. Let me just give us an acronym that we can work off of for PLAN. Let me start with P.
1._ Passions and powers_. If you're a believer, God has given you irrevocable gifts. You're called to employ and deploy them. He has given you unique experiences, like growing up here for me. He has given you unique desires.
If you don't know, if you've never taken a spiritual gift inventory, we would love to help you. If you don't even know where to begin, pull the tear-off in the bulletin as Kyle talked about. Tear that off and write down, "I need help knowing my spiritual gifts." Put your name and contact information. Drop it in a giving box, and we will have someone follow up with you.
We'd love to get you in a Community Group (if you're not already) and talking about that in your groups and processing through what your next faithful step looks like with your passions and your powers. Once we know those, the question I really want you wrestling with today is, "What would you do if you weren't distracted?" What would you do? What would you do if you weren't distracted? What would you do if you did what God was calling you to pursue? What would that be?
I want you to know there are opportunities all around us. Some of these may appeal to you, and you may have something else on your mind. If you're looking for some ideas here at the Plano Campus, go to watermark.org/serve. You're going to find some of these ideas.
We're opening the QuestCare Clinic. That's been something we've been praying for as a body here. In April, the QuestCare Clinic is open, and we're going to start serving the wounded here. Amen? That's worth cheering about. We're not going to just be serving physical wounds, right? We know there's a spiritual wound too. We're going to offer the cure there as well.
We're mentoring students at the University of Texas at Dallas, international students who are looking how to plug into this area. You have an opportunity to be one of those mentors for somebody most likely not of the Christian faith. You have an opportunity to share the gospel with them. You can partner with our Prestonwood Pregnancy Center. There are a ton of other opportunities I don't want you to miss that you can be involved with in some of our External Focus.
The other thing I just want you to know is besides kids and student ministries, there hasn't been a single ministry here that wasn't started by the body of Christ, that wasn't started by you guys. Even this Plano Campus was started because people in Collin County raised their hands. A handful of them! The light started right there. This campus started when it went from 3 to 12. Then it went to 70. Then it went to 500. It's because you guys, faithful men and women, raised your hands and said, "Let's get going. We need the gospel up here in Collin County."
Just a handful of people. It's like a candle started lighting, affected other people. I mean, celebrate it. Three years in, here we're going. As Kyle said, the bulletin stories are filled with stories that have happened here because a handful of people raised their hands. Then others joined around them.
They used their passions and powers to get the gospel going in different ways here in Collin County. It's incredible. Now what are we doing? Do you see that map? Frisco is looking a little less bare. So it's time. Those dots represent members, right? Now it's time to get some people plugged in in Frisco, get other Christ followers growing to extend our reach into Collin County.
We're piloting DivorceCare here at this campus. We're going to be offering it in the fall, not because staff pushed it forward but because one of you, someone you're sitting next to today, said, "We need this." We're taking re|generation into prisons, not because I'm the re|generation guy but because someone in the body said, "We need to take the light to the darkness."
These opportunities are all around us. I can look around our body and… We're missing out on some of our young adults, and yet we have apartment complexes all around us. We have more going in within a mile or two. Tons of them! I'm not saying young adults are the only people who live in apartments, but I know there are a lot of them there. We can go after them.
Did you know we have 53,000 college students in the Collin County area at Collin College? There are 53,000! We have 18,000 right over my shoulder within a mile (that's at Spring Creek Campus). There are 18,000! I mean, you put that in perspective. There are 12,000 at SMU. There are 11,000 at TCU. I'm telling you, there is opportunity. There is opportunity all around us.
I don't know. What would you do if you weren't distracted? How would God deploy your passions and your powers? It's time for us to start making sure we're doing just that. The light that shines the brightest shines the farthest, shines the brightest here. We have to have a…
2._ Love for this land_. I remember growing up here in Plano as a new believer in 1992. I just wondered, "I wonder what God is going to do with my life. I wonder where he is going to send me." In some ways, don't we wrestle with that question still to this day? Look, I don't know. The answer for all of us is different, and yet there's part of the answer that's the same for all of us.
If you want to know where God has called you to today, it's right here. You may have come here for some of the economic and academic opportunities that existed, but God has brought you here because there is a gospel opportunity. If you see the wound, long to be the cure. You have to seek the welfare in the land in which you live.
So you pray to the Lord on its behalf. "For in its welfare you will have welfare," Jeremiah 29:7 says. If you don't have a love for this land (I didn't), just ask the Lord for it. That's a prayer he won't turn down. He will graciously supply the affection you need for this area. The A is…
3._ Authenticity_. We have to have a plan for authenticity. In a place that prides itself on being above average, we love to present ourselves as having it altogether, don't we? Yet I think if we want to be above average in anything, let's be above average in how authentic we are. We have to get outside of our doors, and we have to go across to our neighbor's house and tell them what's really going on in our lives. Don't hide it from them. Share it with them.
You have to have a plan. My plan is just simple. I run through my head who I was before Christ. Then I tell my neighbors that. Then I just go, "Once Christ came into my life, he began to redeem my mess." My mess was gambling and fear of man. Then today because of what Christ has done in my life… I'm not perfect, but he has given me a new race to run. I just share that. It takes 30 seconds. Come up with your own. Practice it. Work on it, and have a plan for how you're going to unleash your authenticity. The N is…
4._ Neighborhood. You have to have a plan for your neighborhood. As I've talked about, we like to ask ourselves, "What's our missions plan of the corporate church?" Yet we need to be asking ourselves, "What's our plan for our neighborhood? What's _my plan for my neighborhood?" I'll tell you, you want to see God's plan for Collin County? It's right here. That's God's plan for Collin County.
Us…members…sprinkled all over the county. Lights in different neighborhoods. I look at that, and I go, "Look! We have Wylie covered. I know where the gospel cure should be coming from in the Deerfield area. I know where it should be! It's you guys!" What's your plan for your neighborhood? This stuff doesn't just happen by accident. You have to have a plan.
Just a couple of things people around our body do. My wife and I like to have people over on Sunday nights. Just come over for dinner. We won't make it awkward, but at some moment, we'll just share our story. I'll share my story of God's grace in my life. My wife will share her story. Then we're just talking again.
We'll make sure there are Christmas and Easter invites given out. Now is a great time to do some of that. Take over some goodies and treats. My kids love to do that stuff (get out of the house and take that to the neighbors). We have people here who do Backyard Bible Clubs. They pair up with other members in the area, and they're running Backyard Bible Clubs for kids in their area.
I know if you talk to Meg or Derek, our women's and men's equipping directors, they have resources just ready to go for you to unleash them (Bible studies in your home). I know many (at least some) of the women have been doing that. I just say, "Way to go!" We've been doing Bible studies in our neighborhood. There's so much more of that we can be doing.
What's your plan? What's your plan for the neighborhood? You have to have a plan for the opportunity that exists. You have to take your passions and your powers. You have to take your love for the land. You have to take authentic life into your neighborhood. That's your plan for opportunity.
That's your Plan O. That's your Plano. All right? I worked hard on that one, okay? I forced a couple of things there. Thank you.
Let me do this. Let me close with this story. It's another kind of personal story. I hope it means something to you. There's a picture in the front of my Bible that won't mean anything at first. It's just a picture of an old lectern, yet it's in my Bible as a constant reminder. It's been my phone screensaver from time to time.
The backstory behind this picture is some 12 years ago, I had an opportunity to go to Europe. I showed up into the Czech Republic into Prague for the first time. When you arrive there, you can't help but notice this amazing statue. It is a monstrous statue of a man by the name of Jan Hus who lived some 600-plus years ago in what then was the Bohemian region, which is now modern-day Prague.
I was so taken back at just how this man's legacy has lived on in this area of Prague. I came back home, and I just began to do a little research about who Jan Hus was. I started to realize this guy was just an ordinary guy who had a passion for the Word of God. He loved his land. Back then, the Word of God didn't exist in the Bohemian language that existed in the region.
They didn't know what the cure was. They had the wounds. Jan Hus could see the wounds, and he knew the cure was found in getting the Word of God into the people's hands. So he began work translating the Word of God into the Bohemian languages. He began delivering messages of authenticity basically to his neighborhood.
He was one little candle that began to light the wicks of other candles. The light got so bright in that area that the Roman Catholic Church wasn't happy with what was going on. So they descended upon the region, and they arrested Jan Hus. They gave him two options. They said, "You can either renounce what you're doing, or we will burn you at the stake." Jan Hus just went, "Well, I don't like option one, so burn me at the stake if you must."
That's what the statue is. In the middle of Prague's city square is Jan Hus being burned at the stake. I had an opportunity to go back to Prague a couple of years ago, and I found Jan Hus' church, Bethlehem Chapel, just off the square. I sat in that church for some 30 or 40 minutes just staring up at Jan Hus' lectern just thanking God for what he did in Jan Hus' life that he was just a candle that had gotten snuffed out, but it had lit the wicks of countless people around him, so much so that it would eventually overtake all of Europe, light the candle of Martin Luther.
A hundred years after Jan Hus was burned at the stake, Martin Luther carried that torch to bring the Word of God to God's people. As I finished thanking God for Jan Hus' life, I walked out, and as I stared up one last time, I just went, "Man, I'm so thankful for the mark Jan Hus left behind. I'm so thankful he ran his race." Then this video we're about to play played in my mind. Jan Hus had his time, and he was faithful with it. Now it's my time. Now it's our time.