9 Things I Learned at "Seminary"

2018 Messages

After 12 years of faithfully serving on staff, JP is transitioning to become the senior pastor at Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, TX. In his final message while on staff, he encourages us with nine things that he learned during his time serving Jesus at Watermark.

Jonathan PokludaDec 16, 2018Proverbs 18:8, 26:22; 2 Timothy 3:16-17


After 12-years of faithfully serving on staff, JP is transitioning to become the senior pastor at Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, TX. In his final message while on staff, he encourages us with nine things that he learned during his time serving Jesus at Watermark over the last 12-years.

Key Takeaways

Walk in the light

  • There is freedom when you walk in the light.
  • You don’t need to hide any longer. Your life can be an open book. You can walk in the light.

Avail yourself to the work of God

  • “God is going to do something amazing today, I pray that we would be so faithful that He’d use us.” -Todd Wagner
  • If God is for you, who can be against you?

The Bible is our blueprint

  • Whatever God wants to build in our lives and this church, the instruction is here.
  • We are just going to do whatever the Bible says. We are going to apply it to our lives.
  • There is no “Watermark way.” There is God’s way as revealed in His Word, the Bible. We are firm where it is firm and flexible where it is flexible.

Every conflict is an opportunity

  • We don’t break or fake peace, we make peace.
  • When there is an explosion, everyone runs away except the people who have been trained to deal with the explosion—we are those people. Run toward the explosion of conflict.

Reject gossip

  • The 24-hour rule. If someone says something to you about someone else, you give them 24-hours to tell the person before you do.
  • A way that we heal conflict—or prevent it all together—is to not tolerate gossip.

Minister through people not to people

  • You are the pastors of this church. It’s not built around a personality or a staff team.
  • You are this church! You don’t go to church, you are the church. You don’t like your church, you are the church.
  • Some of my favorite pastors aren’t on staff, but they are leading ministries here.

Authentic community is forged not found

  • Everyone is looking for a great community group—but you don’t find it, you work for it. It’s a lot of work—just like all relationships.
  • Here’s a secret: everyone’s community group is hard.
  • You’re not just looking for buddies. Stay with it much longer than you want to.

Reach the next 100

  • If you are about the things Jesus is about you have to be about the lost.
  • I leave you with this powerful question: “Do you have a faith?” Ask it early. Ask it often.

Keep worshiping

  • This is all about Jesus.
  • “Have a great week of worship” is not just a cliche way to end a church service. It is the way to live your entire life.
  • It wasn’t until he was fully submissive to his master that he found freedom for the first time. This is one of the greatest paradoxes of the Christian faith...freedom comes through submission.

Walk in the light

Avail yourself to the work of God

The bible is our blueprint

Every conflict is an opportunity

Reject gossip

Minister through people not to people

Authentic community is forged not found

Reach the next 100

Keep worshiping

Questions for Reflection, Discussion, and Application

  • Which of the nine things that JP shared do you have the most room to grow in? Share this with your community group, and ask them to help you come up with one way you can grow in the thing you identified.
  • Is your life an open book? Do people have the freedom to ask anyone, anything, at any time about your life?
  • Is your community group hard? Are you willing to put in the hard work and amount of time it takes to forge a great community group? What’s one way you can invest into your community group in the next week?

Watermark, how are we doing? I'm so pumped to be with you today, so excited to get to share some of the things I've learned from God's Word with you. I want to start by introducing you to someone who stumbled into this place 16 years ago, hung over, smelling like smoke, sitting on the back row. It's this guy right here. It's the one at the far left. I wouldn't trust that guy. He was a lot of things in that moment in life, but one thing he certainly was not was a pastor. In fact, I'll go one more just for fun. There you go. If you're going to ride a motorcycle, wear flip-flops. Everybody knows that.

You think about coming into this place, mind blown. We met at a high school at the time, Lake Highlands. There was so much off in my life, so many addictions, materialism, kind of everything wrong with Dallas in a person, and just wrestling with this idea of "Who is God?" Sixteen years later, last weekend I find myself in a greenroom in a church in Waco with my Community Group and my family. We're circled up with our children, and we're praying as the congregation is voting, determining if they want me to be their lead pastor or not, and it's like, "How did we get here?"

Someone came up and asked, "Hey, where did you go to seminary?" I welled up with pride, not to say that I haven't but to say that I've been to the best seminary that humbly I believe is on the planet earth, the most incredible education one could receive over the past 12 years. I've learned from you guys. I've learned from leaders here. I'm so incredibly thankful for you. It has been an unbelievable privilege to serve in a number of roles here, last of which is the campus pastor of this place.

As I look out there, I see people I love and care about, people who are near to my heart. This is the seminary I've been to, so that's what I want to share with you today: nine things I've learned while serving Jesus here at Watermark. It's certainly not an exhaustive list, but I want you to know we're going to miss this church greatly, tremendously. In so many ways, it has felt the past several weeks like our hearts are being ripped out. I, as the leader of our family, am ripping our hearts away from this place.

Before I go, I want to teach you the lessons I've learned over the past 12 years. You don't have to come on staff for 12 years to learn these lessons. All you need to do for the next few minutes is open your heart and mind. I pray that you would write them down, both the points, the ideas, as well as the corresponding Scriptures that go with them.

I want you to know that Todd is about to do a series I'm really excited for you guys to hear that will expound on many of these ideas, a series called How He Built This, but today I want to share with you the things I've learned over the last 12 years being here on staff. Some of them are going to be wisdom principles. Some of them are going to be in command form. There will be nine of them.

1._ Walk in the light._ There are some of you who came in here today with things you think you're going to take to the grave, things you don't have any plans to tell anyone. You say, "That's an aspect of my life I'm going to continue to hide from people." I understand that, because I was that person as I sat on that back row. I have found such incredible freedom as I've seen the leadership here say, "Hey, there's nothing in my life that I'm afraid to be found out."

I was that guy when I came to this place that I might answer the phone in a different voice, not knowing who it was. Was it an ex-girlfriend or an ex-girlfriend's boyfriend? I just found such freedom. So much so that through this transition someone had written an anonymous letter about me with some accusations, bringing accusations against me. They wrote it to some of the congregation there at Harris Creek, the church we're going to.

Appropriately they called, and I immediately put my phone on speaker. I called my wife over. I said, "Hey, I want you to hear this." When they finished reading the letter I said, "Hey, I want you to know that's not true. Thank you for coming to me, and you're welcome to explore or inspect any avenue of my life. Anyone who knows me… You're welcome to look at my phone, my computer, my search history, my email, anything you need to know."

At that moment I thought, "What has God done over the past 12 years to get to this place of freedom?" It's such a beautiful place. In our lives, because of what we learned in this church, there are people close to us who know what we make, what we give, what we spend, what we care about…everything. There's nothing to hide. So walk in the light.

First John 1:7-9 says, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." You don't need to hide any longer. You can walk in the light and find the same freedom I have.

2._ Avail yourself to the work of God._ As Todd has said a number of times, I believe God is going to do something amazing today, and I pray he would see us as so faithful he might choose to use us. I believe God is going to do something incredible today, and I pray that our hearts would be so fully devoted to him he might choose to do that amazing work through us. It comes from 2 Chronicles 16:9. "For the eyes of the Lord go to and fro, ranging throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."

Through this transition I've been sad, I've been excited, and I've been scared. In a low moment the other day, I'm sitting on the couch, and my 9-year-old daughter is on the other couch. I'm staring off into space as I'm just feeding my fears and becoming overwhelmed at the idea of being in a new city with new schools and a new community and not knowing a lot of people and a new church and anticipating the problems.

My daughter sensed the tension in the room from my thoughts, and she just says, "Daddy, how are you feeling?" I said, "Honestly, really, really scared." Which is kind of funny looking back on it, because it's Waco. It's not Afghanistan. But really, really scared. Then there were another couple minutes of silence. I thought she had moved on to the next thing. She breaks the minutes of silence. She says, "Daddy, I just don't get it." I said, "What? What don't you understand?"

She said, "I mean, if God is with you and Mommy is with you and Presley and Weston and I'm with you, what do you have to be scared about?" The words of a 9-year-old. She could have stopped at "If God is with you…" If God is for us who can be against us? If God is doing something, moving us, and we walk in obedience, then what do we have to be afraid of? As you avail yourself to the work of God and walk in the light… What I've seen God do…

I've seen him take girls who had abortions and create ministries to girls who had abortions. I've seen parents with prodigals become pastors to parents with prodigals. I've seen sexual abusers become Christ's ambassadors. I've seen the same-sex attracted remain single and serve for the sake of the kingdom. I've seen drug addicts become recovery advocates, and I've seen pornographers become pastors as we avail ourselves to the work of God. It's just what he does.

So God is going to do something amazing today. I'm 100 percent, completely convinced that the best days of Watermark Community Church are ahead of us. He's going to do something incredible, and I pray that our hearts are so fully available to him he would continue to use us.

3._ The Bible is our blueprint_. Whatever God wants to build in your life and in this church, the instructions are right here. When I came to Lake Highlands, when I came to Watermark, we met at a high school in Lake Highlands at the time. I heard Todd stand up here and courageously say, "Hey, guys, we're just going to do what this book says. No matter how difficult it is, no matter what the world says, no matter the accusations they bring against us, we're just going to do what this book says."

As someone who called myself a Christian my entire life, I never really took time to know what it says, but it's really our blueprint. It kind of defines what we should do and gives our lives boundaries in the instruction it presents. So the first thing I did with my staff there in Waco… Because people say things I think to encourage you. "Man, you're going to go there and that church is going to blow up. It's going to grow. It's going to be big."

I just told them, "Hey, I want you to know I don't care if we're ever big. The crosshairs for me, the goal is not to be big; it's to be biblical." The reason I say that is because I'm a parrot. I just repeat what I hear great leaders say. The reason I repeat what I hear a great leader say is because he's repeating what he has heard a greater leader say, or at least what his Word says. So we can just repeat that and go on and on.

As we've said many times, there is no Watermark way; there's God's way as it's revealed through his Word, because 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." We're going to be firm where the Bible is firm and flexible where it is flexible.

4._ Every conflict is an opportunity._ Most people in the world see conflict as something to avoid, but you and I have been trained to the contrary. I have spent thousands of hours (real number; I did the math) over the past 12 years resolving conflict, which may sound dysfunctional to you, but that is to say I've spent thousands of hours investing in relationships; I've spent thousands of hours making disciples.

Through conflict, relationships can actually be strengthened if we approach it like the Word says and not like the world says. Conflict is an opportunity. An opportunity for what? For growth, for discipleship, to invest in relationships. There was a series here, The Lord of the Ring. How many of you were here for that series? Okay, some of you. It has been rebranded online as Conflict: A Constant Opportunity. I encourage you to listen to it.

You think about when there's an explosion in the world, everybody is running from that explosion. If somebody says, "Bomb!" everybody is running from that bomb except for the people who have been trained to deal with the explosion, to deal with the bomb. You are that person. We don't run from the conflict; we're moving toward it with our instruction to apply, to deal with it in a godly way. What does it say? Ephesians 4:3: "Be diligent [work hard at] preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Matthew 5 says if you go with your gift to the altar and realize someone has something against you, you leave your gift there. You run and be reconciled to that person. Matthew 18: If someone has sinned against you, you go to them and tell them. You talk to them about that. This is what this says. We don't peace fake. We don't fake peace. We don't break peace. As God's people, we make peace. Matthew 5:9 says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

5._ Reject gossip_. So many people in the world invite gossip in. We want to be entertained by it. We watch shows that are rooted in the reality of gossip to try to find out what the buzz is and who's saying what about who. Maybe you've been through this transition like, "I wonder what the real story is." I'm telling you the real story. It's one of God's incredible faithfulness from a church and leadership that I love so much. So we reject gossip.

A way we heal from conflict or prevent it altogether is to not tolerate gossip. A way that I've seen God, the Holy Spirit, breathe health into this place is with something called the 24-hour rule. How many of you know the 24-hour rule? Okay. You're about to learn it, and we're about to get healthier in a moment.

The 24-hour rule is simply that if someone comes up to you and says, "Hey, did you hear this about so-and-so?" or "Man, why did they…?" you would just say, "Hey, why are you talking to me about someone else? You need to go tell them. So what I'd like to do is give you 24 hours to do that or I can go with you if you haven't in 24 hours. We'll go together, but you need to tell them what you just told me."

You can imagine when I say that to other churches… You're picking their jaw off the floor. They're like, "What? We're going to do…" I remember learning that. We practice this as a staff. It's like, "Hey, do you guys think we should move that person into that role?" I remember sitting in a meeting like, "No, don't do that, because they're not organized and they're often late, and I just don't think they have the skills it takes to do that."

"Cool. Have you told them that?"

"No. I'm not going to hurt… I don't want to tear somebody down."

"Okay, great. You have 24 hours."

"Oh man, I was just kidding. No, they'll be great in that role."

So we don't talk about people; we talk to people. Ephesians 4:25-27 says, "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down…" This is the 24-hour boundary. "…while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."

What the 24-hour rule does is it makes gossip unsafe. It makes you unsafe for gossip, which is to say it makes you unsafe for evil, which is to say it makes you one step moving toward the righteousness of Christ. Proverbs 18:8 and 26:22 say, "The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts." They're like chocolate chip cookies. They taste good, but you can't live on them. They're unhealthy, and you're going to wear them.

6._ Minister_ through people, not to people. What we do as a staff is we train pastors. You're the pastors of this church. You start and lead the ministries of this church. You are the church. You don't goto church; you are the church. You don't like your church; you are the church. Some of my favorite pastors here at Watermark are not on staff with me, but they are leading ministries, because we equip ministers. That's what we do as a staff.

Let me show you from the Scriptures. Ephesians 4:11: "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…" It's funny what God uses to shift our lives in major ways. I went down there to Harris Creek. I was like, "Okay, I'm going to look at this." With the elders' permission and blessing, I went and talked to them.

Coming back, we get back in the car, load the family up, head back to Dallas. "I'm not going to do that. Why would I do…? The Porch, you know. This is national ministry. Watermark, the Church Leaders Conference, all that God is doing here. I get to be a member of the greatest staff on the planet earth. I believe all of these things. I work under the most incredible leadership. Why would I do that?"

My 9-year-old in the back seat again… She just said, "Daddy, of course you have to go pastor that church." I'm driving and am like, "Why would you say that? What are you talking about?" I said, "Why?" She said, "Because they don't have a pastor, and Watermark has a lot of pastors." I said, "I'm so sick of you." But she's right, because I'm looking at thousands of pastors right now.

It's why the best days are ahead of us, because as you come and contribute your gifts and talents, the things the Lord entrusted to you, as you walk through the good works which he has prepared in advance for you to walk through, this place just gets healthier and God continues to work through this in amazing ways. First Peter 2:9 says, "You are the royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God."

7._ Authentic community is forged, not found_. Serving on staff, I hear it all the time. "You know what? Yeah, I'm going to my group. We just don't click. We have our friends, and then we have our community. There are some people in the community who are not as…how do I say…spiritually mature as us. It kind of feels like we're dragging them along. I don't know that they're committed. We're thinking about leaving, looking for another group. There are some folks there who are really needy."

Everyone is looking for a great Community Group, but you don't find it, friends; you work for it. It's a lot of work. All relationships are a lot of work, and here's the secret: everyone's community is hard. If you don't like your group, raise your hand. No, I'm just kidding. Don't do that. I had to stop you, because some of you were ready. Let me just share with you, because I've been running with this group for 14 years. Let me walk back, unwind the tape.

Fourteen years ago, I walked into a living room, and I met three guys… There were four guys there. Three of them were engineers. They all graduated from Texas A&M, and they were like three clones of the same person. They all drove a white '92 Camry. I don't know if you just get that when you graduate from A&M or what. I was like, "This is so confusing." I didn't have anything in common. I pulled up in the Jaguar and the pinstripe suit and whatnot, and I'm just like, "Who are you?" I'm like, "I'm never going back to that."

Then the other guy was an attorney, and you can't trust attorneys. So I'm just thinking, "I'm so out on this." All I did… I kept going back, and then I would get in the car and say, "I'm never going back," and then I'd go back again, and I'm like, "I'm never going back." Really, for five years I didn't like those guys. Now, 14 years later, I'm still running with those guys. I'd tell you they're my best friends, but that's not weighty enough. They're my brothers and sisters in Christ.

God used them to make me the father I am, to save my marriage, to call me to vocational ministry. They've seen us in every season. One of them is like, "You're going to Waco. We're going to Waco." Who does that? They don't know anybody in Waco. They don't have family there. They're like, "You're going to strengthen the church. We're in on that. We'll go too." Who does that? Pray about it. I'm serious. Maybe.

You're not just looking for friends; you're forging toward something so much deeper, so much more real than just people you have fun with. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "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."

8._ We live to reach the next 100._ I must have heard Todd say it a hundred times. "The most important people of this church are the next 100. The most important people of this church are those who haven't gotten here yet, the next 100 to walk through the door." Then I came on staff, and I sat with the angry members of the body who said, "Wait a minute. What about us? What about equipping the saints? Are we not important?"

Then you begin to read the Scripture, and it says, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Then you turn to Acts 2:47 and you see that God was adding to their numbers daily those who were being saved, and the church was growing and the church was being strengthened. If we're to be about Jesus, then we're about what Jesus is about, which is about reaching the lost. That's what we care about. We're looking to those who don't know him and inviting them in. That's a high priority to all of us.

One of my most proud moments of being on staff here happened last week. A guy was at a gas station. A person came up and asked him if he had some spare change. They engaged in a conversation, and my friend said, "Let me ask you a question. Do you have a faith?" He said, "Why do people keep asking me that?" Then he goes, "Are you from Watermark?"

So I leave you with that very powerful question…Do you have a faith? Ask it early. Ask it often. If you love what God is doing here, you invite everyone you can into it, because he's changing lives here. In 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul writes, "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some."

9._ Keep worshiping_. This is all about Jesus. He's the one who died for our sins. He's the one who came back from the dead. He's the one whose Spirit lives with us. You might think worship is what we did before the message. That was worship through song, but worship is what you do with your life. In just a few minutes I'm going to say for the last time or Todd will say, "Have a great week of worship." I estimate that I've heard it over 500 times. I estimate that I've said it over three services over 200 times. "Have a great week of worship."

It's not just a cliché way to end the service; it's a vision for your life, to live as sacrifices. Romans 12:1 says, "Therefore, I urge you, in view of God's mercy, to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is true and proper worship." This is your spiritual act of worship: what you do not inside these walls but outside these walls. In addition to the way we worship corporately, that is your life of worship. This idea changed my life.

It's interesting that in my interview for Watermark 12 years ago they asked, "Why should we hire you?" I said, "You'd be crazy to. I'm not going to sell you on why you should hire me. I can tell you my story. In fact, all I know to do is to share my story." You look back on the past 12 years, and all I've done is shared my story. That's all I've really done here, over and over and over. You guys have heard it. "I stumbled in, hung over, sitting on the back row, smelling like smoke from the night before." Yada, yada, yada. Sharing my story.

It was one specific story the Lord used to capture my heart. I came into this place, and Todd was up here preaching. He told a story about a horse, a wild stallion. He said, "There was this horse, and it just wanted to be free. These local villagers and cowboys were trying to capture this horse, but the horse just wanted to be free. In its freedom it had to hunt for food and find water and find protection from the elements, the rain and the scorching sun.

One day, a cowboy successfully got a rope around the horse's neck, successfully captured the horse, and he took him home and loved him and cared for him and protected him and provided for him, and eventually he broke him. He was able to ride him, and when he would ride him he would lead him to food. He would lead him to water. He would provide protection from the elements for him."

It was this line right here the Lord used to open my heart: "It wasn't until he was fully submissive to his master that he truly experienced freedom for the first time." That's what God has done here in my life. He has brought me to a place to realize that freedom comes through submission, that victory comes through surrender.

So I want you to know I've not been to seminary like what most people think of as seminary, but I've been here for 12 years, and what I've learned is to walk in the light, to avail yourself to the work of God, that the Bible is our blueprint, that every conflict is an opportunity, to reject gossip, to minister through people not to people, how authentic community is forged not found, that we're to reach the next 100, and that we should keep worshiping. I'm so thankful for you people. I'm so thankful for this place. The seminary I've been to is Watermark. That's where I've been.

That story Todd told that day the Lord opened my heart… I later found out it's a children's book, Thunderhoof, so I bought it for him on his 50th birthday, and I wrote this: "Todd, this is a story, my story, of which you play the most important role. On January 19, 2003, you told an abbreviated version, and my heart held onto it at the Lord's beckoning. Then on January 1, 2006, nearly three years later, almost exactly, you invited me up to share parts of my story.

Todd, you believed in me when you shouldn't have. Frankly, the Lord has blessed me through your faithfulness and obedience. From you I've learned the important lessons of 'Trust and obey. The Lord always knows even if no one else does. Pharaoh never misses his Joseph. Humility looks good on everyone. Don't go somewhere; be sent' and 'We are not truly free until we are fully submissive to our master,' and so much more.

Todd, thank you so much for introducing me to my Master. The Lord used you to tame this horse, and he continues to use you to teach and instruct me. Dallas is better because of your faith in God. The kingdom is bigger because of God's work in and through you. I pray we run this race together until Jesus returns. I love you. JP." Would you guys welcome up my friend and pastor for 16 years, Todd?

Todd Wagner: This is not about JP this morning. It's not about me. It's about Jesus and his church. As I've told you before, seminary comes from the root word seminal, which means seed. It means it's the beginning. We say every week this is a pastors' conference. Watermark is one church, four campuses right now, thousands of locations, and everywhere you are God is supposed to be growing Jesus in you. That's what we love about our friend JP.

If he can take Danny Zuko… Do you know who that is? It's John Travolta in Grease. If he can take him and make him a guy that we're like, "Man, I want to learn more of Jesus from him," then I hope you get a picture of what God wants to do in you. He said it again today. We're a kingdom of priests. That's the goal.

I know you're out there. That guy who's annoying you, who's blowing by you on 75 on his crotch rocket and that you're frustrated by…that's your future pastor. Instead of being angry at him, you just want to go, "Lord, help me love him. Help me be committed, if I get a chance to engage with him, to ask him about his faith."

What JP has done in 16 years here is he has brought the Bible and the question… My Bible says that no student will be greater than his teacher. I have to tell you I love watching the Spirit of God work in this. This is my true child of the faith. I want to pray for him. He and I have prayed for you, and we're going to keep praying for you. We're going to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ at Harris Creek.

I couldn't care less about Harris Creek. I couldn't care less about Watermark. I care deeply about Jesus' church, and if Jesus' church is supposed to prevail every single place that it exists, it has to prevail here. It has to prevail in Harris Creek. This is who we are. We don't go to Watermark; we're the body of Christ who gathers here, and we have a great responsibility to one another.

When you avail yourself to what the Spirit of God does here, it produces something amazing and encouraging to many people. God gives you gifts here. Our job is to help you discover them, develop them, and deploy them for his glory. Look. I'm not happy about the fact that we don't get to do this right by each other anymore, but I've told him… I said, "Bro, just start heading north. When it grows to Waxahachie, we'll grow south to Waxahachie. We'll be doing it again."

Then hopefully it'll bounce that way and it'll go south toward the South Pole and north toward the North Pole. We'll loop around, we'll meet again, whatever is on the opposite side of the earth, with just the church of Jesus expanding. That's the goal. Every single week we scatter from here, a kingdom of priests, to make the church more of what it should be. So let's go, church.

We want to take a second and pray for this friend with you. I hope you're doing this every week in your Community Group. Every week when you guys get done as a community before you get back in your white Camrys I hope you sit and pray for each other as you scatter to start your church and your ministry this week until you gather again.

We want to pray for him now, and as my friends who serve with me come on up here, I'd encourage you to take a minute yourself. Pray for Jonathan and Monica. Pray for your Community Group. Pray that we'd be his church this week. Pray for friends you invited today. Pray for friends you're going to invite Christmas Eve, that they would have a faith and that their faith would produce Christlikeness. Be still. Let's pray quietly for a second.

Father, we pray for the body of Christ that's gathered here today and for this young man in particular, that the things he has heard in the presence of many witnesses these he would entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. I pray that no one will look down on his youthfulness but his speech, his conduct, his love, his faith, his purity would allow him to show himself an example among those who believe, that he would give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching, that he would be absorbed in these things and that his progress would be evident to all.

I pray he'd pay careful attention to himself and his teaching so that he would ensure salvation both for himself and for those who hear. I thank you, Lord, for his faithfulness, for the way he hasn't gone to church; he has been your faithful servant. He has listened to seminal truths. He has committed them to memory. He has developed the gifts you've given him, and I pray that he would kindle afresh those gifts and be a good steward of them.

I pray he would spur on thousands of people this morning who are watching what the Spirit of God can do in a man's life and go, "I want more of that." I pray that 16 years from now we'd have our hands on hundreds of them and that more men and women in this body would see the joy of walking with Jesus because they've seen the power of transformation that can happen.

I pray for young men who are out there in college. I pray for students who are out there. I pray for 60-year-olds who wonder if God can change them. I pray that in 16 months and 16 years they'd be more like Jesus because they see the power of God at work. Father, bless our friend. May he constantly abide with you. May he keep going to class every day in your Word, and may it spill out of him. When he's cut would he bleed Bible and would he bring glory to your Son who bled for us.

Male: Father, we with great joy celebrate what you've been doing in Jonathan and Monica's life these last 16 years. Thank you for how you called a lost, hurting, wandering soul and you made him a son and then you made him a communicator, a pastor of your Word to thousands. Thank you for the way he has stewarded his gifts, his passions, his energy to see the lost be found here at this local body. Thank you for what a gift JP has been to us.

Father, as we celebrate him heading south a little bit, we pray for Harris Creek, that you might prosper our brothers and sisters in Waco, that they might find themselves under JP's leadership wanting to be the church more and more. Father, we with joy release JP to Waco, that you would use his gifts and his talents and his heart for you in huge ways down there.

I do pray that he would know well the condition of the flock you are entrusting to him. I pray that you would surround him with godly leaders. I pray for the hundreds of things that have to happen between getting from Dallas to Waco, that you would go before them, that you would maintain oneness between he and Monica, that he would lead well as he has led well. Father, we thank you for this man.

I pray that as we look at JP and what you've done in his life that you would challenge our hearts to be more of who you called us to be, that we would seek you and work to abide with you daily as your Spirit convicts us and encourages us and challenges us and makes us more like your Son. Thank you for how well JP has modeled that for us here. We pray all of these things in the name of your Son who died for us, who conquered death. In his name, amen.


Todd: If you're here and you don't know that King we want to serve that way, would you please let us know how we can help you? I'm sure there are folks who invited you here who can help you. But if you know him, have a great week of worship. God bless you guys. Let's go.