Biblical Not Big: A Commitment to Measure Our Success by Our Ability to Be and Make Disciples

How He Built This

From the very beginning of Watermark we said that if we are biblical, who cares how big we get. The Bible is our authority, it is our conscience, and it is our guide. We are firm where it is firm, and we are flexible where it is flexible. God built this—His church—on the teaching of His Word.

Todd WagnerJan 20, 20191 Peter 2:9-12; Luke 28:10:38-42; Ezekiel 33:30-33; Hebrews 13:17; John 6:26-27; John 6:29; John 6:64-67; 2 Kings 22-23:2


From the very beginning of Watermark we said that if we are biblical, who cares how big we get. The Bible is our authority, it is our conscience, and it is our guide. We are firm where it is firm, and we are flexible where it is flexible. God built this—His church—on the teaching of His Word.

Key Takeaways

  • If dependence is the goal, then weakness is an advantage.
  • Christians are not a perfect people, but they have been perfectly provided for by Christ.
  • When you are busily serving Jesus, you can quickly turn into someone you don’t want to be and are danger of doing four things: 1) Accuse God of indifference and incompetence, 2) Attribute laziness to others and arrogantly accuse them of not loving God as much as you do, 3) Act like you are the only one doing anything that should impress God, and 4) Assume the throne.
  • Jonathan Edwards started his famous resolutions with these two: 1) I will live for God, and 2) If no one else does, I will.
  • Don’t like what God does for you, like who He is and what His Word says.
  • Don’t let grumbling misguide you. Just because people are grumbling doesn’t mean you aren’t doing what God wants.
  • Let the Word of God be your guide even if it costs you disciples.
  • Don’t look to be popular...look to be faithful! Pastors who work to get crowds work for food that perishes.
  • Has anyone ever said to you that you are too biblical?
  • The only way to have something to show for your journey on earth is to be about the business of heaven.
  • We don’t call the shots. God does! This life is not about us; it’s about Him.

Questions for Reflection, Discussion, and Application

  • Has anyone ever said to you that you are too biblical? Think about the person in your life that knows, speaks, and lives out God’s Word more than anyone else. Reach out and tell them! After you encourage them, resolve to imitate them as they imitate Christ.
  • The next time you read the Bible, finish your time by writing a one-sentence application of how you are going to live out—within the next 24-hours—what you just read.
  • Do you want to grow in your understanding and application of God’s Word? Sign up for and join us at Equipped Disciple.
  • Suggested Scripture study: 1 Peter 2:9-12; Luke 10:38-42; 2 Kings 22:1-23:3; Ezekiel 33:1-9,30-33; John 6:26-29,60-69; Hebrews 13:17; Ephesians 4:1-13; Acts 20:26-35
  • Sermon: The Bible
  • Sermon Series: How He Built This

Welcome, Watermark. How are we doing? It's awesome to be together. It's good to have our friends online with us, as well as all of the campuses. It's awesome especially just to be here present with those I'm present with. Before we dive into this fun series we're working on, I just want to do something to kind of clean up a little bit from last week. I heard from two friends. One was a personal phone call. The other was an email and actually another conversation that went with the email that I just want to share with you.

First of all, my buddy Amy was one of the stories I shared about the amazing grace and work of God. Amy is a beautiful friend of mine with red hair who was up here, and we talked about how God had miraculously pulled her out of a life of real brokenness. She grew up in a home where she was tragically sexually abused, and then, without love and affirmation in a healthy way from men, she continued to give herself over to ways that she felt really valued by having men be attracted to her through the sex industry.

For her, it was pornography and videos and things like that. I talked about how God brought her to her senses when a phone call came to her where a guy specifically offered her tens of thousands of dollars to come and have her spend a weekend with him. I don't think I was clear, at least in one of the services, about the fact that she did not take that phone call.

Amy just called me and said, "Hey, Todd, I had some friends come to me." She said, "Had I done that, had I done that for years, it wouldn't have changed anything about how God loves me, and I wouldn't have been any more grateful for grace or ashamed of the grace I needed had that happened, but I'm wide open about my story, and it hurt some of my friends who came to me and said, 'Amy, I didn't realize that was a part of your story.'"

She said, "Well, it wasn't. Todd was just a little not careful with his words." I asked her forgiveness. Amy and I both said we wanted to make sure she was really clear about the fact that it didn't bother her other than it kind of confused her community. So I asked her and her husband forgiveness for not being more clear, but Amy wanted me to say we have friends, members of this body, who have made those decisions. Amy's story is one of many.

She doesn't believe she's more able to approach God because she didn't do certain things or that her story is any less valuable to God because she hadn't. So I just went, "Amy, let me correct that as publicly as I messed up that clarity so your friends can know you haven't held back anything from them and we can just celebrate the grace of God." What's interesting is I also got another email. I actually had a guy walk up to me after the first service and say something to me.

This was an email from somebody who's just attending who isn't a part of our body yet who said, "Hey, do I belong at Watermark? Every story around here is amazing and dramatic, and I feel like if I wasn't living in a gutter, addicted to crystal meth, in jail for six years and surviving this that my story is not worth celebrating." My friend walked up to me and goes, "Look, I'm glad you said that, because my parents fed me when I was little, and they loved me and didn't leave me, and I know I need Jesus."

I want to tell you I think the most amazing stories of grace we have here, I think the most radical testimony that could exist in the world today… Maybe like my kids. You grew up in a home where your parents loved each other and loved you. You didn't have a father wound, because your dad was present and taught you about the kindness of God, yet in the midst of the covenant of grace that was over you, you came to a point in your own life somewhere where you realized the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Whether you're Mary Magdalene or a prostitute or whether you're a leper or a Gerasene demoniac or somebody who, by and large, has been moral in the world's perspective, you need a Savior. The fact that you have found your desperate need for the grace of God despite the fact that you don't have many scars to show for it is a miracle of grace. Even the Watermark News story this week… An old Puritan pastor said, "Until sin is bitter, salvation will never be sweet."

The miracle of grace is that some of you who don't have deep scars, who haven't drank deeply from the bitter waters of sin are still aware of the bitter sin in your life and your great need for Jesus. I just had a chance to go, "Yeah, I'm not trying to conflate a story, and I'm not trying to act like this story isn't amazing. What a testimony that because God's grace was on you through others early you have been freed from bondage to sin that reigned in you until you became a servant of Christ." That's a story, and if that's your story, celebrate it to the glory of God. Let's pray.

Father, I thank you so much that you love us all, those of us who have experienced kindness through you in the context of a believing community from early ages, where we then personally made it our own; that you didn't become a shepherd for others but you became our shepherd, our Savior. I thank you for the grace that's on those people.

I thank you for the grace that's available to so many of us who have made tragic decisions, who were left vulnerable because we weren't taught and weren't loved or because we rebelled against the love we were given, and we have scars, and the bitterness of sin wasn't just an aftertaste; it was our constant taste.

Then you reminded us that we're yours if we'll just come home, and you ran to us in grace and slaughtered the fatted calf. Help us, Lord, to know that the cross is ours, each of us, and that you are good. If there is anyone here who has not yet understood that you love them and want to be their God not a god, would that just become clear today? Thank you for what you're teaching us. Thank you for a chance to celebrate you together. In Jesus' name, amen.

We're doing a series called How He Built This, and it's important that you catch this. How he, God… It's not how we built this. Get your pronouns straight. This is not a work of any man, not a work of any one group of people. We've been talking about three different things. We've talked about how abiding dependence upon God is how this has happened. We believe it's his power mightily working within us that has created this amazing community of friends who are a source of grace to others.

We believed God was going to do something great through us and through anybody whose hearts were completely his. So as we celebrated last week, this is what it means to have a heart that's completely his and to believe God is still alive and doing radical things that will glorify his Son and help people today, and we're living in the middle of it. Today, we're going to talk about the third way he built this with this certain, specific mindset that, frankly, marked our lives.

We have one job. We've always believed we have one job, and we have been focused on that one job and haven't cared about how it was received when we did this one job. He built this because from the very beginning we have been committed to faithfulness, not success. We have been committed to being biblical, not big. We had one job. When you hear me say, "You have one job," it should probably immediately thrust into your mind's eye the memes that go out there.

Have you ever seen these? "You had one job, and you didn't do your one job." When you see somebody who didn't do the one job they had and it's so straightforward and simple it's tragic. Here's one. This guy had one job: put the round buns in the hamburger bun bag. The long skinny ones? Those are hot dog buns. He had one stinkin' job. How about this? Make a medal for us so we can celebrate the winner. Unless it's a drinking contest, this is not a good medal.

You had one job. Let's help people make their way down the staircase safely. They're not going to spend six years on each staircase where they get progressively taller, so you don't need to build it that way. They move quickly down through this. You had one job: lay the bricks down in a way that makes some sense. On this one you can extend the guy some grace. He's like, "Okay, there's a little puzzle here. Can we figure it out?"

It was his only job. You'd think he'd figure it out, but apparently bricklaying is much harder than we all realize. Maybe that job is not as easy as I think. You had one job: put the cheese on the burger. That's where it goes. We don't need to see that it's a cheeseburger. We'll know that because we'll mark it on the outside. You had one job. I love this one. Let the people know they can't park here. Don't say this is the "frie" lane. If they park here, they're all going to die and burn.

I love those, and there are so many. I'm going to show a little self-control because I have one job, which is to preach the Word, not to make you laugh and look at endless memes. But we have one job, and from the beginning we knew what that job was. That job was to serve our King and to be servants and stewards of the mysteries of God. First Peter 2:9-12 tells us who we are. We are a specific group of people. We have a job, and we are part of something.

That something is we are a chosen race. God said to you, people who know God and know their need for a Savior, who by the grace of God have come to the understanding that even though they've done crazy things they're loved or even though they've grown up in a covenant of grace they need to accept the love of God… We are a chosen people. We're part of something, a chosen tribe, a chosen race. That's who we are.

We are called, it says, to be a royal priesthood, which means you're a part of something and you're to do something. You're to be a community of priests. I say this all the time. Every week, we gather together the church of God. We don't go to church; we gather the church, all of us who believe, and we are a group of priests. We're pastors of one another, servants of Christ, stewards of the mystery of God.

This is a pastors' conferring, and we're equipping and reminding ourselves of the greatness of our God and remembering how to respond to him. You are part of something to do something, and then a holy nation in a very specific way, and we are here for a specific reason, and that is to proclaim his excellencies and tell of the one who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, the Scripture says.

So we knew we had one job because we are part of something to do something in a specific way for a specific reason, and that one job of ours was to focus on being biblical and not big, to define success not by those who attended our services or who contributed to it with their lives or their time or their talent or their treasure but to get people to be consecrated to their King, to follow him. Not to attend religious services but to tend to the business of God's people.

We didn't really care how successful it was. We didn't want to get a bunch of people attending religious services or busily involving themselves in religious activities. We wanted to call them to be disciples. We said we were going to measure our success by our ability to be and make disciples, and we weren't going to worry about how many disciples there were, because we knew that big was neither good nor bad; it just was. Big isn't good. Small isn't good. Good is good, and we were focused on that from the very beginning.

There is a story in Scripture in Luke, chapter 10, verses 38-42, where Jesus is interacting with a couple of friends of his. They were sisters, one named Martha, one named Mary. You may be fairly familiar with it. I'm going to read it to you, and I'm going to show you what happens if you are an individual who doesn't get the one thing you need to do right, if you get things out of order, if you mis-prioritize religious activity with, if you will, religious affection. You can be religiously busy, you can be religiously attending something and not be the people of God.

You cannot have religious affections and not be a doer of the Word, but a lot of folks are really happy with religious activity and religious affections, and I'm going to show you the problem with that. We wanted to make sure we were people who loved God and because we loved God we loved and served others and loved one another and called each other to be everything God wants us to be: a holy nation who proclaim his excellencies, both in life and in lesson, both in lecture and in living. That's what God has called us to.

Watch this. Here's the story. " [Jesus] entered a village…" We know that village is Bethany by reading other places. "…and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with [activity to impress Jesus] …" She was trying to prepare everything to make him all impressed with what she did, because she wanted to welcome and host him.

"…and she came up to Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.'" Jesus responded and said, "Martha, Martha, why are you worried and bothered about so many things? There's only one thing that is necessary. Mary has chosen the good part, and I'm not going to take it away from her."

Jesus is saying to us right here that we shouldn't be concerned with the busyness of ministry but the presence of abiding, and if we do abide… You're going to find out that Mary did a lot of things and Martha later became an abider, but sometimes we get that priority messed up. Not only that. I think church leaders are sometimes satisfied with the former and not the latter. They just want attendance and not people attending.

I'm going to give you four things that happen when you make religious activity or religious attendance a bigger deal than relationally abiding with Jesus. Here's what happened. It says Martha came to Jesus and said, "Lord, do you not care…?" The first thing that happens is you'll accuse God of indifference, because you've been told that if you're busy doing what God wants you to do things are going to go well with you. There's going to be health for you. There's going to be wealth. Your ministry is going to prosper. Your acclaim will prosper.

You say, "God, how come all of these things aren't happening to me in the way I want them to? God, you're incompetent to note who really loves you, because look at all I'm doing." Again, activity is good. We are not to be merely hearers who delude ourselves but to be doers of the Word, but if you're a doer without abiding and understanding why you do it… We are not people who are performance-based acceptance people; we are acceptance-based performers.

We do what we do because of the love of God, not because we're trying to impress God. We want people to attend the gathering of the saints, not because it makes me feel good that you're here but because it's how you're reminded of what you should do, not when you gather in my presence but when we scatter and abide with the presence of the King.

Secondly, she said, "My sister has left me." Not only will you accuse God of indifference and incompetence; you'll start to attribute to others laziness or arrogantly accuse them of not loving God as much as you do because you're doing all of these things. You don't ever miss church. You dutifully tithe 10 percent. You care for people out there.

But if there's not a deep abiding, if there is not a focus on being a biblical Christian, not a doer, not somebody who says, "My works are enough," but somebody who says, "My walk with you is everything…" When you walk with Christ, you can't help but work in the way he would work. The call to being biblical and not just religious activity is a thing that is here.

If you're not careful to get this order correctly, you'll accuse God of indifference or incompetence and you'll attribute to others laziness or arrogantly see yourself as somebody who loves God more than others. Watch what she says next. She goes, "I'm doing all the serving alone." Which is you'll act like you're the only one doing anything that should impress God. "Look at what I'm doing. Isn't this amazing? I don't miss church. I don't stream; I come."

Then look at the last thing she says. "Then you, Jesus, God and Lord, tell her to help me." You will assume the throne and start giving orders to God. "God, if you had any sense, you would do things the way I want you to do them." Listen, gang. The thing that built this church was God in his grace reminding us that what he wanted from us was for us to be concerned not with religious activity or religious attendance but for us to abide with him and to attend as an overflow of that to his good works. We were committed to being biblical and not big.

Jonathan Edwards, who was one of the more famous American pastors and was a part of the Great Awakening, is famous for his resolutions. His resolutions were times that he sat down before the Lord and said, "I'm going to be about these things." It grew to well over 70 during his lifetime. The very first resolution he ever wrote down was this one: "I will live for God." Then he said, "My second resolution is if no one else does, I still will. I don't care if nobody else wants to live for God; I still will, and I will call people to be biblical Christians, not to come to my church."

What's interesting is as Jonathan Edwards did this, he was actually fired from his church. This most famous of American pastors, this great prophet of God was fired from his church. They dismissed him. They said, "We don't want you leading us anymore," and they went and got a teacher in accordance with their own desires. Does that sound familiar? Can I just tell you this? He built this with a group of folks, and he has added to it with now thousands more folks who think this way.

Our job is not to make this place bigger; our job is to make this place biblical. We are going to measure our success by our ability to be and make disciples. Faithfulness equals success. It's interesting. When Jesus was here on earth, he said, "I'm going to call you twelve to follow me. I'm going to grow it down to eleven, and these eleven will change the world."

Today, pastors are so concerned… I think this is the problem with the church in America today. So many people are concerned with size and growth and podcasts and followers. What Jesus says is, "Just be concerned with me and doing my business. Do it as loving as you can, but you make sure you do exactly what I've asked you to do. If it grows, fine. If it doesn't grow, keep sowing the seed of the Word."

Some people would say, "Listen, man." In fact, early on in my ministry, as God allowed us to start to do some things that were being affirmed, I called the leaders together and said, "Let's evaluate what we're doing and how we can improve it." There was an elder in the room who actually raised his hand. Not here. He said, "I'll tell you the first thing we're going to do. We're not going to change anything, because this thing is crackin'. Look at it. It's growing. It went from 30 to 2,000. We're not going to change anything."

I just said to him, "Let me ask you a quick question. Maybe we don't, but I want to understand why you think we shouldn't change anything. I'm concerned that because we've added 1,970 people over the last six months you think this is working. We're not to measure our success by size; we're to measure our success by our ability to be and make disciples." It was the beginning of a long conversation that got me to a place where I realized maybe it would be wise to start something somewhere with everybody who thought that way.

This week I flew to DC. I was up there doing some stuff with the whole life issue, and I had a chance to encourage other leaders and strategize together how we could improve what we're doing. I also then spent some time with a good friend of mine who has an amazing church up there a stone's throw from the Supreme Court Building, two stones' throw from the Capitol Building. It's about a 1,000-member church. It has been around for over 100 years. He has only pastored it for like 25, but it's an amazing work of God.

They have a residency much like we do, and I was up there to spend some time with them and him talking about church planting and the responsibility of shepherds of those particular people who gather in a church. Now some of those young people who were getting ready to start didn't know who I was, didn't know much about us and what we were a part of together. My buddy Mark, in the midst of talking to them about what the job of the church gathered was and what the job of leadership was, the mature believers in the church…

He said, "Todd, some people say we're too big (there are 1,000 people here) and that there's no way we should be a church of 1,000 if we're serious about really shepherding the flock of God among us. What do you say to that?" Before I could say anything, a couple of those guys go, "Yeah. We think he's right on the edge, because you can't have 1,000 people and be… That's right on the edge. We're not really sure." What they didn't realize was they were in the room with somebody who had 20 times that, in effect.

I go, "Well, let me ask you a question, Mark. Has anybody ever said this to you? 'Hey, Mark, your church is too biblical.'" What does size have to do with it? The Scripture doesn't say, "Hey, go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe everything I've commanded you, up to about 60 people, and then you're done. Stop right there. Then you need to find somebody else who's going to take care of the rest, but I think probably, with another couple of elders, you can handle 60 people, so go and make disciples up to 60." Is that what it says? No, that's not what my Bible says.

My Bible just says you need to be about disciple making. Listen, guys. Not everything that grows is good. Everything that grows is alive. If you want to come hang out in my front yard this spring, there will be things growing in my front yard called weeds that are very alive and rapidly advancing. Just because they're growing, I don't think they're good. I've had cancer cells in my body, and they were growing and multiplying rapidly, and it wasn't good. Just because something is big or growing doesn't mean it's good; it means it's alive.

Big isn't good. Small isn't good. Good is good, and we were convinced of that. That is why we have been consumed with this idea of "Are we doing what Jesus wants us to do?" Some people have said, "Well, Todd, I have to tell you something. You're calling people to be biblical Christians in Dallas, Texas. In Dallas, Texas, there's nothing but churches, and you're crazy if you think you can call people to biblical Christianity in North Texas and have folks go. They will leave your church so quickly and go someplace else where folks will let them just come and sit and listen."

I just said to them, "Good. Let their blood be on somebody else's hands. I'm not trying to grow numbers; I'm trying to grow people. Let them see pastoral growth. Let them see the work of God in the lives of the members, and because those members are going to walk with God, I bet you they're going to be reproducing people like their kind, because they'll talk about the excellencies of God and the scars he has healed and the grace he has had them come into, and there are all kinds of people who want to know about scar healing and grace giving. I bet you it grows, but let's teach them to observe everything he has commanded."

Most churches fail at this. I'll talk about the deal. I talk about it a lot. I'll say it in just a minute. This has not been a new problem; this has been a problem for a long time. In Ezekiel, chapter 33, God is talking to the prophets of Israel, specifically to Ezekiel. He said, "Ezekiel, I'm just going to remind you what your job is. This is your job. You're a watchman. You're to keep your eyes out for error and that which threatens people. If this holy nation that is called by me and chosen by me doesn't walk with me and do the things that will lead to life, they're not going to experience life, so you have to tell them when they're not life-giving people walking with the life-giving God."

He uses this illustration: "You're like a watchman on the wall, and if you tell the people that trouble is coming and they don't listen to you, then when the trouble comes their blood will be on their own hands, but if, because you don't want to be an alarmist and don't want to bother them and stir them up, you just tell them what they want to hear even though you know they need to hear something else, then trouble will still come to them, but their blood will be on your hands."

God built this with us being convinced that we should be faithful watchmen and not really be concerned about how people heard what we said. Now we want to make sure we say it well and not make the way we say it the problem, but we want to say it. We are servants of God and stewards of the mysteries of Christ. That's how he built this. At the very end of that same chapter, Ezekiel 33, God tells Ezekiel, "You're going to do your job, but I'm just going to warn you and remind you that not everybody is going to like it, and that's okay. You still stay about it." This is what it says in Ezekiel 33:30-33:

"But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, 'Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord.' They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them…"

Remember the problem with Martha? She got it wrong. She was doing things, but she did not sit before the Lord. She was earning her way and was busy trying to impress God with her activity. She was religiously active but did not have relational affection with God. There wasn't a love for him. There was a need to impress him and perform for him. That's dead religion. But then there are other people who say, "Oh, let's listen to what they say, but let's not do it." That is not faith that lives. It's dead faith. It's not faith at all. So God said to Ezekiel:

"They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them."

"Hey, maybe there's nothing you can do about it, but make sure, Ezekiel, that you keep calling them to listen, to act, to speak truth, to admonish, to remind, to rebuke, to encourage, to call, to admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, and help the weak." Don't just want them to keep running your album. Don't want them to listen to your podcast. Don't just have them go, "Our teacher is orthodox." Call them to orthopraxy.

Don't just have good doctrinal statements. Don't be satisfied they all fill up your buildings and go, "Good, teaching, sir. Good teaching." Call them to be faithful abiding works of God, for they are his workmanship. Meaning, the people of God are his workmanship. They were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which he prepared before them, that they should walk in them. Don't cut a deal with them.

Don't just say to them, "Come and listen to me and validate me as a great orthodox pastor or even as a winsome communicator of the Word of God and give me enough money to keep the lights on and build more buildings, put more butts in seats, and have a greater budget, and I won't ask too much of you, and we'll both tell each other we're doing what God wants us to do." God did not build this church with that mindset, and no true biblical church is built that way. We don't cut a deal. We run hard after God.

I think about a guy I read named Archibald Brown who followed a guy named C.H. Spurgeon as pastor. Spurgeon is still called the prince of preachers. He is the standard by which all preaching is measured still to this day. Spurgeon was so effective at what he did, even in what was increasingly godless England, he became a pastor of a megachurch. They had to build a bigger and bigger community for folks to gather to hear the Word of God.

There were multiple times that Spurgeon would tell people, "Hey, listen. If you're here today and you know the grace of God and are abiding with him and are about the work of God, I'm going to ask you to get up right now and leave, because the Internet is not invented yet and nobody can stream online and there are thousands of people who I think don't know the Lord who need to come in here and hear the message I'm about to give," and the room would empty and fill again.

So here's a guy who's going to follow that. You're kind of like, "Okay. I'm going to follow that? I have to make sure I don't lose people, because I don't want to be the guy who let Spurgeon's church dwindle." Here's the only problem: it wasn't Spurgeon's church. What Spurgeon was doing, though, was preaching the Word of God and calling people to a life of obedience and fellowship with one another.

He was talking to a very specific people that were a part of something to do something in a specific way for a specific reason. Archibald Brown essentially said to preachers, "Listen to me. As you get ready to fill pulpits or you follow someone like I did, cease to amuse, but instead, seek to arouse. Shun the clap of a delighted audience and listen for the sobs of convicted ones." I don't think Archibald Brown was just telling that to other pastors.

I think he was reminding himself, "I don't want to be as winsome as Spurgeon, as illustrative as Spurgeon. I don't want to amuse people. I maybe won't be able to do it the way he did it. Not as many people will maybe want to come to my services, but I want to tell you this. When they come, I don't want to live for the clap of delighted audiences; I want to listen for the sobs of convicted men who hear me when I warn them of the dangers of life without God."

I have to tell you something. When I communicate, I want to entertain you. I do. I mean that, like, really. The word entertainment means to hold somebody's attention. That's literally what the word entertainment means, and I want to do that. Now you might say, "Hey, bro, if that's your one job, you're not doing a great job. You're missing the burger with the cheese." That might be your view, but I will just tell you I seek to hold your attention. It's a sin to bore people with the Word of God, but I don't want to amuse you. I never want to amuse you.

I agree with Brown. "Cease to amuse, and seek to arouse." Amusement literally means… To muse is to think. A in front of any word means it's not that thing. When you go to an amusement park, you go there to not think. That's what an amusement park is. Right? You just kind of check out mentally. That's why they can charge you $80 to stand in line for three hours to ride a three-minute ride while you stand next to sweaty people in awkward halter-tops. Clearly you're not thinking if you do that.

So when you come here, I want you to think, but I want to hold your attention while we're talking about the only thing that matters: the living Word of God which leads to life. So I love the words of Archibald Brown. Again, size is not the thing. There's another guy, not related to Archibald, who was a pastor also in the eighteenth century. His name was John Brown. He also had a residency and some students who came through his ministry.

There was a young man in his ministry who had been ordained to take over a small congregation, and this is what John Brown wrote to him: "I know the vanity of your heart and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Jesus Christ, at his judgment seat, you will think you have had [plenty] enough."

That's a good word, and it comes right out of Hebrews 13:17, where it says, "These are your leaders who love you, and if they're biblical leaders you should listen to them, because they keep watch over your souls as somebody who will give an account." Can I remind you of something? We are a kingdom of priests. While that has application to me, it has application to you. This is a pastors' conference, and we are equipping the saints for the work of service.

The Scripture says each one of us will give an account for the work we have done. Your job isn't just to attend; your job is to tend to one another. Jesus said to his disciples, "Do you love me? Then feed my sheep. Do you love me? Then tend my lambs. Do you love me? Don't just come to listen to the shepherd speak. Be a shepherd."

Get in the busyness of life together, encouraging the fainthearted, admonishing the unruly, helping the weak, being patient with all men. It's what we do. Godly leaders don't care how big their church gets; they care how big your heart is for God. As you think about your life this week, has that been your concern with those around you? Do you want to be more popular or do you just go, "No, I want others' hearts to be big for God"?

In doing this, in being that kind of person, you'll be like Jesus. Jesus was always concerned about the hearts of people. So much so that when people followed him and his ministry was becoming increasingly popular, he wanted to make sure it wasn't just growing. He didn't think with his mind and say, "I don't know what we need to change, but we're not going to change much, because these miracles and the things I'm doing in front of people are really working."

John 6. This is right after the feeding of the 15,000. Why? The Bible says 5,000. The Bible was produced in its day and age. They counted adult men. We know there were women there. We know there were children there, so it was probably 15,000 people. He fed them with five loaves and two fish, and the people were like, "That dude is something right there. He feeds us, and we didn't have to work very hard. We listen to religious messages and we eat. Let's follow him some more." So they did.

Jesus says to them in chapter 6, verse 26, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me…" You're trying to follow me now? "…not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled." In other words, the signs didn't point to the truth; you just liked the signs. You liked what came your way. He said, "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal."

"That's why I did the sign: so you would know I am who I say I am." I'm just going to make a note here very simply. Pastors who work to get crowds are working for food that perishes, and they're offering people food that perishes. Food that leads to everlasting life is biblical belief. We know that, because right after this the people go, "Well, what works must we do that we would do the works of God?" Then in verse 29 Jesus says, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

Because you believe in him, that doesn't mean you gather in rooms; it means you scatter faithfully. It means you do life together. It means you are his disciples. You learn his ways and live dependent upon him. If dependence is the goal, weakness is an advantage. If you realize you don't have what it takes to feed people, then you'd better be closely related to Jesus, and you'd better get your food for them from him and feed his sheep.

So you devote yourself daily to the Word of God, you pursue them relationally, you live authentically, you admonish faithfully, you counsel biblically, and you engage missionally, because that's your job. It's not a good thing for pastors just to work for food, if you will, or followers that perish.

After this, Jesus continues on. He doesn't let up. He says, "This is what it means to believe in me. I am the manna from heaven. I'm not just Joseph and Mary's son," he goes on to say. "You have no life in yourselves." He says, "Eat my flesh. Drink my blood." This is a very difficult metaphor. He goes on even to say, "I am better than the manna that fell from heaven that your forefathers ate in the wilderness."

The people heard this. "Eat my flesh? What does Jesus mean by 'Eat me; eat my flesh'? What does he mean by 'Drink me; drink my blood'? What does Jesus mean when he says he's better than the manna from God that preserved the people in the wilderness?" Jesus says, "I'll tell you what's better. Those people who ate the manna that came from heaven still died, but if you eat of me, if you take what God offers you through my broken body and shed blood, you'll never die again."

When he said this, many of his disciples said (verse 60), "'This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?' But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, [changed his message so they wouldn't leave] …" No. That's not what it says. I will just tell you, don't let the grumbling of people guide you in your leadership.

What Jesus did was he said, "Does this cause you to stumble? There are more difficult things coming for you. You're going to see me ascend into heaven. It's the Spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words I have spoken to you are the words of life. But there are some of you who don't believe. That's the problem."

Jesus is teaching us right here, "Hey, let the Word of God be your guide even if it costs you disciples." That's how God built this. We said that the Word of God is going to be our guide. It's going to be our authority. It's going to be our conscience. We're going to be firm where it's firm and flexible where it's flexible, and we're going to do what he wants us to do. In fact, Peter said to him, "Listen, Jesus. I don't know if you're noticing, but a lot of people are taking off."

It says in verse 66, "…many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore." So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go with them? Because you guys can. I'm not looking for a big crowd; I'm looking for people who will take up their cross and follow me. I don't want fans; I want followers." That's how he built this: with followers, and there are hundreds and thousands of them here.

We don't think we're better than anybody else. We have received grace. We're just one beggar telling other beggars where to find bread, and when we take that bread of life, it changes us. It's life to us, and it changes the way we live. What happened is we found a book, and we looked at it. Instead of complaining about what others weren't doing, we just said, "We're going to do it. We're going to be God's people."

We found a book, we started reading it, and we went, "What do Christians do? They don't build buildings, they don't grow budgets, and they don't add butts to seats. They make disciples. If it just so happens one day we have a building and our budget is bigger and there are more disciples, glory to God!" That's how he built this. We're not trying to get more people to come. Things that are alive grow, and what could be alive in many large churches is not healthy, because people will always go where there are teachers according to their own desire.

Then some people, because they want to be taught by God, will go where there are teachers who love them enough to say, "I don't want you just to gather with me and validate me with your presence. I want to do the business of God with you. You shepherd me and I shepherd you and we call each other to everything Jesus wants us to." That's how he built this. Faithfulness is success. He built this because we want to be biblical, not big.

We found a book, just like Josiah did. Second Kings, chapter 22. It's a story of a guy who had come behind generations of godless leadership, some of the darkest leadership in all of Judah's history. He became king when he was 8 years old, and 18 years later, when he was 26, he kind of goes, "You know what? I think Israel has some relationship with this God. That's supposed to be his temple. It looks kind of run down."

So he finally took his steward, a guy named Shaphan, and he said, "Hey, go over there to the temple and take the money people have been giving, and let's use it to restore the temple." So Shaphan went to the temple, and he got Hilkiah the priest, and Hilkiah the priest went to architects and designers and said, "Hey, we're going to redo the temple with the temple money. Imagine that." And they started to do that.

The architects and builders came back to Hilkiah at one point and went, "Hey, we were in this one little closet where we were going to knock this wall down and expand it, get more light in here and just do an extreme home makeover, make this place look nice, and there was some stuff in here. It looks like a scroll with some writing on it. We can't read. You take it." So Hilkiah took it, and because he was a steward, he gave it to the scribe, and the scribe read it.

It turns out it was the Word of God. It was the Bible. It was the Torah. It's what God had said from Sinai, "This is how you can find life." They lost the Book of Life. There was still religious activity and they were rebuilding the temple, but there was no work of God that was going on there. When Shaphan read this thing, he went back to Josiah and said, "Josiah, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is I read a book. The bad news is it's not going to turn out well for us if we keep doing this."

So it says in verse 8 of chapter 22, Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan to read it. He took it. In verse 10, Shaphan the scribe told the king, "The priest gave me a book." He read it in the presence of the king, and then in verse 11 the king heard it and said, "I agree; we're in trouble," and he tore his clothes. "We're not doing anything this book says. Even though there's multiplication in Israel, it looks like we're multiplying troubles."

So they sought the word of the Lord. They went and found a prophet and said, "What should we do?" The prophet got word back to them. In 2 Kings 22:19 the prophet said, "Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the Lord, I'm going to let you experience some grace." Then Josiah did an amazing thing.

He took the book of the law, and it says in chapter 23, verse 1, "Then the king sent, and they gathered to him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. The king went up to the house of the Lord and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him…" They sat down, and he said, "I'm going to read you this book we found, and I'm going to see if your hearts are tender like, by the grace of God, mine is. I'm going to see if you want to humble yourself under this book like I do, and let's see if we want to be the people of God together."

That's how he built this thing. We found a book. We didn't say, "This culture, this generation won't take somebody leading them according to this book." We said, "We don't care. We just want to be tenderhearted and humble before God, and we're going to follow this book. We're not going to try and be bigger. We're not going to try and say we're better than anybody else. We just want to be people of the Book who measure their success by their ability to be and make disciples." That's how he built this thing.

There's so much about church growth that is out there. When we first started and were sharing this with people, folks kept saying to us, "Todd, that's never going to work. People are going to leave and go somewhere else." We said, "Let their blood be on somebody else's hands. This is not going to be a me church; this is going to be his church. We believe if we do what he wants he's going to do something to glorify himself if we just abide with him."

We actually made a video. It's dated. You're going to see the old logo at the end of it, but we showed this early. I think we still show it at every membership class we do, because we want to let you know what we're about right here. We're not looking for fans; we're looking for followers. Watch this.


Male: Imagine a church where every member is passionately, wholeheartedly, and recklessly calling the shots.

Male: Hey, what about a church that starts when I get there?

Male: Okay. When you arrive, we begin.

Female: I want a pastor to come to my house to deliver the sermons.

Male: No problem. Expect a knock at your door within 24 hours.

Male: Financially, Sherry and I don't give a lot, but we'd like to know who does and how much.

Male: All right. If you join now, you'll know what every person gives…in detail.

Female: When I'm in the church service, can my car get a buff and a wax?

Male: Not just that, but an oil change and a tune-up.

Male: How about tickets to the Super Bowl?

Male: That's asking too much.

Male: I'm serious. If I'm going to join, I want tickets to the big game.

Male: All right. You join now, and we'll get you that.

Male: I'd like a pony.

Male: Look in your backyard. Watermark Community Church. You call the shots; we'll deliver.

[End of video]

Oh man. That is not how he built this. Old logo, same logos, same Word. We were just calling people, saying, "This is not about us. This is not about me. I don't need your validation. I'm going to give an account for the way I serve. You're going to give an account for the way you serve with me."

My job is to equip the saints to work in the service of the King with me, and there's going to be a day when he says, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Let's go, church. Let's be his people. Let's measure our success by our ability to be and make disciples. If we have to grow it down to 11, let's change the world, but if God's grace is at work in our midst and he grows it to 11,000 or 22,000 or 25,000 or 30,000, glory to God. That's how he built this.

Father, I thank you for the chance to sit and look at your book and to teach it and remind ourselves of what is true and what is right and what is holy and what is good. I pray, Father, that we would continually be about it; we would not merely be hearers who delude ourselves but we'd be doers of the Word who sit at your feet and trust in you, and because we trust in you we stand up and live with you. We don't just listen; we live and we love in your name.

I thank you for what you're going to continue to teach us and remind us about how you build your church that the gates of hell won't stand against, and I pray we would be more about it this week than we've ever been because we've listened and gathered together. Thank you, Lord, for reminding us of your goodness and love and the cross' sufficiency for all of us wherever we are in the spectrum of separation from you. Thank you, Father, that you've brought us here, that we might be reminded of how to live for your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.

About 'How He Built This'

As we approach Watermark’s 20th anniversary, the “How He Built This” series examines the ideas, decisions, and values that God has used to shape this community of faith.