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The greatest crisis in America, your home, your work, our world, and your own personal life is a leadership crisis. As we continue our series, “This is the Life,” Todd Wagner starts the first of two weeks teaching on leadership, its importance, and why a leadership problem is really a discipleship problem.
Leadership: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 1
Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing? Let me pray that the words of my mouth would be a blessing to you.
Father, I do ask that as we gather right now and continue our worship by meditating on your Word, wherever we're at… I know there are friends in this room who don't know you, don't have an alive, abiding relationship with you. They think you're a God to be appeased, performed for. I pray, Lord, you'd be gracious to them, that they would hear the kind of lover and leader and friend that you are.
I pray that those of us who have become your friend by the grace you provided for us on the cross would be conformed into your image so more people could see your kindness and order their lives in a way that they could be the kind of blessing and leader you intend them to be. We love you and we thank you. Open the eyes of our hearts so we might see you, amen.
In this series we're in, This Is the Life, we're taking attributes that are consistent with what a life informed by wisdom looks like, and we are studying them. Our children, kindergarten through fifth grade, look at these things. They spend a month on each of these things twice in a six-year period, where they're learning what the attribute of wisdom is, what happens if you don't live according to it, and how Jesus is the fullest expression of that, so that Jesus would be their hero and they would understand they're not to have behavior modification as their goal but Christlikeness as their goal and Christ has made provision for them so they could be like him.
When you are all of the things God intends us to be when you look at this book, and specifically as you study and listen to the Proverbs, you will become a great leader. I just want you to think about what we've done this year as we've come back to what we're calling volume 3 of the This Is the Life series. We'll have one more time sometime in the years ahead that we'll finish all of these so all 36 attributes will have been taught to all our body on a Sunday gathering.
Specifically, think about a person who is righteous, courageous, content, discerning, peace-filled, respectful of others, obedient, who perseveres, who's good, whose heart reeks gratitude, who is kind, and who is humble, all things we are studying or have studied this fall. You would go, "I want that person to be my leader." That's exactly the kind of leader you want.
We're always going to be serving or underneath a shadow of perfect leadership until Christ himself reigns on earth, and that day is coming, but until then, what he's doing is he is rescuing people from being in bondage to the spirit of this age, the god of this world, and the flesh, so that we might be citizens of this coming kingdom who bring the advanced blessing that will fully be here when our King comes.
Godly people, wise people, are leaders, and if there is a crisis of anything in our land today, there is a crisis of leadership. Our world is always looking for great leaders, which means they ought to always be looking for Christians. Let me say that to you again. Our world is always looking for great leaders, which means they ought to always be looking for people who are being conformed into the image of Christ.
If you take any time and walk through the leadership section of a bookstore, you're going to see books that all teach you things about being a great leader that are consistent with who Christ was. Jesus, CEO. Jesus, servant leader. A lot of books won't even mention Jesus but describe him if they're talking about the best kinds of leaders. Our world is having a serious leadership crisis.
I talk to leaders of other churches a lot, and they say things to me like, "Todd, we have two problems. First, we're not attracting the next generation, and secondly, we have a leadership development problem," which are tells, and I tell them this as kindly as I can. I go, "Well, no offense, but what you're basically saying to me is you're not Jesus' church." They go, "What?" I go, "Well, listen. Young people have always been drawn to Jesus."
In fact, the disciples God used to change the world were young people…late teens, early 20s. They saw that there was a rabbi who wasn't just trying to collect disciples like trinkets; he was calling them to be fishers of men. Instead of making a live fish dead, they were going to make dead men alive, and they were going to speak against power, and they were going to rescue folks from the oppression of dead religion and ultimately be the means through which they would be escaping godless governments that were around the world. God is a reformer. God is a rescuer.
This is not a leadership manual. This is an autobiography of the greatest leader who has ever lived in all of eternity. It's the story of God, and it tells how God has rescued people who are enslaved, and as you are rescued, you become friends with God, and the Spirit of God indwells you, and you are increasingly sanctified or, to say it another way, conformed into the image of Christ, who is the greatest leader who ever lived.
Even though he was a king, he didn't come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Great leaders always use their power and their blessing to serve others. Small leaders, worldly leaders, use their power and blessing to stay in power. Jesus wants to share his blessing with you and me.
When I hear church leaders say how they can't attract the next generation, I go, "That's because you're trying to get people to come to your church." Is there anything less inspiring than saying, "I go to Watermark"? That doesn't inspire me. Or even worse, "I go to Todd Wagner's church." First of all, Todd Wagner doesn't have a church; Jesus does, and we get to be a part of it. Secondly, I don't want you to go to anything; I want you to be a part of the body of Christ.
Church is not some ethereal thing out there, some organism we evaluate. We are the church, and we are a part of what God wants to do and is doing. So I tell them, "You can't attract people because you're trying to get people to show up and validate you with their presence. Guys don't want to be a part of your organization and give to your work; they want to be a part of the work God is doing."
When kids come to you and say, "This Halloween, Mom, I want to dress up," they don't ever say, "Mommy, would you dress me up as somebody who pays their taxes and mows their lawn and is a good neighbor?" Nobody wants to be a State Farm agent for Halloween. They want to be a hero. They want to change the world. They want to rescue people. Firemen, policemen, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman. That's what they want to be, because it's innate in them that "This world isn't right, and I'm going to do something about it."
Secondly, when I hear there's a leadership development problem, what they're basically saying is, "We don't know how to make disciples." Leaders are disciples, because they're learning to love and lead like Jesus. We have a crisis of leadership in our country, which means we have a crisis with the church, and the reason we have a crisis with the church is because churches are not led by leaders; they're led by pastors, often non-courageous ones, who are trying to collect people.
When people heard about what we were going to start 20 years ago… We looked around, and we didn't want to go to any church that we saw. I'm just being very honest. We go, "There has to be more. I don't want to be ineffective and just go to that place; I want to live with people who every week remind me who I am, who are partnering with me throughout the week, and we gather together on the weekends to sing of our God, remind ourselves we weren't crazy, and go back at it in small platoons again."
We gather so we scatter effectively together. That's what we do. The fruit of what you've been doing was all over that video we just showed. It's Christ in you which is the hope of glory, but what happens so much… This is, by the way, not a new problem. You're going to see it has always been a problem that leaders become selfish and leaders try to collect people so they feel self-important as leaders. We don't have lions in the pulpits who are calling people to things.
So we set out, and we said, "Lord, we're not going to criticize; we're going to create. We're not going to curse the darkness; we're going to light a candle. We're going to be about what you want us to be about, and we're going to take seriously what you say your church should be, and we're going to just effort to be a part of it. I know, God, you're going to do something in the world today to make your name more famous, so if you're willing, why not with us?"
Then he told us why not with us: because our hearts will not be completely his, so he can't strongly support us. So we said, "Lord, all we want to do is excel still more. We want to learn more of your ways and have less of us and more of you." Spurgeon, who happens to be a great pastor who lived about 150-plus years ago, said the day is going to come where instead of having shepherds feeding the flock, we're going to have clowns running circuses, I would insert, for goats.
In other words, we're going to put on a show and get you to come and tithe. We'll give tickets to come back, and the show will be there next week. I would say, what they'll often do is they'll say, "I'm not going to ask too much of you so you'll come back, but you just keep validating me with your presence, and then we'll both tell each other we're doing what God wants us to do." That's not leadership.
People said to me, "Todd, if you ask people to walk with Jesus that way, you're crazy. This is Dallas, Texas. There's a church on every single street corner, and there are places that people can go and just be left alone." I said, "Well, let their blood be on somebody else's hands." I'm not trying to collect people; I'm just trying to find brothers and sisters who want to run with me, and we're trying to then share the life we have found in Christ with others. We're trying to be conformed into his image so we can be the hands and feet of Christ and love people. I would just say, look at what God has done.
I want to encourage you with this. I don't care where you are or where you've been or what you've done; who you can be is a blessing and a leader. I want you to hear me say that again. I don't care where you've been or what you've done; who you can be is a leader and a blessing. When you meet Christ and when you learn his ways and when you conform to his image, God is going to use you not to add to the trouble but to lead others out of darkness.
There is a crisis of leadership in our country. That means we have a church problem, and the beauty of that is it means we don't have to get anybody else to change but people who call themselves the church. A guy named Charles Finney said a long time ago, "If there is a decay of conscience…" And there's a decay of conscience in our country. Wouldn't you agree?
"…the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral [discernment], the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in [Christianity], the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it." If it's legal to kill people, if it's legal to oppress people through slavery, the pulpit is responsible for it. (He didn't say that; I did.)
"If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it." I agree. By the way, you have a pulpit. A pulpit is the platform from which you live and speak, and God wants you to bring forth the Word with your life and with your living. God wants you to be a leader. It's the life. All of us are leaders. Every single one of us has an opportunity.
When you have an unaddressed problem with a people, you always have a problem with a leader. You see this in Ezekiel 22:23-31. Ezekiel is pronouncing judgment on the land. The church didn't exist yet, but, if you will, the people of God were gathered in Israel. They were to be a kingdom of priests, just like the church today, made up of Jew and Gentile, is to be a kingdom of priests.
There's not just one pulpit; it's a group of pulpiteers who live to faithfully proclaim the Word of God. What he's saying is back in that day there was a problem, because the leaders God wanted to lead weren't leading, just like today. People go to church; they aren't the church. They evaluate pulpits; they don't realize they're supposed to improve theirs.
Ezekiel 22 says, "And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Son of man, say to her [the nation of Israel] , "You are a land that is not cleansed…"'""You're not rained on with blessing or purified, because this is the day of indignation," is what's implied. Verse 25. Here's the problem. "There is a conspiracy of her prophets…" The prophets all agree, "We're not going to teach what we should," but instead they are roaring lions tearing the prey.
"They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in the midst of her [because they don't speak truth] ." Not just the prophets, but now, "Her priests [the spiritual leaders] have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane…" They call evil good and good evil. "…they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths [and other laws] , and I am profaned among them."
So, we have a problem with the prophets and with the priests, and we have a problem now with the leaders, the princes, the government leaders. "Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain." Now back to those who speak truth to government.
God always says for a land to prosper you need three things. You need a healthy family, which is to train and disciple (that's the job of the family); you need a healthy government, which is to praise those who do right and punish those who do wrong; and you need the church, which is to remind and rebuke the government and the family of what they need to be about.
He goes back to the prophets and says, "Her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord God ,' when the **** Lord **** has not spoken." Boy, don't we have that? So God says this. Here's what I want you to hear. This is now about us. Not about Israel, not about the "they" out there; this is about us right here.
God says in verse 30, " [I am searching today] for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land…" He said then, "…I found no one.""I found no one to keep me from destroying it. Nobody was being what I wanted them to be." What I want to tell you today is the eyes of the Lord are still going to and fro throughout the earth, looking for somebody who's willing to be part of God's means of grace.
Whenever God wants to deliver a people, he raises up a deliverer. Whenever God wants grace to come in a family, he raises up a father, a godly mother, a godly sibling, a godly child, a daughter or son who brings righteousness into the family and brings reformation into that particular home. Great leaders love and serve their people, and wisdom is what allows us to love and serve.
Again, this is not a leadership manual. Proverbs, specifically, which is a book I have given so much of my heart, so much of my time, so much of my life to… I hardly think without a proverb informing what I am thinking at that particular moment, what I'm saying at that particular moment.
This is not a leadership manual. It's not moral, therapeutic deism. This is an autobiography of the greatest leader who has ever existed in eternity. It's about God, and it's what God is doing in the midst of revealing his kindness. Part of that is he is rescuing us from the wages due our sins and calling us to repent.
This week, I was involved with a little bit of a shoot for some folks who were doing… We got a group of us together to talk about racism, and the moderator kept saying, "We have racial tensions," and all this different stuff, and "We're here, and we represent different races." I finally couldn't stand it anymore. I go, "No, we do not represent different races. There is one race. There is one God, one Lord, one Father who is over all and in all. There is no difference in races here. We have different ethnicities. We have different tribes.
Tribes that look like me enslaved tribes that look like you for a long time in our country, because we didn't know there was one God. We are all one blood. We have been wrong to one another, and we have been tribal and selfish, and we have to work through that. We have to own what we have personally done, what people who look like us have done, but let's fix what's going on right here. The way we're going to start to get along is not by looking alike but by loving like God, seeking forgiveness, extending forgiveness. God brings us together."
When God brings a people together for his purposes, there is grace that comes to a land. I do this thing that helps me be God's servant and to think like he wants me to think and pray like he wants me to pray. There's a website called Operation World. You can sign up. Every day, I get a different country sent to me. It goes alphabetically through the entire parade of nations. Where we're at today is U, at the end of the year, so United States is what I've been praying for.
I pray for the United States all the time, but what's great about this is I can't tell you how many times I've been in an Uber or a Lyft, and I'm sitting there, and I engage somebody who's driving me. A lot of times they're from a different land, and I go, "I prayed for your country today," and I understand a little bit about their land, because I was praying specifically for it…different mission agencies that are working there, what the ethnicity of it is, what the basic faith system of it is, what God is doing, and what the challenges are. It has been amazing.
They go, "You were praying for my country today?" I go, "Yes!" I was praying for my country today. One of the things that hit me as I was praying for it is it talked about how God has used America to literally be a means of grace to every nation on earth. Did you know that? We are the most mission-sending nation in the history of the world. There are a few unreached people groups tucked in certain places that don't have a Scripture in their own language yet, but the United States, more than any other country that ever existed, has taken the gospel out.
Why? Because about 400 to 500 years ago, there were a group of people who came here, and they said, "We're going to build our society in this new world on God's old law. We're going to return to the ancient paths." They wanted to form a community of people who loved and honored God and who built themselves on the covenants God had with people who sought him, and they got after it. I'm talking about the Pilgrims. I'm not talking about 1776.
In 1776, when we started and we were 100 years after the Pilgrims, we had already gone a little astray on some of that, because certain tribes started shipping other tribes to make money and oppressing them. We said all men were created equal, and we treated certain men as less equal than others. It was our first national sin, and it needed to be repented of. We went to war to fix it, and we should have.
The weapons of our warfare that we have today are divinely powerful. They're spiritual, not physical. We go to war fighting for the hearts of men. When I was talking in this little deal with my friends about racial relations, one of the guys said, "The word repent has become a curse word in the church." I took that and said, "Because the word repent has become a curse word in the church, it's why the word church has become a curse word to the world."
We still think it's up to us to do better, to try a little harder, and it's not. Ours is to decrease that he might increase. Great leaders love and serve, and wisdom is what allows us to love and serve. So when you commit yourself to this book… It says in Proverbs 10:21, "The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding." God wants to give you on your lips words of life.
Proverbs 11:14: "Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors [wise counselors, counselors who learn from the Wonderful Counselor] there is victory." Just like God brought together a group of people years ago to this land and they did their best to form the land on God's Word… Lord knows, we've drifted from that a little bit since then, but we can run back toward it.
God is always looking in this land for a man, a woman, to stand in the gap before him for the land so he would not destroy it. The question I'm asking you today is…Will he find you?Will he find us? I don't care where you've been or what you've been doing; what you can be today is being conformed more into the image of blessing and leadership God intends for you.
Can I just encourage you with this? Twenty years ago, when we decided to not criticize but to create, it was a bunch of guys who looked just like me and my tribe, but over the last 20 years… I don't know if you've noticed. We don't look like we're all from the same tribe anymore. In fact, tonight is our international Christmas potluck, where we're going to have folks from over 90 different nations, born in almost 100 different nations, who are a part of Watermark now, right here.
Our city is one of the largest settlement cities in our country in terms of immigration. So we just love our city. We love the people in our city. We have gone all around the world in the last 20 years from this body. We have members who are serving in other places, and we have different times we're serving, but right here in our own city… We don't need to go anywhere. We just have to love people from other places who are in our city, and they have relationships in the world.
What God is doing is he's bringing us together under our one God and one Father who has saved us all and loves the world, and we're starting to look more like our city, because we love everybody we meet. Dallas has gotten better because more of his church has showed up these last two decades, and this church can get better when more of him shows up in each of us. This is the life, gang: less of me, less of you, more of Jesus.
When a leader gets better, everybody wins. When a leader gets better, every single person wins. Let me show you this. This is Proverbs 28:15: "Like a roaring lion and a rushing bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people." I don't know about you, but a rushing bear is not good news. A roaring lion means "I'm coming after you." Proverbs 11:10: "When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting."
If you don't believe me, just rent The Wizard of Oz. They come out of everywhere. "Ding-dong! The wicked witch is dead!" "Ding-dong! My wicked dad has repented. Ding-dong! My mom is not an alcoholic. Ding-dong! My older brother found Christ. Ding-dong!" It's a time of singing and joy. You can be that transformed individual if you'll just say, "God, more of you, less of me. I repent. I don't want to be a curse word anymore."
There are some of you guys who have a hard time saying "Father" because of the father you had. Our job is to make sure that doesn't happen in our homes. Our job is to make sure the church of Jesus is not a curse word in this city but a blessing. Solomon said, "When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, men hide themselves."
I think of my friend Lee Strobel. Lee Strobel was the legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. He was an attorney by trade, a journalist, and wrote all of the articles related to law and things of that sort for the Chicago Tribune. He was a renowned and proud atheist. His wife, who saw the trouble that was in her marriage, was befriended by somebody and was invited to a place where the Spirit of God was at work and his Word was being taught, and his wife started to move more toward this faith community.
Lee said, "What are you doing? All these people are going to do is collect you like a trinket, and then they're going to start having you give them money, which means my money that I'm out there working for. I'm going to do this. I'm going to use all my legal skills, and I'm going to show you that these people are a hoax. I'm going to go in there, and I'm going to find out what the racket they're really running is, and I'm going to save you from a life of distraction."
As Lee started to do that, he didn't just see integrity in this church; he started to look at what they said they believed, and he tried to disprove the resurrection and the veracity of God's Word, and he was converted. He wrote books called The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for a Creator. He's one of our more influential communicators about the integrity of the truth of the Word of God, that you don't have to commit intellectual suicide to be a believer.
Lee Strobel, though, when he was still an atheist, talks about how when he would come home from work and pound a few at the local bar and then stumble in the door… He said whenever he would walk in that door at night, his little girl would be playing in the living room, and she'd gather up all of her toys really quickly and say, "Hi, Daddy! Hi, Daddy!" and then she would go into her own room.
For a while he thought, "What a great kid. She understands I've been working out there all day, trying to make sure I can buy toys for her, and she just wants to give me a little time to put my feet up, watch the news, read the evening edition of the paper, and get ready for my tomorrow, and get a little food in me. What a great kid." But then he realized the reason that little girl was leaving was not because she wanted to give her daddy space but because he was a roaring lion and a rushing bear.
When wicked dads show up, children hide themselves. He saw, when his life changed, that same little girl who used to gather her toys and leave and go into her room would bring her toys and say, "Daddy, sit with me and play with me." When a leader gets better, everybody wins. I don't care what you've done or where you've been; who you can be is a source of blessing. A sign of judgment on a land is that there is a lack of leadership. That's one of the ways God always shows you that there's judgment on a land. In Isaiah, chapter 3, it says:
"For behold, the Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support, the whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water; the mighty man and the warrior [gone] , the judge and the prophet [gone] , the diviner [the one who can sense what's true] and the elder [gone] , the captain of fifty and the honorable man [gone] , the counselor and the expert artisan [gone] , and the skillful enchanter [gone] . And I will make mere lads their princes, and capricious children will rule over them…"
Have you been watching C-SPAN? Have you been following our president's Twitter account? I mean, come on, guys. This is crazy! It says, "…and the people will be oppressed, each one by another, and each one by his neighbor; the youth will storm against the elder…" Are you seeing that? Because they're like, "I don't know. This country is crazy!" so they're trying all of these different ideas. Have you looked at what's happening in our country because there's a leadership crisis? It's just crazy.
You look at what's coming out of our White House in terms of attitude. I mean, I'm all for the appointment of godly judges and men who don't want to adjudicate from the bench, and there are certain policies and things that are happening that I'm like, "Okay, good." Our president last night, for the first time in years, stood at the Christmas tree lighting and said the reason Christmas exists is because of Jesus. Christmas isn't a season; it marks a historical event: the birth of Jesus Christ. I'm like, "Amen. Follow him. Tweet like him. Keep your pants buckled like him. Speak like him."
I pray for my president. I don't care if his last name is Obama or Clinton or Bush or Trump. That's why God says this. By the way, if you're here and you have a problem with your pastor, pray for your pastor. I promise he'll get better. If you don't like the pastor you have, pray for him. If you don't like the president you have, pray for him. Are you praying for your pastor? Are you praying for your senators?
Are you looking at the people who are trying to get the White House? It's just crazy. You listen to them talk, and it's like… I have kids, and my kids all ran for student council when they were in elementary school. I'm looking at the people who are running for student council in DC, and I'm like, "Are you kidding me?" What did my kids do when they ran for student council?
"If I am student council representative from Mrs. Mahoney's class, we will have doughnuts every morning. We'll have pizza at lunch, not that food that no one knows what it is. No more succotash. No more mixed vegetables. We'll have ice cream every day. I'm going to extend recess." "Everybody is going to get free Wi-Fi. No more college debt. Free college." I'm like, "Oh my goodness." It's a leadership problem, which means we are not teaching people to have an appetite for what God says will be a blessing to them.
When a leader gets better, everybody wins. When God's wisdom informs our lives, we are the leaders God wants for his people. God loves people, so he wants wisdom to inform the life of leaders. This book can help us be those leaders. People sometimes say to me, "Todd, are you surprised what the Lord has done at Watermark these last 20 years?" I go, "No! I'm not surprised at all, because I know who did this. I know whose work this is."
I know I had loaves and fish, and I did the best to give it to him and make my heart his and surround myself with other friends who wanted more of him, and we said, "God, why not us? We know you're going to do something today in this world to make your name more famous, and if you're willing, God, why not us?" So we picked up this book, and we looked at it and studied it and did our best to apply it to our lives and order our lives according to it.
Guess what: a bunch of you were looking for the same thing. Then we've encouraged each other day after day. We've admonished the unruly. We've encouraged the fainthearted. We've helped the weak. We've shown patience to one another, but we've been about it. We don't just have goals or vision we aspire to; we've made them our actual way of living. We live on mission together. We don't go to church; we are the church, and look at what God has done. I think our best days are ahead of us.
Of course I'm not surprised at what has happened here. On the other hand, I'm completely shocked, because I know who I am. I know who you were. Titus 3:3 says, "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another." We were not leaders, and we met Christ. He changed our hearts.
We started to learn to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind consider others as more important than ourselves, to not merely look out for our own personal interests but also for the interests of others. We started to be conformed to his image. We started to use our blessing to be a blessing, and we didn't live for our own comfort but to bring comfort to others. We weren't about being alive to make a living; we were alive to make a difference, and look at what God has done.
All I want to say is, "Don't you want more?" Do you know what we should have done today when we got done showing that video? We should have gotten on our knees and thanked God for what he has done. We're like the Pilgrims. Have you looked at the last 20 years of what he has done with us? It's unbelievable! And I want more. I want to figure out what our little slavery is that we haven't dealt with. I want to figure out what our drift is so we can repent of it, and I want to be more about it. Don't you want more? I know I do.
God has given us the ability to be the leaders he wants us to be. I'm not surprised, because when we started, we said, "Lord, not our will but your will be done." In 1 Kings, chapter 3, this is exactly what Solomon did. In 1 Kings 3:5, it says, "…the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night…" Your dreams are informed by what you're thinking. Solomon obviously had just found out he was going to be king. He went to bed probably a little anxious, a little stressed. The Scripture says in Psalm 127, "The Lord gives to his beloved even in their sleep."
So, Solomon in his sleep has a dream, and God appears to him and says, "Solomon, what do you want? I'll give you anything you ask for." Solomon, because he had been trained by a father who knew the dangers of leaving God, had been told, "You want to seek God," so he said, "God, I want more of you. I want wisdom." This was the conversation.
God was pleased with that request, that the thoughts and intentions, the direction of Solomon's conscience and heart was "God, give me more of you. I don't know how to go out or come in. I'm just a child. So give your servant an understanding heart, that I might judge between good and evil and discern and love your people. For who else can lead a people but someone who you allow to?" And it pleased God.
Solomon started off wonderfully, but what happened was he got arrogant, and he moved away. Solomon was the leader who brought about the greatest expansion of the kingdom of God in the history of Israel, because he had more wisdom than anybody, and until he started to quench and reject that wisdom, it was a time of great blessing.
That's what's going to happen here, the more we take the wisdom of God, the more we pray, "Lord, not my will but your will be done. Father, deliver us from the Evil One. Give us the chance to show your glory and your power. We're not going to work for you; we're going to be available for you to work in us." Solomon says, "This is it. Don't just acquire wisdom." When David taught him… This is Proverbs 4:5-9.
He says (probably David to Solomon), "Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of [your dad who's instructing you in this way] . Do not forsake [wisdom] , and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom…"
You thought the beginning of wisdom was the fear of the Lord. Well, that is wisdom. Know that God is good and you don't want to miss a thing from him. "The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding." Understanding is knowing how to apply wisdom.
People come to me because of you and go, "What's going on there, Todd? Something is happening there on LBJ, and happening in Frisco and Plano and Fort Worth," and hopefully South Dallas and other places in the world. They watch you and go, "What are you guys doing?" and I just go, "Well, it's kind of embarrassing. We're on our knees. We're studying God's Word. We're asking God what he wants us to do. We're reading his Word. We're applying it to our lives. We're calling men and women to repent, and we're asking them to be devoted to Jesus."
"Yeah, okay. I know, I know. But what are you guys doing?" I go, "No, guys. It's embarrassing. We're just teaching the Word. We're trying to live according to it. We're admonishing each other, encouraging each other, and helping each other. We're making disciples. The things which we've learned from God we're teaching to others so they can teach others also." "Yeah, yeah, I know. But what are you doing?"
I'm like, "Oh, bro, you don't get it. That's why you're struggling: because you're a clown in a circus, trying to get the goats to buy tickets again next week. This is what we're doing." Anyone can be a leader…anyone…if you learn to follow. Proverbs 3:5-6. Do you want to know what we're doing, Mr. Church Leader who comes? Do you want to find out how to make the body you're a part of great? Here's how:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding [on all your little church growth techniques] ." Make disciples. Call people to be disciples. "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." You have a leadership problem? That means you have a discipleship problem, which means you're not Jesus' church.
You guys are leaders everywhere, each one of you. As you receive a gift, you're good stewards in employing it and serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God, because you're a kingdom of priests, because you want to be what Jesus wants you to be. You don't want to be a bunch of goats who just come hear some clown hold your attention; you want to get after it. God is at work here. Anybody can be a leader if they learn to follow.
It was so funny. The guys who help with all the different stuff always ask, "What do you have, Todd?" and I gave them nine pages of Scripture. They were looking at it, just in case I want to go to it. I love what JJ said to me. He goes, "Oh, what a surprise. You gave us a lot of Scripture." I thought, "Man, what a great thing for guys to make fun of me behind my back about." "When Todd talks, it's going to be all over the Bible, and it's going to be a lot of Bible." Praise God.
We have a lot of different guys around here, and they're teaching more. I'm trying to raise up the next generation of leaders. They talk a lot about openers and how to get people's attention. I sometimes get so sick of it, I go, "It's great to be winsome and all that." I go, "Do you guys want a good opener? Here's a good opener: 'Open your Bibles with me.' Make that your opener. That's a good opener."
I don't need seven minutes of some spectacular illustration so I'm open to listening to you. By the way, I'm not against illustrations, but let illustrations illumine the Word of God. But let's go. "Open your Bible with me." Give attention to the public reading of Scripture, because that's what's going to be useful for people. There's your opener. "Open your Bible with me."
I was talking to a guy on the phone this week, and we were talking about how to work together to be partnering in some idea how we can serve people in the name of Jesus, and there was a line, and it came to me this way: "I know, Wagner, this isn't spiritual, but listen to me. I have an idea." I just go, "Whoa, whoa. Before you go forward, let me just stop you right there. Did you hear what you just said? Repeat that back to me." He goes, "What?"
"What did you just say?"
"Um, I said I have an idea."
"No, before that. You said, 'I know this isn't spiritual, but…'"
I go, "We're trying to figure out how we can do something, and you're about to say, 'I know I'm thinking in a way that's not informed by the Word of God.' I know you want to include people." What he was going to go on to say is, "We ought to include certain people and certain things, because they represent a lot of other people and are big influencers, and if we get them involved, we'll get other people involved."
I'm like, "No! That sounds a lot, to me, like what all of the kings did in the Old Testament, where they go, 'I'll tell you what. I know we're supposed to trust God, but Egypt sure has a big army. Let's make a treaty with Egypt.'" I go, "That didn't work out well for them. It's not going to work out for us. So anyway, what were you going to say?" He goes, "Man, why do you always have to bring Bible into everything?" I go, "Because I always want wisdom in everything."
It's not that hard to be a leader if you'll just acknowledge that God is the one who you want to lead. If this will encourage you, look at Jesus. John 5:19: "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." Jesus, CEO. Jesus, the great servant leader. All he did when he became man…
Just a little Christmas theology for you here. Jesus was always God, always existed. When Jesus was spoken into existence in the incarnate Son of the Virgin Mary, he took on human nature. He didn't stop being God, but he didn't regard equality with God something to be held onto, to be grasped, Philippians 2 says. He laid it aside. It didn't mean he didn't have it anymore; it just means, "I'm not going to pull that tool out of my pocket. I'm going to live just like Todd Wagner lives, even though I'm God."
And he was the perfect man. Why was he the perfect man? Because he always did what perfect men do. They lean not on their own understanding, but in all their ways they acknowledge him, and God makes their paths straight so they don't get deviated off into some rabbit trail of death, so they don't lead people to valleys of destruction and folks go, "Man, that looks like a good way" and follow.
Jesus says, "Do you want to know what I'm doing? What the Father wants." This is John 5:30: "I can do nothing on My own initiative. [I can't, because I'm the perfect man.] As I hear, I judge [what the Father tells me, I do] ; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.""That's why I'm good: because the Father is in me. I am one with the Father. You see me, you see the Father."
What made Jesus a great leader? The same thing that can make you a great leader. The Father chose to reveal certain things through Jesus and do things through Jesus to show exactly who Jesus was, and God wants to do certain things in you and through you, and he might reveal things to you, might do powerful things through you. Why? To show who God is and to show who Jesus is.
John 8:28: "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me." Guys, this is spiritual leadership. You don't have to be wise; you just have to go, "I don't know what to do based on God's Word, so I'm not going to do anything until I know what God's Word says." That's spiritual leadership.
There might be people in your room who know more wisdom and Word than you do, but you can be the spiritual leader because you understand you shouldn't do anything until that wisdom is applied. So keep learning more, but there you go. Let me just tell you this: great leaders are made; they're not born.
I get this all the time. "Todd, are great leaders made or born?" It's like people go, "Todd, what came first: the chicken or the egg?" The answer is the chicken. The chicken came first, not the egg. Read your Bible. God didn't make an egg; he made a chicken. Save your philosophy class a lot of time. Chicken is the answer.
Leaders are made; they're not born. Now, there are certain people with charismatic gifts. They have the "it factor," big personality, all that different stuff. That makes them maybe somebody who others will look to, and maybe they could even lead, but they're not a great leader until they're made in the image of Christ.
Watch this. Proverbs 11:3: "The integrity of the upright will guide them…" Proverbs 12:24: "The hand of the diligent will rule…" Proverbs 12:27: "…the precious possession of a man is diligence." Proverbs 13:18: "Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline [not leadership opportunities] , but he who regards reproof [by wisdom] will be honored [and followed] ." Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. God is the greatest leader, and he wants to conform you into his image.
When I was talking about the guys who were going to lead with me at Watermark in the early days, the best thing the founding families of Watermark did is we all agreed early on that the best leadership is team leadership. It's all over your Scripture. So they served with me in the role of leaders, but we didn't feel like the best way to pick leaders for a church is the first five guys who showed up, so what we said was, "We're going to find other godly men who are going to become elders, pastors, along with Todd."
We spent about 18 months watching guys, watching the way they led and served and humbled themselves and disciplined themselves and were diligent to learn more of God's Word. We eventually said, "We think you guys ought to be the men who lead us going forward." On the day we installed those men, I gave a message, and the title of that message was, basically, "This Is the Greatest Day in the History of Our Church or It Is the Beginning of the End," because leadership is everything.
I want to remind you, you're a leader. People will prosper or suffer underneath your leadership. The guys who have been part of the pastoral leadership of this church from the beginning have been men on their knees who say, "Not my will but your will be done. O God, deliver us from evil. O God, give us what we need today." We've said so many things, even the way we built these buildings with no debt…
We've just said, "Lord, give us what we need. We can't wait for our new building, so we're not going to wait. You don't have a building today?" For the first eight years, we didn't have a building. We didn't own a piece of property. We just got after it. We actually bought property five years in, and then we could develop it over the next four. As God brought the bread we needed, we did it. We just said, "Meanwhile, Lord, let us be your men. Let us be your people."
It says in the Scripture in 1 Timothy 3, "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer [if anybody wants to be a leader] , it is a fine work he desires to do." Here's the kind of leader you should appoint. This is the kind of guy you should marry, girls. This is the kind of person you want to yoke yourself with. Church, these are the folks that you should say, "Lead us as we seek more of God."
They should be above reproach. Then he stops and gives nine different ideas of what "above reproach" leaders are. It's not anything about their competency in terms of skill; it's everything to do with their character. All of these are just illustrating, "This is above reproach." In other words, they're marked by fidelity.
"…the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…" It doesn't mean they have one-to-many gifts; it just means when there's a topic that comes up that needs to be addressed, they're able to open the Word of God and say, "This is what the Lord has said; therefore, this is what we should do."
"…not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money." They're not here to make a living; they're here to make a difference. "He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity…" Can I tell you what I look back on the last 20 years with the most gratitude toward God for? It's that now my wife and I, by the kindness of God, because we've led our home this way…
Our kids love each other. We just had an amazing Thanksgiving. There was peace at our table. They're friends. They do things together. Three of them are starting their own families. They're receiving admonishment and correction. They're growing. They desire more of Jesus. They've all taken the name of Jesus as their own, and I am so grateful. To God be the glory. We're not a perfect family, but we want more of him. Church, we're not a perfect family, but we want more of him.
Can I just say this to us, though, church? If we're not loving and leading at home, we're not the lover or the leader we need to be. I'll just close with this. There's a group of you who live out east here, just like lived up north in Frisco, who are starting to gather together. There are about 60 to 100 folks who are members who come in from over there on the other side of the lake, and they're meeting together.
I went and was with them this week, and they're praying about what God would have them do in that particular geography. They gave testimonies to one another, and one of the guys stood up and, in his testimony, said, "The greatest day of my life is the day my mom and dad sat us down and said they'd taken hold of the faith and come to understand who Jesus is." He said, "It changed my life. It was a day of amazing joy. We started to be involved with the church, and my family radically changed."
But then he said, "It wasn't long after that that my parents came back and said they were no longer going to love or live with each other." He said, "It devastated me. It set me on a 10-year course of self-destruction and poor self-leadership and anger at God." When a leader gets better, everybody gets better. You're a leader, and there are children and wives and husbands who are looking to you to bring grace into the home, grace into the land.
God is searching for a man or a woman among us who will stand before him in the gap for the land so that he would not bring destruction to it, that you'd be people of peace. I don't care where you've been or what you've done; who you can be is a source of blessing. Let's go, church. The world is always looking for great leaders, which means the world should always be looking for a Christian.
Father, make us yours. We are so thankful that the little bit of our hearts we have given you you've done so much with. So, Lord, if there are loaves and fish we haven't brought fully to you, let us bring them. More of our heart, Lord; less of our idolatry and love for the things of the world. We want to know you more. We want to excel still more, not because we have to perform for you or appease you but because we see what an amazing God you are.
So, Lord, lead us. We want to decrease. Might you increase. May our children and our city and our nation and our world be blessed because you are in us. Thank you that today any of us who will repent you will reform, and you'll make us into the measure of a man you desire us to be so we can not add to the darkness, not be critical of the darkness, but we can create blessing. O Lord, would you teach us more of this, more of your way, that the world may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven?
We pray, Lord, that we would lean not on our own understanding but in all our ways acknowledge you. If there's anybody here who does not understand the love you have for them by giving your Son to this earth and then to a cross so we could be forgiven, as a sign of your great love, I pray today they would understand it and be unable to leave this room until they do business with you and learn your ways. Be glorified. In Jesus' name, amen.
Well, the other five pages of Scripture are coming next week…Leadership – Part 2. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.