As we wrap up our series, Better Together, we end with the community core value that is really the culmination of faithfully practicing the other five: Engage Missionally. The church was never meant to be some holy huddle, but rather, a group of people that engaged, loved, and served the world around them. Jeff Ward, Christy Chermak, and Bruce Kendrick teach through different ways you and your community group can excel at engaging missionally right where God has you.
Engaging Missionally in Frisco
Community Part 5: Engaging Missionally
Community Part 4: A Call to Shepherd One Another
Counsel Biblically | How are you feeding others?
Authentic Confession and Encouragement | How are you feeding your flesh?
Bible Intake and Relationships | How are you feeding your soul?
As we wrap up our series, Better Together, we end with the community core value that is really the culmination of faithfully practicing the other five: Engage Missionally. The church was never meant to be some holy huddle, but rather, a group of people that engaged, loved, and served the world around them. Jeff Ward, Christy Chermak, and Bruce Kendrick teach through different ways you and your community group can excel at engaging missionally right where God has you.
Suggested Scripture study: Acts 6:1-7; Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 4:10; 1 Peter 2:9-12; Genesis 1:1-3; Psalm 139:16; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; John 10:10; Matthew 9:37-38; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; James 1:27
* Resource: Straightforward Service
* Resource: Watermark Life Resources
* Resource: Family Restoration
* Resource: The Life Initiative
* Resource: 9 Ways a Community Group Can Upgrade Their Missional Engagement
Jeff Ward: Good morning, Watermark. My name is Jeff Ward. I get to serve here on staff on the External Focus Team, and I'm super excited that you guys are here with us this morning. As you know, we've been tracking through our Better Together series, focusing on the core values of what we're all about in our small churches, our communities. We've talked about devoting daily and counseling biblically and living authentically and pursuing relationally.
Today, we're focusing on the last core value of what our small groups are all about: engaging missionally. We're going to talk about taking all of the blessings and all of the value that happens through those values, and then taking them outside of our small groups, outside of our circles, to people who are lost and lonely or who are in need and want to be introduced to our Savior, Christ. So, we're going to talk about that today.
Adam and I had an opportunity this summer to be on this stage discussing this as well, and we talked about how, as Community Groups, we are inward-focused and we are also outward-focused and how healthy groups do both. So, we're going to track along with that value today. I think you're going to be inspired and encouraged. You're going to get to hear a little bit from me around this, and then you're going to get to hear from a couple of my friends, Christy Chermak and Bruce Kendrick. So buckle up. Here we go.
When the early church was just getting started, it faced a lot of opposition, persecution, a lot of threats, frankly, and opportunities. The writer in Acts 6, as he's talking about the early church, wants us to be aware of one threat particularly for the church then and the church now. If you have your Bibles, grab them and open them up, and you can follow along with me right there at the beginning of Acts 6, starting with verse 1.
"Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, 'It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.'
And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith."
By way of background, we're talking about widows in the days of the early church. Widows at that time were a marginalized class of people. They really had no ability to care for themselves, so the early church, doing what the church is called to do, leaned into this need, and they developed a system of providing care for these widows that included a daily allotment, a daily portion of food that would be distributed.
The complaint that the early church leaders are hearing is really one of racism and favoritism. You have the Greek converts, the Hellenists, saying, "Hey, we're getting short-shrift in the daily apportionment. The ethnic Jews who have converted to Christianity are receiving more." So what did the church do in response? They acted promptly and immediately. They gathered a group of all of the disciples, and they prayerfully began to create a solution for the problem.
It was the church's response to this social injustice that helped carry the church forward. In fact, that is the first reference to what we call deacons. It was there. So, structurally, the church became more responsive to the needs in the community, and then, to a watching world… It says, as a result of the church's excellence and creativity in responding to this, "And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith."
This last point has always kind of escaped me. I've read this a number of times, but it says that even these priests were drawn to Christ because of the church's response. We want to be careful, because we don't want to read too much into Scripture where it is not explicit, but there seems to be a connection here of the church immediately and promptly and visibly responding to a social injustice that's happening in the community amongst the marginalized that causes even enemies of the faith, priests, who couldn't be more opposed to the cause of Christ, to go, "Hey, we're interested now. We want to hear more about this Jesus you guys are following."
That is the history of the people of God. That is our legacy, that is our heritage, that because of the overflow of the grace and mercy of what God has done in our lives through Jesus Christ, we then lean in. We move into the needs we see in our community. That has been our prayer here at Watermark since the very early days, that folks who might not agree with our theology or our faith would stand up and say, "Huh. There's something interesting happening in that church because of the way they care for folks in need."
Matthew 5:16 says we are to let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and give glory to our Father who is in heaven. We say often that good deeds create good will that creates an open door for the good news. We're going to talk about all of that today, so let's dive in. I want to put an image up on the screen for you guys. Do you remember these? If you're over 40 you might. For those under 40, those are called maps. That's how we used to get around. That's how we got where we were going.
Yes, it might have taken longer to fold and unfold those things and chart out a map than it actually did to drive there, but that was the tool we had to work with. That's what we used. In fact, sometimes, if you had a super long road trip, you might even go to your local AAA office. Anybody remember that? You'd have them highlight the routes for you and give you a whole bunch of maps. That's how we got around.
Here's the thing. You could spend all that time charting out a path, but then, as you were actually driving, you might encounter roads that had changed since your map was printed or you might run into traffic or weather delays. I see some nodding heads. You know. Then you'd have to unfold that whole thing and start all over. Maps were really a one-size-fits-all tool. Whether you lived in DeSoto or Rockwall or Lewisville or Oak Cliff, you'd open up the same map, try to find yourself, try to find where you were going, and then chart a path. That was the era of maps.
Thankfully, today, we have GPS technology. I don't know everything there is to know about GPS, obviously, but I do know it's a complicated system of satellites that track data in real time and then beam that down to earth. That technology is incorporated into planes and trains and our automobiles and even our phones. Now we can navigate in real time, and it's designed for you. When you pull up your Waze or your Maps app, it finds you on the map and then helps you navigate to where you want to go. In fact, it changes that path depending on the circumstances.
Each day I could have a different path, depending on the obstacles, the weather, the traffic conditions, and all of those sorts of things. It helps me get to where I'm going. I start with that because when we talk about missional engagement, it can be confusing. It can feel complicated. You might feel like a map, like, "I don't even know where to begin. This sounds super complicated. How do I even take my first step? I know I want to be all in. I want to love and serve others. I want to be missional in my city, and I want to care about things around the world, but where do I start?"
Being missional is no longer like a map. It's not a one-size-fits-all. It's not a list of service opportunities that you check a box. There's nothing inspiring about that, because God has uniquely wired and gifted and given us passions. We want your service, your missional engagement, to line up with your wiring and your skills and your passions and all of the gifts God has given you.
I want to teach you this morning a way to think about missional engagement and how to begin that process. The reason I'm doing that as opposed to giving you a concrete next step is because life changes. Our missional engagement can look very different. If you're single, missional engagement might look very different than when you're married. When you don't have kids, missional engagement looks very different than when you have kids.
If you move geographically, your context could be different, or you might change jobs, vocations, and you might have some new skills to put to work. In any kind of context, my hope is that you can apply this easy paradigm to think about your missional engagement next steps. As you think about that, maybe it's helpful for you to think in terms of GPS.
G is gifts. Scripture says, as a believer in Christ, every one of you has been given a spiritual gift to be used to build up the church and to serve others. First Peter 4:10 says, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace…" It might be teaching. It might be leading. It might be administration, exhortation, or any number of other gifts. You will definitely want to consider your spiritual gifts as you think about your gift mix and how to engage missionally.
You're also going to want to think about your other gifts, the other gifts God has given you, which could be experiences in life that could be a platform to minister to others; your vocation as a platform both for you to engage your colleagues, your coworkers, your clients, your customers with spiritual conversations but also as a day-to-day means of engaging and loving and serving your city.
Vocation, whether inside or outside the home, can be a platform for you to engage missionally. Your personality, your wiring, your abilities… All of those things can be used to be missional and to engage others. So, what are your spiritual gifts this morning? What are you good at? What have you experienced? What do you do on a daily basis that God might use to advance his kingdom? That's what this is all about.
P is passions. What do you care the most about? Think about the issues in our community or world that your heart breaks over. Maybe there's a particular cause or people group that resonates with you, that your heart starts to beat faster, and you start thinking of ideas and creative ways to move in and engage and to see change. Maybe, for example, you care about refugees. Maybe you care about international students, like the story about Sherry who came to Christ through a ministry to international students.
Maybe you care about the homeless. Maybe it's incarcerated folks. Maybe your heart goes out to moms, single moms, young kids, the disabled, or seniors. It could be that you care about clean water around the world in places where there is none or you want to be part of combating human trafficking around the world. Many things could touch someone's heart, but what touches yours?
S is specific needs. Think about the things around in your neighborhood or your city, the challenges your community is facing and that you've heard people share about. It could be ongoing, big, systemic challenges. Like, we are busy working on academic intervention and reading with third graders and in schools, and we are working with men and women in prison to work through hurts and habits and hang-ups. We're helping assimilate them as they transition out.
We're working with at-risk men and women with traditional barriers to employment to learn biblical financial literacy and incentivized savings and job creation in a discipleship context. We're working with families with an unexpected pregnancy to bring the body of Christ around in a way where we can truly be pro-life in every sense of the word and show tangibly how we can care and support for that mom and that life inside of her.
In addition to the broad community challenges, I'd encourage you to think local. Think micro too. After the recent tornadoes here in Dallas, there was actually a church that met here in this room because their building had been blown away. You likely had friends and relatives and neighbors who had lost electricity and needed clothing, needed shelter. We, as the body of Christ, can move in in those situations.
In my neighborhood, we use the Nextdoor app. Anybody else have that? Okay, some of you guys do. As you sit here right now, you're probably getting all kinds of alerts about lost dogs. We get a lot of those on the Nextdoor app, and a lot of the ones about kids racing through the neighborhood, going too fast. There are those. But it's a great place, it's a great platform right there in front of us, to be missional, because people will post needs they have.
"Hey, our lawn mower is broken. We just need somebody to come mow our yard or pull some weeds." Or if you're like me and you have the sink apart in 50 parts, I just take a picture and blast it out there. "Somebody help me, please." We were driving through the neighborhood as a family, and a lady posted something on Nextdoor and said, "Hey, my husband is in a wheelchair. I'm trying to get this wheelchair carrier attached to the hitch on the back of my car so we can make it to a doctor's appointment."
It was a few streets over. We just made a little detour. We went over. We spent some time with this lady. I have my two big ol' boys, and they have that hitch on in a matter of minutes. We've developed a friendship with this sweet lady that continues to this day. There are needs all around just right here in our communities, in your kid's school, in your workplace, with your colleagues.
One of my favorite stories is a young mom in a neighborhood near here who had a friend who was teaching in a school, and the teacher said to her, "Hey, we have the STAR test coming up. We could really use some bottled water. Do you think you could bring some water?" and she was like, "Sure. I'll load up the back of my SUV, and I'll bring some cases of water."
So she does that, brings that up to the school, and out of that developed this little ministry to this school. Now 40 or 50 Watermark folks are actually adopting classrooms, and they're working with teachers, and they're impacting that school to the extent that even the district named Watermark their faith-based partner of the year that year. Just a simple, faithful first step. Just a lady who said, "I'm going to start simply, and I'm going to simply start."
There are really practical next steps to finding that strategic intersection between your gift, your passion, your wiring with the needs of the community. You can find that service sweet spot. Many of those tools we've developed over the last few weeks are in your Watermark News. I would encourage you to take that insert out and take that back to your community. There are discussion questions on there for your community to help you process through all of that.
There is watermark.org/groupserve: nine very practical ways that you and your community can begin to process your GPS together. You might go on there and say, "Hey, we'll sign up for that Straightforward Service email." That's just an email that goes out once a month from our team with the top four or five ways you can love and serve your community and city. Really easy.
You might be the person in your Community Group who says, "Hey, I'll take that email in my inbox." There are 1,500 folks on that distribution list. So, really easy, practical ways. We don't have to overthink this. We simply start and start simply. Your intersection, your service sweet spot, sort of comes to you as you begin to love and serve and work out your wiring. God will light up ways you can be impactful with those around you.
Again, simply start and start simply. Don't forget the role of your community in all of this. They have committed to shepherd you, to help you identify your gifts, to develop your gifts to ensure that you're fully deployed. Do this process together as a group. Go through that together. They might even want to come and serve with you. Involve your community in this GPS thinking to help you navigate missionally right where God has you.
Now you're going to get to hear from my friend Christy Chermak. She has been on our staff about five years. We brought her on to help lead and launch our first urgent care clinic. She now leads our entire Watermark health ministry, which includes multiple urgent care clinics, maybe another one coming online, a mobile clinic coming, and a whole bunch of other initiatives. Would you please welcome now my friend Christy?
Christy Chermak: Thanks, Jeff. All right, Watermark. Here we go. Good morning. As Jeff mentioned, my name is Christy, and as the elders invited me to share with you this morning, I was so excited, because I knew exactly where I wanted to start. It was simply this: I love what God is doing through my church. I get to sit in a really unique seat and watch him at work around our city. He's working miracles. He's winning people over to himself. He's using my church to do it, and I absolutely love watching him at work through my church.
I actually wrote down a couple of things I've seen God do through my church in the last 12 months, because I know not everyone might be familiar with it. This is what I've seen God do through my church in the last 12 months. He has helped children in the foster care system have an advocate. He has saved women out of the sex trade. Women who are struggling with same-sex attraction are finding freedom. Young adults from around the world are coming here to learn how to be the church.
We're building a church body up in Frisco. I'd estimate that God has used my church for 30,000 people to hear the gospel. Around 10,000 got health care they wouldn't have gotten elsewhere. Corporate America is being transformed through Bible studies during lunch, church leaders in India are being trained, and people in the DR are getting medical care they would not have gotten before. In short, God is using my church to change this city.
A lot of you might actually not know my church, so I wanted to make sure I brought a picture of them. There they are. That might not have been what you were expecting, but they're the six women I get to be in community with that I have seen God do that list of things through. Six women, that big list, and my hope and my dream is that every single small Community Group like that would have a similar list.
Of course, I'm using that language "my church" to drive home a point. I'm trying to acknowledge that oftentimes when we talk about what God is doing through our church, we immediately jump to a 2020 review or we jump to a program or a staff member, and we skip the step of evaluating how we're doing in our smaller circles.
You've heard Todd on this stage multiple times say that we are one church, four campuses, thousands of locations. It's even on our website worded like that. The truth is that the picture I showed is my location. My church is much bigger than that. I know there are thousands of other locations that are getting after it and have a similar list that mine does.
I also think many of us find ourselves under-deployed, and when we hear a list like that, we get overwhelmed and think that could never be us. In 1 Peter, chapter 2, we're reminded what the church is called to. Peter has these words. He says we are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, and he continues that while we were once not a people, we now are a people, and we're supposed to live as foreigners in our land.
He says the Gentiles should see the good works we do and because of them glorify God, even if they disagree with what we have to say about who he is. Your list might look different. Your small location, your Community Group… Your list might look different than mine. Maybe you're going to go deep in one area together or maybe you're going to be spread across multiple, like my church is, but I believe God wants to do similar things through each of us.
In my role, I get to watch as hundreds of people move from under-deployed to fully deployed, fully on mission, and what I've seen happen time and time again is there are three core lies we have to wrestle with before we're fully deployed. So, what I would invite you to do as I walk through those three core lies is evaluate how your church is doing.
How is your location doing? Are you believing these lies? Have you heard other people in your small circles vocalize them? Then we're going to talk through some ways we can respond to them with God's truth. So here we go. This is the first lie I've seen us wrestle with that keeps us from being fully engaged missionally in our city.
1 . "I don't have enough time." I get it. This is often the first line of defense. A weekend where we do a message series like this or maybe you go to the membership class and hear about a serving requirement to be a member here, and it's easy to jump to, "I don't have time for that. I'm so overwhelmed already." You're right. We live in a very overcommitted, overbooked culture, but if we look at God's Word, I think he has something to say about the lie that "I don't have enough time."
Genesis 1:1-3 tells me that God created the heavens and the earth. He split the light from the dark. He called it day, and he said it was good. Psalm 139:16 tells me that God has ordained my days before I was even born, so the saying, "I don't have enough time" just isn't true. I have exactly as much time as the Lord would have me have, and it's up to me to figure out how I'm going to use it.
The reality is that Mother Teresa had just as many hours in a day as we do. Paul had just as many minutes in an hour as we do. It's how we use them that matters. What I think we mean when we say, "I don't have enough time" is "That's just not important to me. I have other priorities, other things I'm giving my time to."
I think if we were to sit down with our Community Group and evaluate how our time was being spent, we'd be a little bit surprised how much of it is going to work versus family time versus time on our phone scrolling versus time in front of Netflix. What are we putting our time toward? As I mentioned earlier, we live in a culture that is overcommitted and has expected us to be in constant communication with one another.
That 1 Peter 2 verse I read reminds us that we are to be foreigners in our land. So, if we're living in a land that has idolized busyness, then we're going to need to swim upstream against it. We're called to swim upstream from the current of our culture. For us, I think that looks like a constant evaluation of our time. What's it going to?
Do we walk into a room and feel more valued because we feel like we're busy? We need to kill that idol in our lives. I want to be abundantly clear. If you're hearing me say, "Go do more," I'm not being clear. That's not it. I'm not saying, "Go do more." I'm saying, let's do better with the time we do have. Let's evaluate how we're spending it and put it in front of the Lord and ask him how we should use it.
Some of us actually might need to make some changes. There might be things in your schedule, in your day-to-day, that point toward not trusting the Lord, and we need to replace them with things that do, but others of us don't need to change a single thing in our calendar. We just need to shift our perspective on how we use that time.
I actually got to learn this most clearly when I worked in an engineering firm. For five years, before I came on staff here, I worked at an environmental consulting firm in corporate America. I'd just become a believer the year before, and I was in that job believing the lie that in order to be on mission I had to go to a foreign land, live in a tent, and engage with people I had never met before. The Lord, in his kindness, helped me to see that that was not true.
I was sitting there day in and day out, struggling with, "Why am I here?" hating those eight hours, and desiring the 5:30 or 6:00 buzzer where I could leave and go do things I thought mattered with my local church. Instead, God one day had me pick up my eyes and look around, and all of a sudden, I realized that sitting three feet away from me were people who had marriages that were struggling, people who had families that were sick, people who had kids who were wayward, people who ascribed to different faith systems.
The Lord showed me, "Hey, this is the mission field I've given you eight hours a day. Don't sit here whining and complaining about another one you're not on right now. Invest here." As I was diligent to do that with the encouragement of the people around me in this church body who showed me how to do that, it became a wild adventure.
All of a sudden, it mattered what I did with those eight hours. All of a sudden, it mattered how I walked to the break room and who I talked to on the way. It mattered how I spent my lunch break. Was I praying for my coworkers during my lunch break? Was I starting Bible studies during my lunch break? All of a sudden, all of these little things mattered and I wasn't just wasting time.
I will tell you, I saw the Lord work amazing things at that time at the engineering firm. I saw people come to know Jesus. I saw people come to understand who God was for the first time, people get plugged in here for the first time. It was a wild ride. So, for many of you, I'm not asking you to change anything; I'm just asking you to shift your perspective on what God might have you be doing. I think God's Word might be pushing you to shift your perspective on what you can do with your time.
So, if you're a new mom and it was hard enough to get in here with your hair brushed because it is hard work to keep a human alive, I get it. We're not asking you to add anything to your calendar. All I'm asking is that you maybe consider, "What does God want me to do with those people I'm sitting next to day in and day out during play dates? Am I treating them the way he would have me treat them?"
If you're a student and you are up to your eyeballs in classwork and overwhelmed and not sure what to do next because you are trying to just get to the next test, I'm not necessarily asking you to shift your whole calendar. I think maybe God's Word is instead asking you to just pick up your eyeballs, look around, and see who you're studying next to, and to love them how he would.
If you're headed busy from work, going to a soccer game, we're not asking you to all of a sudden stop doing those things. We're just asking you to pick up your eyes from your phone and engage with the person sitting next to you in the bleachers. The goal is not to do more; the goal is to do just as much as God is asking you to, and I think his Word might challenge us with how we're spending some of our time. As much fun as that is, I would just say, "How could you not make time for this?" It's a wild ride. Don't miss out.
2 . "I'm not [blank] enough."You can fill in the blank how you want to. Here's how I've heard it filled in a few times: "I'm not old enough. I'm not young enough. I'm not smart enough, rich enough, bold enough, experienced enough." Sometimes you might feel on this stage like you're not tall enough. I'm actually six feet tall, though, so I perpetuate the stereotype. Sorry about that. No matter how you fill in that blank, at the end of it you're saying, "I'm not enough."
Actually, this is good news. It's true: you are not enough. You were never designed to be enough. You were never asked to be enough. God's Word through Paul in 2 Corinthians, chapter 12, reminds us that it's God's grace that is enough. He says God's grace is sufficient. He says his power is made perfect in our weaknesses. We're actually called to boast in our weaknesses, because through our weakness, that is when we're strong.
You were never told to be enough; you were actually told to be dependent. I've actually come to find out that the more I'm in the world of engaging missionally, what that really looks like most times is just showing up and acknowledging, "I'm not enough, but God is." We see this play out every single day at our urgent care clinics. As Jeff mentioned, I get to hang out at the two of them, one here in Dallas and one up in Collin County near our Plano Campus.
All the time, we see nurses come in, and as they go through our orientation, they usually say something like, "Well, I'll just do the medical side, and I'll help with labs or I'll do vitals, but you have someone else who's going to pray for people, right? You have someone else who can share the gospel." We're kind about it. We are gentle with our answer to that. We'll help train them up as we need to, but there's going to be a point where we give them a gentle nudge into a patient room, and we say, "Hey, you've got this. The Lord has you. Just go in and trust him."
What happens every single day is the church is showing up in those rooms and saying, "I'm not enough, but my God is. Let me tell you about him." God loves to work through that. We see crazy things happen in our clinics, from Muslims meeting Jesus to transgendered men and women feeling welcomed and loved and cared for by the church, women choosing life for their babies, and it's simply happening because the church is showing up and saying, "I'm not enough, but my God is."
Early on, when I was at the clinic, we actually had one nurse come out of a patient room physically shaking because of the adrenaline rushing through her from sharing the gospel for the first time. What I would say to you is if your first thought on the topic of engaging missionally is "I'm not enough…" and you follow that up with "…but God is," and you figure out how to trust him in the middle of it, then you're headed in the right direction. You, too, might come out of a room sometime physically shaking from adrenaline of what God has done in front of you.
But if your first thought is "I'm not enough," and you follow that with a thought of, "Well, I guess that means I don't get to do anything or I don't have to do anything or maybe someone else will speak up. It's not my job; I'm not enough," then I would warn you from John 10:10 that the Enemy is working overtime to steal, kill, and destroy the abundant life God has offered you. Don't miss out on it. Don't allow the temptation to make feeding others become about you.
3 . "They don't need me." What I would say very loudly and clearly to that is: We absolutely need you. We desperately need you. If we're going to be the church Jesus has commissioned in Matthew 16:18, we're going to be fighting back the gates of hell. I don't know if you guys know this, but there's actually a war that is raging on. The Enemy is roaming around like a lion, trying to devour people, and because we know this book, because we read it, because we ascribe our lives to it, we know how to set the captives free.
There are systems that are unjust that we know how to fix because we follow this Word and we have our Jesus with us side by side. There's a war raging on. I actually have a missions report for you from the front lines, and it's simply this: we need you. If you think everything has been fine and taken care of, I would just ask you to look again. This week alone at our two clinics there will be spots that go unfilled because we don't have enough volunteers, which means we will see fewer patients. Fewer people will be cared for and hear the gospel.
We have patients who come to our clinic and have a good experience there, and they fill out a form. They go to the trouble to write down their name, raise their hand, and say, "I would like for someone from the church to follow up with me," and we can't do it. They're sitting in a queue, because we don't have enough volunteers; the church has not showed up yet.
There are people in prison who are asking for re:gen mentors. There are refugees waiting to learn English. There are internal ministries to this church that we can't grow or launch yet because we don't have the leaders who have shown up. The Enemy has tricked you into thinking that we don't need you.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes the church as a body with many members. The eye needs its foot. The hand needs its elbow. You were uniquely designed for a specific purpose, and in the same way that the hand needs its ear, we need you to play a role. Jesus, after speaking with the multitudes, says to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few," and then he encourages them to pray to the Lord of the harvest. So I'm going to do that.
Lord, we ask that you would free us from the lies we believe that slow us down. I thank you for the many thousands of church locations in this room and listening and at our different campuses that are abiding by your Word and are going out into the city and telling others about you. I pray they'd be encouraged, and I pray each of us would be challenged to trust you more. It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.
Y'all welcome my friend Bruce.
Bruce Kendrick: Hey, friends. Hey, family. If you have your Bible on you, turn to Deuteronomy, chapter 10. While we're turning there, I want to turn your minds to 1883 and the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. For the very first time, the islands of Manhattan and Long Island are going to get connected. The Brooklyn Bridge was the longest bridge by far of any time, just world-renowned.
There was plenty of opposition, of course. Anytime you want to do something big and you have this gargantuan vision of connecting what would become the world's most influential city, you had people who went, "No, this is going to be too costly. No, the construction is going to be too difficult," and in many ways they were correct. They had to raise the entire bridge several inches two years after they submitted the initial plan.
When they went and started digging down on the Brooklyn side, they established the foundation down to the bedrock under the river, and when they went over to the Manhattan side to establish that foundation, they got down there and realized they were going to have to dig twice as deep on that side, yet they completed the bridge, and a year later, in 1884, they asked P.T. Barnum, from The Greatest Showman and Barnum & Bailey Circus fame, to walk 21 elephants across the bridge just to give confidence to the masses, to say, "This bridge is established. It's not going anywhere." In connecting this area, they were able to make New York City what it is today.
I share all that because when we talk about engaging missionally, what we're talking about is building bridges that similarly require deep foundations in the gospel and an understanding of the complex issues that are going on in our culture. These are bridges that don't just send people over from one side. There are also bridges that bring others in from the other side.
Unfortunately, as the church, we sometimes don't build a bridge at all, and when we do, we often just think of "How can I get over there? How can I go serve them?" instead of thinking of how they can reach us. With that in mind, let's consider how we engage missionally by building bridges that welcome others in as we continue to be sent out. Deuteronomy, chapter 10, verse 18, and following:
"He [God] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt." This passage is really the first biblical mandate we have to go serve and love those in our communities, and it does so not by saying you have an obligation to do so as God's people or that we should show pity to those who are in need.
God charges us with this as his people and says we do this out of empathy because we were once foreigners. We were once widows. We were once the fatherless. We were once the ones who were on the outside of God's kingdom, and he made a way. He engrafted us into his family, that we would be called sons and daughters of the Most High King, that we would be heirs with Christ. You may have heard Todd in the past say, "God doesn't have grandchildren." We're welcomed into God's family so we can turn around and welcome others in.
My wife and I moved into our very first house, and it was one of those little starter homes, the three-bedroom/two-bath kind of home. We had our first biological daughter who was on the way. This is us many years ago, courtesy of JCPenney Portrait Studios. (Good ol' JCPenney. You buy a membership, and then you're just stuck, and you keep going back.)
Anyway, we moved into our first house, and we had our first daughter. We had the bedroom we were in, and then we just had this empty bedroom. We were still in college, and my wife just looked at me and said, "What do you think about becoming foster parents?" Quite frankly, there was no part of me that was really excited about that.
The clouds didn't part. The angels didn't descend. Trumpets didn't sound. I just went, "You know what? I've read something about caring for the orphan, the fatherless, or the vulnerable in my Bible, so, yeah, let's do that." I want to ask you, as you mentally look around what God has given you, is there an empty room? Is there an empty seat at your table? Is there an empty seat in your car?
When's the last time you had to pay to change out the carpet in your house and tell the guys who were coming to replace it, "Yeah, we had to change it out because it gets used so much"? We wanted God to use the stuff we had. Not just the stuff we had, but we saw our marriage and our kids, our family, as resources God had provided to us for us to steward for his purposes and his kingdom.
Fifteen years later, we've fostered dozens of children, and usually just one child at a time. It's a funny thing, when you read God's Word and start to be faithful and obedient to him, how he just continues to provide resources, and you go, "Hey, God, if you'll provide resources, we'll be faithful with them."
Today, we have nine children, ages 6 to 27. We have three grandkids, and I'm in my late 30s. They didn't put that on the brochure when we started saying we were interested in foster care, but that was our bridge. We didn't have to go overseas; we just had to be faithful with what we had. And this is not going to be you. I've already won anyway. I have the most kids. The competition is over.
God has shown up in such an incredible way. He has ripped the façade off our faith, and in his mercy and kindness and patience with us, he has revealed that his plans are better than our plans. So, with the rest of our time, I want to share how God is continuing to use you and our church as a whole through Watermark's Life Initiative and ask you to consider how you and your church or your family might engage missionally with us.
I joined staff here just a couple of years ago, and I'm supposed to oversee what all is going on in foster care here in Dallas County. Then we have this After-Abortion Care ministry I was supervising and working with, and we started meeting together as leaders. I immediately recognized that we would never wait until a child needs to be adopted to begin caring for them, so why would we wait until a woman or a man has participated in abortion to begin caring for them?
I had some friends who just went, "Hey, let's go upstream. What would it look like for us to come alongside those with unexpected pregnancies, who feel like the sky is falling down, and stand next to them and go, 'Hey, you're not alone,' and speak truth into their hearts and lives?" For those who have had abortion as a part of their story, while we're still developing the Life Initiative… And we have some exciting things coming forward that I want to invite you into. If you're interested in serving in this area of ministry, you can go to watermark.org/tli.
I'm confident that if abortion is a part of your past, shame doesn't have a home in this church. You may have been convinced of the lie that in the same way you were ushered into the side door of an abortion clinic you should be ushered into the side door of the church, but when Jesus says he has come that we may have life and have it abundantly, there's no caveat on that. You may have some other secret sin that you're just kind of holding off to the side.
Christ didn't just come so we could experience healing and forgiveness; he came that we would experience freedom. As we are free, we get to turn around and set others free. There are those who are coming after you. We don't want to expose you by asking you to step into the light. We want to encourage you to stand in freedom in the light and be able to turn around and walk others into it and go, "Hey, there's freedom here. Shame doesn't have a home. Abortion doesn't have the last word; Christ does."
We also recognized if our focus on children in foster care was adoption first or adoption only and not family restoration, we were missing the biblical precedent to care for these vulnerable families; that we have somehow confused our ambition to make sure children have a home with the reality that many of the children who are relegated to orphanages internationally and those who are in foster care domestically actually have extended family members who could care for them if we were to prioritize family restoration in a biblical way and that adoption is not just the answer for abortion or for vulnerable children.
This March, we'll actually launch a court-ordered parenting class that some friends and I have developed, where we're going to CPS and saying, "Hey, when you have to remove a child into foster care due to abuse or neglect, you can turn right around to that parent and say, 'Go to Watermark. They'll help you get your kids back.'"
We have some friends who are already partnering with judges down in Dallas County downtown, where the judges have said, "We need you. Come on," and women and men who are walking alongside those who are hurting, who are ashamed and maybe lost because they didn't have a mom showing them how to be a mom or a dad showing them how to be a dad, just going, "We'll walk with you."
Yet there are still those children whose families are generationally broken, whose parental rights have been terminated. Here in Dallas County alone, there are over 500 kids who are waiting to be adopted today. I know there are more than 200 families across our campuses who have already raised their hand and said, "I'll give of my family."
I both want to encourage you in saying, "Well done; continue on" and simultaneously say, "Hey, that bridge where you welcomed over a child who was in need or you welcomed over their family… You're probably going to have to welcome in some friends in your Community Group or neighbors or people you come in contact with to help them see and be destigmatized from some of the 'Ah, I could never do that.'"
This month, we're launching an effort with CPS (it's really the first of its kind here in Dallas County) called Bridge to Adoption. On Sunday, February 23, we're going to have about 20 of the kids there waiting to be adopted, kind of representing this larger group of 500, featured. We already have 25 Community Groups. I didn't even get to get up here and promote it to you. We had 25 Community Groups that were already at the waiting that just kind of heard of it by mouth, and they said, "Yeah, we want to jump in and do that."
They're sponsoring a table so a child can be represented, so their case worker and attorney can come and speak to their story, and then following, we're going to go back to them and say, "Hey, we need somebody who's going to be an advocate for this child, who's going to continue to walk alongside them, who's going to support their foster family if necessary, who's going to be responsible and say, 'We're going to use our influence, we're going to use our network to make sure that kid gets a family so they know they can belong.'"
If you're from the Tarrant County side of the Metroplex, I have some friends at Hope Fort Worth that I'd encourage you to go check out. They have a similar effort called Hope Now. If you're from the Plano or Frisco Campuses, some friends at Embrace Texas lead a similar effort called TheSecond Story that we're engaging in, because we just think it's unacceptable for there to be children in our communities who don't have families. That can't stand if the church stands.
I have some friends who will be out in the lobby afterward. They have shirts on that say "Until every child is home." Church, there is an opportunity. I'm so excited to be a part of it with you, to have the kind of testimony where we go, "God moved in a tremendous way. We looked around at our resources, and we went, 'We're stewards of God's stuff. This marriage, this family, this house, this car…it's God's stuff.'"
As you engage in conversations with your Community Group, with your family, I want to encourage you to ask the questions, "Who will God bring to us as we build a bridge? Who's God going to bring across? Who will we welcome into our lives and homes as we steward his stuff? What kinds of foundations do we need to build? Might we need to dig deeper?" Let's go, church. We have work to do. Pray with me.
God, you are an awesome, great, and powerful God, yet you identify yourself as a father to the fatherless and a defender of widows in your holy dwelling who sets the lonely in families. God, there are people in this room who are stuck in generational cycles of abuse or addiction or violence in the bonds of sin, and, God, you've set us free. Through Christ we are free.
So I pray that we would continue to be a bold and courageous people who walk in truth and love to encourage those, to welcome those, to speak out and call out to those, that we might cross over and meet them where they are and then walk them back into relationship with you. God, you are good and glorious. You are faithful.
Where we feel like we're not enough, where we feel like we don't have enough time, help us look around and look at what you've already blessed us with, that we might shine light into the darkness, that we might be salt in our community. God, you are good and holy. We love you. Move us and use us to make your name famous in this kingdom. We ask all of these things in the powerful, able, holy, and wonderful name of Jesus Christ, amen.