“Any Christian should be grieved by racism, injustice, and apathy toward the things that break the heart of God. This is how we talked about these things when we gathered last Saturday night. We feel like we missed an opportunity with many of our friends who only tuned in on Sunday morning, and we are grateful to encourage the many who missed it now. We believe sharing our heart is the most helpful thing for us to post today, AND we believe continuing to work together toward the unity, love, and justice our Savior died to make possible is our daily task. Join us as we continue to love kindness, do justice, and walk humbly with our Lord.” – Todd Wagner
Christmas Eve: God With Us
Three Reminders to Remain a Healthy Church
Sunday, June 7 Watermark Fort Worth Service
“Races” Don’t Reconcile, People Do: How to Love, Listen and Live like Christ
When Racial Tensions Rise, So Must The Church
Devotion to Christ While We Disagree about How to Respond to the COVID (or any other) Crisis.
Sober Minded Living That Leads to Sanctification: How We Make War Against Sin
A Message from the Elders on Membership, Connection, Care and Community Formation
The Gift of Trials
Easter, It's Impossible to Overreact
Good Friday | In the Waiting (Plano)
Good Friday 2020
Plagues, Censuses, and Leadership
Leaders That Create Churches Others Are Thankful For: Plano Launch
Evening with the Elders
The Gospel Through Marriage
Our Lens: The Gospel
A Biblical View of Marriage
Who We Are
The Richness of the Gospel
Fort Worth Transition Update
Experiencing Our Purpose in Christ
Hello, Watermark family and, hopefully, friends who my Watermark family will share this video with if they think it's helpful. It's Monday. It's June 1. We are coming to the close of a pretty chaotic week in our country. It's been tragic to watch. I wanted to speak with you because we know that thousands of our Watermark family weren't with us when we gathered on Saturday night.
We lamented what is happening in our world. We spent an extended time in corporate prayer. We talked a lot about where our world is today. Then we had a message on Sunday, that my friend David Leventhal recorded on Thursday, that didn't address some of the same things that we talked about for well over an hour on Saturday night.
So we thought it would just be really helpful just to maybe capture some of that for many of our friends who aren't ready yet to gather even outside. We totally understand why a lot of folks weren't there, but we thought maybe we could be together right now. Let me just start by saying whenever I speak, I always remind myself of what Solomon said, which is, "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly."
I don't ever want to spout folly. I want to get out of the way of the message that I want to share. It also is humbling that so many of you wanted to hear me say some things as the leader and the pastor of Watermark, as a spiritual leader, as a leader in our community in general. Folks go, "Todd, I want to hear from you." Some of you said, "I want to hear from you because you're a white leader."
Then others might even go, "I don't want to hear from you because you're a white leader. I don't want any cultural appropriation. I don't need to hear from you." So I'm already making some groups mad because I'm speaking, and I think there have been some folks frustrated because they haven't heard me speak.
I try and share my personal thoughts a lot on social media, but I don't expect everybody to care about what I post on social media. It's probably healthy if you're not on social media. It breaks my heart when people say, "Why haven't you said something?" I have. I have for some time, specifically about this topic.
You know, a lot of folks, there's no way for you to know my story. I grew up in a mixed-race community. I had friends of different melanin, different races, as the world would call it, but I don't believe we have different races. I believe there's one race. There's one God, one Father, one Lord who is over all of us. We're one blood.
I believe in tribalism. I believe there are different people groups, but I believe we have one Father and one Lord and one Savior. I believe there is an Enemy who hates us and so he tries to divide us into different people groups or races. That's what the Enemy does, and he is a liar.
I think we have to acknowledge that it goes without saying that the white race has exploited their majority over, specifically, the African-American community from the beginning of the European settlement here in America and then, certainly, as our country was founded and we had this great Declaration of Independence and this Constitution that talk about how there are certain unalienable rights.
There was immediately a people group who was oppressed and didn't have the ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness because of the institution of slavery which, if you don't know, has never been supported in Scripture. The Bible talks about slavery, but the slavery in the Bible is not the slavery that was the imperialistic Atlantic slave trade.
There's a Real Truth. Real Quick. on that, which I hope you watch, and I talk about that. It's always been wrong to kidnap a man and to oppress him. It's always been wrong. No Christian, no Christ-follower who genuinely studied the Scripture and followed Jesus, would have ever owned or been abusive toward another human being.
Once the institution of slavery was eradicated in the middle of the nineteenth century, nobody would've continued the bias and the oppression of another people, frankly with a different color or not. We see that there are all kinds of injustices in the world today. There's sex trafficking. There's the elimination of weak embryos. There continues to be the abuse of one people group to another. We know there's a history, in this country specifically, of white-on-black persecution.
So I can share a lot of statistics about the fact that white cops are 18.5 times more likely to be shot by a black man than a black man is to be killed by a white cop. It just doesn't help. It seems to almost say, "Why are you upset? Look what's happening today." Well, people are upset because of what's been going on for a long time. I join them in being upset.
What we all saw happen to George Floyd, I have not heard anybody defend it. I have not heard one person defend it. I don't care what color the person was on top or what color the person was on bottom. It was awful. But I think we're being naïve if we don't understand why this makes a lot of people harken back to a systemic problem where they have felt for a long time, my friends of color, that they have suffered under a majority culture.
Whether or not any statistic that you could bring forth would justify that today, to just dismiss it because of some statistic is not being, not just sensitive, but I think, aware. One of the things that really grieves me is that my friends of color need to hear me say more often that I understand their pain.
Because I'm like, "What is it about me that makes you think I'm indifferent to your sufferings?" I am commanded by Christ to "…mourn with those who mourn." I just want to stick in right here. Again, if you want to hear more on this, there's a Real Truth. Real Quick. on Black Lives Matter.
I can remember during the loss of life of our friend Mike Smith and four other Dallas police officers when we had that incident in Dallas a number of years ago after another race-related officer incident speaking to a lot of my friends who I know knew me well. When I just shared how the Black Lives Matter idea, when it first came out…
I kind of looked at that, and my first response was, "Well yeah, they matter because all lives matter." That was my first thought. It just took me a little listening and to have my friends say, "Hey Todd, just so you know. The reason certain people are saying this…" And there's no question people have taken that little phrase and have run with it and have made it stand for something that is not helpful. But when you hear somebody say "Black Lives Matter," the right thing to do is just go "Hey, help me understand what you want me to know when you say that."
That's just a wise way to respond. It says in the Scripture, "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind." It says, "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him." So when somebody says to you, "Hey, Black Lives Matter," it's not smart to reveal your mind and say, "All lives matter." Because I think everybody agrees with that.
What they're saying, the people who aren't using it as an excuse to act violently… What they're saying is a very humble statement. They're saying, "I don't feel like you think, or our world thinks, that I matter as much as you do." Here's just a good metaphor. If my house was on fire and I ran up to you and I said, "My house matters, man! My house matters!" and you looked at me and said, "Well Todd, we all live in houses; all of our houses matter," that wouldn't be really helpful to me.
But if I said, "No, I'm saying that because my house is on fire and you're just walking by like it's not. Like your house, which is not on fire. You're fine. I'm not fine because my house is on fire." I think you would go, "Oh, I see now, Todd. You want me to see that your house is on fire." We have a lot of friends who feel like justice is on fire. They want to know that you care and that I care.
I always say to my friends, "Man, would you forgive me that there's something about me that makes you believe that I don't think it matters if justice is on fire in your world? Because I'm a follower of Jesus, and I don't need to put a modifier in front of justice. I don't need to care about social justice. I need to care about justice. Societal injustice is underneath something I am compelled by Christ to care deeply about."
So I'll let you know that when people use phrases, you want to just say, "What do you mean by 'social justice'?" Sometimes they mean things like identity politics and things that are going to lead to people believing that certain people groups are always at wrong and certain people groups are entitled, and we don't see that in Scripture, so we don't stand for it.
But the fact that we have friends who live near us as Christians, as Christian leaders, as communities of faith, that we don't care about and speak for them in their pain and in their suffering means we can excel still more. I don't expect you want to watch everything I say on social media.
I don't even expect you to watch this, but I want you to know that I'm taking advantage of this opportunity so people can know that we absolutely believe injustice is wrong. We see systemic injustice in our nation's history. If there is something that we personally have been a part of that you either perceive or that you know, call us to repentance. We've taught at Watermark about redlining. We've talked at Watermark about the history of racism in our city in Dallas.
We don't do it every week, because every week what we talk about is the gospel. When the gospel is embraced, there will be repentance. That gives me a chance just to make a little bit of a walk to some of the stuff that I have said recently on social media in just talking about this and just tell you again that I'm doing this because it would grieve me if anybody at Watermark…
I don't care what color you are: our members who are people of color, our members who are not, or people who just know we take the name of Jesus. If someone perceives that we here at Watermark are insensitive to suffering, that would grieve us because we know that our God is not insensitive to suffering. Jesus wept when he saw death come to his friend. He did something about it. He is a sovereign and good God. We need to mourn with those who mourn.
If we're not mourning ourselves when we see wrong done, then we need to have an awakening in our own hearts. But there's no question that it's even more painful when somebody who you identify more closely with, who looks like you and is a part of your family is suffering. I think some of our friends who share the same skin color as George Floyd feel like, "Hey, I feel like that happens to people how look like me way too much."
I just want to tell you, we don't want it to ever happen to anybody. We understand why you're saying, "Hey, do you care that this keeps happening to people who look like me?" Yes, and it grieves me that we haven't loved you in a way and spoken in a way that you know that already. So ABC News released an article that I copied. It just said this.
It said, "'Massive eruption,' like Minneapolis protests, is what drives change." Experts say that riots and disruptions like are happening up there is what brings change. I just disagree. What brings change is repentance. What brings change is our hearts being aligned with Christ. The reason there is white-on-black crime, the reason there is black pain, the reason there is white‑on‑white crime and black-on-black crime, the reason there is pain in this world is because of sin.
We have had a national sin that we are naïve to think it's going to go away because there was an Emancipation Proclamation or because we no longer allow there to be Jim Crow laws. Well, there's a lot of pain. I sat with a friend just a few days ago whose grandfather was born into slavery. It's not that long ago.
Even out of slavery, as I've already said, there are policies and there is favoritism that has affected generations of people. They don't feel as free. They feel like they've had to adapt to white culture. They feel like they don't have the privilege that whites have been given. Those feelings are both real and, I think, reliable many times when you go back and look at the facts.
So our job is to educate ourselves. Our job is to listen. Our job is to love and to empathize and to make sure that we're not a part of continuing some of that behavior in any way. So I hope that our just talking like this and acknowledging it… I did it for 30 minutes in a much more fluid way. It was extemporaneous on Saturday night just past.
I just said, "Hey guys, this is the world that we're in, and the solution is not rioting. The solution is Christ. The solution is love." Violence and chaos and brokenness is what follows continual hardness of heart. What the Scripture says in Proverbs 29:1 is, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy."
What you're seeing is a brokenness in our country that has become… It's the fruit of the hardness of heart that we've embraced for a long time. We cannot stop teaching morals. We cannot hide sins of our past through hardness of heart and not expect it to eventually lead to greater trouble. So we're seeing right now in our land the fruit of our lack of repentance as a people. The way to address it is to repent, to listen, to love, and to follow Christ.
As I put some thoughts together last week… One of the things I would just encourage you to do, when people are saying, "Man, I just wish Watermark would say something or Todd would say something," Some of you guys follow me on social media. Don't just like, retweet it. Say, "Look, this is what they're saying. They're absolutely with us," if you're a member of the black community."
I called some friends of mine who tweeted out, "Man, where are the white pastors and why aren't they speaking out in the midst of this?" I reached out to them, and I just said, "Hey, man. I don't expect you to track everything I'm saying, but when people know we're friends and you say that, they assume that none of your white pastor friends have been talking about this. I just want to tell you I have, and it grieves me that you don't know that."
I mean, I can't pick up the phone and call everybody, and I don't expect everybody to follow me, but before we say, "None of my white friends," or "None of my black friends are…" Let's watch our words, right? I think always and never are not good words to use when we're describing a situation.
Violence doesn't bring change. I think we all know that. Right? Violence brings pain and sadness. I'm just reading you tweets, things that are out there. If the kindness of God does not lead us to repentance, then he is going to let the discipline that pain offers bring about repentance. That's where I went and read from Hosea 5. It's something you might want to do.
Hosea talks about how God is going to let us experience just the consequences of our sin. We have a national sin. It is that we put, "In God we trust," on our money and we don't trust in God. We say we're, "One nation under God," in our pledge of allegiance to our flag, and we're not one nation under God.
We are a nation divided. Identity politics and grouping people by tribe or by what the world would call race is never going to lead to peace. There is somebody who wants to divide us, and it's not the God of the Christian. Christ died to bring an end to the dividing wall and to take care of the enmity which existed between the Jewish race and the Gentile race.
Jesus says that what's going to mark us is the love that he has for the Father and the Father has for him being known in us. In other words, that we would be one as the Trinity, as the Godhead…the Father, Son, and Spirit…are one. So to my friends who look different than me, who need to hear me say that I'm one with you, I grieve with you.
I don't understand your pain, but I want to mourn with you and, as best I can, understand your pain. I want you to hear me say it. I want you to hear me say what I think a lot of people that I know my friends who follow Jesus with me here at Watermark who are white like me would say to you if they had a chance to talk to you personally.
That is, "Will you forgive us that you don't know that loudly without us having to say it in moments like this? Let's work together so that you can say, 'Well, I have all kinds of friends who are white who are as grieved as I am over this.'" Any Christian should be grieved at racism, injustice, and apathy toward anything that breaks the heart of God.
So we just felt like it was appropriate to film this because not all of us were together on Saturday. Some folks even watched the message Sunday, which my friend David recorded a couple days earlier, and thought, "Why don't they talk about it?" Sunday is not always the time to make a bunch of social commentary.
We talk about the thing that changes society, but in this case, we think it's appropriate to say the gospel always affects society. It always should affect how we live in our world. So we talk about stuff here that is all around us. I do a Real Truth. Real Quick. on life, leadership, and the world we live in and what Jesus thinks about it.
So the world we live in has a lot of pain. I don't want to be a part of it. I want to mourn with those who are experiencing it. I know that Jesus is the solution and Jesus cares about injustice. I am supposed to be his hands and feet. If God has given me position or power or influence, to use it. I want people to see me using it. I want you to join me in being instruments of peace.
So let's mourn with those who mourn. Let's rejoice together in the hope that we have that this world is not our home and just know that we love you. I love every single member of Watermark. I'm so pleased to be a part of a body that is as racially diverse as we are. I'll close with this because we talked about this on Saturday.
Racial diversity in a local body is not the sign of a healthy church. Jesus says, "You're going to know a church not by its racial diversity." The universal church that's going to stand before him one day is going to be from every nation, every tribe, and every tongue, but if you have a church in the middle of Cambodia and it's only made up of Cambodians, it can be a really healthy church.
Jesus says that a church should be known by its love. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples…" Now I live in Dallas. It's not in some central part of a third-world country that doesn't have a lot of diversity. I'm so encouraged that Watermark is increasingly diverse because all the members of Watermark that I know are loving every neighbor they meet and inviting every tribe and every nation and tongue that lives in Dallas to be here.
I love the fact that we have people who were born in over 70 nations who are members. We have people who attend who were born in over 90 different nations. I love the fact that there are literally into the thousands of people of color who go to Watermark. Now because we have about 20,000 folks who cycle through here a week, it doesn't look anything but white, but there's a lot going on here.
I really love my brothers and sisters who are here who are leaning into thousands of white people gathering who happen to love the thousands of people of color who are in our city, the tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands. Many of them are now part of our family here and growing with us so that together in our city, that is diverse, we look more and more like our city.
But you need to know this. Our goal is not to look like our city. Our goal is to look like Christ. I have a hunch that if we look like Christ, we will love every member of our city and they will come and seek to look more like Christ with us. So friends, I love you. I grieve at the pain you're experiencing, and I grieve that you have any question that leadership here and members of Jesus' body here don't grieve and care with you about injustice and wrong.
So let us do justice together. Let us love kindness. Let us walk humbly with our Lord. Will you just forgive me for even the way this message missed you? I mean, all I want to do is follow Jesus in a way that makes him more attractive to our watching world. So pray for me. I'm praying for you, and I can't wait for us to be together and seek the oneness that Christ intends. Let's go to work, church. God bless you.