RESET: Resetting Your Mission
RESET: Resetting Your Leadership
RESET: Resetting Your Relationships
RESET: Resetting Your Priorities
RESET: More of God
Are you a blessing to those around you? Does your leadership communicate God’s love to those you lead? In the fourth week of our Reset series, Todd Wagner teaches us five things that are essential to resetting our leadership.
Good morning, Watermark. I had no idea what this segue was going to be like. I got new shoes just like the first day of school. I really didn't know what my emotions would be like, but I will tell you, I have missed the heck out of the privilege of being with you. And it is a privilege. It's one that, because something was leaking in my life that I didn't even know, I put in jeopardy. I will tell you more about that today.
We're in the middle of a series called Reset. We talked about resetting our understanding of who God is and resetting our priorities and resetting our relationships. Today, we're going to talk about resetting leadership. When you think of that, you may not think of yourself as a leader, but the truth is we're all leaders.
Every single one of us is influencing other people. They might be doing everything they can to get out of your presence so you don't influence them any more with pain and distress and trouble and every other kind of miserable thing or you might be leading them and they're happily following you and you're leading them toward destruction, but every one of us is a leader.
Then, certainly, there are more classic positions of leadership. All of us, whether it's a father or a mother or a husband or a wife or a peer group… We all are leaders. So, when I talk to you today about resetting leadership, I want you to think about resetting your life that you're going to give an account for. Let's pray.
Father, thank you for grace. Thank you for kindness. Thank you for friends. Thank you for the way you spur us on to love and good deeds and make us more of who you want us to be. Thank you that there's going to be a day when we're not going to struggle against our flesh and the ways of the world but we're going to be with you.
In the way we're fully known now we're going to fully know you, and you're going to finish this good work you have begun in us. Until that day, may we not grow weary in doing good and pressing on toward the upward call of life in Christ Jesus. Use today toward that end. We want to be servants of Christ, which will make us the best kind of leaders. In Jesus' name, amen.
I did every Membership Class we did at Watermark. For the first 16 years… I don't know if it was hundreds of them, but with thousands of you, I met in a room for a couple of hours and just shared with you the passion of who we were and what we were about and what we were trying to do, and I always shared four things. In fact, today, if you go to one… If you're not a member of a healthy body of Christ, I would encourage you to find one, and if we can be that for you, that's fantastic.
One of the things I would always share was "We're not trying to sell anything. We're not trying to get you to join. We're trying to share with you who we are and why we're trying to join our lives together to push us on to what Christ wants us to be." If you go to what we call our Discover class or just Step 1 to figure out who we are (because you ought to be really careful who you yoke yourself with in life), there's a letter there from me.
The letter says, "There are four things you need to know. First, we don't have a perfect pastor or perfect staff or perfect elders. Second, we're not a perfect church. Third, we do have a perfect mission. If we didn't lose you on numbers one and two, then we'd love to talk to you about how we're going to pursue number three."
The reason I did that is, a lot of times, what we do is we put people in positions of leadership, especially spiritual leadership… They ought to be above reproach, the Scripture says. (We studied 1 Timothy together last fall.) There ought to be something there to follow. They ought to be able to say, "Imitate me as I imitate Jesus Christ." They ought to be able to say, "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things."
But that doesn't mean that people who can say that and that we, as Christians, who can say to others, "Follow me as I follow Christ…" It doesn't mean we're perfect. It doesn't mean we're sinless, but as we follow Christ more and more, it should mean we sin less and less. So, that's what I've always shared at every single Membership Class. I just want to tell you I always have said this.
For 21 years, I've told you, "Just because I'm a pastor doesn't mean I can't be a Christian." Christians are people who need continual progressive sanctification. When you hear someone is saved… Biblically, salvation has three immediate subsets. At the moment we believe, we are justified. Romans 5:1 captures this. It says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…"
There is a declaration that God says, "Your confidence in my grace toward you and mercy toward you and provision for you in the person of Jesus on the cross…" You acknowledging that you're guilty, that the wages of your sin is death, and crying out to him for mercy and realizing there is no mercy if God doesn't give it and you asking for mercy… The moment you do that there's what's called a substitutional penal atonement. The sufferings and penalty of Christ on the cross are imputed to us and God forgives us.
We are justified in that moment, but we have to be careful that we justify… In other words, prove. That's another way to use the word justify. One way, it's a legal decree. It's just to let him go free now because the payment has been met. But then you justify something sometimes by proving it true. The way we prove our love for God and our understanding of his love for us true, James would say, is by our works. Faith without works is dead. It's not saving faith. It's not real faith.
So, as we justify that we really now know the love of God and we no longer try to manage our relationship with God and we no longer try to perform so God can love us because we know he loves us because he has demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us… In that moment, we then begin to run toward him, and that's the second part of salvation, which is called sanctification. It's the process of becoming more like Jesus.
Then the one we all look forward to (kind of, because you have to go through this little thing called death to get there) is when God finishes his good work which he began in us through Christ. That's that glorification process. If you want to think of those things in three ways… Salvation is justification, sanctification, and glorification.
The Spirit of God is responsible for all three, and we participate with him in justification by acknowledging our need and trusting in his provision; we participate with him in sanctification by acknowledging that his way is right and good and true and following him in submissiveness; and we participate in his glorification by dying and letting him do for us what only he can do.
We're delivered from the penalty of sin, we're being delivered from the power of sin, and one day (this is why it will be called heaven), we will be delivered from the very presence of sin. Won't that be great when all of our relationships are everything God intends and there is no insecurity and self-righteousness and self-love and lust and desire to exploit and manipulate and promote ourselves, and there's no anger, and there are no disputes? Won't that be amazing?
Can you imagine how sweet our relationships will be when all of that is gone? The Bible describes that as heaven, because it is. It will only get there when God makes everything new. Everything is not new now. What's new is that we have changed our minds. We no longer think that life without God is a better life. So, we are the people of God, reminding each other of the goodness of God, so we would trust him more and walk with him, and we love each other in that process.
So, that's what I've said to you every time I've led a Membership Class. "Hey, I'm not a perfect pastor. We shouldn't be surprised if your pastor needs to, just like you, do the hard work of heart work," which is the phrase I use that is way too pithy. It's just I need to be all about one thing, and that's not doing ministry; it's about being effective in dying to self that Christ might live.
Let me tell you what I said to you the last time I stood before you. I quoted 1 Timothy 1:5, which says, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." I walked you through why, with a pure heart, I could tell you, "I've been told by my friends, 'Nothing disqualifying is going on. Nothing that makes us not want you to be our pastor and an elder here is going on. We just love you enough to tell you that if the goal of your instruction is love, there seems to have been something which is dampening that in a way we've never seen before.'"
I was confused by that. I'll be honest with you. I was like, "What are you talking about?" which was part of the problem, so with a pure heart, I said, "What I need to do is listen." I had friends who said, "You're going to listen." I had a good conscience. I wasn't hiding anything from you. There was no "And here's the rest of the story." There was nothing scandalous, except everything is scandalous when a man who says he loves God isn't giving off what the Bible calls love. It's important that I say "what the Bible calls love."
As I listened to friends and what they were saying to me, I thought about what is kind of the Wagner family verse. We all have verses, and we have a number of them around our house, but the Wagner family verse, the one when I went to Israel I got in Hebrew as a necklace to hang around my daughter's neck, is Proverbs 3:3-4. It says, "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart."
I thought, "What I'm hearing my friends say is, 'Todd, you just don't seem as thoughtful as you used to and as kind as you used to.'" My initial response when I heard that was exactly my initial response when I first got married. When I first got married, my wife would sometimes say, "Hey, I don't feel like you're pursuing me the way you did when we were dating. I feel like you're busy, and I feel like I'm just not a priority for you."
I would hear that and go, "Okay. What she needs is me to explain to her that I am prioritizing her and that I do love her. She just said the problem is her feelings. That's exactly right. If she just didn't feel that way, we wouldn't have a problem." So, I would proceed to tell her why she should not feel that way. When you have the gift of gab and you have a tongue and you have a lawyer's mind and all of those things, A2 + B2 = C2 is very easy to do. Women just sit there and eventually kind of go, "Okay. I'm exhausted. I'm just trying to tell you…"
When a wife says, "I don't think we're spending enough time…" Note to self: she's not asking you to get out your Day-Timer. (That dates me.) She's not asking you to go back and tell her all of the times you spent with her this last week. It's not a math problem. What she's saying to you is "I know you love me. I want you to know there's something missing on a deep level that I don't want to miss, because I want to be near you. I want us to be one."
I think about a lot of what was going on as we led up to this. There was this thing last year… What's it called? COVID. This thing happened last year called COVID, and there was this thing… There was an election. Yeah. There were a lot of things that were going on, and there was a rise in tension amongst races and understanding about that, and all of this. As we're leading through that and having conversations and doing some things, as I thought and I started to listen, what I said to my friends early on…
I just went, "You know what? Let me just stop. What I hear you saying as we're in the midst of this is I'm not being the leader I want to be," because a good leader doesn't lord it over others. That's what the Gentiles do. "The first among you must be a servant," the Scripture says. For the Son of Man, God himself, when he came to earth… He didn't come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life away as a ransom for many.
The verse that came to mind… I went, "Guys, can I just stop? Second Timothy 2:24 says, 'The Lord's bond-servant…' The leader God wants you and me to be. _ '…must not be quarrelsome…' " I had to look back and go, "You know what? I'm sure in some of those conversations it probably felt quarrelsome." Watch this. "…but be kind…" It doesn't mean you can't have an opinion. It doesn't mean you shouldn't lead. It doesn't mean you shouldn't be steadfast, immovable. It doesn't mean you shouldn't be on the alert, standing firm in the faith, but kindness.
"…able to teach…" Proverbs 15:2 says, "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly." I just went, "Guys, you know what? I would see where we have had some quarrels. I would see where you would go I'm not kind, even if I'm able to teach you, and when I think you're not doing things well or saying things to me you shouldn't say, I'm not patient when wronged in some of our conversations. I would say I'm not with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition."
Instead of thinking what I wasn't doing that I wanted to do that I wasn't because of being such a great leader, I started to A2 + B2 + C2. I said, "Well, here's the problem: you feel that way. If you didn't feel that way, we wouldn't have a problem." I never said that. I was just, I'm sure, doing it more than I knew I was doing it.
So, that gets to the next thing. What have I been up to the last several months? Well, you can tell. I was in Abu Dhabi at Fight Island and Conor McGregor and I had a little tiff…or I went to a dermatologist and they wanted to burn something off my face. So, I've been up to that, but I've also been up to this. Here's what I've been up to the last several months: just listening. I've been up to resetting my relationships. I've been up to doing exactly what we taught last week.
Last week, we talked about how what we tend to do when someone around us feels wronged is we shift the blame. "Well, if you hadn't done this, I wouldn't have done that. If you didn't feel that way, we wouldn't have a problem." We make excuses. "Well, there's a lot going on. There's an election. There's COVID. There's a lot of tension. We have to make decisions."
We compare and minimize. "Well, at least I didn't do this. I didn't hit anybody. I didn't cuss anybody. I didn't explode in anger." Or we kind of pretend it didn't happen and hope everybody forgets. What I've been doing is saying, "That's not what God says." The Bible says a fool does those things. "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind." It's a proverb I've quoted so many times in my life, and God said, "Hey, man. Listen. Just listen. Even if they're wrong, listen."
There was plenty I know they weren't wrong about, because at the very least, I wasn't listening, being patient and with gentleness correcting those. At what level? It doesn't matter. At a level that was right for me to just go, "That's the most important thing." Let me say this to you. By the grace of God, one of the things I did share the last time we were together is that my marriage has never been better. That doesn't mean we don't work hard to make our marriage better, but our marriage has been great. My relationship with my kids is unbelievable, by the grace of God.
But if it wasn't, if there was something wrong in my home, you would say, "Todd, we love you. We're so glad you communicate to us and lead us, but nothing is more important than your primary ministry. If a man doesn't provide the love and the care and the leadership and the kindness and the warmth and the nurturing of the home environment that God wants him to, then he shouldn't be leading the household of God."
So, if there was something at home, you would have loved me enough to say, "Todd, just go spend time on family and then come on back and lead in this way." Really, guys, that's what I felt like I needed to do. That's what my friends spurred me on to. "Todd, we love you more than your gifts. Let's work on our relationships. We're going to start by letting you work first." Which is exactly what you should do.
Judgment begins with the household of God, and judgment should always begin with leaders, because when a leader gets better, everybody gets better. There's some shame when I say this, but there's no shame. This leader needed to get better. The reason there's some shame is because I want you guys to know I love you so much I wish there was nothing in my life that needed to get better.
I need to go to the Membership Class at Watermark and remind myself of the very first thing I said, which is we don't have a perfect pastor. You don't have to act like when somebody says, "You can get better in this area…" "Well, no. Because if you think I need to get better in that area, then that probably means I'm not a good pastor." That's not at all. They're saying you're a great pastor.
What your wife is saying to you when you need to get better is "I want you to be my husband. I want you to be my husband forever. I want you to be my husband until death, and I just want you to get better, because I love you and I don't want anything to get in the way of me wanting to move toward you and follow you and be subject to you before the Lord." That's not criticism; that's a cry for somebody to say, "I want you near me." Our pride thinks if we agree there's something less than, they're building a case to leave us.
So, here's what I want to do. I'm going to give you five things I think will be helpful to you, because they've been helpful to me, as you reset your leadership, as you reset your life, as you seek to excel still more in loving one another and being everything Christ wants you to be. The reason I did those things, as I just said, is because that's what the Scripture tells us to do.
I don't know what you thought you were supposed to do as a worshiper this week, but if you are not at peace with your bride, if you're not at peace with your neighbor, if you're not at peace with a brother in this body, Matthew 5:23 tells you what to do. "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there…" Stop. Quit serving the Lord and go and be reconciled to your brother. Then come on back and do those other things.
Last December, just to tell you when it really hit me in a different way, I got a call from my daughter Kirby. She said, "Dad, would you come get Harvey? Austin was going to run him over to your house." Alex and I had told her we'd keep him that night because she was having some people over for dinner. She goes, "He got hung up at work, so can you just come get him? Austin doesn't have time to go there. He wants to be here to help me get ready and welcome everybody." I said, "Sure."
So I jumped in my car. I drove up to her house. I get there, and when I pull up to her house, I see all kinds of cars that looked familiar to me. I walked into her house, and it was all six of my kids and three of their spouses and their kids. They had just wanted to have dinner together. That's who Kirby was having over. You can't imagine the joy I had in my heart. I thought, "My kids love each other. They want to be together. They want to be Wagners and Baxters and Mankins. They want to be one."
I walked out of there, and I just thought, "Oh man. Lord, I know that's exactly what you want. You want your kids to love each other. You don't want them to do ministry or do spiritual things or read their Bible. You want them to read their Bible and be around Christians because you want them to love." I walked out of that house and God just said, "Todd, that's what I want. I want my people made in my image to sup together, even in the midst of all the dysfunction that is involved in the Wagner name, the Baxter name, the Mankin name, and earth." It was so sweet.
So, I've been doing what we talked about last week: admitting where I was wrong, apologizing, grieving over times I hurt people, listening, asking for forgiveness, accepting the consequences of not getting to be with you because I needed to be just becoming a better lover, and doing everything I can to say, "I want to alter my behavior." So, here are five things that have been helpful to me as I've wanted to be more of who Jesus wants me to be.
1 . A leader is not a grace graduate. It kind of is the very first thing I say to Membership Class. Your pastor is not perfect, so you don't have to act like you're perfect. Husbands and newlyweds aren't perfect. Wives aren't perfect. Children aren't perfect. Your Community Group (this is a news flash for some of you) is made up of people who aren't perfect. None of us are done. All of us are still trying to decrease so Christ might increase.
Just because we're Christians doesn't mean we are glorified. We're not sinless. As we move toward God, hopefully we will sin less. A leader is not a grace graduate. Every single one of us is on the journey. Sanctification is a process. I'm going to move quickly through this one because I want to get to where you can live in grace, but sometimes I think what we do is we will ourselves to be the people God must want us to be.
Galatians 3:3 comes screaming to my mind, which says, "Are you so foolish? You were saved. You were justified. This good work which began in you, where God showed you who he was… That was done by faith. You've not been saved because you've been good enough long enough. You began by the work of the Spirit. Are you now going to be perfected by the work of your flesh? Do you think you no longer need the grace of God to be who God wants you to be?"
I think sometimes all of us… I know I did. I know I do. I would just get busy being a Christian instead of being Christian, which is being dependent upon Christ. Grace means you're going to receive what you do not have. When you act like you have it because you're a Christian, you will not be very Christian.
Just go read Galatians 5:19-21 where it talks about the deeds of the flesh: enmity, immorality, factions, outbursts of anger. It says these are the deeds of the flesh. Then go read 21 and following. "But these are the deeds of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, and self-control," just to name a few. We're not grace graduates. We need grace. We don't begin the Christian life by us doing anything. It's us receiving something, and we live the Christian life, and we are the leaders God wants us to be as we depend on him.
2 . A leader needs gospel community. This is probably the highlight of the last several months. By the grace of God, I had some friends, and we weren't satisfied with what we saw as a church in and around our town. It doesn't mean there weren't a lot of people who loved God more than we do and were all about it. We just didn't feel like there was a place that we could say to anybody, "Come and see. Come and see. Come and see."
So we said, "Okay. Look, God. Who are we to judge a servant of another? We don't want anybody else to change. What would we do if we were going to be an expression of your life on earth?" I sat down with seven or eight other couples, and we started dreaming. We opened our Bibles, and we just looked. We went, "Okay. What is this thing? What are we not experiencing?"
One of the things we said… We made it our middle name: community. We saw people meeting for an hour in Sunday schools. And Sunday schools aren't the problem. It's what happens there, typically. It becomes a smaller church where somebody teaches. People are polite, and then they leave, and when somebody gets sick, they start a little meal train and go over and see them, but they don't really get involved in each other's lives.
They don't admonish the unruly. There's not care and correction. They don't encourage the fainthearted other than when they're there at funerals and things like that. We just didn't see a real commitment to oneness and our sanctification being a community project. I knew that if I wasn't around guys who were always spurring me on to love and good deeds, I was going to become less than what God wanted me to be.
I knew the reason, at 36 when we started Watermark, I was where people said, "Todd, be our pastor; lead us," is because of the friends who for 15 years I had been near who had been iron to sharpen my iron, who had spoken to me with open rebuke. I've said often there are only two kinds of people in the world who can tell you the truth about yourself: either an enemy who has lost their temper or a friend who loves you dearly. I had friends who loved me dearly, and they said, "Todd, I know you love Jesus…"
My wife has been so amazing. She goes, "I know you want to be a godly man, so when I see things in your life that aren't consistent with the fruit of the Spirit of God, I'm going to tell you. I'm going to give you no slack. I'm not going to say you're better than almost every other husband I know. I'm going to say you're not what Jesus wants you to be." That community, that love…
I'm not talking about troublesome meddling in little things. There's a lot of overlooking small offenses and not the best moments, but when there's a pattern and there's a blindness to that pattern and when there's an increase and a deficiency of the fruit of the Spirit, friends move in. I was so encouraged that friends moved in, that they believed me when I said…
What did you guys put up there on the lower third? It said, "Todd Wagner: Pastor, Elder." This is what it should say: "Todd Wagner: Member of Watermark Community Church." That's what I am. Yes, I'm a shepherd, but shepherds, biblically, never stop being a part of the flock of God. They never stop needing biblical community. They never stop needing admonishment and encouragement and help.
One of the things that happens when your gifts are being used is people go, "Well, who am I to…?" The answer is: You're my brother. You're my sister. For whatever I've done wrong here, one of the things that, by the grace of God, I've done right is I have not surrounded myself with weak men, because I don't want weak men. I don't want fans. I'm your brother. I'm so grateful God has given me some gifts. I'm so grateful he has done enough sanctifying that there's integrity in me saying, "Follow me," but I'm not done. I'm not a grace graduate. I need gospel community.
We were together as a staff. We always are in January. We try to get some extended time away. We couldn't do it the same way we always do because of the situation we're in, but we spent some time with somebody. We always bring in somebody. He said, "I just want to share with you guys some observations I've made recently." He said, "The key to fruitfulness in ministry is longevity."
I would maybe use the word perseverance, persevering in doing good. Doing good means running more toward Jesus, him increasing and you decreasing, not choosing in your flesh to do what the world calls good but doing what the Bible calls good, which is yielding to Christ, taking up your cross, and following him. The life which you now live in the flesh you live by faith in the Son of God. It's doing that continually.
Change is a process. It's not an event, and it's not getting discouraged that your flesh is still loud and powerful, but it's letting the Spirit become more loud and more powerful because you don't walk in the way of the wicked or stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers, but you delight yourself in the law of the Lord, and on that law you meditate day and night.
He said, "The key to fruitfulness in ministry is longevity." I said perseverance. I would then say the key to perseverance, or longevity, in ministry is spiritual health. This is so important. This is one of the reasons the world gets in trouble, especially with gifted communicators and gifted leaders. Sometimes we think the key to longevity in ministry is having the ability to teach and having a big personality, having great vision, being somebody who can really strategically plan, somebody who's skilled of tongue. No. That is not the way to have longevity in ministry.
The way to have longevity in ministry is spiritual health, and the key to spiritual health is gospel community, which is why if you're not in one, the clock is ticking. This nonsense that just me and Jesus is enough… The root of all sin is pride, and pride is "God, I don't need what you tell me I need. I don't need Jesus. I'll give you my résumé, and if my résumé isn't good enough for you, that's on you." He says, "Oh, really? Well, we'll have that conversation."
It's just as arrogant for you to tell Jesus, "I don't need what you tell me I need to be the man you tell me I'm supposed to be. I don't need others. I just have you and the Spirit, my Bible, a cup of coffee, and a journal. Have you seen my journals? Have you seen how faithful I am in my journals?" God has told you that you are to live in community, and I mean community that helps you authentically be admonished with biblical counsel toward everything he says. If you're not in one, you're telling God, "I call you Lord, but you're going to be a lord I manage," which is a problem.
3 . A leader needs pruning. My friend Kyle has shared a number of times with everybody this idea that "Guys, there's nothing to be scared of here. Todd, in God's kindness, has been a fruitful vine. It has been a cause of provision for our body. It's been a cause of joy and gladness to our body, and we just feel like it's time for Todd to get a little sharper, to do some pruning."
This is what my Bible says in John 15:1-3. It's a passage my buddy shared with me. "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser." It's a passage I've quoted a thousand times. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away…" Which ought to really concern you. If there is no ongoing spiritual fruit in your life, I don't care what you say about what you know about Jesus and the cross. It's a problem.
"…and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit." That's what my friends said. "Todd, we're not looking to get rid of you, man. We love what God has done with you and through you and in you. We're looking for more of it." One of the things I did this week… When I taught John 15 I did it, but I went back.
I'm not an agriculturist. I'm not a horticulturist. I'm not somebody who grows grapes. So I went back and looked. I did some looking on how to prune. This is really interesting. I found an article by a fruit specialist at Oregon State University. One of the things she said was homegrown vine growers never prune enough. She went on to say you have to take off 90 percent of the wood every year. Every January to March is the pruning season.
When we do New Year's resolutions and we think at the beginning of the year, "What am I going to do differently this year? I have to prune what kind of grew up and got woody in my life so I can bear more fruit for Jesus…" It's just a coincidence that January to March is the pruning season for vines and it's kind of when we all go ahead and re-up our gym memberships that we don't end up going to and make new commitments.
The point is she said you have to cut off 90 percent of the old wood. Christians, two things I was reminded of. When you do it alone in your own home without community, you never prune enough. Secondly, you don't need 90 percent of your flesh trimmed back; you need 100 percent of it. A leader needs pruning more than he thinks.
It's so funny. When my friends would say to me, "Todd, something changed," that was the very first thing I thought. "You know what? My Bible seems to indicate in Hebrews 13:8 that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so if something changed, it must be there's a little bit more Todd in the cocktail and a little bit less Jesus. Why is that?" I'll give you a little more insight. This is true, and it has been good for me to remember.
4 . A leader is nothing without love. In the first 10 years of Watermark, I would teach 48 weeks a year, and after several years of that, the guys said, "Todd, let's get some more guys going," and I was excited to do that. (I don't know if it ever got as high as 48, but it was a lot.) I can remember the first time I really got away for four weeks. I was still around working; I just wasn't teaching. Because I wasn't teaching a lot, I said, "Okay, Lord. What do you want me to teach when I come back?"
I can remember the first time I had not been with the body for four weeks. I just asked the Lord, "What do you want me to tell them?" He told me something very specific. No audible voice. About five years later, the same thing happened. I got away, and I was like, "Lord, what do you want me to tell them?" and I got the exact same sense from the Lord. "Tell them this."
Both times, it was just, "Todd, tell them I love them. Tell them I'm so grateful they've responded to my grace through creation and conscience and the special work of revelation and the preaching of the gospel. I want all men everywhere to repent, and I love them. I love the whole world. I gave my life. I sent my Son for the world, but I love them. I'm glad they're my children. I've got this. I began this good work in them. I'll bring it about to completion. Tell them I love them."
When I asked, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" do you know what I heard? "Todd, show them you love them." I mean, I was like, "I love you guys. We've got to get some things going here, but I love you guys." My friend Kyle Kaigler, who now is the senior pastor up there at Watermark Plano, which we call CityBridge…
He said, "Todd, I've got to tell you this, man. There has been nobody in my life who has made me love the church and the mission of God and living life on purpose more than you, but if I was being honest, there were times I wondered if your passion for those things was driven by flesh more than love." I just cocked my head and went, "Let me put that in the file of things Jesus never heard." A leader is nothing without love. This is what my Bible says:
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."
I love winning. Jesus loves loving, and I want to be more like Jesus. Now sit tight, because you'd better define love biblically, and we're going to next week when I talk about resetting our mission. Our world needs love, but that doesn't mean whatever they want. So, see you next week.
Let me show you a quick picture. I've shown you this before, but this right here is a picture of the very first year we did a Residency and I spent some time with the Residents. I asked them, "Hey, guys, who do you think I am? Give me the words. You've been around me for a year now. Who do you think I am?" I went back and grabbed this. I looked at it, and there are some very nice words that are up there.
This was them saying it, and somebody up there was recording it. The reason they have that one word bigger is that kept coming up and kept coming up. I looked at it again recently, and it was pretty glaring to me what word wasn't on there. I don't see love anywhere on that list. When I pick up my Bible and read my New Testament, there seems to be a word that's pretty important. "They're going to know you're my disciples by the way you love."
Sometimes people say, "That's not loving" and they use that to weaponize it and push you back, and when that happens, I'm going to talk next week about how to respond to that, but I have to tell you, there have been a lot of notes I've gotten over the years, and there are other boards and stuff where the word love shows up.
But when people said, "Todd, something has changed," I think that's what was changing. It was changing in a way that wasn't as loud in my heart as Jesus wanted it to be, and because I'm a part of a gospel community and I need pruning and I'm not a grace graduate, I go, "Let's go, Lord. Let's get more of that. The fruit of your Spirit is love…biblical love, but love."
5 . A man can't be God's leader and a woman can't be God's woman if they aren't abiding with Jesus. The word abiding is one of those biblical words. What does it mean? The word abide means remain. Let me remind you what I said way back there on the very first thing when I said a Christian leader is not a grace graduate. "You foolish Galatians! Having begun by the Spirit, do you think you're going to finish it in the flesh?"
When Jesus says, "Abide with me," what he is saying to you in that moment is "Stay here. Stay with me as Lord and you as a sinner who needs all of me all the time." To my shame, I would go back and look at certain interactions that were used to me as illustrations in a meeting where it never got… We never got sideways. No one left and had to work through conflict, but they said, "Todd, this is how we felt devalued in that meeting. This is how we felt demeaned in that meeting."
I would go back and look at that meeting. I know every part of that conversation, and do you know what wasn't happening during that meeting? What wasn't happening in that meeting… I can tell you there wasn't a single time that I said, "Hey, Jesus, I don't know if they're making the right decision. In fact, I'm pretty sure they're not making the right one, but how can I love them right now? How would you respond to this?"
It's almost like what I did is I walked into that meeting with my friend Jesus and said, "Watch this. You're going to love this. I've been hanging with you now 35 years, you and me. I know a lot of Scripture. I've memorized a lot of what you said, so watch this. Come here. Watch the way I work through this conflict. Watch the way I handle this opposition. Watch the way I'm patient when wronged."
You might do that to Jesus. "Hey, watch the way I battle my temptation this week. Watch the way I love my wife. I'm a Christian. You're going to love this." You can't love your wife the way you're supposed to love your wife. You can't fight temptation alone. You can't be who you want to be without continual dependence on Jesus. I know I can't. My Bible says no human can.
It's so interesting that the very first miracle Jesus ever did with his disciples… Not the first miracle he did before they were… John 2 talks about his creation miracle, but the very first miracle he did before they were even his and the very last miracle he did with his disciples was the exact same thing. Do you know what it is? Bible trivia. It was the same miracle. It was the miraculous draught of fishes.
Now, most of the disciples…not all of them…the majority of them, the ones you know the most, were professional fishermen. I think there's a reason Jesus said, "Hey, guys, until you know you need me in your greatest area of competency, you don't know how much you need me. I know you've been fishing all night. I know fishermen don't fish in the deep. I know they don't fish after daybreak. Throw the net. Do what I say because I'm Lord, not what you in your professional, very productive, very successful, historical fishing business have been doing. Throw the net. Put it where I tell you. Lean not on your own understanding." He had to drill that.
Can I just say this to you, to Todd? Until you see your need for Christ in your greatest area of competency, you don't know how much you need Christ. What was the big word that was up there for me? Leadership. A lot of people go, "Todd, your teaching is all over the place. It's like a fire hose. I always get something, but my notes are terrible when you teach." So my gift to you was to give you five clear things today.
Secondly, people have said, "You're a great leader." Until I know how much I need Jesus to be the pastor and the leader I want to be, I don't know how much I need Jesus. I have a hunch you're a lot like me. I close with this. If you've never understood how much you need Jesus, there's this thing called the gospel. It's really good news that God loves you. God demonstrates his love for you not when you're getting your life together, but this work of salvation begins by faith, by putting your trust in him.
If you're not certain that God loves you, would you consider the cross? Would you understand that stress, that anxiety, that hopelessness, that fear COVID might kill you…? I don't know if COVID is going to kill you, but you're going to die, and when you die you're going to stand before God, and you know it's true. No matter how much you want to dismiss it and hide behind Darwin and Nietzsche and whatever philosopher of the day, no matter how much you want to hide behind "Oh, those Christians are outdated," you know in your heart of hearts this didn't happen by accident and you know you're a sinner.
You had better, and you can, run to where I run and find grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. So come, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and just say, "God, I want to lay it down. I want to stop being good enough that my résumé will be okay enough. I want to stop saying I'm better than them. I want to start to say I could never be good enough for you. What do I do?" Trust.
To my friends who have already trusted, let's keep trusting. Let's not do Christianity. Let's abide. There's a reason the very first thing we say makes a biblical community is that we devote daily. Let's update that to abiding always. When you pray to start a meeting, the reason you pray to start a meeting is because what you're saying, Christian, is "Hey, this meeting doesn't have a chance unless we live prayerfully with one another."
Let's continue now when we say "Amen…" Not that it's over, not that we should say "A-woman" as well as "Amen" in our society. Let's just say, "So be it." May we live together prayerfully. That's what the word means. So, when you say "Amen," you all come up and go, "Oh, yes. That's why we're going to get along: because we're going to live prayerfully together." Amen?
Father, we need you. Every hour we need you. I thank you that I'm in a gospel community. I thank you that nobody thinks I should be a grace graduate. I thank you that as there's more of you and less of me, biblical love will be the aroma that is all over me. I thank you that you prune us so we can bear more fruit. I thank you that today we can abide if we just come to you and remain with you. We make this our prayer. In Jesus' name, amen.