Why Helping The Poor Costs More Than Just Money

helping-the-poor

I could write a post on how to care for the poor and homeless, or I could repost this incredibly Biblical piece by my friend Randy Alcorn. (see my RTRQ on this same topic) The only thing wrong with it is it was written almost a quarter of a century ago and therefore the stats are not current. (unsurprisingly the stats, and our attentiveness to the truth have only gotten worse. For the best current stats check out this article.

Fortunately the truth is always timeless and if we don’t want the stats to get worse we should pay more attention to these Truths from God’s words over the next 25 years than we have the last.

For now…pull out your bible and read this.

For tomorrow…pull up your britches and get busy being a doer of the word and not a continuer of the problem.

I have said it before and I’ll say it here again. If you are a member (not regular attender) of Watermark and your economic need is not because of unrepentant laziness, wastefulness, irresponsibility, self-indulgence, or some other unbiblical practice, you will not go hungry or homeless without all the rest of us draining all we have to help. Our Charis team works tirelessly to truly help and it is incredibly encouraging to watch the leadership of Careers in Motion and members of communities here executing on all the things mentioned in Randy’s article long before any of them ever read it.

That’s because they have long ago chosen to read and obey the same source material Randy used decade’s ago to write his piece for Discipleship Journal. True disciples always care for each other this way and I pray you and your fellowship of disciples join us in biblically caring for and loving one another. If you read nothing else in Randy’s article (and you should read all of it and the Scripture he references) read these reminders for the church.

The church is not to take over responsibilities that properly belong to family members (1 Tim. 5:8). In light of this principle, our church leaders approached an elderly woman’s brother to encourage him to meet her material needs he had neglected. He was embarrassed, but he got involved in the life of his sister precisely because we called on him to. Had we continued helping her, he never would have. It is the church’s role to encourage the family to fulfill its responsibilities, not to take over those responsibilities. (Of course, if family members refuse to help, the church must.)

Churches need to help the poor not just by giving money or food, but personal attention—our time, our skills, and our personal interest. An elderly widow doesn’t just need a check, she needs someone to take her shopping, to sit and talk with her, to pray with her. She may need someone to mow her lawn, fix her fence, drive her to church. When we see the homeless, God may not just want us to open our pocketbooks, but our homes (Rom. 12:13). When we opened our home to a needy woman for a year, we had the privilege of seeing her come to Christ. No evangelistic efforts are more credible than those authenticated by hospitality. (Even when we open our homes, however, biblical compassion means expecting them to contribute to the household in some meaningful way.)

What many people need is not more money, but personal help in handling the money they have. (Contact Watermark’s Moneywise ministry if this is your need.) Good financial counseling, including how to make and stick to a reasonable budget, is a far more valuable gift than $500 to bail someone out of a situation he should never have gotten into in the first place. Direction in how to find and keep a job is much more helpful than putting groceries on a shelf while someone sits home and watches television all day. When a middle aged career person is laid off, he not only needs to find a new job, but may need support to avoid paralytic depression.

I am humbled to be living out the principles of Scripture with my brothers and sisters at Watermark and for the word of God that mapped our steps long before we read a 22 year old article. Ready the ancient text and walk in the ancient paths with us, they do not lead to homelessness or helping that hurts.

Some Twitter Thoughts Regarding Bruce Jenner’s ESPYS Speech (And The Transgender Topic.)

I recently engaged with some folks on Twitter regarding the topic of Bruce Jenner’s recent speech at the ESPYS and wanted to post them here in hopes that they may help you engage with others on this topic. In addition to these tweets be sure to check out this RTRQ to hear what I would say to Bruce Jenner if I sat down with him for a few minutes.

(Edit: Since this blog post was published @Jellybean897’s Twitter account has been deleted. Her original tweet said that my statements contributed to anti-gay bullying. The Tweet above is in reply to her Tweet.)

 

10 Resources To Help You Talk About Transgender/Homosexuality, Biblically.

gay-marriage-resources

1. Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage: An Apology, an Answer & an Assignment

Todd Wagner

People who claim to be followers of Christ have had two equally unloving responses to homosexuality: Either we have condemned homosexuals and told them to clean up their sin on their own, or we have enabled a sinful lifestyle in the name of tolerance. Here is an objective look at the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality and an appropriate, loving response from those who follow Christ. http://www.watermark.org/media/homosexuality-and-same-sex-marriage-an- apology-an-answer-an-assignment/457/

2. Real Truth. Real Quick.

Is it Okay to Attend a Gay Friendʼs Wedding?

What’s A Loving Response When A Friend Tells Me They Are Gay?

Why Is It Front Page News When A Celebrity Announces He Is Gay?

Why Does The Church Talk So Much About Homosexuality And Gay Marriage?

What Does The Bible Mean When It Says, “Judge Not, Lest You Be Judged?

Why Do Christians Ignore Other Old Testament Laws But Condemn Homosexuality? 

How Do You Respond To A Friend That Believes They Are Transgender?

How Should A Christian View The Religious Freedom Restoration Act?

3. Why There’s No Right to Gay Marriage in 6 Video Clips

http://dailysignal.com/2015/04/24/why-theres-no-right-to-gay-marriage-in-6-video-clips/

4. Homosexuality: Why Isn’t This Taught?!?! [WARNING: Explicit content]

Ricky Chelette, Jonathan Pokluda

Is someone who struggles with same-sex attractions just born that way? Is change possible? Ricky Chelette, Executive Director of Living Hope Ministries, addresses a topic many find too confusing or politically charged to tackle. http://www.watermark.org/media/homosexuality-why- isnt-this-taught-warning-explicit-content/1027/

5. God, Love, Sex, and Homosexuality

David Marvin

Whether through marketing slogan or cultural values, TV, music, movies, and media flood us with messages about life, our world, and ourselves. When it comes to homosexuality we are capable of listening to these messages, which tell us either that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality or that homosexuals are “freaks”. In this episode we examine what God has to say about homosexuality and how we are to respond to it. Do we listen to God’s message or to grace and truth. http://www.watermark.org/media/homosexuality/2132/

6. Same-Sex Bonding

Ricky Chelette, Jonathan Pokluda

In this episode, we hear the story of one of the leading authorities on the theology of homosexuality. This is a must-listen for all parents and anyone who struggles with sexual sin. This is also a great resource for anyone who has loved ones in the gay lifestyle. Ricky Chelette does an excellent job explaining that nature of sexual struggles and their origin. He has an amazing message of hope and shows, from the scriptures, God’s design for sex. http://www.watermark.org/media/same-sex-bonding/1980/

7. Same Love

Jonathan Pokluda

In this message we tackle the hit song “Same Love.” We explore the difficult topic of homosexuality, examining what God has to say about it, where the church has missed God’s instructions on how to approach it, and where we all must change and conform more fully to Christ’s embodiment of grace and truth. http://www.watermark.org/media/same-love/3206/

8. Living Hope: Support and Resources for Those Leaving Homosexuality

http://livehope.org/

9. Seminar on Homosexuality

Matt Chandler

It seems this is increasingly becoming a difficult subject to handle well. Some pastors harp on this issue in a disproportionate, condemnatory way. Others, swinging the pendulum in the other direction, donʼt want to appear insensitive or right-wing and thus avoid it altogether. So it takes courage to tackle it head-on without being a jerk. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2010/06/23/matt-chandler-seminary-on- homosexuality/

10. Books

Why I’m Not As Excited About The Pastor Protection Bill (SB 2065) As You Think I Might Be

The title of this blog post might come as a bit of a surprise in light of my position as a vocational pastor and leader of a local church. Let me start by commending what I believe to be the intent of the bill, which is to protect the church, an essential pillar of society, from harm or harassment from an increasingly antagonistic government.  Anything we can do to protect the “conscience of the state” is praiseworthy.  On that front the bill is excellent.  We need to ensure that the government cannot force a pastor, clergy member, or church to perform any act that would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. My problem is not with the bill’s intent but rather with its implications.

While it is essential that we protect the rights of pastors and churches for our country to prosper as God intended, it not okay to perpetuate an unhealthy understanding of the role of every believer in the church.  Intentionally or not, this bill will do that by implying a false distinction between church staff and church members.  As the bill is currently written (see bottom of post) it will continue to reinforce a perspective that is too often and too widely held by too many church attenders.

The “Priesthood” of The Believer

Regarding the Church, SB 2065, in its current state, is inconsistent with Scripture’s teaching regarding the identity of priests and pastors.  The Bible makes no distinction between salaried saints and faithful laymen. The Scriptures teach the “priesthood” of the believer (1 Peter 2:9-10); SB 2065 does not. Any law that would give vocational clergy and the institutional church protection, but deny those same protections to individuals, is intentionally (even if unwittingly) redefining the biblical mandate for all believers to “walk worthy of the calling to which they have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).

If there is a distinction in the roles of leadership and laymen taught in God’s Word, it can be found in Ephesians 4:11-16. Here we see that it is the role of leadership to equip the saints for the work of service, which is to say, it is the job of every member of the church to remind, reprove, correct, care for the people and speak truth in the land.  The idea that a pastoral staff alone is to be given responsibilities,  protection and rights was never God’s intention. The Church (which is a people, not a 501C3), is defined in Scripture as a people called by God out of darkness into His marvelous light to proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9).  Faithfully proclaiming God’s word and faithfully performing God’s will are responsibilities given to every Christ follower, not just those on a church staff.

The First Amendment Already Protects All “Pastors.”

While SB 2065 is written in such a way that it will give me, as a vocational leader, fortified protections, in its silence it withholds it from others who deserve the same protections.  The fact that this bill even needs to be proposed, when our Constitution already gives and protects the rights of all believers to be able to live out their faith unhindered by government, is the first part of the problem; the second is that current language of the bill far too narrowly defines, and thus reduces, the number of individuals called by God to speak His word.  The First Amendment clearly grants the rights of all citizens to courageously live their faith in our country in the Establishment Clause, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Any bill that continues the common error of confusing the distinction of clergy and laity, is not helpful to society or the Church itself.

Centuries ago, Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Retracting our society’s understanding of what defines the “good men” who are legally protected in their right to speak good won’t help. The last thing we need is to pass a law that could potentially limit the rights of the true Church by claiming that only those ordained by men have the right to do what has been ordained by God for all His men to do.

There are three divine institutions established in God’s Word: the Family, the Church, and Government.   Any damage done to any of these will directly result in damage done to the land.

1. FAMILY:  Whose job is to educate the next generation.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

2. CHURCH: Whose job it is to remind, reprove, correct and care for people.

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:1–5

1 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying,2 “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman,3 and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people,4 then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head.5 ‘He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life.6 ‘But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’7 “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me.

Ezekiel 33:1–7

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

3. GOVERNMENT: Whose job it is to prosecute evil and protect those who do right.

1 Peter 2:13–14

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

Romans 13:1-7

Our government is already looking to constitutionally redefine the family.  Our government is already operating outside of its biblical mandate to prosecute evil and praise those who do right.  Let’s not help the government by limiting the definition of the true church or by limiting the number of people who already constitutionally have protection.

Join Me In Ministering To Others!

Since starting Watermark 16 years ago, I have consistently said, “Just as there was a reformation in the 16th century, which got the word of God out of the hands of clergy and into the hands of the entire Church, there needs to be another reformation today that gets the work of God out of the hands of the clergy and into the hands of the laity.”  Whatever your view on SB 2065 may be, join me in being a minister of the Gospel in our land and a beacon or truth and hope to all. No matter your title, the tidal wave of compromise is here and the time to remind, reprove, correct and care for our land and its citizens is now.  All of us need to play our prophetic role.  Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is God’s encouragement to us all.

Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

1 Timothy 4:13–16

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4 that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

Colossians 4:2–6

Below you will find a copy of the Pastor Protection Bill (SB2065)

By:  Estes                                            S.B. No. 2065

 

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED

AN ACT

relating to the rights of certain religious organizations and individuals relating to a marriage that violates a sincerely held religious belief.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1.  Chapter 2, Family Code, is amended by adding Subchapter G to read as follows:

SUBCHAPTER G.  FREEDOM OF RELIGION WITH RESPECT TO RECOGNIZING OR PERFORMING CERTAIN MARRIAGES

Sec. 2.601.  RIGHTS OF CERTAIN RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS.  A religious organization, an organization supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, an individual employed by a religious organization while acting in the scope of that employment, or a clergy or minister may not be required to solemnize any marriage, provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage, or treat any marriage as valid for any purpose if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief.

Sec. 2.602.  DISCRIMINATION AGAINST RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION PROHIBITED.  A refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges under Section 2.601 is not the basis for a civil or criminal cause of action or any other action by this state or a political subdivision of this state to penalize or withhold benefits or privileges, including tax exemptions or governmental contracts, grants, or licenses, from any protected organization or individual.

SECTION 2.  This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution.  If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2015.

What Is Your Position On Racial Integration In The Church Body At Watermark?

To: Todd Wagner

From: xxxxx

Subject: On The Fence About Watermark

Hello Pastor Wagner,

Good Experiences So Far:

We, as a family, have been visiting Watermark for the past month. We are very much considering joining the church and actively participating in its community missions. The services have been relevant in our day-to-day lives and compelling. My doctor – Jay Burns, a lovely Christ follower, is a walking testimonial for Watermark and even offered to introduce us to you.  I have had a wonderful conversation with Suzanne Sanderson about the elementary children’s program to make sure I’m aligned and okay with it. I also had a moving discussion/debate with Suzanne about the color of the membership.

The Fence:

With that said, I have been on the fence about joining primarily because I feel lost in what I call “a sea of White.” Please do not be offended by my phrasing. Everyone at Watermark has been inclusive and welcoming.  Being black, I feel as though I stand out more within the congregation. Bottom line, I know that’s not what matters. It’s about being spiritually fed and feeling as though God brought me to Watermark to carry out a purpose or mission. I’m just trying to reconcile that with a natural conflict with traditional churchgoing norms. You don’t see many White people falling over themselves to join a predominantly black church and I think that’s only natural from a comfort perspective.

Our Questions:

What is your position on racial integration in the church body?

Does Watermark plan to actively market to more diverse audiences/if so how (e.g. black, Hispanic, Asian)? (keep in mind we reviewed your Web site to see the faces you present and I cruised your lot on a Sunday to see the faces and ask questions of your attendants)

What is the greater vision for Watermark in Dallas?

Why does Watermark do community mission work in South and East Dallas as oppose to any other Dallas locations?

Best,

Xxxxxx

 

—————————————-

To: xxxxx

From: Todd Wagner

Xxxxxx…thanks for your note and your honesty about your concerns right now.  I am so grateful that you have enjoyed Watermark for the last month and would love to answer your questions. If you’re familiar with our website, you may have seen our position/passion for diversity, but if not, it’s below so that you can continue to be informed.

Diversity — We agree that churches more easily attract those with similar preferences and/or life experiences. Therefore, we acknowledge that simply by being who we are, we necessarily “target” a certain segment of our society. Our desire however, is that the Holy Spirit will bless us with a rich diversity of ages, life-stages, religious, racial, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. We desire to foster an atmosphere of unity that communicates warmth and acceptance of all that care to join us. It is our hope that the things that ultimately define us are those things that speak to the needs of the entire human race not only specific ethnic or demographic ones. Therefore, we stress such universal concerns as forgiveness, redemption, significance, peace, meaning and truth above styles, tastes and preferences.

To answer your question about marketing ourselves towards races, our heart is to continue to pursue Christ and minister to ALL He brings to us, hoping that the sweet aroma of Jesus is upon us and attracts anyone who is hurting, lost, or broken. As a church we don’t target races, but rather all hearts to be turned completely towards Christ. We would love for the Lord to bless us with as many unique personalities and life experiences to aptly form a unified yet mosaic body to completely serve Him. We hope all who feel stirred to worship with us are equally loved, encouraged, and challenged, and that we foster an atmosphere that allows for our members to feel comfortable inviting their friends from every sort of background to join us.

Regarding vision, as a church our purpose is to call all people to be fully devoted followers of Christ. We want to continue to reach out to the unchurched, de-churched, dead churched, as well as call followers of Christ here to Believe in Him, Belong to His body, Be trained in truth, and Be strong for ministry…which is what we refer to as the “4 Bs”.  We would love to see all believers realizing the abundant life that they have with Christ on earth, and want to leave a lasting impression wherever we are!

We have been graciously given the Lord’s favor to have ministry partnerships to serve in South and West Dallas, and have seen fruit in the opportunities we have been given. We also encourage our members to reach out wherever they may live/work/go to school – and we have story after story of lives being changed all around the Metroplex because the body of Christ at Watermark is faithfully loving neighbors, their kids’ friends, co-workers, or anyone else they may come in contact with.

We would love for you and your family to be a part of that ministry if you continue to feel led to make Watermark your church home, and we would hope that your leadership in joining a predominately white church will open the doors for hundreds and thousands of others to follow you as we pursue Christ, His purposes and each other together.  I would enjoy meeting you guys the next time you visit…you are always free to stop by after a service to say hello and allow me to welcome you in person.  Dr. Burns is kind to offer an introduction, and I would always love to see him as well if he wants to join you. I agree that he is a great example of faith and Christ-likeness to me, and I’m grateful that he has been the same to you and your family.

As you continue to process your next steps, we pray that God would have you yoked with other believers.

Thanks again Xxxxxx…it encourages me to hear how you have felt loved and welcomed at Watermark, and I am hopeful that you and your family grow in Christ no matter where you decide to worship Him. I look forward to meeting you soon and being able to greet you face-to-face.

Todd

214-239-8809

pastoraloffice@watermark.org

7540 LBJ Frwy

Dallas, TX 75251

www.watermark.org

Join the Journey at www.jointhejourney.com