What is one of the biggest misconceptions people in today’s culture have about Christianity and God? When wanting to have a conversation with someone about God how do you start? What are some of the most common questions or issues from people in the local church about their faith journey? What are some of the most common barriers for people to actually living life in community with one another?
Listen in as Impact 360 Institute’s Jonathan Morrow interviews Todd Wagner about his new book Come and See, the exact words that Phillip used with Nathaniel in the New Testament when he was inviting people to come and look at who Christ was. Then find out the correlation between Jesus being the visible image of an invisible God and the church’s role in the world today.
More About Our Guest
Todd Wagner is the author of Come and See which for years has been one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the nation. Watermark was established with the hope of making the invisible kingdom visible to the spiritually confused, compromised, and lost friends in the surrounding city. Todd and his wife, Alex, have six children.
Welcome to the Impact 360 Institute podcast where our goal is to explore Biblical worldview and servant leadership to equip you for everyday influence. Here’s your host, author and Director of Cultural Engrow.bsp;
Jonathan Morrow: Well, welcome to the Impact 360 Institute podcast. I have a special guest with me today. This is Todd Wagner and he is the author of a brand new book, “Come and See.” Uh, he’s the founding pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas which for years has been one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the nation and Watermark was established with the hope of making the invisible kingdom, visible to the spiritually confused, compromised and lost friends in the surrounding city. And uh, Todd and his wife, Alex have 6 children and I’m just so glad to have Todd uh, with us today. So Todd, welcome to the podcast. Todd Wager: Hey, good morning, Jonathan and hello to all your listeners.
Jonathan Morrow: Alright, well, what I want to do is I want to start by talking about why you wrote the book but to get at that I want you to tell me a story that you tell in the book about your infamous or famous bike trip to the candy store, um, involving some candy and your kids. Why don’t you, why don’t you kind of frame it with that?
Todd Wagner: Okay. Well good, it yeah, it really is chapter one because we, we wrote, th-the book is “Come and See” and the reason uh, I titled that is because most people don’t have any real interest in coming and seeing uh the means to which God has intended the world to know who He really is today. I mean if Jesus was the invisible image of the visible and is the visible image of the invisible God, He said when He left, “Hey, you’re going to be My body. You’re going to be what God continues to leave on earth. I’m going to send my Spirit to you so that, uh, the Spirit of God can live in and through you. You’ll be my hands and feet. You’ll complete what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings. And when you think about, this is all setting up the story, when you think about what would happen in first century Jerusalem and uh, you and I had been hanging out and you were my friend and you had met Jesus or, uh, by the Sea of Galilee, and you said, “Todd, y-you gotta come with me. You gotta, you gotta check this thing out.” I’m like, “Well, what was this think you’re talking about, Jonathan?” And you said, “Well, it’s a rabbi.” And I would have said, “Bro, I love ya. I don’t know what I need, what else I need in my life but I’m sure it’s not another rabbi.” Um, you, but you would have said, “No, you really need to come and see it.” That’s the exact words that you would have used. It’s what Philip used with Nathaniel. There were favorite words for people to come and look at who Christ is and most people don’t think they need a rabbi. Or today, th-the visible image of the invisible God in many ways is the church and they’re like, “I don’t know what I need in my life but I don’t need church.” And that’s because they don’t believe that what, first of all, they, they’ve never seen God’s church, like many people had never met God’s rabbi. But, I, I, the story you’re talking about is um, when people understand who God is, th-the subtitle of the book is, “The life you’ve always wanted, the place you never thought to look.” God, God’s picture of what a community of Believers on earth looks like, redeemed people, is a beautiful thing and when you’ll trust Him and you allow Him to pick you up, a-and take you where He wants you to go, it becomes life-giving. And so, I, I, I’d taken my two little girls at the time, my two oldest kids on a bike ride years ago when they were little and I took them to a candy store and said, “You can get anything you want.” And I had a 5 year old and a 3 year old and in the story I just talk about how the 5 year old knew me better, they knew that when Dad offers them something, I’m not looking to rip them off, I’m looking to set them free and give them more and show them what they can’t otherwise see. So, my 5 year old said, “Dad, what should I get?” And I picked her up, and lifted her up and showed her where, you know, kind of where the pound bags of candy were and all the good stuff. My little 3 year old was down there on that, you know, knee high to a grasshopper level and she was just grabbing the first thing she saw and happened to put her little hands on what turned to out to be Atomic Fireball and she knew I told her she could get whatever she wanted and she was pretty sure that she knew more than me what she wanted. And um, and so, she held onto it even though I tried to convince her and Allie kind of said to her, my older, “Kirby, come on, man. Let Dad choose. He knows candy. He knows where the good stuff is.” So, anyway, that story’s in the first, in the first part of the book but I use it as an illustration; it became a real metaphor in our family that, “Hey, God knows what the good stuff is. You’ve gotta trust Him and let Him pick you up and He’ll show you where, where life that you wanted is, not what you see, not what you think is better. But trust your Father and go ‘Man, You show me where the good stuff is.” So, um, I use that to basically set the whole, the whole book up, which is a way of saying, “Man, you’ve gotta trust God and I know you don’t think you know or you think you know where you can find life but God knows exactly where you can find life,” and it-it’s an invitation to come and see where that life is.
Jonathan Morrow: I love it. I love it. And so, I, you know, I bet that uh, that little three year old will always remember the red, shiny uh, Atomic Fireball, maybe that didn’t taste quite like I thought that was going to there.
Todd Wagner: Well, you know, yeah, we, we, she does and we all do. And like I said, there’s even now, that, that little girl that was 3 is now 23 and so we have that as a metaphor in our family. We say all the time, “Hey man, that’s a fireball.” And fireballs, anybody who’s had one knows that they’ve got a thin layer of sugar on the outside; it’s like sin: it’s sweet at first, um, you think you’ve got a, you’ve made a better choice than your sister who got a little tiny red Skittle but you got this, you know, you realize she had a whole bag of them but anyway that little red Skittle that Allie put in her mouth compared to the huge fireball, it looked like Kirby made a better choice, even for the first few seconds, she had some sweetness but then it turned into a burn. And so, again and again, throughout our life God whispers it in my ear and we say it to one another, “Hey, that’s a fireball. It looks good but it’s not gonna end well.”
Jonathan Morrow: Yeah, absolutely. You know, one of the things is I talk about with our students here is you know, sin is fun for a moment and then, it, it become unfun very quickly, you know, in those moments. And so, that’s, I love that illustration you choose. But, wh-what are some of the, like as you look around, as you, as you pastor there in Dallas, what do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions people in today’s culture have about Christianity, have about God as you interact with them?
Todd Wagner: I think the biggest one, I mean this, you know, the most important thing that any of us hold is our image and view of God and I think a lot of people, who, who don’t know Him, think that, that their father, right? All of us form our vision of God primarily through our earthly father who, and very few people have earthly fathers who are present and loving and encouraging and clearly uh, had their best interest in mind. And I think a lot of folks think that God is the kind of God that everything you really don’t want to do He’s saying, “Hey, you ought to pick it up and get more after that.” And everything that you want to do, he’s going to slap your hands when you reach for it and that, you’re basically got a manager relationship with God and you have to tolerate Him uh, a lot like, kind of a kid in his rebellion looks at his Dad and rolls his eyes back and, “You don’t understand, man. You’re an old man. You don’t relate to my world and you certainly don’t know what’s best for me.” And I think a l-lot of us struggle because we really have not yet come to a place, or let me say this, every single struggle we have, every time we sin, it can be rooted back to that primary sin uh, that we make. And then, really, I tell people all the time there’s only one sin that is primary in God’s eyes and that is not believing what is true about Him and everything else is a secondary sin. Because we don’t believe about Him we choose other things to offer us life, and, and, and to provide for us what only God Himself can provide. So, I think that’s the biggest struggle. In Dallas there’s a lot of bright and shiny objects, a lot of red fireballs around, you know, whether it’s uh, body enhancement through plastic surgery or a better house in a better zip code, a better car, more fame; those are all shiny things but more indulgence of the flesh and that, that’s just in Dallas, that’s everywhere. And I think we all think, “If I have those things they’ll satisfy.” Like you said only to show us that in the end it doesn’t. And so, God’s not trying to, you know some of those things in and of themselves aren’t evil, they’re just lousy gods. I tell people all the time, “Money’s not a, money is a, a terrible um, you know master but it’s a great servant. Okay? You know, physical health an-and bodies that operate well, that’s a, that’s a great tool to use for God but boy, if you, if you make it, if you make it your temple and the thing that you worship, not the temple of God, but a temple for you to find life in, you’re never going to have body image enough to make you feel like, “I’m really satisfied.”
Jonathan Morrow: Yeah, for sure. And I, I love, I love how you frame that as kind of how we, I think it was Tozier who said, “The most important thing about us is what we believe about God or think about God, what image comes into our mind.” And so, you know, just framing that I think is so important. Well, my guest today right now I’m talking to Todd Wagner, author of the brand new book, “Come and See; Everything you ever wanted in one place you would never look.” So, it’s an amazing book, you can check that out. But, I want to keep the conversation going here. Um, what, you know one of the things I really appreciate about you, that I’ve, that I’ve heard you speak, I’ve heard you teach, I’ve heard and I’ve read your books is your conversations with people. And I know a lot of times Christians are kind of intimidated to have conversations with people but one of the ways we kind of invite them to come and see is just to have one, to have some of those conversations. So I was wondering if you might just share, you talk about having interactions with say, go, you go out to dinner and you’ll have a conversation with someone or a waitress or something. Would you kind of share one of those, just as a way of kind of talking about how you kind of do this in everyday life and talk to people about where they’re at and kind of what that looks like?
Todd Wagner: Yeah, absolutely, about, I-I-I mean I’ll tell you, th-this is one I was just on Sunday night with my, with my 14 year old son. It was his birthday. He and I were in Kansas City; I was doing uh, in Kansas City, it was around the chapel for the Chiefs and, and doing that and we actually went to a late Sunday night uh, restaurant up in KC and so we’re sitting there and I, and I just really encouraged my son who’s 14, I said, “Hey, Cameron; I’ll tell you what. What I’d love you to do is why don’t you use your birthday as a way to love this waitress?” Because we’d talked about her, he, ‘cause he asked me, “How old do you think she is?” I said, “I don’t know. She’s probably you know, 19 to 23.” And, you know, it was, it was Sunday night, it was 10:15 and we were watching the World Series on one TV and the oth, over my other shoulder there’s the uh, Sunday night game, it was uh, Pittsburgh and Detroit and, and, and, and you know, it was just a little girl working, he was trying to figure out, “Man, you know, she looks like she could be almost in high school.” I-I kind of figured she wasn’t but I said, “Buddy, why don’t you use your birthday, ‘cause she already figured out it was your birthday when we sat down,” because uh, of some of the interaction we had. And uh, and, and, and, he was, “I’m just not good at it, Dad.” I said, “Well, I’m here to back you up.” I go, “Don’t worry about being good at it, just, just share with her, okay and, in, in, in a way th-that’s a language that’s kind of uncomfortable for all of us, the born again language, just, just why don’t you make it in a riddle?” And so he did. He just said, she walked up and she was, “Okay guys, do you need anything else?” He said, “Well, I’ve got a question for you. I’ve got a little riddle.” Sh-he said, “Um,” He goes, “Why do you think I have two birthdays?” Which as a 14 year old I thought was a pretty good way to go with that, okay? And, and she just looked at, and she just goes, “Oh gosh, I’m not good at these riddles. Is this something I’ve got, you know, uh, don’t make me look not smart.” And he goes, “No, no, no, it’s not that at all.” And she just goes, and so she took a couple wild guesses and he goes, “No, here’s the deal. You know I was born 14 years ago.” She said, “But probably about,” And he threw out when he trusted Christ years ago. “I came to understand that God loved me and wanted to make my life different as I began to know Him.” And that’s kind of where I jumped in and I go, “And that’s why that second birthday is there right? It’s called, it’s called born again, which is weird language but uh um, I-I go, “But that’s kind of what he means.” She goes, “Huh.” And then I looked at her and I literally said, “So, tell me,” Her name was Hays, “Hays, tell me about, tell me about you, do you have a faith?” And I mean, you wouldn’t have believed it; and it was just, I-I, she just started weeping. I mean literally had to step back and almost grab the booth behind her. And just started crying because, and then she just shared her story. And I mean, I’m reaching for every napkin I’ve got and I kind of pull her close to the table because there’s other tables around us and, and it just turned into an amazing conversation. I, I, all I would just say is when you have a normal relationship with people that you love, I-I-I am, I’m not just kind of a walk up to people and throw things in their face. I, I, I do believe in relational evangelism but here’s what I tell people, “You can form a relationship with somebody in 30 seconds or 3 minutes.” Okay? In fact, you know the people that are sometimes are almost hardest to share our faith with are the folks who have known us for 30 years. An-and by the way, the longer you’re with somebody, the more your walk is your witness, right, and the less your words are. But, but we’ve got to be able to do both all the time. And there’s nobody that I’ve known for 30 years that I haven’t at some point had a conversation about what is ultimately important in my life, usually earlier than later. And I just love them and say, “Listen, I’m not going to try and work every single conversation just to some spiritual um, moment where you’ve got to wrestle with me over ultimate things, okay, but you need to know that’s always my favorite conversation. So, I’m not going to beat you over the head every time I, I see you and drag you through the four spiritual laws or the bridge illustration, okay? But you need to know, anytime you want to talk about God and His relevance in my life, I mean specifically, let’s do it. Hopefully, you’ll see God’s relevance in my life all the time.” But when I’m interacting with people just in general, um, if you really love somebody Jonathan, it’s the easiest thing in the world, man, when you see, uh, you just think of it like this: when you see a great movie, okay? You can’t wait to invite a friend to see it because you know if they go see that movie, they’re going to like you, like, “Man, Jonathan told me to see that movie. It was amazing!” Or, eat at a great restaurant or read a great book. So, I, I, if you’re, if you’re not convinced, okay, first of all, if you know God, you’re going to feel that way about Him and if you don’t feel that way about Him, make that job one. And then once you really live out of that, like hey, if you knew the goodness of God like I do, then you would want to invite everybody else to come and see Him as well.
Jonathan Morrow: I love this. Well,
Todd Wagner: Yes, go ahead; I’m sorry.
Jonathan Morrow: No, no you’re good. I love that story ‘cause I think so, so many of us, so many people out there even listening to this podcast or whatever, maybe they want to start a conversation but they feel so intimidated or “Where do I start?” What I love about the illustration with you and your son was, just, just start, you know and just see what happens with it and see what God does with it. And, there’s a little bit of risk involved but there’s a, there’s a high reward if that engagement and that relationship and you never know just how God’s working in that person’s life up to that moment. So, I love, I love hearing you say that.
Todd Wagner: It is, and I think it all starts with this, okay? And this is why, you know this book; I-I didn’t mean for this book to turn into what it turned into, to be very honest. I didn’t know when I sat down to start to write this that it was going to turn into a book about what the, what the church, what the body of Christ ought to look like. But, here’s the sad truth: the reason most of us are not anxious to invite people to come and watch the movie of our life, okay, and the movie of our friend’s lives with us, is because most of us are not experiencing what God wants us to experience in our own life and in our own walk with Him. So like, I know Jonathan, when you meet a, um, a young adult, when you meet someone in their college years or um, in that, you know, 16 to 24 year age span, you would tell any one of them, “Hey, come hang out with us over here. Come see what we’re learning about the truth about God, the, the relevance of His Word.” And if they come, you know they’re going to go, “Man, this is not what I thought. This is better than I thought.” And you have that ability. And I would just say, “That’s what God wants for every single one of us in our community of faith, which is what the church is.” I’m not talking about the building. I’m not talking about, “Come hear my pastor.” I’m talking about the life that we’re supposed to have in the context of living as His people together.
Jonathan Morrow: Yeah, absolutely. Now, that made me think of a story from, you know, this, this past summer that we have Immersion, which is a two week summer program for students and sometimes students ar-are at ver-various spectrum of excitement to be there; some of them want to be there and some, their parents want them more to be there than they do. But, then they show up at about day 3 or 4 when they’ve been around our awesome staff and people who love on them and show them a different vision for the Christian life, they’re like, “You know what? This is different. This is not what I’ve experienced growing up.” And they want to know more. That’s what I love about your book, “Come and See”; is you’re, you’re painting that picture of kind of how we, we ought to be doing this which is what I love. And so, um, you know a couple, one more question here on a couple different things. What, what is, um, you know, working with a lot of students and I kind of know the questions they ask but I’m just curious, you know, as a pastor, what are the most common questions or issues that you get from people on their faith journey um, in the local church and where you’re at? What’s, what is that for you? What are those topics that people say?
Todd Wagner: Yes, it’s funny because um, you as, you as a guy who studies uh, apologetics and uh, just the philosophical world that’s out there, uh, I, there’s not as many questions as people think for you to be really conversant in how to uh, not just give a rationale defense but to give people what I would just call solid answers t-to real, genuine questions, which are great. I love when people ask me questions. Most folks don’t ask questions; you can just see it on their face, “I’m skeptical.” okay? “I don’t believe that God is worth knowing. I think He’s someone I have to manage. Maybe I’m going to have to deal with this so I may as well at least appease Him so I don’t get uh, blown away and obliterated, you know, both in this life and if there is a life to come.” I-I think they’re skeptical about the motive of the church, I think they’re skeptical about leadership and, and, and I, you know, so I don’t like, like when I meet people the last thing I do is, you know, is just go, “Hi, I’m a Christian.” Or, “I’m a pastor.” I-I-I don’t, I lead with, “Hey man,” I try and think, “How can I be what Jesus would be if he was with this person?” Which is, “This person matters.” Okay? God gave His life for this person. Jesus wants, God wants an intimate relationship with him, okay? And if I’m His ambassador, what I’ve got to, what I’ve gotta be is a person that would represent, if you will, the country of which I am from, uh, the place I want to invite him back to. Okay? The goodness from that land I want to bring to them. I want to ask myself, “Is my interaction with them going to get in the way? Is it going to be a hindrance or is going to make them thirsty and curious for more?” So I try and treat people with, with, with the, with the kindness; I think most people are skeptical of the power of God to transform the human heart - that’s just bottom line, okay? Um, I love, there’s a quote by a guy, um, that-that’s Tredic Favor, who, it was a long time ago and he just, he just said this, he said, “Kindness has converted more men than zeal, eloquence or knowledge.” Okay? And so, what I’m not talking about just random acts of kindness; I tell people all the time, “Believers, we don’t do anything randomly, okay? We do everything in the name of Christ.” But, you’ve gotta ask yourself, you know, “If, if somebody was skeptical about the love of God after they met me and interacted with me, would they be more open to believe that maybe this God does care about them and does love them? And, and then, am I willing to tell them why I am being kind?” And so, sometimes often, you know when I do stuff they’ll say, “Man, that was so kind.” A-and I’ll even just, I’ll just say stuff like, “Man, hey, can I just say this to you? This might seem crazy but may this small act of kindness remind you of God’s great love for you. Has anybody told you that God loves you? He loves you so much His Son died for you and I just want to be His hands and feet.” And so, may I just put that; I-I-I-I sometimes that’s all I get with people sometimes. And um, I don’t feel like it’s my job to, to stand there until everybody wants to pray to receive Christ. I believe it’s my job to be His ambassador, to be salt and light and so I, I, you know I’m, the number one question I get from people is like, “Is this real? Is God really good? What, uh, uh, what-what’s the play here? What are you really trying to get from me? You need more money? You want, you want to validate who you are by me coming to your little organization?” And I want to go, “No. No, I want you to know the goodness of my God and the great thing about Him is because He’s infinite and when you get to know Him and get close to Him, that doesn’t mean I get any less of Him so come and get all of Him that you want. Uh, He loves you and He’s better than you can believe.”
Jonathan Morrow: I love it. I love it. Y-you know, and so one of the things you talk a lot about in your book, “Come and See” is, is community and Biblical community. Um, a couple thoughts on that. First maybe paint a picture of what does Biblical community look like and then also, what are some of the most common barriers that you see to people actually getting into that kind of community?
Todd Wagner: Okay, uh, what’s it look like? It looks like humans living together which means there’s gonna still be conflict, imperfection, frustration, uh, and a need for grace to constantly be applied and forgiveness to be extended. And, um, and it also should look like, we all know that we’re humans which means that while we’re, even the ones of us that are redeemed, we’re on a journey towards Christ-likeness but we’re not there. So, we need to ad-admonish each other in a, in a loving way right? Uh, as, I mean scriptures are full and replete with admonitions about how we do life together. You know, Jonathan when you and I are together, neither one of us expect the other’s got to be perfect; we believe, I believe the best about you, right?
Jonathan Morrow: Yeah.
Todd Wagner: Um, I-I know you want to be God’s man and so, like my wife, you know, I mean she’ll just say, “Todd, that, that, I, you know, I love you but that I don’t think is what you want. I mean I know you want to honor me and cherish me and I know you want to be tender towards me,” and she’ll use all these words all the time but she just says, “Hey, I believe you when you say you want to be a vessel for Christ, okay? And so, I, and so right there, you know, that wasn’t your best, that wasn’t Jesus showing up, that was the spirit of Todd Wagner, it wasn’t the Spirit of Christ.” And it gives me a chance to go, “You know, you’re right. Please forgive me.” To reconcile me, you admonish the unruly, that’s what the community of saints do, you encourage the faint-hearted, sometimes you’re like, “Goodness, if God is there would my life look like this if God loved me, would this be the hand that I was dealt? Um, if, if, you know, can God love me given what I just did?” And I need friends who remind me of things that are true. Remind me that, “Hey, in this world, we’re going to have troubles so don’t let, don’t let our immediate circumstance inform our long term theological, you know, uh, convictions about who God is.” I need friends who can encourage me and then help me when I’m weak, when I’m not wanting to die to myself again. And guys and wom, men and women that will do that with great patience. All I’m doing is quoting to you 1 Thessalonians 5:14, right? So a Biblical community are friends that go, “Hey, we have come to a place where we’ve gotten on our knee and said, ‘That’s love. That’s goodness. That’s truth.’ And I want to, I want, I want to be not just saved in the sense that I am, uh, making a one time profession about the truth of the cross, I want my life to respond to it. And then, the rest of my life I’m around other people who are gonna help me cling to that cross, respond to it and who do that with a lot of grace.” Every single one of us is conformed to the image of Christ at a different rate, if you will, at different seasons of, of, um, obedience and energy towards it so I think that’s what the Biblical community is. It’s not perfect people. I think, and I talk a lot about conflict in the book and authenticity, okay? And so.
Jonathan Morrow: Yeah, say a little bit more about those two, like how do those relate? Maybe give some, like put some mean on those bones for people, how those actually look in everyday life.
Todd Wagner: Yeah, okay. So the authenticity piece first of all is most of us, all of us, okay, at some level walk around and you know, I kind of tease folks at Watermark all the time, “Man, if you guys knew the truth about me, you wouldn’t come here. But if I knew the truth about you, I wouldn’t let you in.” You know? And I say that, and it’s an over-statement I hope, um, but because you know, there’s not some duplicitous uh, part of my life I’m not telling anybody. What I’m saying is, “I know, I know the thoughts that just kind of wash over my soul and I, an-an-and um, and I I’m thinking like, “Goodness, am I even saved that I could think that or that I would be tempted, that that would be life-giving?” And, you know, what I’ve got to do; I tell people all the time, I mean, “Listen, just ‘cause I’m a pastor doesn’t mean I can’t be a Christian. A Christian are men and women on journeys towards Christ-likeness. And I need guys to know that this is my Achilles, this is where my flesh is weak, when I am not going to, uh, want to follow Christ in a given area, these are the places I will default, pray for me, encourage me, help me not to feed those things, ask me how I’m doing in war against those things.” And so, if I’ve got to pretend like I’m not weak, that means I don’t get part of the provision that God has for me. There’s not a single person that would say you can be a serious Christian and not read your Bible or not pray but it’s amazing how many of us think, Jonathan, “That if we really love Jesus, I wouldn’t need brothers and sisters in Christ to go to war with me and who are a band of three cords that is not easily broken.” And, it’s amazing, this piece of grace that is Biblical community, and we see it a lot in this generation that I know you spend a lot of time with; it-it’s just like, “Hey man, I don’t really, I’m not a part of a church.” Again, I get that because the institutional church that most people think of is not the Biblical church that Jesus wants us to have. But you cannot go through the Christian life as an orphan, you just don’t; you go do it as a family. And, uh, and in your family, you know, for all of us, (a blip in the recording) we feel more loved by immediate family than almost anybody else in some ways because that’s where we really are known. And, we’re like, “Goodness, gracious, how can I tell the people I love Jesus because they’ve seen my worst?” But that’s where Christ shows up is in those areas where people you know you best, they love you most and they extend grace. Together you move toward what Jesus wants. That’s what the church should be; it should not be a place where we put on our best and act like our life is together. You know most churches you go into it’s like, you know, these people apparently don’t even need a savior because everyone’s life is perfect, you know?
Jonathan Morrow: And that’s not very welcoming. Yeah.
Todd Wagner: Yeah, and that’s not very welcoming to a world that knows its broken.
Jonathan Morrow: Yeah, ‘cause they know the thought they’ve had, they know the week they’ve had, they know the issues they’re dealing with and like, “Okay, is this a safe place at all for me? Is this a place where anyone is going to struggle with the same things that I struggle with because I’m feeling pretty bad right not.
Todd Wagner: That’s right. So when I share a story about my struggles, I, every week people are like, “I’ve never heard a pastor say that before.” And I’m like, “Well, man, let me tell you something. This pastor desperately needs a savior. This pastor definitely needs encouragement and grace and so, welcome man. If you want to be a part of God’s family I think that’s what you probably need.”
Jonathan Morrow: Absolutely. You know, that’s great. You know, you know, wha-what would you say is probably the biggest barrier for people that why, why they don’t, why they don’t, why don’t they step into that kind of community more often?
Todd Wagner: Yeah. Fear. I think it’s fear that I’m going to be rejected, uh, and or pride because my whole life has been about trying to put on um, a certain appearance that I think you will love and if I show that that’s not really who I am I think you won’t love me. We’ve convinced ourselves of a lie. And, and that takes us back to the very first chapters, you know, the original lies, God’s Word isn’t, God isn’t good, His Word’s not true and disobeying is not that big a deal. I think most of us don’t believe that God is good and so we can’t walk the way He tells us to in humility and in uh, authenticity with one another and so we begin to walk with this sense of, “This is why you should like me. Here’s the impressive package that I’m going to put before you.” And it puts us in a really bad place because no one can really love us because no one really knows us. And, I’m telling you, especially, this, it’s the, it’s the craziest thing in the world, I mean I tell folks that the only requirement to be admitted into God’s church is you’ve got to, you’ve got to raise your hand and go, “I’m broken.” Jesus said the happiest people on earth are those who are poor in spirit and sometimes you get around quote, unquote religious people; I don’t even like that term, but Christians and the first thing we try and do is show each other how together our life is and what I want to say is, “Hey, Christ holds all things together. That’s Colossians, man. I just want to say, “My life is being sanctified. My, my heart is still with a full hope but I’m still at war in this world and there are still some things that are not as they should be. Let me tell you about my God who is, who sustains me, helps me and encourages me. Let me tell you about my friends who know this is true about me and have my best interest in mind and love me.” And man, when you get that kind of community going, it is irresistible to a watching world. Sadly, that’s not Jesus’ church on earth that most people have experienced and I’m trying to change that.
Jonathan Morrow: Yeah, you know and, and I love what you just said, I-I think it’s such a beautiful picture of also, of the, of the opportunity for community and the life-giving nature of it but also, why we’re all, we’re all scared of being known too. We’re also, you know, and, and I love how you talk about that in your book, “Come and See.” Um, right now I’m talking to Todd Wagner who’s the author of a brand new book, “Come and See” uh, you’ll find stuff in the show notes about that but, there’s one part of this book I really love; there’s actually story towards the end of it where you talk about your kids nearing the driving age um, and, and it’s kind of how you approached that moment as you think about the next generation or things like that. But, um, did you just kind of turn them loose and just say, “Hey, are you going to go drive?” Turn them loose or how did you approach that? I loved how you did that.
Todd Wagner: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, no, of course not. You, you, we want to, we want to make sure that, that as we walk with people, you know, just through life about; I-I talked about this, this last Sunday, we all say success is determined by success and everybody kind of nods and goes, “Oh, that’s a good axiom.” But, then we don’t really act like it; we act like success is people looking at us like we’re the irreplaceable um, hope for their future. And, you know, I-I’m like, “Hey, listen, no; there’s going to be a day I’m going to need you to drive me. I’m not going to be able to see and my senses are going to get, you know, worse and my, uh, reflexes are going to get slower so I’m going to be in that seat. You’d better learn how to drive over here.” And so, you know, just classic leadership is you just, you do it for them and hopefully the way you’ve modeled for them how to drive and modeled for them how to live, you do it with them, and then you let them do it and um, and I-I-I’m always trying to put people in positions where they can experience the things that I am right now in positions to do and to do it in a way that doesn’t um, make me scared like, “Man, they might do it better than me.” If they can do it better than me and I’m really about what God wants to see happen, then my job is to get out of the way and let them do it. So, um, yeah, I just think as leaders and as a church, you mentioned come but we’ve got to, you know, um, or we-we’re raising up our future leaders and so the more we can uh, give them opportunities while we’re able to do it with them and bring them along and set them on the course that’s going to be a blessing to us in the future and, and teach them how to teach the next generation the better it’s going to be for us all.
Jonathan Morrow: Absolutely. You know, I think that’s so important and that’s a lesson that we need for every generation, the church needs that. I love how you’ve kind of paint that vision in the book “Come and See.” Well, you know, um, as we, as we kind of wrap this up in a minute, what, you know there’s a lot of parents who listen to this, um, maybe share some advice and encouragement with the parents who are trying to raise their kids to follow Jesus in today’s world. Maybe kind of from your vantage point and your own experience, um, but encourage them, maybe paint a vision for them um, as they’re just trying to, trying to get to trying to do this and trying to in turn invest in their own next generation in their, in their home.
Todd Wagner: Yep. I give them two things. Uh, first, let me just say this: you’ve got to ask yourself, uh, the community of faith that you’re a part of, uh, you’ve got to do a really hard assessment: is this the church that Jesus wants? And I’m not talking about the church service you go to on Sunday; that’s not the church, that’s the church in one (two blowing or banging sounds) the things that we should do when we gather corporately, which is to remind ourselves of the grandness of our God so we can be taught and remember how to respond to Him. But, but I will tell you, we, we all know the statistics, right? We hear it all the time that (one blowing or banging sound) churches in America today are going to leave it when they get of independent age. And I would tell you that the best way to set your kids up to leave the church is to, is to continue to go to a church that you secretly wish you yourself didn’t go to, that you know that this isn’t that transforming, life-giving, authentic uh, caring, admonishing community that Jesus talks about, that there isn’t um, that, where, when you’ve got dysfunctional people in leadership, insecure people, sin that’s obvious to the world that no one deals with because it’s not polite, where you just let your kids be around that kind of community and then you keep telling them that community represents the power of a transforming, healing God, and don’t be surprised when they’re leaving. Um, I-I-I want to insert this right here, listen, I’m think too many churches today are made up of pastors who don’t lead well and, and they, they kind of cut a deal; I talk about this in the book, where they can just tell people, “Just come, you know, come here, you, you’ve founded me with your presence, you’ve given me enough money to keep the lights on and keep the program going and I won’t ask too much of you. We won’t meddle too much in each other’s lives and we’ll both tell each other we’re doing what God wants us to do.” You want to mess your kids up, you take them to that kind of church, okay? Or, you take them to a legalistic church that’s just constantly um, telling them if they don’t perform that they’re, that God’s not going to love them and that uh, that you’re embarrassed by them if in some way they’re authentic with the questions they have, with the struggles that they’re facing, ‘cause, let me just tell you something, that is not Jesus and it’s not His church, okay? And then secondly, I would just say, you know, you’ve got to really be personally passionate. One of the things I did as a dad is uh, I would give my kids uh, I don’t know, like, 10 to 15 questions a couple a times a year where I would just ask them a bunch of questions and always on this survey like, “What’s your best memory from your dad, with your dad this year? What’s the one thing you wish you could do next year? Um, what’s one thing you wish I knew about that I don’t? What’s one thing that we, you wished we talked about more? When’s the last time that you can remember we laughed together?” I mean, I would just have a bunch of questions I would ask them and I always, always, whatever the questions were and how they changed, I would ask them this one, “What is your dad most passionate about?” And man, if they ever said, um, “The church.” Or if they said um, like, some guys are into cars or into college football or into working out or into any, if, if my kids ever said anything other than, “Dad is passionate about God’s Word and, and intimacy with, with Jesus,” in whatever way a kid would say that, okay then I am sure what I am telling my kids worth what is living for is something less than what God says is worth living for. And that was the one, that’s the reason I did that survey is I always wanted to see, “What do my kids see me value?” And if they don’t see me value the privilege I’ve got to be intim-intimate with Jesus and to walk with Him and to make Him known then I’ve got to change the way I’m living, which means change the way I’m parenting ‘cause there’s not greater kindness to give your kids then a deep conviction that the best thing in your life is an abundant, intimate relationship with Jesus. And so, if my kids said, “Grades.” you know? Then I’ve done, I’ve failed as a parent.
Jonathan Morrow: My athletic performance.
Todd Wagner: I’ve failed as a parent.
Jonathan Morrow: Hmmm, you know, thanks for sharing that. As a dad I resonate that with that and I’m going to make my own list on that. That’s great. That’s so good, so good to hear. Well, my guest today has been Todd Wagner. Th-the book is “Come and See; Everything you ever wanted in the one place you would never look.” It’s a fabulous book; there’ll be links to it in the show notes. But, most importantly, what Todd’s heart and what my heart is, is that you would grow more passionate in your relationship with Jesus and that would overflow out of your life into community, into the local church, and into the world that desperately needs to hear the message of Jesus and that’s what we want. And so, that’s why I’m so excited about this book. So, Todd, I just want to thank you for your work, your service to the church, um, just being an example of following Jesus, and you know where you’d say, you know, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” I really appreciate just your life, your encouragement in that. And so, thank you for spending a few minutes with us today.
Todd Wagner: It’s a privilege. And, uh, I’ll tell parents, and I-I mean this, you know, you mentioned Stonestreet early in our conversation and who runs a great ministry or was a part for a long time it was Summit. But parents if you want to get your kids trained in worldview, you get them to come down here and hang out with Jonathan and uh, they will experience uh, a part of the goodness of God’s life in a way that too often kids don’t, so I was thrilled to jump on with you Jonathan. Good to talk to a friend and I hope, I hope at least a lot of people engaging and being reminded of you know, who Christ is and an opportunity for them to pour that into their kids.
Jonathan Morrow: Well thanks so much. And a prayer for the listeners, this week just pray that you would have all the influence that God would have you to have this week. And we’ll see you on the next episode.
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