What it means to WOW folks

Pastor Jeff Struecker

I want to start today by talking about the first of our five core values. But in order for me to set this up for you, let me share with you honestly, something that’s kind of painful. I think every pastor on the planet would say that they’ve gone through this more than once. Certainly we’ve gone through it. But let me explain to you one of those painful moments that happens as a pastor.

I need to explain to you the start of 2 Cities Church. Last summer, about 20 families came together in the lobby of a Burger King (because we’re a bunch of high rollers, and that’s about as much as we could afford together). We were meeting together and started to pray together about starting a church.

Now, for those of you who weren’t here at the very beginning, the conversation basically went like this: We decided that our community (this Chattahoochee Valley of Phenix City, Alabama and Columbus, Georgia) don’t need another church that’s going to keep doing things like everybody else around us does. 

Basically, the average church in our community, unfortunately, treats Heaven and Hell and the glory of God like a social club. What we said is, “Our community really needs a church that is passionate about reaching people who are far from Jesus.”

We also said that because we live in this very multi-ethnic community (last summer when we were meeting together, about 110 countries were represented living in our community), we said, “What this community really needs is a church that is passionate about reaching people far from Jesus and a church that is serious about looking like the community.” 

And I just want to tell you, if you were to go to the roughly 440 churches in our metropolitan area, you won’t find five churches (I can tell you from firsthand experience) that are serious about reaching people who are far from Jesus and really want to look like the community.

All of this is the setup to tell you these painful moments that happen as a pastor. You see, we started meeting together. We started praying together. We started talking about what it looks like when all of us passionately pursue the Great Commission. 

That was last summer. 

And then in about September, one of those families started showing up. They started inviting their friends to these meetings where we were just praying about starting a church service in January. And in September, one of those families decided, “You guys aren’t moving fast enough, and I’m going to go to another church that is moving a little bit faster than you.” That loss was like a punch in the face. It hurt. 

And we still stayed on course. And this spring, when we launched our church services in January, some people started showing up in February (this is before COVID happened). And then some families started saying, “You guys aren’t doing enough for my children, and I’m out of here. I’m going to a church that is going to do something for my children.” That one was like a body blow. 

And then when we started moving to online only and then eventually to meeting back in person, other families that have been connected with us over six months said, “Hey, you guys aren’t really providing me what I’m looking for. So me and my family, we’re leaving and we’re going somewhere else.” That one was like a strong uppercut. 

And now I’m just going to be transparent with you for a second, because in moments like this when families are saying, “I want my church to do this for me. And if you don’t do this for me, I’m gone.” -When those moments happen, I really struggle as a pastor. See, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “I want.” All of us have wants and preferences, and I don’t get my feelings hurt at all when people sit down and look me in the eyes and say, “Jeff, I want this from my church.” My struggle is with the phrase my church… because it’s not really your church. It’s not my church. This church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We call him King around here. And because he’s the King, he gets to decide what his church does and how his church does it. I don’t get to make those decisions. You don’t get to make those decisions. So it’s really tempting for me, (I’m just being honest with you), to beg people not to leave and to ask them, “What do we need to do to make it possible for you to stick around here?” 

And if we’re not careful, what we will do is start to do whatever we’ve got to do to attract some people and to keep them. We’d start to do a whole lot of things very mediocre at best or maybe doing a whole lot of things poorly, which brings me to a conversation about core values and about core value number one.

I teach leadership at the masters and at the doctoral level to seminary students. And when I teach leadership, we talk about values. The word value just means something that’s really important to you. You place a lot of worth or a lot of value in this thing. It’s important to you. Then I have a lecture about core values, and I tell them, “Do you want to know what a core value is?” I’ll give you a really simple way to figure out if this is something that’s important, if this is just a value or if this is a core value. It is at your core. Here’s the difference:

A core value is something that you say, “I would be willing to lose money or lose people over this issue every single time. -not once, but every time this issue comes up, I’d be willing to lose some money or lose some people.” 

We’re going to spend five weeks describing what makes 2 Cities Church tick. These are our five core values we would be willing to lose people over. We want people to fall in love with Jesus. We want people to follow Jesus like we’re following Jesus. But if they say, “Hey, one or all five of these things, that’s not me. And there’s nothing you can say, nothing that you could do that would make me want to follow or agree with these five things,” then we would say, “Man as sorry as I am to see you go, there are 435 churches in our community for you to choose from.”

Core value number one for us (and this isn’t in order of importance); this is just five values that you could put in any order. Core value number one is to wow people. I said, “WOW Folks”, and I realize that word folks is kind of old school, redneck language. We don’t mind being considered rednecks around here because we use words that would be easy to memorize. That’s why I use the word folks. 

But if you’re not sure exactly what I mean by the word wow, I’m going to give you a two-word definition for that phrase “wowing folks”. Wowing folks is about everyday excellence. It’s really Important that you hear the word everyday in this, because a lot of us have this idea that excellence is something that you spend 20 years working toward, and after 20 years, you finally get there.

WOW is Everyday excellence.  This happens by saying “no” to good things so that we can say “yes” to great things.

What we’re talking about by wowing people is wowing them today, this Sunday, and continuing to wow them next Sunday. And if you want to know, “Well, how you guys get to everyday excellence?” Well, here’s how you do it. It all boils down to the decisions that I have to make when a family looks at me in the eyes and says, “Jeff, I want my church to do this for me. And if you’re not going to do this for me, we’re out here.” Here’s the truth: Wowing people happens when you say no to a few goods things so that you can say yes to the greatest things.

The truth is, nobody can be great at everything. Most of us, if we’re really honest, can’t even be good at a lot of things. So you have to make some choices. And the choices are, what are we going to be great at? And if we can’t be great at these things, then we’re just not going to do these things. That’s what we mean by wowing people. 

Now, I want to give you a vivid example of this. It comes from the Bible. This is when Jesus and his disciples are traveling together and they’re invited to a dinner party at a lady’s house. It’s actually two sisters who are going to host Jesus and his traveling companions. This comes from the book of Luke chapter 10. 

Luke 10:38-42 While they were traveling, he entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.” 41 The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” 

Mary is just sitting around apparently doing nothing while Martha is working herself to death. And here’s how Jesus responds. Please get this, because this is the overarching verse today. “The Lord answered her, ‘Martha.'” (I think he was trying to calm her down.) “Martha, You are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary.”

Jesus is saying, “Martha, you are working yourself to death. You are doing a lot of things. And all of the things that you’re doing are all important, but they’re just not the most important thing. And now you want me to tell your sister who is doing the most important thing to stop doing that and start doing many things? I won’t do that, Martha, because what Mary is doing is the right thing, the great thing. And the many things that you’re doing, Martha, they really just don’t matter 10,000 years from now.” 

What we’re going to do is take a look at everyday excellence and cruise right through a couple of ideas. When I use the word wow, when we call it everyday excellence around here, I want you to understand what we’re talking about to the point that if someone asks you about number one (“Hey, what does that one mean number one?”), you should be able to answer this one with three words. 

Wow is a daily choice

Here’s what I want you to understand about wowing people: Wowing people is ultimately a daily choice. When you get up tomorrow, you have a choice to make it basically a habit. And like any habit, you start to do it. It feels a little bit uncomfortable. It’s maybe hard work. But as you do it more often, it starts to become a lot more comfortable, or it starts to become a lot easier. When you get up tomorrow, you have a choice to make just like I have a choice to make.

I’ll have 50 things screaming for my attention when I get up tomorrow, and I could give all 50 of those things a little bit of my attention, and to be honest with you, maybe do okay at five of them and really poor at 45 of them. Or I can just put a whole bunch of those things off of my schedule and choose to focus on one or two things and decide I’m going to give those one or two things all that I’ve got. That’s why we call it everyday excellence. When you get up tomorrow, you have a choice to make. “Am I going to try to do a lot of things okay, or am I going to do just a few things? Am I going to get good at a few things?”

That choice is kind of easy to make, but you ready for this? It gets even harder, because the truth is, now you also have a second choice to make, and the second choice is, “I can be good at a few things, or I could be great at one or two things and only one or two things. So am I going to settle for good at a few things, or am I going to get up tomorrow and decide I’m going to be great at only one or two things? And if those aren’t the one or two things that I’m doing, then I’m just not going to spend my time and my energy doing it.”

Here’s a quick verse from the book of Luke. The book of Luke is giving us an example of this daily choice that we have to make, and Jesus says, “If you call yourself my disciple, let me tell you what this requires of you every single day of your life: not one moment in time where you bow your knee and pray a prayer to ask him to forgive you. This is every day for the rest of your life.” 

Luke 9:23  Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.

When I wake up tomorrow, I have a decision to make. Am I going to deny myself? Am I going to spend my time and my energy doing the thing that really matters, or am I going to try to do a lot of things? It’s a daily choice. When I get up tomorrow, I have to make a choice about my time. You have to make a choice about your time. 

I got convicted about this sometime ago, because I watched a lot of people who were Christians and who have been following Jesus. They have been trying to be good followers of him, but the truth is, they were busy. They were overly busy. And as a result, they started to give a lot of time and a lot of energy to other things. Jesus started to get pushed out of their life.

It’s not that they didn’t love Jesus. It’s not that he really wasn’t their savior. It’s just that work started to become more important. Games, friends, social media, online events started to become more important. Hobbies started to become more important. And pretty soon (I’ve seen this with hundreds if not thousands of Christians), Jesus got the leftovers. And if they were honest, their leftovers for Jesus, they wouldn’t dare give to their boss at work because he would fire them. If they gave to their boss at work what they were giving to Jesus, they didn’t mean for it to get that way.

Their life just kind of became that way. And all of a sudden, following Jesus just got pushed out to the sidelines. You see, wowing folks is a sacrifice. It’s a daily sacrifice. It’s the sacrifice of saying “I’m going to have to give up some things. I’m actually going to have to give up some really important things, some things that I really enjoy, so that I can be great at one or two things.” And as a church, we have to decide that there are some things that we can be great at, or there are a lot of things that we can be okay at…maybe okay at best.

Excellence every day is a choice. When you get up tomorrow morning ,that what I do, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. And if I can’t give it everything that I’ve got, then I’m just not going to do it. It’s a daily choice that we make. 

Wow means choosing to do the right things

Here’s number two: Wowing people is also about choosing to do the right things. You see when the big brain business thinkers, when all of the leadership experts write their books and make millions of dollars from them, they all talk about doing things right. Most of them skip right over this principle of doing the right thing. And I kind of want to ask all of these big brain leadership gurus out there, why does it matter if I get excellent at doing something that doesn’t really matter? What if I give all of my heart and all of my energy and all of my attention to something that just simply isn’t important, and I knock it out of the park? In the end, I’m no better than doing it really poorly. In fact, it’s probably worse to get great at doing something that doesn’t matter and not be able to do the things that really do matter.

You see, wowing people is about doing the right things and majoring on the majors, which inevitably means you have no choice but to minor on the minors. When the minors start to become major, the majors are going to start to suffer. And wowing people is about doing the right thing. 

Just so that you hear this from me, I’m going to show it to you from the scriptures. Excellence is a team sport. You can’t get there on your own. Here’s how the book of Hebrews describes this. I want you to notice how we need each other in order to become the followers of Christ that he’s called us to be.

Heb 3:12–13 Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.

He’s talking about followers of Christ. That’s why he calls them brothers and sisters. They have already had a heart that is turned to God. And now he’s warning us. “Be careful that life itself, your busy schedule, doesn’t pull your heart away from God. And by pulling your heart away from God, inevitably pulling you to something else. Whatever that thing is cannot be as good as God. It will inevitably be evil that it starts to pull you away from your relationship with God.”

I chose these verses because of what it says next. “But encourage each other daily while it is still called today so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” What this verse is saying is we need other brothers and sisters around us. I’m not good enough to be the kind of follower of Christ that he’s called me to be and neither are you if you’re doing it by yourself. Just reading your Bible, praying hard, doing your best effort will never get you to the level of following Jesus that being in a relationship with other people, connected deeply with other believers, is going to get you to.

This is why Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Steph Curry, when they’re on a team, everybody on the team gets better. Everybody watches how those guys play ball and sees how hard they’re working. And when they see that level of LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Steph Curry excellence, the rest of the team starts to work harder and starts to give more. And the whole team starts to get excellent. Excellence attracts excellence, and mediocrity also attracts mediocrity.

What Hebrews is saying is, you need people to do life with you. I need people to do life with me. Without that, my faith will never be what it could be, what it should be. What I’m trying to say is, you can never get on your own to the place in your walk with Jesus that you will get to when other brothers and sisters are around you, just like the book of Hebrews describes for us. It’s a daily decision. It’s about doing the right things. And then when you finally get to this stage, wowing people, third and finally, becomes not just doing the right things, but doing things right and doing things in such a way that when people see what you’re doing, it leaves them with the word wow.

Wow mean doing things right

You see, our church has a choice to make. Right now and every day until Jesus comes back again, the choice is, are we willing to do today what it takes to do a few things right? And by working really hard and giving it everything that we’ve got today, our church is able to do today what other churches will not do And then tomorrow, our church is able to do what other churches cannot do. You worked really hard; you gave it all that you’ve got today. And because you’re working really hard, because you’re growing, because you’re becoming a church of excellence that wows folks, tomorrow when other churches see what the Lord is doing in your midst, they won’t be able to replicate that because they didn’t put the hard work in today like you and I are. One final verse. Here’s how the book of Ephesians describes this for us: 

Eph 6:7 Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to people

I need to remind you that this first is referring to slaves serving a master or an employee serving their boss. What you do, give it everything that you’ve got; do it to the best of your ability, and do it like your boss is King Jesus. Do it like he’s the one you’re working for, not some jerk who really doesn’t care about you and is willing to step on you just to make themselves look better.

Give it everything that you’ve got because there is a God in Heaven who sees what you’re giving, notices how hard you’re working, and will reward your efforts. I’m flying through this material today so that I can tell you just how significant this is for us right now as a church. To be honest with you, I have a confession I make. 

Over the last nine months or so, we really haven’t been wowing people with a lot of what we’ve been doing. I could sit around and blame it on the COVID virus. I could say that it’s the Cunningham Center on the campus of CSU’s fault. I could say it’s just because of my challenges of working three jobs just to try to pay the bills (that is not an exaggeration). But the truth is, those things aren’t really why we’re not wowing people. The reason why we’re not wowing people is, we started doing more than we should have been doing. And because we were doing more than we should have been doing, we couldn’t do the things that we were doing with excellence.

And instead of pulling back and instead of holding back the reins, and instead of saying, “Until we’re good enough that we could do that thing with excellence, we’re just not going to do it,” I made the mistake of giving less than my best to this church and to God. As a leader, I made a mistake of accepting less than the best of others to this church and to God. That’s why we haven’t been delivering excellence. And so, what I’ve been convicted about over the last several weeks preparing for this sermon today is to just simply decide, “God, from this point forward, if we can’t do it, if we can’t do it with excellence, if we can’t be everyday excellent in this thing, then we’re just not going to do it right now.”

It’s not that we’ll never do it. Maybe we will one day. But we’re just not going to do it right now. What we do, the thing that we decide to do, we’re either going to get really, really good at this, or we’re not going to do anything else until we get really, really good at this. You should be saying, “What is the thing that you’re referring to, Jeff?” I can answer this for you in one word. It’s the word discipleship.

We are a church that is going to radically pursue reaching people who are far from Jesus. This is what discipleship means. -training up them to follow Jesus, for those who do know Jesus ,to invest in them and to give it everything that we’ve got so that they have the tools to reach more people who don’t know Jesus. Then they train them up to follow Jesus, until everybody around the world is equipped to go fulfill the Great Commission. That’s the thing that we’re going to wow people with.

We are going to be the church that, when you get done watching one of our services online, you don’t say, “Wow, that church is awesome!” We’re going to be the kind of church that when you get done coming to a service in person or watching it online, you say, “Wow, our God is awesome! What an awesome God that we serve, that he has called me from my sin and into a relationship with him! And he gives me the honor, the privilege of being able to be a big part of his mission to redeem mankind, to rescue people from their sins and to train them up so that they can rescue more people!”

And if we get good at a whole lot of other things and we fail at this thing, then in my opinion, we have failed God, and we’ve missed the most important thing. So when I say wow people, I really want people to understand we’re talking about discipleship. -wowing people to help them become the leaders that God has created them to be and that he’s called them to be. 

So, if someone were to ask you, “What do you guys mean by wowing people?” You should be able to say these three words. We are going to wow or bust. We will put it all on the line for this thing. Wow or bust. When it comes to wowing people, we are going to go all in on discipleship. It’s wow or bust on discipleship. And if we fail at everything else, but get that one right, I’ll go to my grave a happy man. If we’re really good at everything else, and we fail at that one, I will feel like we have failed the God, because this is the reason why God’s church exists on planet Earth. This is what the name 2 Cities Church really represents. It’s God’s people who belong in the city of God, but he has left us here on the city of man to make disciples who are trained up and equipped to make more disciples until he comes back again.