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Pastor “JP” Pokluda reminds us that “bad company corrupts good morals,” and talks about the wisdom of walking in the counsel of the righteous. What if your children are walking with the wrong crowd? Pokluda shares sound advice.
Bob: Why are fewer people getting married and more people getting married later in life than ever before? Pastor JP Pokluda says it’s because the culture has made dating and getting to know one another much more difficult.
JP: I think we really complicate that. I think we make it so much more difficult; everybody’s looking, swiping right and swiping left. What’s happening is we’re getting married later, and we’re getting married less, and we’re less happy in marriages than we’ve ever been. What’s crazy—this is the enemy; he’s so crafty—he’s made us think we’re getting better at it!
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 12th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. JP Pokluda says it is not as complicated as we’ve made things out to be, this idea of meeting, and marrying, and building a life together. There are some simple, basic principles that we need to keep in mind; and we’re going to talk about what those are today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’ve been talking this week about moving from childhood to adulthood—moving through the phases of: “When I was a child I spoke like a child, thought like a child, but when I became a mature person/a man, I gave up childish things,”—that’s what the Bible says in
1 Corinthians 13.
We want to talk today about how that can’t happen unless it’s happening in community. You don’t really get to do adulthood on your own; do you?
Dave: I think one of the most underestimated and misunderstood concepts in the Christian walk is the value of community; I really do.
Ann: I think about the four of us sitting at the table. I’m guessing—I know that Dave and I have—we have all grown the most through community. Wouldn’t you say that’s true?
Bob: I think that is true; and the “four of us”—[Laughter]—I should introduce the fourth, because our listeners know the three of us; we’re here every day. But Jonathan Pokluda’s joining us today; JP, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
JP: Guys, thanks for having me on.
Bob: JP has written a book called Welcome to Adulting. He’s a pastor at Harris Creek Church in Waco, Texas. He and his wife Monica have been married for—what is it?
JP: Fifteen years.
Bob: Fifteen years, three kids. This subject is on your heart because you’ve just spent the last decade-plus working with this age group—people in their late teens, in their 20s, even into their early 30s—singles, who are trying to figure out life and are finding that aspects of life are challenging.
You’ve recognized that, when they can do life in community, a lot of the issues start to take care of themselves.
JP: Yes; I’ve seen the lives of tens of thousands of young adults. So much of ministry, as I’ve said, is pattern recognition: just seeing when they do things that work well, when they do things that don’t work well, writing down those patterns. This book was born out of that.
One of the patterns that is undisputed, absolutely necessary, is that you can’t go at it alone. I did track; there are a lot of sports out there to choose from; I ran track. People will argue, “Is track a team sport or an individual sport?” Listen, there is no arguing around Christianity; it is a team sport. You weren’t meant to follow Jesus by yourself. If we’re going to grow, like Psalm 1 talks about, a person of God is like a “tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season.” The soil that you plant in is community; it’s being around other people that know you and love God and love you and know God.
Bob: Who your friends are is going to shape you as much as anything else in life; right?
JP: Yes; it’s been well-said that you are the average of your five closest friends. If you want to see the trajectory of your life, look at who you’re hanging out with. The Scripture says well that “Bad company corrupts good character”; and man, it’s true. It’s so much easier to pull someone standing on the table down than it is for the person, who’s standing on the table, to pull other people up.
So hang out with people. Again, the Scripture says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” So what does it look like to walk with people in the counsel of the righteous and to be around God’s people—to be planted? If you’re a parent, and you’re watching your child struggle right now, you’re really wrestling with the choices that they’re making. Here’s what happened: they started running with the wrong crowd, and you know it.
Ann: Every parent is saying: “Amen; preach it! I want my kids to do this. But how?! How do I get them to hang out with these right people?”
JP: You know, I do think that there has to be desire. Jesus says, “Do you want to get well?” when He walks up on the paralytic. I think that there has to be an aspect of a desire for that growth.
When somebody comes to me and they say, “Okay, I really want to go all in with Jesus; I really want to take my faith seriously; I really want to turn my life around; what do I need to do?” Assuming they’re a Christian, I’ll say: “Change your playmates and your playground. Change where you go to have fun and who you’re having fun with, and you’ll change your life.” I mean, that is the reality.
By the way, this is my story. I’m very much with you, Ann, what you said at the beginning. If I was going to point to one thing outside of Jesus that has changed my life, more than anything else, it’s this idea of community. When we say, “community,” we’re talking about your church family—if it’s a small church, or a home group, cell group, small group, community group, life group—whatever you guys call them—but you have to have believers who know you and whom you know that you’re going through with.
Dave: You know, I did something I’ve never done in a sermon. Bob, you ever done this, or JP—have you ever put on a yoke?
JP: I have not, but I’ve seen it; yes.
Dave: Yes, I did; for the first time. Actually, my son was preaching—
JP: Like an egg yolk? No, I’m kidding.
Dave: No; you know what I’m talking about! [Laughter]
JP: I know what you mean—like an oxen yoke.
Dave: But you know, you read that about being “equally yoked” and “My yoke is light.” My son was preaching that weekend; and he goes, “Dad, you have to find me a yoke.” I’m like: “What? What kind of yoke?!” I go online; we find one.
Then he says—he’s up there, preaching; he goes, “Come on up here!” He has me come up, and we put this thing on. I mean, it’s a big, heavy, wooden, 1800s deal. I experienced what we’ve been saying: it’s like, when you’re yoked to somebody—wherever they go, you’re going; wherever you go—there’s no fighting it. It’s like, “I’m going to go where they are.” Yet, we try to say, “I’m going to walk with God,” and we hang out—wrong playmates/wrong playgrounds.
JP: That’s right.
Dave: You’re going with the people you’re putting around your life. It’s so critical. I mean, it’s one of the most—like you said, JP—second to your walk with Jesus, it is probably the most important decision you’ll ever made: “Who am I going to do life with? Where are they going? How am I going to go that way?” or “Who’s going with me?”
Bob: Where is the average young person—let’s say a 24-year-old; they’re working in a job—where are they meeting the people that they’re doing life with? If it’s not a church, where are they meeting them?
JP: A lot in college—you’re in your fraternity/your sorority—you get connected; or you graduate, and then it is through work—your happy hour/you’re hanging out; or you go to the same bar/the same club, and you see them, and you kind of have your band of girls/your band of brothers. Before I was Christian, it was like: “I have my boys,” and “We’re watching each other’s back,” and “We’ll get in fights together, and pick up girls together, and get drunk together.”
But then, when I became a Christian, I got plugged into this church. They sent me to this small group meeting. I went; I remember I was with Monica at the time. I pulled up in the Jaguar S type and walked in. I had my pinstripe suit on—just had a long day at work—and I’m going to meet my future friends; right? I sit down and I’m like, “No!” These guys were nothing like me; I had nothing in common with them!
Bob: They were dweebs; right? [Laughter]
JP: They were dweebs; thank you for saying it. Well, I’ll tell you—they were all software engineers from Texas A&M; okay. [Laughter] I got in the car afterwards; I told Monica: “Yes, that was interesting. We’ll never be back; I’m not going back to that.” The next Thursday rolled around; and I was like, “Oh, yes; I guess—why don’t we go back to that thing?”
I had my friends—my running buddies, people I enjoyed being around, the folks I had chosen—you know; and then I had this forced community group that the church had put us with. But those guys—they knew the Word, and they had lived in it, and they were righteous, and they wanted to do the right thing—I told one of them recently. By the way, now, we’ve been together 15 years; they’ve become my closest friends.
Dave: You mentioned earlier you went to that group—and correct me if I’m wrong—but you’re like: “Luke 18? You guys know what’s in that chapter? You guys know the Bible?” Yet everything you’ve done in this conversation is quote Bible [verse] after Bible [verse]; I’m like, “The righteousness rubbed off.”
JP: —the soil, yes.
Dave: You are who you are, in many ways, because you were yoked; and they led you that way and, now, you’re leading others. It’s beautiful.
JP: Completely right—those guys.
Ann: Do you think we’re in a generation now, of the Millennials, where there’s more loneliness than ever before? Why is that when we’re so connected?
JP: Without a doubt, because you were meant to have deep relationships.
As I look about my life before Jesus, I had guys that I would get in fights with, or we would go on an adventure with—go to Vegas with and make memories—but there was never sustenance. We didn’t have conversations that would matter 100 years from now in eternity. We weren’t making the most of every opportunity; we weren’t being wise as the Scripture calls us to be wise. In church contexts, we were meant to go deep with people.
What we have now is: we have 1,000 followers on Twitter®; we have 2,000 Instagram® “friends” or Facebook® “friends”; we have social media that’s giving us the façade of relationships. We think we have relationships when we really have no relationships. What’s preventing us from actually having relationships is thinking that we do have them!
What we do is—we stay in the shallow end with everybody; and we never go deep, as we were intended to, to say: “Hey, men, this is my biggest struggle. This is where the enemy will take me out,” “Men, this is what I did last night…” “Hey guys, I was tempted to do this last night…” “Hey, this is how I’m struggling in this season…”—actually confessing sin and actually praying for each other. It’s not happening, because we have all these surface level [relationships].
Bob: The person, who says: “I know what you’re talking about, and I want what you’re talking about. I tried it, got burned,” “…got backstabbed,” “…got betrayed; I’m not going back there again! You get vulnerable with people—you tell them your real stuff, you try to form a bond with folks—they’re just going to stab you in the back.”
JP: Yes; you can’t live in that fear. Galatians 1:10 says: “Am I now trying to win the approval of God or of men? Am I trying to please men? For if I am trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”
I think what happens, when someone even has the ability to betray us like that is—we’ve given them a position of power—we’ve treated them like a god; we’ve lived for their approval. I would just tell you, “That’s going to happen again”; okay?—that’s what you need to know. Go eyes, wide open; say, “People will let you down, but God will never let you down.”
What happens in the Christian faith is we’re given a process to resolve conflict. When someone hurts you, you go to them and you say, “You hurt me.” You are in a vulnerable state in saying that, but that is the process that God calls us to.
So great—if you’re a king, and you don’t trust God, and you don’t believe His Word is true—then you do whatever you want to do and keep playing it safe. But if you believe there’s a God, and you believe His Word is true, I will tell you—He clearly calls you to this idea of community. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Do not forsake the gathering together, as some are in the habit of doing, but continue to meet. Excel still more as we see the day approaching.”
You have all of these “one anothers” around there in the Scriptures. You know, we care for one another/that we bear one another’s burdens. Again, if you don’t trust God, you get to do whatever you want to do. If you do trust God, you need to live with Him as King and do what His Scripture calls you to.
Dave: I’ve also found in my own life—I mean, I have these guys in my life—it’s been
30 years now that we’ve done life together—but here’s what I didn’t know—it wasn’t the first group of guys I tried. You know, so many people in our church try a small group; it doesn’t work—they don’t like the people. It didn’t work and they’re like, “Okay, tried that!” Like you said, Bob: “I’m done. I got burned; I’m out.” I’m like: “No, keep trying! You just don’t know.”
I remember, when we moved to Detroit to be the Detroit Lions chaplain, I knew this: “I have to find my tribe. I have to find men that I’m going to do life with.” I’m in my early 30s. I go to this group—seven/eight guys—a couple weeks we’re meeting. I’m trying to find out, “Is this is going to be my guys?”
I’ll never forget this—I walk in and I said: “Hey, I have to share something I struggled with this week. I don’t know if any of you guys did, but the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue came out,” and “I don’t look at it, but I looked at it this week,”—it was just like that. Finally, this one guy goes, “That’s despicable. Can’t believe you would even…”—like, “Yes, I know; that’s what I’m saying—I’m sorry. Anybody else?” They all looked at me like, “No.” I’m like, “Okay, not my group!” [Laughter]
Dave: Again, not that I’m trying to find dirty sinners that are as bad as I am, but I just thought, “No one here is going to be real and be honest.”
JP: You were just trying to find people that know they’re sinners; yes.
Dave: I’m not kidding. It wasn’t the next group; it was like three or four groups later, and then I’m like, “Oh, I think Rob, John, Craig, Dave—they’re my guys.” Here we are, just like you; it’s like the greatest gift God has given us was this community. But it didn’t happen on the first try; you don’t give up.
JP: That’s exactly right. So many people just heard you say that and thought: “But I would never say that! I’m not going to say that! You want me to say that out loud?” I would say: “Yes; man, absolutely; the Scripture calls us—if you believe the Scripture, James 5:16 says, ‘Confess your sins to each other.’”
Unfortunately—or fortunately—using my mess and making it my message, I talk a lot about pornography; because it’s something I’ve been enslaved to. The way—people say: “Well, how did you get well? How did the Lord heal you?” It was through relentless confession and prayer of people, who love me, and cared about me, and would be there.
I’d go back to them—and they wouldn’t do what those guys did—but they would say: “Man, I understand. I’ve made that poor choice, too. Hey, how did you get there? What was going on in your day before you made that choice? Why didn’t you call us before you acted out in that way? Before you looked at that/before you went to that website, can you back your confession up?—can you confess at the thought level next time? Next time you want to confess, could you reach out to us so that we could pray for you then?”
They would do the heart surgery with me; and through that, I found healing.
Ann: That’s what I was going to say: “Friendship isn’t always easy.”
JP: No, it’s never easy.
Ann: I know, for me—these same guys that Dave was friends with—their wives became my closest friends. I had a conversation—I was in my 20s, and Michelle moved close to me; we started hanging out. She said, “Hey, I’m really disappointed in our friendship.” I remember saying, “What are your expectations of our relationship?”—which is a great question to ask.
She said, “I was thinking you would call me every day.” We both had little kids/little toddlers running around. I said, “You want me to call you every day?!” She said, “Yes.” I said, “What would we talk about?” She said: “I just want you to say, ‘How are you doing over there? Are you surviving today?’”
I started thinking about it, and it was like this negotiation with one another. I said, “Okay, I think I could do it like every other day.” But just having that conversation: “What are you looking for? What do you want out of this?”
Those people/that group of friends—we’ve walked through affairs, kids that have been in psych wards, anorexia—
Dave: We’ve cried.
Ann: —cried over one another, loved each other.
Dave: We’ve laughed our heads off.
Ann: And we couldn’t do life without each other.
JP: Yes; what you just described is the DTR, the “define the relationship.” When somebody’s really struggling with this idea of community—like people aren’t showing up—I’ll hear that a lot: “You know, there’s this couple that doesn’t show up.”
I would just ask them for their commitment—just say: “Hey, what are the expectations? Are we all on the same page?” Because, most likely, there are just different people with different expectation levels/different commitment levels. Get everyone on the same page—say, “Okay, we’ll miss this for something that we would miss work for. It’s that important to us; we’re willing to get a sitter.” You know, really just dial that in.
Bob: We’ve talked about the importance of community in relationships and groups. I want to ask you about your leadership over thousands of young people getting together in Dallas every week. There had to be, at least, some of them, who were coming: “Yes, I’m here for relationships. I’m here for a particular kind of relationship.”
Ann: You mean, “I’m looking for a wife or husband”?
Bob: Exactly. “This is the Dallas market, right here, and I have come here to do some shopping.” Was that going on when you—this ministry that you had, called The Porch, that had thousands of singles coming—were there some people coming, shopping every week?
JP: Everyone was shopping. [Laughter] People say, “Well, how did you get so many young adults in a room?” I’m like, “Well, it’s kind of the way co-ed situations work; I mean, they attract each other.”
So yes, the relationships were formed. I can’t tell you how many weddings I’ve done. I mean, really countless. I truly don’t know the number of weddings that I’ve done of people who met at The Porch in just different events that we did. That’s an important part of the first Great Commission.
Bob: But it’s also one of the most confusing, complicated, hard-to-navigate issues of life today in a swipe-right culture, people trying to figure out, “How do I even have—we don’t even know how to form a healthy guy-girl relationship in our 20s today.”
Dave: All you have to do is turn on TV; you have The Bachelor/Bachelorette. [Laughter] There’s the model!
Bob: Yes; right! [Laughter]
JP: It’s the biggest felt need amongst that generation. I would tell you: “The biggest felt need is: ‘Hey, how do I find someone of the opposite sex and convince them to spend the rest of their life with me?’” It’s terrifying for guys to ask girls out; girls feel like guys aren’t asking them out. The reason they feel that way is because they’re not. You have all of these things at play; so yes, that’s a huge part of this book, Welcome to Adulting—it’s Chapter Eight.
Actually, another writing project I’m working on right now is—I want to be helpful to this generation. I would say to guys:
Find the godliest girl that you know, and ask her out to coffee. Spend some time with her. Invest in that relationship; find out if it’s something that God wants more from.
Girls, if a God-fearing man asks you out to coffee, say, “Yes.” Spend some time with him. Then afterwards, Romans 12:9 says, “Love must be sincere.” Be honest; if that’s it/if that’s the end of the date, say that—say: “Hey, I don’t see this going anywhere. I’d love to just be friends,” or whatever is the most true thing that you can say. You don’t have to be ruthless and hurtful, but you can be honest. If you’re honest and someone’s hurt, I would just tell you that’s better than you not being honest and them being hurt; so be honest.
Ann: You talk in the book about the common mistakes people make in dating. What are those?
JP: I think one is guys not taking that initiative—that’s one. Two, I think basing everything on attraction. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” What it’s telling us in the Scripture is that beauty’s a depreciating asset. I think we put too much emphasis on that. First Samuel 16 says that the Lord looks at the heart.
Guys say: “Well, what if she’s a God-fearing woman but I’m not attracted to her? What do I need to do?” I’d say: “Well, you need to mature spiritually, because you’re not yet attracted to what God’s attracted to. So you need to grow in that.”
They say, “Should I marry somebody that I’m not attracted to?” I say: “No; you need to be able to cherish your spouse. You need to be able to love them forever and commit to them. So if you can’t commit to cherishing them, then no, of course, don’t marry them.”
That’s the two things that I think of when someone is considering marriage—is qualifications: “Are they qualified? Do they love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? Are they in a right relationship with Jesus? Does God have their heart? Are they ready for marriage? Are they qualified?”
And then, two, commitment: “Can I commit to cherishing them forever?”—“to making her feel like a princess?”—“to respecting him?”
If they’re qualified and the commitment is there, then you can get married. I think we really complicate that. I think we make it so much more difficult. Everybody’s looking for the one out there, trying to find the needle in the haystack, and swiping right and swiping left. What’s happening is we’re getting married later, and we’re getting married less, and we’re less happy in marriages than we’ve ever been. You have all of these problems.
What’s crazy—and this is the enemy; he’s so crafty—he’s made us think we’re getting better at it, when everything out there says we’re getting worse at it! We’re like, “Yes, but this is the way you do it now.” I would still go back to what it says in the Song of Solomon—it says, “Their friends and family praise their love more than wine.” I think there’s this idea of going from community to relationships: that our community agree with the love that we have for one another; that those around us affirm that we first love Jesus and that we would be good together.
When the church does that well, it can be this really beautiful thing. I’ve seen that happen at The Porch.
Bob: You know, think about what we’ve talked about this week. If a young person is solid in their faith, if a young person has a path that they’re on—to take care of a job, and personal finances, and they’re in a healthy community, and they have a road map for how to pursue a marriage relationship—we’d say that person’s on a pretty good trajectory; right?
Bob: We’d say the important things in life are being dealt with; they are adulting.
JP, you have drawn that map for us in this book and by being here this week. Thank you for your contribution to this, and thanks for being here.
JP: Thank you so much for having me. This feels like family; I love it.
Dave: Great job.
Bob: We have copies of JP’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online to order Welcome to Adulting: Navigating Faith, Friendship, Finances, and the Future. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Once again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order the book, Welcome to Adulting. Call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, one of the big themes we’ve continued to hear about this week, as we’ve talked about adulting, is the importance of community. The president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, is here with us. You’re a big believer in the power of relationships and community; right?
David: Well, I think God’s Plan “A” for our formation is in the context of the body of Christ and deep relationships. Over the last decade, I’ve spent a lot of time helping young people—in particular, men in their 20s—grow in deeper connection to really push each other toward Jesus.
I love the encouragement today around having a DTR, defining the relationship with your friends in order to make it more intentional. One particular thing I have discovered that takes things to a deeper level within a community is taking time to affirm specific character traits or gifts in each other that make a person uniquely them, declaring and calling out the ways God has uniquely wired people to reflect His image.
Bob: I heard a pastor, one time, talk about starting meetings by having everyone at the table talk about evidences of grace they had seen in the lives of other people. He said it really did change the whole tenor of the conversation from that point on, when you start off by saying, “Here’s how I’ve seen God at work in your life…”
David: Yes; it sounds so overly simple, but life wears us down. Often we do get very discouraged; we become lonely; we forget how God’s at work in our lives. We don’t see ourselves the way other people see us and the glimpses of Jesus in us. In a world where comparison rules the day, how can we humble ourselves and help close friends and community we are in see themselves for how God sees them and call it out?
Bob: Yes. That’s good, David. Thank you for that.
I want to encourage our listeners to tune in tomorrow. I hope you’re able to be with us. Dave and Ann Wilson have some thoughts for us as we head into Valentine’s Day. They have some thinking about how we can express love to one another without ever touching each other; and that’s possible, as we’ll hear from them tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for the Thursday edition of FamilyLife Today.
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