You Have More Influence Than You Think

Who do you think is the most influential person alive today?

If we were to assess influence by Twitter followers, the most influential people would be:

  1. Katy Perry • 66 million
  2. Justin Bieber • 61 million
  3. Barrack Obama • 56 million
  4. Taylor Swift • 54 million
  5. Lady Gaga • 44 million

If we were to, instead, assess a person’s influence by financial wealth, the most influential people would be:

  1. Bill Gates • $79.2 B
  2. Carlos Slim Helu • $77.1 B
  3. Warren Buffet • $72.7 B
  4. Amancio Ortega • $64.5 B
  5. Larry Ellison • $54.3 B

Each of these people along with other celebrities, business men and women, athletes and artists are incredibly influential. They seemingly possess the power to change culture, establish industries and transform nations.

With all of their influence combined, they don’t even stand a chance against the most influential Person of all time.

The Most Influential Person

Jesus has affected human history more than any person, nation, business or technology.

More than 2.1 billion people alive today worship Him as the resurrected God-Man. Almost another 2 billion believe in him in some manner or another but are not sure what or who to view Him as. An estimated 5 billion Bibles which detail His life, death and resurrection have been sold. Our dating of history is based roughly on his coming. Two of the biggest holidays in the world are celebrated in light of major events that He was involved in.

How did this working-class joe from a tiny, rural town in the Middle East become the most famous person in all of human history?

One of Jesus’ early followers, John, wrote a short biography about Jesus, detailing His life, teachings, death and resurrection. In the opening chapter, John wrote:

The Word became flesh
    and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,
    glory like that of a father’s only son,
        full of grace and truth.

In this description about the coming of Jesus, John highlights an often overlooked component of Jesus’ incarnation: in order for Jesus to reach, influence and transform humanity, He became like them.

Wouldn’t it have been strange if God came to us as a giraffe or a deer? Heck ya, it would! Thats one of the many reasons why He came in human likeness.

Take it once step further: what if Jesus showed up in the first century wearing thick-framed black glasses, a long-sleeved flannel shirt, skinny jeans with rolled-up ankle cuffs sitting atop a pair of brown boots all while holding a steaming cup of Stumptown coffee? Do you think His degree of influence would’ve been diminished because of how foreign His appearance was to the first century?

Notice that in order to reach and influence a certain generation of people, Jesus was clothed with many of the cultural norms of His day, walked similar paths as the people He’d meet all while embodying countercultural values.

This is one of many reasons why Jesus became the most influential person in human history.

The Most Influential People

As followers of Jesus, we are to do just that: follow Jesus. During one his most famous talks, Jesus encouraged His people:

You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus told His people that they, His followers, are the light of the world. How would they be the light of the world? By their actions. Jesus profoundly points out that God chooses to work through His people to influence and reach those who are far from Him.

This doesn’t mean we have to have a Bible College degree or become a licensed minister to influence people for the Name of Jesus. It means that God has placed each of us in specific communities of the world in specific jobs and/or schools to connect with and influence those specific people we encounter every single day.

But how? Who could we possibly influence?

That person you serve coffee to every morning. That person who always rings you up at the grocery store. That person you sit next to in class. That coworker who drives you absolutely crazy! That leader you’ve blatantly badmouthed for years. That person you’ve ignored for far too long.

What if we as Christians looked at literally every single person we came in contact with as a person that God divinely and purposefully has placed in our lives? What if they were not simply someone you walk by or someone you order food from but as someone Jesus died and rose from the grave for?

God has given you far more influence than you can imagine, a platform far greater than millions of Twitter followers and a message far more significant and impactful than 140 characters could summarize.

Christians are not called to be idle bystanders while God radically transforms the world. We’re not called to sit back and enjoy the show of redemption that only pastors and ministers take part in.

Instead, we are all called to be proactively and passionately involved in what God is doing here and now to bring Heaven on earth.

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Ministry Update: We’re Moving On

By Tyler & Erin Saldaña

In December, we announced that we would be moving to the state of Washington. An opportunity arose for me to serve as the Associate Campus & Worship Pastor at Timberlake Church in the city of Issaquah.

Now, after over a month of praying and thinking through the situation as well as seeking counsel from close mentors, we have decided to leave Timberlake Church after just under three months of serving on staff. Due to major differences in theology, methodology, mission and staff values that quickly became apparent to us, we did not feel right remaining a part of the church nor did we think we could faithfully and passionately serve the community at Timberlake.

Regardless of our differences, we are grateful for our short time at the church. We trust that ultimately, God is sovereign and our time at Timberlake was not in vain. In the short time, we’ve formed some awesome relationships with people in and out of the church. We have also been challenged and as a result have learned a lot and grown much closer together.

What’s Next?

Currently, we are planning on staying in our city, Issaquah, Washington. In all our talks about potentially leaving the church, we never really considered leaving the area. For us both, this city has become our home.

We are currently in the application and interview process to become a Pastoral Resident at a local Acts 29 church. Essentially, we would go through a two-year apprenticeship to develop as potential church planters. Simultaneously, we will be working multiple side jobs to support ourselves during the residency and to stay connected with the community.

We ask that you please keep us in your prayers over the coming months as we seek God’s call on our marriage. We believe that He is leading us to plant a church in an urban context in the next decade. Please keep us in your prayers as the path there seems long, windy, and at times unclear.

Thank you for loving and supporting us as we pursue God’s call on our marriage!

Why Palm Sunday Matters

Today in church history, we celebrate Palm Sunday, the day in which Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is the day which marks the beginning of what we refer to as Holy Week. Jesus rode into the city on a colt only to be crucified a few days later.

On Palm Sunday, the crowds cried to Jesus, “Hosanna!” or save us as He entered the city. On Friday, that very same crowd cried, “Crucify Him!” leading to His execution outside the city.

Why did the cry of the crowds so drastically change in such little time?

The King We Don’t Want

For centuries, the Hebrews had awaited their coming king from the line of David. The king was to restore power to God’s chosen people after their years of living in oppression.

This was the king they wanted.

This is why they cried for Jesus to save them. The Hebrews desired for Jesus to be their sovereign king, bringing their people from their lowly socio-economic state and restore their nation to political power.

Essentially, they wanted Jesus to make the circumstances of their everyday life better. Unfortunately, this was not Jesus.

They thought He was coming to take up His crown. Little did they know He would first need to take up His cross.

The King We Need

The Jews thought they needed Jesus to take over the city. In reality, Jesus came not to take over but to lay down His life for the sins of many. Their need was not a political or socio-economic restoration but a spiritual redemption. The oppression the Jews had endured for centuries couldn’t compare to the opposition they faced against God because of their sin.

Some of us approach God in a similar manner, don’t we?

We tell God what we in our limited understanding think our needs are. We, then, demand that He perfectly meet every single one of them. If He doesn’t fulfill these “needs,” we deem Him either as unjust or not real.

But is it reasonable to conclude that God is unjust or not real just because God doesn’t make our lives play out scene-for-scene exactly as we think they should? Is it so ridiculous to think that the infinite God of the universe Who crafted literally everything knows more about our needs than we do?

Jesus may not have been the king the Jews wanted but they absolutely needed Him. Similarly, He may not always be the Savior we want but He is always the Savior we need.

While we may not always understand why God does or doesn’t do certain things in our lives and in this world, Palm Sunday reminds us to trust God even when it doesn’t make sense.

There are eternal reasons for temporary circumstances.

Dividing Over Doctrine

We live in a heavily divided society. Democrats and republicans, rich and poor, black and white, religious and atheist, etc.

Unfortunately, the church is no stranger to dividing lines.

While it’s understood that Christians are to “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace” (Eph 4:3), the question often arises as to when it is appropriate and even necessary for Christians to divide. How important is a specific doctrine? When is it necessary to divide over a stance and when is it appropriate to simply discuss our differing views?

Dr. Gerry Breshears, one of my professors at Western Seminary, offers a helpful guideline for Christians to discern the significance of certain beliefs. He classifies doctrines and beliefs into four separate categories: die, divide, debate and discuss.

Die

Doctrines that you would die for consist of essential truths that, if denied, the validity of the gospel would be discredited. Essentially, if these truths are not affirmed by someone, the person would not be a Christian. Here are a few examples:

  • the divinity of Jesus
  • the humanity of Jesus
  • the death of Jesus
  • the resurrection of Jesus
  • salvation by faith in Jesus alone through grace alone

Divide

This category of doctrines is made up of stances that, should two parties differ, it would be wise to divide. This does not mean that that the dividing groups doubt the others’ faith. It simply means that these doctrines hinder partnership in ministry together. Here are a few examples:

  • complementarian or egalitarian
  • calvinist or arminian
  • authority of scripture
  • views on marriage

Debate

In this section of beliefs, there are views that can be debated in house but at the end of the day should not divide people. We can hold to opposing convictions and yet still be on mission and worship together in one local church. Here are a few examples:

  • style of worship
  • continuationist or cessationist
  • creation and evolution
  • young earth and old earth
  • end times
  • political or social topics
  • infant baptism or believer baptism

Discuss

These items essentially don’t matter in regards to salvation. Churches will undoubtedly consist of people who take a stance all across the spectrum. Here are a few examples:

  • secular music and Christian music
  • rated R movies
  • drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco
  • tattoos
  • bikinis, tankinis, one-kinis and any other type of “kini”

Final Thoughts

It’s vital for us as Christians to understand these categories as well as learn how to better discern where each of our views fall under. We don’t want to be “tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching” (Eph 4:14) but instead, when storms of controversial doctrines confront our faith, we may endure the waves of deceit and stand firm in Truth.

Into the Unknown

The dark enclosed us within our packed Prius during the deep winter night. As we journeyed the wavering roads through the hills of Oregon, fear and doubt began to seep into my mind. Every mile that numbered our odometer indicated the further we were venturing into foreign lands.

King County, Washington was our destination and a ministry opportunity was our purpose. The area, the climate, the culture, the church, the coffee; each of these and many more would be brand new for us.

New is a nicer way of referring to foreign or the unknown. Although the opportunity for ministry is promising, stepping into the new or unknown was still unnerving to say the least.

Abram & Future Hope

Many years ago, God called a man named Abram.

He asked him to leave his home, extended family and nation he had been a part of for decades and to journey into a foreign land.

In this new land, God would begin to build His covenant community. Even though the hope for the future may have sounded promising to Abram, it must have initially been frightening for him and his wife to leave the known and enter into the unknown.

While I worried about what coffee shop I would go to when we moved to Washington, Abram and his wife most likely dealt with much harsher worries in regards to livelihood and community. Still, the two journeyed from the comforts of their homeland into foreign grounds because of the future hope they had in the promises of God.

Jesus & Future Hope

One of the many factors that separates the Christian faith from others is the incarnation of Jesus. God Himself took on humanity to live the life that we as humans are called to live but are unable to because of sin.

The fantastic thing about Jesus becoming a man is what it demonstrates to us about God:

God loves His people with such passionate affections that Jesus chose to leave His perfect, heavenly kingdom and be confronted with sin, pain, suffering and sorrow.

He didn’t have to do this; He chose to do this. Jesus chose to leave the known royal comforts of Heaven and enter into a realm filled with evil, something He was yet to face.

This incarnation culminated at the cross. The bloody, devastating, excruciatingly tormenting cross. On the cross, Jesus entered into the harshest of unknowns. The author of Hebrews shared with us why He was willing to go through such pain:

He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.

Jesus obeyed God’s call to leave behind His riches and go into the unknown because of the joy that was set before Him. He knew the hope that was in God and His promises. He knew that what was before Him was immeasurably greater than what God was calling Him to leave behind.

Today & Our Future Hope

What does this look like for us? How does the future hope we have in God affect the way we live today, tomorrow and the rest of our lives?

Maybe it means choosing a different career path. Perhaps it means forgiving someone even though they don’t deserve it. Or maybe it means giving up something foundational to who we are. Why?

We do all this and more because our future hope in God, the hope that is immeasurably greater than what God is calling us to leave behind.

Ministry Update: We’re Moving to Washington

Erin and I are excited to announce that we will be moving to the state of Washington!

In the next couple weeks, I will be assuming the role of the Associate Campus & Worship Pastor at Timberlake Church‘s Issaquah Campus. The church is known in the area for being welcoming to people from all walks of life. Timberlake currently has three campuses, Redmond (main), Duvall and Issaquah, that are all within about a thirty minute drive.

My wife and I will be living in Issaquah Highlands, a community in the city of Issaquah, which is about nineteen miles from downtown Seattle. The city’s county, King County, is known to be home to some of our nation’s biggest companies including Microsoft, Amazon, Costco, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Expedia and Nintendo among others. According to Barna Group, the greater Seattle-Tacoma area is one of the least religious areas in the country. It also the thirteenth most post-Christian cities in America as well.

Although this will place us roughly 1,228 miles away from our families, Erin and I are still thrilled about this opportunity and adventure. We are hopeful, eager, nervous and optimistic about what God has in store for us as we begin this new chapter in Washington.

I Am Not What I Do

I’m unemployed.

Aside from working a few side jobs here-and-there, I’ve been out of work for nearly four months now. As the weeks continue to pass, the doubts continue to arise:

What am I doing with my life? Am I really called to be a pastor or a leader? Is this really what God wants me to pursue? Or am I wasting my time? Should I just give up?

More and more, I’ve begun to question myself, my calling and my worth as a man of God. As I’ve been realizing and thinking through these insecurities that have recently become apparent, the issue has become clear. This is not a job issue; this is an identity issue.

I Am Not What I Do

For as long as I’ve been a follower of Jesus, I’ve also been a leader in the local church. To me, following Jesus and leading people are synonymous. It’s all I’ve ever known.

In some ways, there can be a tremendous benefit to this mindset. In other ways, it can be dangerous and misleading. Personally, it’s come to be the latter.

Our identity is who we are. Over the years, I’ve come to associate my calling as a pastor with my identity as a Christian. But the two were never meant to be married. Pastor and Author Paul David Tripp wrote about a season in ministry where he felt similarly:

My faith had become a professional calling. It had become my job. My role as a pastor was the way I understood myself. It shaped the way I related to God. It formed my relationships with the people in my life. My calling had become my identity.

Since my faith in Jesus and my work for Jesus had always been married, I mistakenly had been viewing my relationship with God based on both my faith in Jesus and work for Jesus.

My identity as being a Christian was not simply based on what Jesus had already accomplished on our behalf. Instead, I was living as though my identity was also based on my own works. Timothy Keller comments on this issue, “When work is your identity, success goes to your head and failure goes to your heart.” I’ve believed in salvation by faith alone through grace alone and yet have lived as though His grace was not enough.

I’ve been in the middle of an identity crisis.

I Am What He Has Done

When we become saved, God changes who we are. He no longer looks at us based on our own works and failures. Instead, He chooses to look at us and see the perfect Jesus in our place. Paul puts it this way in a letter he wrote to the church in Galatia:

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We are not what we do. Instead, we are what God has already done through Jesus. As followers of Jesus, our relationship with God and identity of who we are is defined solely based on what Jesus accomplished through His humbling incarnation, His sinless life, His sin-atoning death, and His sin-conquering resurrection and ascension.

You are not defined by what you do but by what Jesus has done.

Who Are You?

What about you? Who or what have you been allowing to influence and define your identity aside from Jesus? Everyone has an identity and everyone allows outside voices to contribute their opinion. Paul David Tripp summarizes this reality:

Either you will be getting your identity vertically, from who you are in Christ, or you will be shopping for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of your daily life.

If you’re like me and you’ve been allowing things other than Jesus to define your who you are, here are some great resources to check out: