Craig Groeschel - I'm Influential
Well, today is a great day to be together with all of you to celebrate the goodness of God and to share in His word today. If you're new with us, we're in a message series called "I'm In" and before I show you the four big qualities that we're trying to help all of God's people embrace, I'll tell you something kinda cool happened recently. How many of you were here for the message series, "Anxious for Nothing"? Was anybody here for that? Excellent.
So what our team will often do, we'll have people from our video team that will take little clips of the messages, edit it down and then we'll post it on Life.Church's social media account or on my social media account. During one of the weeks, the team gave me a clip and said, "Here's the one we chose". Interestingly enough, I honestly didn't like it. I said, "Can we come up with something better"? And they said, "This is the best we have". Which is evidently my fault, because it was my content. And so I signed off on it and said, "Okay, go ahead and post it". And I thought it would be a bit of a dud.
Well, little did I know that on Facebook, it caught wind. I don't go on Facebook much at all. So I really wasn't paying attention but I had a student from Switch come up to me and say, "Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, you're like, you're a massive influencer! You're a massive influencer"! I said, "What do you mean"? And she said, "Well, the clip on Facebook got almost 13 million views". This is the little clip and it's just shy of 13 million views and she was so excited, she's like, "Pastor, you're an influencer. You're an influencer. My pastor's an influencer".
I'm curious how many of you would say that you are an influencer, raise your hand. Raise your hand. Yeah, a couple of you would say that. My goal is to change your opinion of your assessment about yourself today and help you to see that you are an influencer. What are we? "I'm In", four big themes we're looking at in this message series. Week number one, we discovered that I'm invited. Week number two, I'm invaluable to God's work. Today I want to show you I am, you are influential for God's glory and next week we're gonna see that I am and you are invested in God's work.
Today what I want to do is I've been praying all week long. I really believe that you need to see yourself as God sees you, that you are an influencer. I believe you're called to be a light in this world and to show the love of God day in and day out. I'll give you one statement that we'll look at again and again and I pray that this really sinks into your heart, that you will embrace the reality of this truth. That you have no idea how one conversation, one word of encouragement, or one expression of love might change someone's life. You have no idea how God might use one word, one moment, one generous expression in the life of another person to love them toward the grace of Jesus.
When I asked you earlier, how many of you see yourself as an influencer and most of you didn't raise your hand, one reason is because I gave you an anchor of 13 million and I did that intentionally. Another reason I believe truly is because the culture has hijacked the term, influencer. I'll tell you what I mean by this. I did some research and just went online to try to figure out what different articles and writers would say about influencers and when I typed in "What is an influencer"? their very first definition that came up online was this. Here's what an influencer is. An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, or relationship with their audience. Really? That's what an influencer is? Someone who influences purchase decisions because of the number of followers they have on a social media account?
I'm so confused because when I was growing up, an influencer was often a teacher, it was a coach, a good parent was an influencer, a good friend was an influencer. Someone who had a Sunday School class was an influencer. And today unfortunately culture has hijacked the term and many people say, well, an influencer is a celebrity. It is a content creator. It's someone who's amassed a great number of followers on social media. In fact, I gave up looking for an article online that talked about an influencer as anything beyond social media because honestly, I could not find anyone, anyone in anywhere.
What I want to try to do today is I want to try to reclaim the word influencer. And I want you to see yourself as an influencer because you have no idea how our God could use one word of encouragement that you give to someone else. One moment or one expression of faith to change someone else's life. For those of you that are disciples of Jesus, I know not everybody is at this point and no matter where you are on your spiritual journey or you may not even be on one, you're absolutely welcome here. But for those of you that are disciples of Jesus, I want to show you exactly what Jesus says you are. He uses two metaphors in Matthew's gospel.
Matthew chapter 5, He says You are the salt of the earth. What does salt do? Salt purifies, salt preserves, salt adds flavor. Nudge your neighbor and say, "You're kinda salty". "You're kinda salty". Nudge your other neighbor, your second choice, and tell 'em, "But you're kinda shiny". He said you're salt and then Jesus said, you're also the light of the world. You're shiny. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. It just shines. Darkness never overcomes the light and Jesus says you are light.
In the same way, Jesus says, let your light shine before others. Let your love influence people toward Jesus. Let your shine that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Let's reclaim the true meaning of what it is to be an influencer. And I'm not against influencers in culture. I want to be one on social media. I hope that some of you could be as well. But the problem with our current view of influences that it typically starts with platform, platform. The size of your platform determines the scope of your influence.
No, I think truthfully it starts with something different. I believe that true and lasting influence always starts with people before platform. It always starts with people, and the good news is that all of you have people in your sphere of influence that you come into contact with every single day. You're called to be an influencer. For example, we'll play a little game and I'll ask you a question. Who do you think influenced the start of Life.Church? Who do you think influenced the beginning of this movement of God called Life.Church?
If you've been with us for a while, you would probably say, well, Craig, you and your bride, Amy, did. Almost 24 years ago, obviously, you started with just a few people in your home. If you were creative, you might say, well, I also know there were 40 people who were there on the first week gathered in a little two-car garage. And so it was probably you two and maybe those 40 people who were there on the ground floor, you influenced the start of Life.Church, which is absolutely true but incredibly incomplete. Because who was it that helped influence me to believe that God could use me as a pastor?
And the answer to that question is, one of my heroes in the faith, my pastor, Pastor Nick Harris who saw something in me when no one else did because when I got saved in college, I was a business major and it never dawned on me to change my major. And I felt called to ministry but when I graduated, I said, "I'm a business major who wants to be a pastor". And all the pastors said, "We don't hire business majors". And so I just found a great church and got plugged in. Had never met Pastor Harris before but he said, "Bring your friends, as many people as you could to church on Sunday".
And so I went back to my fraternity and I said to all these wild guys, "You're going to church with me on Sunday". And they said, "The bleep we are". And I said, "Yes you are", without a bleep. But I would have had a bleep if it had been a year before but there was no bleep because now I was changed. And so I said, "Yes you are" and I managed to get 17 hungover guys to go with me to First United Methodist Church, downtown Oklahoma City. Two rows. Oh I just feel good today. You're helping me preach and I love it when you help me preach. I had two rows of hungover guys at First Methodist Church.
And so my pastor said, "Stand up if you brought somebody with you". And I stood up with two rows of hungover guys. And the whole church was like, we've never seen this many people, young people in church before. And so my pastor, you could see the wheels were turning. He said, "Remain standing if you brought someone and everybody sit down". And so he was trying to figure out who brought them. And so he went over to another pastor at that moment and you could hear him because he had a lav mic on and he said, just whispered but you could hear him. He said, "Find that guy that brought all those guys and hire him". And that's how I became a pastor.
And when they approached me, I felt insecure. I was a new Christian. But do I know enough? And my pastor said, "If you can get that many guys to come to church, God can do something with you". Who influenced the start of Life.Church? Well, certainly Amy did and I did and those 40 people did, but my pastor also influenced the start of Life.Church. But who influenced me, if you go back in time, to come to faith in Christ? Because without that, there would not be a Life.Church. If you were here last week, you heard me talk about Mike the Gideon. Mike the Gideon was the guy, most likely, who gave me a Bible when I was in college that helped me come to faith in Christ.
So, who influenced the start of Life.Church? You could say also Mike the Gideon who gave me the Bible 'cause if that hadn't happened then I wouldn't have come to faith in Christ. If you want to go back in time, you might even say, the people who financially gave toward the Gideons and the people who printed the Bible, and there were actually a lot of them. But what was it that helped me be prepared to come to faith in Christ? Well, I could also tell you about three of the nerdiest guys I've ever known in my life. And after I became a Christian, these three nerdy guys introduced themselves to me and they said that on the first weekend at the first party of the first week in college, I was the drunkest, most obnoxious guy there.
And so those three nerdy guys chose me to be their prayer project. And they prayed for me every day, day after day, week after week, month after month until I came to faith in Christ. And I was so happy to meet my three favorite nerdy guys ever who helped pray me into faith in Christ. Who influenced the start of Life.Church? I'd say those three people played a pretty important role in it. And then there was this guy I met when I wanted to go out with this girl one time but she said I had to meet with her dad. And I met with her dad who was a very pleasant and endearing Christian for a dad, which was intimidating. And he very lovingly, not in a weird way, said, "Before you go out with my daughter, I just want to make sure that you know Jesus".
And the way he said it was unlike anything that I'd ever heard in my church growing up because we wouldn't use that kind of phrase. I mean, like, we kinda believed in God but hey, we did whatever we wanted on the weekends 'cause that's what we did. And he said, "I just want to make sure that you had the opportunity to really know Jesus". And he said, "Do you know Jesus"? And I realized I didn't but I didn't want to say it 'cause I wanted to go out with his daughter so I said yes. And I think he knew that I didn't and he said, "Can I just pray with you, that if you don't, one day you will"? And that stuck with me. That stuck with me. That was a seed planted in the soil of my heart.
So who influenced the start of Life.Church? I would say this girl. I don't even remember her name or dad. I don't even remember his name, but he influenced me. Then there was this guy that I really looked up to. At some schools, there will be an athlete that stands out. This guy stood out not because he was just a great athlete but also because he was a great person. I wasn't a Christian at all but one time I was close to him, behind him in line and I said, "Hey, man, I like your bracelet" 'cause he had on a cool bracelet. And he said, "Oh, I'll show it to you". And it said, the Lord is my strength and my shield. And I just remember thinkin', bro, that's like bold. And none of my friends wearin' a Lord bracelet. And it was just cool lookin' and I just was in awe of who he was as a person, what he represented and that he wore a God bracelet and I said, "That's so cool". And he said, "You like it"? And I said, "Yeah, I like it". And the guy that didn't even know me took his bracelet off and he said, "I really feel like I'm supposed to give this to you". And that was another seed planted.
Who started Life.Church? Who influenced the start? Well, you could say Amy and I did and that would be true. But that would be incredibly incomplete because there were people along the way that didn't even realize that a moment with me was incredibly important and influential. That was a small piece in a big puzzle that influenced the fact that we're all gathered together today in cities around the nation and countries around the world. There are people who influenced this. You have no idea what one word of encouragement might do to influence someone. Here's what I hope you'll understand. Influence isn't always obvious. Influence isn't always instant. Just because you don't see a harvest doesn't mean that your seed didn't take root. You have no idea how God might use you in one moment, to plant a seed that will grow into real and lasting influence in the life of somebody that you love.
In fact, I want to show you a story today, perhaps my favorite story in all of scripture of the most unlikely influencer perhaps in the New Testament. The story takes place in John chapter 4 and it's about a woman that ain't nobody ever thought would have influence. The context of this story is Jesus was on a trip and on His journey, He was gonna pass through Samaria, which was an unusual choice. The disciples wouldn't have expected Him to do so because Jews didn't interact with Samaritans because Samaritans were half Jewish, half Gentile and the Jews hated the Samaritans, believed that they were less than human and worse than dogs. You would never interact with a Samaritan if you were a Jew, especially a Samaritan woman.
Well, Jesus once again shocks everybody and He sat down by a well in the middle of the day in order to rest and a Samaritan woman comes up to Him and Jesus asks her for a drink. He dignifies her by starting a conversation and she's thrown completely off-guard. Scripture says in verse 9, the woman was surprised, she's shocked, she's overwhelmed, she's beside herself. She never expected this. This is unheard of. No Jewish man would ever approach a Samaritan woman. This is weird, bizarre and she's surprised, she's shocked for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, "You're a Jew and I'm a Samaritan woman. Why are You asking me for a drink"?
Jesus replied with love. You could sense His love. "If you only knew the gift that God has for you and who you're speaking to, you would ask Me and I would give you living water". She's intrigued but confused. She says, "Sir, but You don't have a bucket and the well is deep. How can I get You water"? And Jesus replies in verse 13, "Anyone who drinks of this water, this natural water, will soon become thirsty again but those who drink of the water I give will never be thirsty again".
This woman notices something is different about this man. And she says, "Please, Sir, may I have some living water"? Jesus says in verse 16, "Go and get your husband". Jesus told her. "I don't have a husband," the woman replied and Jesus said, "You're right, you don't have a husband, for you've had five husbands and you aren't even married to the man that you're living with now. You certainly spoke the truth". "Sir," the woman said, "You must be a prophet".
There wasn't a Jewish man anywhere who would have interacted with this woman but Jesus approaches her with love in His heart and dignifies her and honors her, all the time knowing that she was an outcast in her own community. Divorced five times and shacking up. In this day and age, that would raise eyebrows. In that day and age, she would have been shunned. She would have been the woman that everybody whispered with, Stay away from her. Keep your husband away from her. She is nothing but bad news. And Jesus, knowing all that, doesn't look at her as the amoral woman but instead as a miracle waiting to happen, knowing that a touch from heaven could completely change her heart.
And it dawns on her, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, we've heard that there would be a Messiah coming. I've heard perhaps about this man that's doing miracles and raising the dead and opening blind eyes. Why would a Jewish man speak to me, show me honor and respect and know everything about my life? Perhaps this is the One that we've been waiting for. This is the One that we've been praying for. Perhaps this is the Messiah. And she leaves her water and runs back to the village. The Bible says it directly. The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everybody, "Come and see a man who told me everything I've ever done. Could He possibly be the Messiah"?
So what happened? The people came streaming from the village to see Jesus. What do we see in this powerful story? First of all, no matter how bad your life is messed up, you're not too far gone for the love of Jesus to reach into your life. Then, we see the town outcast, the one that everybody else would whisper about going in and enthusiastically telling people, "This may be the One". The broken woman, the messed up woman, the woman everybody whispers about, the one that has been called the amoral woman immediately becomes an influencer.
Her story shows us that you don't have to have it all together to influence someone else toward Jesus. You don't have to know it all. You don't have to have a seminary degree. You don't have to pray powerful prayers and be able to quote the exact place in the Bible. It says in there somewhere. I wish I could tell you where. You don't have to be perfect. You don't have to have it all together. You don't have to have all the things fixed in your life to be an influence. You just have to know who Jesus is and care about the people around you and you can immediately be a light in this world and salt to those around you. You just have to care about people. You don't need 4000 followers to have a platform. You need to care about one person who's in front of you. You're an influencer. You're an influencer.
We had a worship night a few weeks ago when our church released the album "God's So Good" and Amy and I stood up to pray for our church and I wanted to help everybody see that worship can be a witness. Worship can be a witness. You can influence even by the way you worship. I showed this picture of my daughter Joy and her friend Brianna. They went to a worship conference and they posted this afterwards. "Worship is like breathing," Joy said. "You're created to do it all the time. It's a lifestyle".
Worship can be a witness. I got this letter that came to my office this week from a student at Oklahoma State University talking about how worship was a witness to him. And he said, I recently attended the Hillsong United Conference in Oklahoma City and there was this little girl beside me and the entire time I noticed there was something different about her, something about her worship was different. I was in awe of how she represented God. After that night, I took away the idea that I have to become closer to God so I could have something special like she did. Something that draws me closer to God where it's represented through me, where others can see it. Later that week, I attended the Night of Worship at Life.Church Stillwater and you had posted the picture of your daughter Joy on the screen and I was like, wow, I was next to my pastor's daughter that entire night. That explains so much.
He says, it was your daughter that was so connected with God that it was contagious. He went on to say, I want what she has. Worship. Just the way you worship. Just the way you carry yourself. Just the way you interact with people.
Joy, that night, noticed another girl that seemed really uncomfortable and Joy said, "Can I pray with you"? And the girl said, "You can, but I don't want to be here. My friend made me come". And Joy said, "I'd love to pray with you". And she did. And afterwards, she talked a little more to the girl and she realized the girl was not anywhere close to following Jesus but something was happening. And so Joy took her outside and Joy helped the little girl come to know Jesus that night. Listen to me, listen to me, 14 year old kid. You don't have to know it all. You just let your light shine. You just let salt do what salt does. Listen, you have no idea how one word of encouragement, one word of hope, one expression of love might influence someone toward Jesus.
This woman goes back to the village and tells everybody and the disciples came back to Jesus and they were hungry. That's funny to me because I'm always hungry. They said, "Have You eaten, Jesus"? And Jesus goes spiritual on them. He says, "My food is to do the will of God". I like that, it's like, eh, in your face. You want food, I'm doing God's work, eh. Jesus juke, okay, so anyway. Then He said this. Then He said, "The field is ripe for harvest". He uses a farming metaphor to say the harvest was always about changed lives. He said, "The field is ripe for harvest". He said, "But the laborers are few". For our purpose, we could say it this way.
Listen, church, the field is ripe for harvest but the influencers are few. Don't let culture rob you from your calling by categorizing influencers as someone only on social media. It doesn't start with platform. It always starts with the person right in front of you. You're an influencer. You're an influencer. This woman goes back to her town, tells everybody. Next part of the story says this. Verse 39 says, Many Samaritans. That statement alone would have been so shocking that anybody believed that one Samaritan alone could come to faith in Christ. But many Samaritans from their village believed in Jesus. Why? Because of one woman who had influence. One unlikely woman who said: Jesus told me everything I did.
When they came out to see Jesus, they begged Him to say in their village and so He stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear His message and believe. Who did God use? Not an Instagram star. Not a professional athlete. Not a celebrity. Not a content creator. A regular, ordinary, everyday, broken, sinful woman who had been transformed by Jesus. You have influence exactly where you are. You don't have to have your whole life together to have influence.
So right after I became a Christian, I was on fire for God. I would preach Jesus to my friends and then honestly sometimes I'd go and still get drunk. God was still workin' on me. I wasn't all there yet. I heard a message about tithing that you give 10% to God. I didn't listen carefully. I didn't realize that we give 10% to God back for the church. I just thought we give 10% to God so I went to my favorite Christian bookstore, Mardel, and I gave 10% of my income to them in exchange for some cassette tapes, really rockin' T-shirts, cool hats. I didn't understand. And a cross pin that looked about like this. It was actually smaller than this but this is the closest I could find.
And I put the little pin on and I wore it proudly for about 30 minutes before this guy that I didn't know said, "Hey, whoa, whoa, that's bold, I like that pin". And then just like the athlete I looked up to, I felt like I was supposed to give it to him. Without any pre-planning, I go, "You like this? I feel like I'm supposed to give it to you". And he was so shocked, so blown away. Why would, you don't even know me, why? I said, "I just, I feel like I'm supposed to give you this cross".
So I went and bought another one. I didn't even get home before someone else complimented and I gave it away again. So I got smarter. I went and bought 20 crosses and would put one on and would put two in my pocket and just made a rule. Anytime someone says anything about it, I'd give it to them. There was one lady I remember in particular. We have a convenient store where I live known as 7-Eleven. Some of you may have that in your cities and such and there was a lady working behind the counter who commented on it.
And so I said, oh wow, and I took off and said, "I'd like for you to have this". And she said, "Oh no no no no no no. No, I can't, I can't". I said, "No really, I believe you're supposed to have it". And she said, "No, if you only knew what I was doing in my life, you would not give me that cross". And I said, "No, this is why I'm supposed to be here because God knows what you're doing in your life and He wants you to come to this cross". And I prayed with her at the 7-Eleven and I went on about my life.
Years later, who influenced the start of Life.Church? A lot of people did. I preached at Life.Church. I was greeting people out in the lobby and this lady came up to me and she said, "I knew you'd become a pastor". I said, "What do you mean"? She said, "You probably don't remember me but I used to work at 7-Eleven". And I said, "And you liked the cross". And she gave me a big hug and she said, "Yes I did, and I love it even more today. You have no idea". She told me, "You have no idea what that gift did for me".
Please feel this, church. You are an influencer. You have no idea what one word of encouragement, one expression of love can mean to someone who needs a very small touch of God's love. So when you greet people, when they come in church and help someone who's uncomfortable and nervous just feel loved, you're an influencer. When you listen to someone who's hurting at work and you represent the love of Jesus by not judging where they are but loving them simply because they are, you're an influencer. When you post a scripture, repost a sermon clip, you could influence someone on the other side that you don't even know just by the way that you worship, by the way you carry yourself, by who you are and whose you are, you can be an influence.
Do not let culture's definition rob you from God's calling. If you know Jesus, you are salt and you are light. Let your salt do what it does and let your light shine because God has created you to influence others to the love of Jesus. All of our churches praying today, would you just join your faith with those around you?
Father, we ask that by the power of Your Son, Jesus, that we would see ourselves, God, as You see us.
As you're praying today at all of our different churches, those of you who are disciples of Jesus, you would say yes, I am committed to following Jesus and I want to be even more influential, I want to be more salty, I want my light to be even brighter, would you lift up your hands right now? Just all over the place, all over the place. I pray that every hand of every Christ follower is lifted toward heaven.
Father, we pray today that the salt would do what salt does, that our lights would shine brightly, God, that we would never put it under a bowl but we would let our good works reflecting Your love for us and our love for You shine all over this world. God, I pray today that there are those who couldn't walk out of the building they're in or shut the computer, they're watching on whatever it is, God, they couldn't even move to their next step without being an influence to someone else, without a word of encouragement, without an expression of hope. God, I pray that we would be incredibly sensitive to the gentle nudges of Your Spirit that would interrupt us and we would gladly be interrupted to let the light shine into a place of darkness. God, every moment of every day, we're available to You. We want to influence, God. Just because we don't see the immediate result doesn't mean, God, that You didn't use the seed that was planted. Help us, O God, to be faithful to You. We don't have to have it all together. We just have to love the people in front of us. God, use us. Use us as Your church. Invited, invaluable, invested and influential, God, all for Your glory.
As you keep praying today at all of our different churches, there are those of you that you're gonna recognize kind of like I did years ago when the dad asked me, "Do you know Jesus"? and I was like, Uh, I know I go to church but well, me and God, we don't have that kind of thing. I don't know Him. What I hope you'll understand is this, that God sent Jesus that we could know in a relational sense the love of the Father. Our Heavenly Father is a loving, relational God. He's not a dominant master we try to please with the way we live. He's a Father who loves us and in response to His love, we choose to obey and live for Him.
Maybe today you're gonna recognize there've been some influencers in your life and you're gonna decide just like I did, I want to give my life to Jesus. Who influenced you? Well, maybe it was this message. Maybe it was a song. Maybe it was someone that made you feel welcome or someone that invited you to church. Maybe it was your grandma that you know has been praying for you for years and years and years. Maybe it's a friend from work that you look to and they're different and they have something and you've always admired what they have and you kinda know what it is but you know you don't have it as well. Maybe it was years ago someone who cared for you and you knew they followed Jesus and you wanted that but you've never pursued it.
Today, maybe, there may be a series of influences that help you realize, I want to follow Jesus. I want to follow Jesus. I need His grace. There may be a hesitation inside because you feel like you're not good enough. I'm not ready yet. And I want to tell you, that's exactly the way you come to Him. Just like that woman in the story, you come to Him as you are. And when you call on Him, Jesus, the Son of God who died for our sins and rose again, when you call on Him, God hears your prayers. He forgives your sins and He makes you new. That's the reason some of you are here today and you know it.
At all of our churches, those who say yes, I want His grace. Yes, by faith, I want to give my life to Him. Yes, I need His forgiveness. I want to follow Jesus. I want His joy. I want that living water. I want the water that satisfies my soul. Today by faith, I give my life to Jesus. If that's your prayer, lift your hands high now, all over the place and say yes, that's my prayer. Right back here and here in the middle section and up over here as well. My goodness, right back over here. Others of you today, right here, praise God for you. Right back over here. Others, call on His name right now here in this section, yes, Jesus, I need You. Church Online, you click right below me. As we give God some praise in this house for His goodness and His grace, all of our churches, would you just join your voices together as we pray aloud.
Heavenly Father, forgive my sins. Change my life. Make me new Jesus, I believe You died for me and You rose again, so I could know Your Father. Fill me with Your Spirit that I could follow You, know You and be a light in a dark world. My life is not my own, I give it all to You. Thank You for new life, now You have mine. In Jesus' name I pray.