Last night, a new reality TV show premiered on Oxygen that follows a Miami pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr. and his wife DawnCheré. The show has gotten some attention because the Wilkersons minister to the likes of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian—Rich even officiated their wedding.
I got a chance to hear Rich speak at a conference recently and it sparked discussion among our own church staff regarding whether what he and DawnCheré are doing is appropriate. While not everyone may prefer his presentation style, Rich reached boldly about the greatness of Jesus and how much we are loved by our Savior.
Many Christians have criticized Wilkerson’s choices in befriending celebrities and making a reality show. But one of the things he discussed in an interview after that preaching gig is the fact that God is giving him influence in circles that most of us would never be able to access.
I loved that.
Leaders need access in order to gain influence, because you can’t influence people who aren’t paying attention to you.
The “notorious sinners” of Jesus’ day weren’t being brought closer to God by the religious leaders of the day, because these leaders had no influence with them. Jesus showed up at weddings and parties and dinners and built relationships. Out of these relationships, lives were changed. That’s an important part of this: Jesus didn’t simply build friendships—there was “fruit in his ministry” to use a churchy phrase.
The world needs Christians who are willing to be influencers in all different areas of our culture—this means we need “celebrities” who are also Christians, not just “celebrities” in church spheres. Those who have been given access are responsible for using that access to point people toward healthy relationship with God.
Setting the Climate
Instead of judging or criticizing people like Rich and DawnCheré Wilkerson, I’m going to pray for them—that God would work through them to see genuine life change for everyone who hears the Good News of Jesus they are proclaiming.
In Strength to Love, Martin Luther King Jr. advocated that Christians should be thermostats in society rather than thermometers. That is, we should be setting a climate, not simply reporting it.
In the places where we find open doors to build relationships and share a message, let us see it as a gift from God. Not only on an individual level, but as a whole, where the Church is welcomed, let us rejoice.
We have been entrusted with the Good News that God loves us and wants to restore and redeem us. That message must never change, but the way we deliver that message must never stay the same. To say it another way, the message is in pen, the method is in pencil.
If you, like me, only speak English, you should be grateful for this. Had no one ever translated the message of Jesus into the language I understand, I would most likely not be a Christ-follower today.
Someone decided that the message of Jesus needed a new vehicle.
The music you sing in church was written hundreds or thousands of years after Jesus walked this earth.
Our oldest traditions were at one time innovations.
With this in mind, that our call to make disciples who love Jesus in our world involves making the Gospel known throughout the world, here are some ways each of us can join into the Great Commission given to us by Jesus:
Keep Jesus at the Center of Your Devotion, Not Your Favorite Way of Connecting With Jesus
I have certain preferences when it comes to music and art and entertainment and church, but I also try to keep in mind that the Apostle Paul talks about being crucified with Christ and Jesus tells me that I should be prepared to lose my life for the Gospel. How much more should I be willing to let go of my own personal preferences?
If the Good News of Jesus is my primary aim, I can rejoice when that news is shared by anyone to anyone.
Look for Places Where You Have Open Doors to Gain Influence
You may or may not wish that you had access to famous people. The fact that God has given some pastors that access may or may not be something you agree with, but I personally try to trust God in these situations.
If God had asked me whether He should use a man named Saul who was trying to eradicate Christianity as a primary contributor to the writing of the Christian Scriptures, I almost certainly would have had concerns. Good thing God is able to care for the Body of Christ without my guidance.
Instead of wishing or demanding that God gives you influence in a particular area, why not take a look around and ask where God has given you input?
Perhaps it’s with your co-workers, or classmates, or fellow parents at a PTA, or at a meetup.com with people that have similar passions. Perhaps you blog or do photography. You have a voice, simply use that voice to declare the wonders of God when you have an opportunity. That’s using your influence where God allows you to have it in a way that benefits our world
Evaluate Whether You Are Seeing Fruit
Here’s the bottom line: the parable of the talents teaches us that it’s not about what you’re given, it’s about what you do with it.
Whether you have influence over multitudes or influence over one or two, are you using that influence to point people toward the abundant life Jesus promises to His followers?
If not, I would lovingly encourage you not to try to expand your influence. Jesus sought out new people in new settings and He continually saw results from these new connections.
Showing up at lots of parties to “be like Jesus” without a difference happening in anyone’s life would make me worry that I’m simply being self-serving.
If what I’m doing is in genuine service to God, I believe there will be evidence of that. I’m not trying to do the old preacher trick of making you feel bad if you didn’t “get somebody saved” recently. I’m talking about expanding the community of the Kingdom of God to those who haven’t discovered the life it shares with all who welcome it.
I hope you’ll join me in praying for people who have been given influence in our world. Whether you agree with everything they do or not, the Good News of Jesus being shared is the most important goal we have. I don’t care who people hear about God’s love from, I just hope they hear about it so it will bring them joy and peace.