In a world where influence means large crowds, a polished look, inspirational platitudes, and an “M” after the follower count, how should we—as Christians—think of influence?
- Check your heart: Questions to examine your motives
- Get practical: What it can look like to “think small”
You have an important message—the divine revelation of Truth found in the Word of God. You long to make an impact for Christ, as you’re called to do (2 Corinthians 5:20). You want to shine as a bright light in the world.
But how do you reach people through all the distraction and noise of 21st-century life? Is it even possible?
When you see influence the way the world does, it can be tempting (and discouraging) to believe you need that kind of public spotlight or heavily-trafficked platform to make an impact for God’s Kingdom.
But what if you don’t? What if the people God has placed in your life and the amount of influence He’s already give you is all you need to be an ambassador of the King?
That sounds like good news, and it is. You don’t have to be somewhere else or have someone else’s life to be an influence for Christ in people’s lives.
Some of the most impactful and faithful people in the Bible lived most of their lives in obscurity:
- Shiphra and Puah, midwives who disobeyed Pharoah to preserve the lives of infants
- Jethro, father-in-law of Moses who helped him establish a plan to govern Israel
- Bezalel, the artist who oversaw the creation of the Tabernacle
- Abigail, King David’s wife
- Ehud and Shamgar, judges of Israel
- Jael, a woman who killed an evil general
- Mordecai, Queen Esther’s cousin
- Joanna, one of the women who ministered to Jesus
- Stephen, the first Christian martyr
- Ananias, a man whom God called to restore Saul/Paul’s sight
- Priscilla and Aquila, the Apostle Paul’s friends and fellow ministers
- And countless more everyday heroes, living life in faithfulness to God
Here’s the bottom line
Every son or daughter of the King will have an impact for His Kingdom, whether on a stage, in a remote part of the world, or anywhere in between. God places us in diverse contexts with unique connections and abilities to accomplish His mission His way, not the world’s way.
Heart check: It’s not about you
If we’re going to represent the King faithfully, we need to do a heart check.
Do you want others to admire you?
Are you pursuing an ego boost, or the wellbeing of others? The Bible is replete with warnings about raising ourselves up on pedestals, reminding us that God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
If we seek to gain influence over people so that they will see and admire us, we can expect God to bring us down to our rightful place.
We must remember who God is—the eternal Creator God, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly holy, just, and good—and remember who we are—fallen, rebellious creatures, marred images of our Creator, worthy of condemnation, undeserving of mercy or grace, saved purely by God’s gracious intervention on our behalf through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
If you’re tempted to become lifted up for others to admire, take a step back. Bring your heart to a place of humble dependence on God and a right view of yourself in light of His glory and grace.
We must learn to say with the Psalmist: “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you'” (Psalm 16:2). Only then will we be ready to lift Him up for the watching world to see.
Do you want to “fit in”?
Being liked is the highest form of good in our contemporary, Internet-age culture. But Jesus reminded His disciples that to be on friendship terms with the world is to set ourselves as an enemy of God (James 4:4).
We naturally desire approval and don’t want to stand out for being different or going against the grain. But you can’t read the Bible and come away believing that Christians are called to fit in.
Rather, we are called to go outside the camp with Jesus, to suffer beside Him and bear the reproach of others (Hebrews 13:12-13).
When you follow the in-crowd, you can expect to make a lot of worldly friends. It may feel good for awhile, but it’s an empty substitute for the fullness of fellowship with Christ. Follow Him. Don’t set out to be liked, but to be faithful.
Note: Even in Christian communities, we can be tempted to speak “Christianese” in order to fit in. We don’t want others to know we don’t know the references of famous Bible verses, that we don’t have an answer to a painful circumstance. But there’s no place for self-consciousness among God’s people; come as you are, and as you do so, others will too.
Are you motivated by results?
Are you being kind or doing good things to get a certain outcome? Would it bother you if your kindness only reached one person, only touched one person’s heart?
We are the farmers who sow the seed, but God gives the growth. It doesn’t matter how big the field is, whether the entire world or our own home; when we work diligently within the constraints God has currently placed us under, any increase in fruitfulness can—and should—be attributed to Him.
Your motivation must be obedience to God, regardless of the outcome. He knows whether your heart is motivated by love or by results. He rewards those who obey Him sincerely.
Here’s the bottom line
This heart check is an act of remembrance—we remember that our lives are not about us. Every breath we breathe, every blessing we enjoy, is a gift from God’s hand, gifts He intends for us to invest in His Kingdom.
As the Apostle Peter writes: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).
When we use our God-given influence to serve others (rather than to boost our ego, make friends or return quick results), we can be sure our heart motive is pure.
Because our lives are so fleeting and eternity is a hair breadth away, we must use the gifts, resources, and influence God has given us to give glory to God and shine His light on others.
Just think about it: If your words or actions have shed the light of God’s love into someone’s life, isn’t that enough reward? Isn’t that small, real-life influence much more precious than droves of consumeristic followers?
What might it look like to “think small”? Here are some light-filled actions and attitudes to ponder:
- Sending a thoughtful card or gift to someone who may need the encouragement
- Calling/texting someone to let them know you care about them
- Praying for someone and then letting them know you prayed for them (perhaps even praying aloud with them or sending them the written prayer!)
- Pursuing friendship with someone whom others might overlook
- Offering a compassionate listening ear to someone who’s struggling
- Graciously pointing others to where the Scriptures may speak into their situation
- Sharing words of wisdom, hope, and love in online and offline conversations
- Making friendly eye contact and smiling to strangers
- Carrying yourself with a disposition of grace, kindness, and joy
- Remaining patient with difficult people and seeking their good
- Being the first to seek forgivenss and reconciliation
Reflect on your own context. Who has God already placed in your life? What resources and abilities has He already entrusted you with? Don’t seek more until you learn to use these gifts well.
Here’s the bottom line
As you renew your commitment to be salt and light in the world, don’t be discouraged at what seems to be little or no results or reciprocation. You may never know how your words or actions have affected those around you. In fact, the things you say and do now will have ripple effects into eternity.
As followers of Jesus Christ, let’s commit this year to think small when it comes to kingdom impact. Remember, God’s Kingdom doesn’t follow the patterns or priorities of the world.
For further reflection…
"But when they measures themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding." —2 Corinthians 10:12
"For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world." —1 John 2:16
"He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.” —John 3:30