One hears a lot in recent times about “influencers”. They get a fair bit of press lately. The other day I saw a few headlines – out of many: “Revealed: Victoria’s top 100 Instagram Influencers.” And this: “From celebrities to relatable mums, cleaning trick gurus to fashion models, these are Victoria’s top Instagram influencers. See who ranked number one.”
But who they are and what they do has largely eluded me up till now. So I did a quick online search and got a few definitions: “Influencers in social media are people who have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic.” Another says this:
“An influencer is someone in your niche or industry with sway over your target audience. Influencers have specialized knowledge, authority or insight into a specific subject. Their pre-existing presence in a niche makes them a useful launching pad for brands in search of credibility.”
So that got me thinking. (Most things get me thinking.) Christians of all people should be influencers. And not just the big cheeses: pastors, teachers, preachers, evangelists, and so on. ALL people who know Christ should be influencers. We all should have a reputation for being experts in our particular “brand”. We should all be having an impact as we seek to “sway” others.
The only influencers we really need are committed Christian ones.
And that will involve two elements of course: the sort of life that we live, and the words that we speak. We must show the world what a real Christian life is all about, but we must also share the gospel message. Our lives must be Christlike and we must be willing to share biblical truth.
Jesus did not command his disciples to go into all the world and influence folks, but to preach the gospel. Sure, our lives should back up our words. Our walk should match our talk. But our influence will always contain content. Our witness will always involve communicating the Christian message.
The idea of being salt and light is certainly involved here. But how can we be an influencer for Christ? Much can be said, but something John Stott wrote the year he passed away (2011) is worth sharing parts of here. He penned a piece called “Four Ways Christians Can Influence the World”. Early on he says this:
The word influence can sometimes be used for a self-centered thirst for power, like in Dale Carnegie’s famous book How to Make Friends and Influence People. But it can also be used in an unselfish way of the desire of Christians who refuse to acquiesce to the status quo, who are determined to see things changed in society and long to have some influence for Jesus Christ. Are we powerless? Is the quest for social change hopeless before we begin? Or can Christians exert some influence for Jesus Christ?
What is the nature of this influence? Let me suggest to you a few ways in which we Christians have power.
First, there is power in prayer. I beg you not to dismiss this as a pious platitude. It isn’t. There are some Christians who are such social activists that they never stop to pray. They are wrong, are they not? Prayer is an indispensable part of the Christian’s life and of the church’s life. And the church’s first duty toward society and its leaders is to pray for them. “I urge, then, first of all,” writes Paul in his first letter to Timothy, “that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:1-2)….
Second, there is the power of truth. All of us believe in the power of the truth of the gospel. We love to say, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). We are convinced of the power of the gospel in evangelism—that it brings salvation and redemption to those who respond and believe in Jesus. But it isn’t only the gospel that is powerful. All God’s truth is powerful. God’s truth of whatever kind is much more powerful than the Devil’s lies. Do you believe that, or are you a pessimist? Do you think the Devil is stronger than God? Do you think lies are stronger than the truth? The Christian believes that truth is stronger than lies, and God is stronger than the Devil. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 13:8, “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” As John said in his prologue to the fourth gospel, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Of course it cannot; that light is the truth of God.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the legendary Soviet dissident, believed in the power of truth over lies. Upon receiving the Nobel Prize in literature, he gave a speech called “One Word of Truth.” Writers, he says, “haven’t got any rockets to blast off. We … don’t even trundle the most insignificant auxiliary vehicle. We haven’t got any military might. So what can literature do in the face of the merciless onslaught of open violence?” Solzhenitsyn doesn’t say we haven’t got any power. He says, “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.” If anybody should believe that, it’s Christians. It’s true. Truth is much more powerful than bombs and tanks and weapons….
Our third power as Christians is the power of example. Truth is powerful when it’s argued. It’s more powerful when it’s exhibited. People need not only to understand the argument. They need to see the benefits of the argument with their own eyes. It’s hard to exaggerate the power for good that a thoroughly Christian family can exert, for instance, in a public housing development. The whole community can see the husband and wife loving and honoring one another, devoted and faithful to one another, and finding fulfillment in one another. They see the children growing up in the security of a loving and disciplined home. They see a family not turned in on itself, but turned outward—entertaining strangers, welcoming, keeping an open home, seeking to get involved in the concerns of the community. One Christian nurse in a hospital; one Christian teacher in a school; one Christian in a shop, in a factory, or in an office—we will all make a difference, for good or for ill.
Christians are marked people. The world is watching. And God’s major way of changing the old society is to implant within it his new society, with its different values, different standards, different joys, and different goals. Our hope is that the watching world will see these differences, and find them attractive, that they “may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Fourth, Christians have the power of group solidarity—the power of a dedicated minority. According to the American sociologist Robert Belair, at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, “We should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a whole culture may be changed when two percent of its people have a new vision.”
That was the way of Jesus. He began with a small group of only 12 dedicated people. Within a few years, Roman officials complained they were turning the world upside down. There is a great need for dedicated Christian groups committed to one another, committed to a vision of justice, committed to Christ; groups that will pray together, think together, formulate policies together, and get to work together in the community….
There are all sorts of folks in the world seeking to be an influencer, seeking to push a product or concept. The most vital sort of being an agent of influence is to be a sold out, Spirit-empowered, biblically-literate follower of Jesus Christ.
The world is starved for those sorts of influencers. Will you be one?