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Who has Influence?

Today, the word “influencer” most immediately generates images of Instagram celebrities who have a gazillion followers. These celebrities are sexy, or beautiful, or handsome, or have apparent wealth, and can display these things through their various platforms on social media.  Because they have such a following, these “influencers” are often given advertising contracts or other perks that allow them to continue “influencing” others.  The idea is that their supposed power of influence will persuade tangible numbers of people in their followings to buy products, or to use services, or to otherwise change their behaviors.  This idea of influence by brute force runs through far more than just social media. It is enmeshed in our politics, our marketing strategies, and our real life social hierarchies. It’s always found in how money is expected to change the world, or to bribe other influencers to do the bidding of the one who hands the money out with expectations of a return on investment. Ironically, it’s even found in our concept of ministry.  People believe that they aren’t influential if they aren’t a pastor. Sometimes they won’t belong to a church unless its influence is measured by masses of congregants, and a visible presence on their community’s collective awareness. A person might even avoid giving anything at all because of the wrong belief that only having a little to give will produce no results. 

No doubt, having a platform, and having wealth, and being gifted with talents, and having a million “followers” has a kind of power. But truest influence isn’t found in brute force. Truest influence is found in subtle day to day interactions with the people closest to you. To forge an intimate relationship with a person over a period of consistent personal interactions has the highest and most powerful influence. Influence is found in the mother who doesn’t abandon her duties, and raises a son or daughter to live a holy life. Influence is found in a husband who serves his wife, and in a wife who strengthens her husband. Influence is found in telling the person who doesn’t know Christ, what he has done for you. It is found in the kindergarten teacher guiding her students in knowledge. It is found in giving a kind word to your grocery clerk, or your waitress. Influence is found in telling the truth, in helping one person, and in a life of fidelity. Influence is found in commitment to your faith community. It is found in forgiveness. It is found in the daily grind of helping others to wield and use their influence for good.

You don’t have to be the pastor of a church to be a shepherd to others. You don’t have to have a million followers to exert profound influence. You are plenty influential right at this moment, so don’t just read these words. Exert your influence!

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