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How to be an influencer ... for Gods’ Kingdom

iStock/Caiaimage/Chris Ryan
iStock/Caiaimage/Chris Ryan

The biggest celebrities in today’s culture aren’t movie stars. They aren’t rock stars or athletes. They are social media stars.

In my generation, fame was only available to the most talented people: those who could command attention on the big screen, who could sing like no one else, or who could throw a touchdown or put a ball through a hoop. Yes, those people are still famous today. Most everyone you know will have heard of celebrities like Brad Pitt, Ariana Grande or LeBron James.

But those probably aren’t the most influential people in our society, nor are they the most famous. According to most statistics right now, the most influential American, at least among younger people might be a guy named Jimmy Donaldson, whom your kids or grandkids probably know as “Mr. Beast.” His YouTube channel has more than 245 million subscribers and his net worth is something like $500 million. His talent? It’s making elaborate and entertaining videos and posting them to YouTube and various other social media platforms. He commands attention online.

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A few years ago, one survey found that fortune and fame were the top two goals of the Millennial generation, individuals born from 1981 to 1996 who came of age during the explosion of the internet. Of this generation, one in four say they would quit their current jobs to become famous. One in six would choose fame over having children. And an incredible one in 12 would disown their family in order to become a household name.

Why this intense desire for followers? We want our lives to matter. We dream of having significance in the world. We want to be known and have influence.

But the truth is that all of us have the opportunity each day to influence people. We may not have worldwide fame or outlandish fortune, but we already have a platform among the friends, family and colleagues who we see on a regular basis. So, the question isn’t whether or not you have influence. It’s what you do with it. Are you a good influence or a bad influence?

Light of the world

Jesus spoke about this topic 2,000 years ago. In Matthew 5, He said this to His disciples:

“You are the light of the world — like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16 NLT).

Why did Jesus choose “light” for this word picture? It’s because the world around us is dark and corrupt. Our culture is dark — and it’s getting darker. Over the past century, humanity has added substantially to our scientific, medical, historical, educational, psychological and technological knowledge. But we haven’t been able to change our basic nature. We haven’t found peace or peace of mind. We’ve simply invented more ways to corrupt and destroy our society.

Nations are still warring with each other. Crime is on the rise. Immorality is off the charts. Perversion leads to greater perversion. We are spiraling downward, and just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does! Jesus told us this would happen in the last days the world would get unimaginably worse before it gets better.

So where does light fit into this scenario?

The smallest lights get attention

I want you to think of a bright, sunny day at the height of summer. The sky is a clear blue. You have to squint to even see. And then you light a candle.

How much impact will that candle have? Very little. Most people wouldn’t even notice it. (After all, they’re squinting because of the sunshine.)

Now imagine you’re in a dark closet in the basement of a massive warehouse at nighttime. There are no windows, no safety lights, nothing. It’s the blackest black. Then you light a candle.

Will that candle get attention? Absolutely! In a dark place, you can’t help but turn toward an unexpected source of light. Have you ever gone camping in the woods and built a campfire at night? It’s practically impossible not to stare at it.

The world is a dark place in need of light, and any kind of light — no matter how small — gets attention. Even a little light will always help. You often hear of Christians complaining about our culture. “The world is going to hell in a hand basket,” they’ll say.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, because the Bible predicts it! I appreciate the clarity of the Complete Jewish Bible translation of a verse in 2 Timothy: “Evil people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves” (2 Timothy 3:3 CJB). What an accurate description of the times we’re living in!

The darkness needs light. You may just be one person — a tiny candle in the darkest of dark places — but your light will get attention. We can’t hide our light.

Invade the culture (don’t evade it)

Our goal as Christians is not to isolate from the world, but to infiltrate it with the light of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus. He made this very clear, in fact, when talking to His disciples: “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one … Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world” (John 17:15,18 NLT).

As believers, we must realize that we are living behind enemy lines, and Jesus wants us to shine our light out into the world. To do this effectively, we need to be able to speak a language the world understands. We need to understand the culture well enough to interpret it and weigh it against the message of the Gospel.

Sometimes, as believers, we get frustrated because it people don’t seem to be listening to us. That’s because we speak a different language from them! Don’t be surprised if you don’t get much response from standing on a street corner and shouting, “Are you washed in the blood of Jesus Christ?”

People who don’t understand the language of our faith will not understand at all what you’re saying. In fact, they’ll probably be turned off by it.

Instead, we need to translate the message of Jesus into the culture we live in. On Mars Hill, Paul spoke to an unbelieving audience and showed them his knowledge of their pagan poets and religious practices. Then he used that familiarity to point to the truth of salvation.

A dramatic difference

You may never have fame or fortune, but you are definitely an influencer. The world needs to see your light, so don’t hide it. Don’t segregate yourself from the darkness around us but invade the culture with the light of Christ. It will absolutely get attention in a dark place. One godly man or woman — even in the darkest situation — can make a dramatic difference.

Let the world see your good deeds. Let them see you showing the love and grace of Jesus. Let them see not just your awareness of the culture, but your ability to interpret it and compare it to the Kingdom of God. Our world needs a spiritual revival, and this will only happen when the people around us turn to Jesus. But how will they know if you don’t tell them, show them, and influence them? Let your light shine!

Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. “Jesus Revolution,” a feature film about Laurie’s life from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company, releases in theaters February 24, 2023.

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