Many people aspire to become influencers today and with good reason. It can be very lucrative with a large enough following on the right social media platforms. I watched a documentary a few days ago that featured a 9-year-old with a considerable following on a social media platform receiving $200 for every post he made. In marketing parlance, an influencer persuades others to buy or subscribe to a product they use. So, these people can influence the desires of others, even people they haven’t met, and sway their choices. In other words, influencers make you want what they have. As I watched the documentary, I realised that being a Christian is similar to being an influencer. If I’m doing it right and exuding the fruits of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23], others will desire what I have.
In the sermon on the mount [Matthew 5-7], Jesus instructed His followers to be salt and light [Matthew 5:13-16], i.e. Kingdom influencers, not just in our churches but also in our homes, schools, offices, and other places we spend our time. Jesus’s instruction implies that there is a social dimension to our beliefs. In other words, your community should feel the impact of your presence. I would even suggest that we’ve failed to live out our faith if our absence makes no difference to those around us. You cannot fail to notice the lack of salt in a dish or light in a dark setting. Likewise, our spheres of influence should feel our absence. We often recognise worldly influencers for what they possess, especially transient things, such as good looks, money, trinkets, connections, accolades, talents, nobility, etc. While these things may be of some value in this life, they have no eternal value if they don’t serve God’s agenda.
Kingdom influencers may possess these transient things, but what separates them from worldly influencers is who they are. They embody qualities like integrity and godliness. Essentially, they walk with God, and their results testify to that relationship. A great example of a Kingdom influencer is Daniel. As a youth, Daniel possessed qualities many desired. Daniel was a handsome, educated, intelligent, well-mannered noble who moved in the circles of the rich and powerful [Daniel 1:3-4]. Had he lived in our time, I don’t doubt Daniel would garner a huge following on social media. However, if that’s all Daniel had to offer the world in his generation, history wouldn’t remember him. Yet, today we remember him for his godliness, excellence and integrity, what he stood for and his relationship with God. We may not get our stories detailed in the annals of history like Daniel, but if we learn from him, those who observe our lives will not forget us quickly.
If it’s incontrovertible that Jesus calls us to be Kingdom influencers, what lessons can we glean from Daniel’s life to aid us in ours? One of the first things evident in Daniel’s life is the preeminence of his relationship with God. Daniel took God seriously and was ready to pay for his convictions. He feared God more than man. So from his time in finishing school to serving in senior roles in government in the Babylonian and Medea-Persian empires, there’s no hint of compromise in Daniel’s story, even when his life was at stake. Daniel’s convictions cost him rich pickings from the king’s table [Daniel 1:8], and without divine intervention in the lion’s den, he would have paid for them with his life [Daniel 6]. Scripture summarises Daniel’s epitaph in one verse: “Those who know their God will stand strong and act valiantly” [Daniel 11:32]. In other words, we cannot become effective Kingdom influencers until we have a relationship with God grounded in the knowledge of who He is that we’re unwilling to compromise at any price [2 Timothy 1:12].
Daniel’s paradigm was simple: he would rather incur the wrath of men than knowingly disobey God to save his neck [Matthew 10:28]. That’s a countercultural mindset which sets us apart if we practice it [James 1:22]. However, it’s noteworthy to remember that the believer’s adversaries will orchestrate circumstances to test our character and faithfulness to God’s word [1 John 2:16]. It may come in the workplace when an opportunity for advancement you desire materialises, but grasping it demands a violation of God’s commandment. Or it could come as an opportunity to get out of a tricky situation if you compromise your integrity. It could even be how we behave under pressure – our words and actions. It may seem trivial at the time, or we may think no one will notice, but these acts don’t remain hidden [Luke 8:17], and someone is always watching. When they eventually come into the light, they harm our witness as believers and curtail our influence. That’s what happens when we discover that our influencers on social media don’t actually subscribe to the products or experiences they’re trying to sell to us.
Being effective Kingdom influencers has little to do with our background, bank account, accolades, talents or connections. Instead, it’s a product of a decision: will we pursue self-preservation or please God? That’s a daily choice for anyone who desires to follow Jesus [Matthew 16:24-26]. Throughout history, we see men and women like Daniel, Paul, J Hudson Taylor, Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, the 21 Coptic Christians martyred in 2015 for their faith, and several Christian missionaries, revivalists and martyrs pay with their lives for their convictions and yet influence a generation. Scripture urges us to follow their examples in our spheres of influence, not for notoriety but for the sake of the Gospel and righteousness [Hebrews 6:12]. If we do, Jesus promises that our reward in this life and the next will significantly dwarf whatever price we pay for His sake [Mark 10:29-30].