How Are You Using Your Influence?

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, sing like no one else, 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.

The Most Influential American Today

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.

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.

We All 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?

Jesus spoke about this topic 2,000 years ago. In Matthew 5:14–16, 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.’”

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. The Bible tells us this would happen, that 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 handbasket,” they’ll say.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, because the Bible predicts it. 2 Timothy 3:3 says, “They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good.” 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.

Christians Should Invade, Not Evade Culture

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. To do this effectively, we need to be able to speak in a way that will be understood.

Believers will sometimes try to reach people by saying things like, “Are you washed in the blood of Jesus Christ?” But we cannot assume that our listeners today understand what we’re talking about. 

We need to break things down, explain them, and try to find common ground. Paul said,  “I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the good news and share in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:22–23).

On Mars Hill, he spoke to a secular audience in Athens, Greece, and he adapted to his audience. We need to do the same while, at the same time, making sure we don’t compromise our message.

Christians Can Make a 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.

Read more from Greg Laurie »

This article originally appeared on Greg’s blog and is reposted here by permission.

Greg Laurie
Greg Laurie

Greg Laurie is the senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside and Irvine, California, and founder of Harvest Crusades, large-scale evangelistic events that are held across the world.