Influence is all the rage. Every summer we ask the students at our Propel summer experience to tell us what it means to have influence, and the answers are always fun. A few years ago, when we were working with Millennials, we would often get answers like “being in charge” or “being famous”.
These days as we work with Gen Z, we often get a different answer. We often hear that having influence means “having an audience” or “having credibility”. Why the shift? In many ways, we have one single phenomenon to thank for it: the rise of the Instagram influencer.
In an exercise this summer, we asked our students to list people that they know of that have lots of influence. Names of Instagram accounts filled the room. People online who create content in the worlds of beauty, video gaming, and music (just to name a few). But then we got an answer that broke the mold. This particular student raised his hand and said, “When you think about it, Jesus was really one of the best influencers ever. He basically changed all of history.” This guy hit the nail on the head.
In fact, influence is one of the reasons why Jesus came. Last week on the blog, we talked about how during Advent, we’ll take a look at a few reasons why Jesus came. We started with the fact that Jesus came to serve. Jesus did, in fact, come to influence. But it’s important that we understand what influence actually is.
Influence isn’t necessarily about being in charge, or being famous, or having a giant audience. You can have influence without having any of those things. Instead, influence is the capacity to change someone or something, either directly or indirectly. So, the question really isn’t whether you have influence, because you do. The better question is, what are you influencing toward?
So how did Jesus come to influence? It wasn’t in the form of a YouTube how-to or an Instagram story about his skincare routine. It was in the form of some really good news.
From the beginning of Jesus’s earthly ministry, we see that he’s come to make a change. In fact, in virtually every gospel account, Jesus kicks off his ministry by saying something like this: “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
This was huge. People had been waiting for this news for hundreds of years. They had been waiting, just as we are this Advent season. But this was only the beginning. Jesus would continue preaching the good news all throughout his ministry. In fact, He says that this is one of the reasons why He came.
In Luke chapter 4, Jesus has kicked off his ministry after being tempted in the wilderness. He’s been preaching the good news and draws away for some solitude. But the people follow him there. They don’t want Jesus to leave. Then He responds with this in Luke 4:43: “but he said to them, ‘I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
Jesus understood that He had the capacity to make change happen. He understood that He had great influence. And perhaps most importantly, He understood that because He had great influence, He couldn’t waste it. He had to share it with as many people as He could.
During this season of Advent as we wait for Christmas, it’s important for us to understand that like Jesus, we also have influence. Equipped with this same good news, we have the capacity to make change happens. This Christmas season, who needs your influence? Who needs to hear this good news?
Jesus was sent to influence. And he was the best to ever do it. He changed the world forever. Following in his footsteps, let’s do the same this Christmas.