29 November, 2022

Authentic Influence

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by | 1 March, 2022 | 2 comments

By Kyle Idleman

A word you hear a lot these days, a word that drives a lot of social media ambitions and daily decisions, is influencer . . . and underneath that word is a deep desire we all have.

Nobody grows up dreaming of waking up, going to work, heading home, watching Netflix, scrolling through social media, and then doing it all over again the next day until their last breath. We all want to be used to change the world. We don’t want to spend our lives being time-wasters, or space-takers, or binge-watchers, or game-players, or even book-readers. We want to be difference-makers.Every one of us wants to live a life of influence. The question isn’t if we want to influence others, it’show do we authentically do that? And I’ll let you in on a secret . . . it’s not as complicated as we make it out to be.

Focus on the One

Jesus was the ultimate influencer, and it was how he influenced that made the difference. He didn’t complicate it or formulate it, he just lived intentionally with each person that crossed his path. But that requires some people skills, and if I’m honest, although I’m a pastor, I sometimes struggle to connect with people the way I want to. Initially I developed a strategy for dealing with my lack of people skills: (1) Avoid it. (2) Fake it. (3) Pretend.

Unfortunately, that approach felt insincere, mostly because it was. I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus did. It left me feeling emotionally drained and easily annoyed by people with whom I wanted to connect. I felt irritated by the people I was supposed to love. Again, that’s a problem if you’re a pastor.

I knew something was wrong in my heart. I knew God had called me to love and care for his sons and daughters, but I was intentionally not answering the phone. Now, not only was I feeling insecure and anxious about connecting with people, I also was struggling with guilt and shame for feeling that way.

One morning I got to church early and sat in the empty sanctuary and prayed about it. I told God how much I loved people, but I felt like I didn’t always know how to love people. I opened the Bible to Luke 8.

“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him” (v. 42).

 Reading it, I could almost feel my anxiety rising as I thought about crushing crowds. So many people with so many expectations. But then Luke said that in the crowd,

A woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you” (vv. 43-45).

In Mark’s version of this story, he said the disciples asked Jesus in disbelief, “You see the people crowding against you, and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” (Mark 5:31). With such a big crowd, how could he possibly focus in on just one person?

“But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me’” (Luke 8:46).

 Yes, there was a big crowd, but that’s not what Jesus was focused on. Instead, he was most focused on the number one. It’s like taking a picture on your phone of someone standing in a crowd. You put it in Portrait Mode and look at the screen until you spot the person you’re looking for and then zoom in and let the camera focus. In that moment everything else begins to blur and fade into the background. When Jesus was surrounded by the crowds, he had a way of zooming in and focusing on the one.

Be Fully Present

It’s the next verse that changed my understanding of authentic influence. When I read it, I instantly knew it was the secret to the Jesus way of making a difference.

“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed . . .” (Luke 8:47).

There was a large group of unidentified people, but she realized Jesus wouldn’t let her go unnoticed—not even if she tried. Surrounded by crushing crowds, she knew the eyes of Jesus would not let her go unseen.

It was like the words came off the page and slapped me in the face. I wasn’t just convicted. I was wrecked. God was speaking to me. I realized he called me—he has called each of us who follow Jesus—to make sure that no one goes unnoticed.

In the days to come, I started seeing it on almost every page of the Gospels. Jesus was constantly zooming in on one person at a time.

Jesus went into Jericho and people packed the sides of the streets to get a glimpse of him like it was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but Jesus focused on just one person: Zacchaeus.

Jesus came down from a mountain and “large crowds followed him” but a leper showed up and Jesus zoomed in and everyone else was cropped out of the picture.

Jesus entered a place where a “great number of disabled people used to lie”—there were lots of sick people, but then we read of “one who was there.” That one received all of Jesus’ attention and was the only recipient of a miracle.

Why? Why didn’t Jesus heal all of them? I don’t know. But here’s what I do know: One is the way of Jesus.

I said it before, but I’ll say it again because when it finally hit me it changed my life. It changed my philosophy of ministry. It changed the legacy I want to leave. I’m hoping it will change yours: Jesus influenced the world one person at a time.

When someone stood in front of him, time stopped. Everything else in his life—all his concerns, his agenda, his goals—blurred and disappeared. He was always fully present.

For Jesus the question in the crowd was always, “Where is the one who must not go unnoticed?” Don’t get me wrong, Jesus loved everyone in the crowd, but the way he loved them was one at a time.

Love the One Wherever God Has Placed You

As you study Jesus in Scripture, you’ll discover that living a life that counts for something doesn’t require having a super talent or being instafamous. Rather, it’s about the everyday intentionality of noticing, connecting with, and loving people right where they are. That’s what Jesus would do. In John 13:34 Jesus said to his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another.”It wasn’t a new suggestion, or a new idea, or a new proposition, or a recommendation—it was a new command. But why does Jesus call it “new”? It’s not new. Loving others was often his central message. What Jesus said next is what makes it new: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

As a staff and church, we call this the “one at a time” way of Jesus. It’s part of our vision statement at Southeast Christian Church. The phrase is a picture of how Jesus lived his life with authentic influence by the way he loved people.

And I get it. Maybe it feels too simplistic. But before you write me off, I want you to think back on your life to some conversations that influenced you the most. Did they come from a stage or at a table? Were they through a podcast or over a cup of coffee? I’m not saying one is wrong and the other is right. And I’m not saying God doesn’t use both. But I am saying, maybe we make changing the world a little more complex than it really is. Maybe we need to stop leaning into the usual ways this world tells us to measure influence and start leaning into the unexpected ways God wants to use us. 

I don’t know what your background is as you are reading this. Maybe you are a businessperson, a stay-at-home dad or mom, maybe you are a pastor, a leader in the community, a grandparent, a roommate, classmate, teammate, sibling, neighbor, or a coach, but I hope as you read this you recognize that wherever God has placed you is a space he wants to use you. Authentic influence isn’t measured by a viral post or a name on a building. It isn’t determined by a following or a fan base. Authentic influence isn’t dependent on what’s in your bank account or who’s in your contacts. Do you want to live an influential life? Focus on the one. That’s it. That’s the secret of the way of Jesus.

When I came to realize this, I sat in the sanctuary that morning and for the first time I prayed a prayer that I have tried to pray every day since: Jesus, give me your eyes for the one. Help me to see people the way you see people.

In One at a Time, Southeast Christian Church senior pastor Kyle Idleman shows us how to change the world by loving like Jesus—one person at a time. Find out more at www.kyleidleman.com.

Christian Standard

Contact us at cs@christianstandardmedia.com

2 Comments

  1. Roger Wever

    This article needs to be a sermon if it is not already.

  2. Al Edmonds

    The one sheep was lost, the 99 stayed in the fold. . . . Sometimes there are 10 lost in different places and 90 in the fold. Which one of the 10 is saved?

    _ _ _

    FROM THE EDITOR: On July 23, Scott Muller sent this note in response to Mr. Edmonds’ question:

    “The answer is – All ten; One… at a time.”

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