How might Christians seek authentic influence in our culture?

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How might Christians seek authentic influence in our culture?

March 29, 2023 -

Multicolored wooden pawns are set in radiating concentric circles as an illustration of spheres of influence. © By Olivier Le Moal/stock.adobe.com

Multicolored wooden pawns are set in radiating concentric circles as an illustration of spheres of influence. © By Olivier Le Moal/stock.adobe.com

Multicolored wooden pawns are set in radiating concentric circles as an illustration of spheres of influence. © By Olivier Le Moal/stock.adobe.com

Huge shifts are occurring in our culture. Godly influence is declining across the board. We see it slipping away before us in many key spheres of life: government, business, media, education, sports, the home!

The erosion was subtle for decades, but it seems like a landslide is now underway. It leaves us feeling somewhat helpless, certainly discouraged, perhaps even frustrated, and angered. God deserves better from humankind. And our kids deserve a better world to inhabit.

So, what can we do? How do God’s people respond?

How can you personally make a difference that shapes the culture for Jesus Christ?

The people God uses

God’s timeless solution lies in his work through everyday believers. You. Me. Us.

Good policies, good programs, and pastors preaching great sermons are all important, but, historically, it’s been regular, everyday Christians living out the gospel in the daily ruts and routines of life that have shaped society most for God. Throughout church history, most believers did this anonymously. And most found it hard. In fact, most Christians never preached a sermon or taught a lesson plan or wrote a book or a blog. And they too struggled with fears of rejection and ridicule just like us.

But the church of yesteryear did, however, understand Jesus’ Great Commission to disciple the world as a personal responsibility (Matthew 28:19-20). They knew they—not their pastor for them—would one day stand before Jesus accountable for the lives of the people around them. So, they saw those around them in life as their personal responsibility before God.

They knew that God’s tried and tested way of shaping any life and any culture in any meaningful way is through the personal involvement of everyday believers in the lives of those around them.

Ultimately, they understood a basic principle and then lived it out for the gospel. It’s this: people shape people. We’re all contagious. And when godly people shape people, godly societies emerge.

Everyday Christians influencing whoever happens to be nearby in their regular spheres of life can shift the direction of a workplace, a family, a neighborhood, and an entire society just one person at a time. We must!

So how do we do that?

A biblical role model for ordinary believers

God shows us how everyday believers like us can shape the world for Jesus beginning right where each one is at. He doesn’t give us a definition for a life of godly influence. He gives us a description of a person who modeled it.

In fact, the very reason God included this person’s story in the Scriptures is specifically as a role model for ordinary believers like you and me. God wants us to copy his example.

His name was Barnabas.

Barnabas was a member of the early church in Jerusalem and pops in and out of the Book of Acts several times. His role is so infrequent that you’d read right past him and move on to other scenes in the story of the church if you didn’t slow down for a closer look.

When he does show up, we see that he was part farmer, part regular parishioner, part pastor, part missionary, and even part mailman. He was just a regular believer like most of us! But every time Barnabas shows up, his natural influence is remarkable.

Barnabas never walked on water. He never wrote a book that became a part of the Bible. He never preached a sermon that was recorded in the Book of Acts for us to read. But Barnabas shaped the apostles of the early church including Peter—and they nicknamed him Barnabas (son of encouragement) because of his influence.

And Barnabas is the reason you’ve read the Gospel of Mark—Mark was his protégé. And Barnabas gave us perhaps the most influential person in Christianity outside of Jesus Christ, namely, the Apostle Paul! Paul was another Barnabas protégé.

Behind many of these great men who shaped our faith in immeasurable ways lies a regular everyday believer like you and me. Barnabas simply saw whoever God happened to send his way as an opportunity to shape and launch them toward God’s vision for his or her life.

Barnabas encouraged, developed, and launched whoever was close by. And the impact is still felt.

In the life of Barnabas, God shows us fifteen principles on how you too can naturally shape the world for Jesus Christ one person at a time today. You don’t need an important title, a fancy job, or a pulpit. What Barnabas models is accessible to any Christian beginning right where you are.

Learning how he influenced others for Christ will not only instruct you but inspire you. And when you do step out to shape those around you, the ripple effect is immeasurable too.

In fact, another huge shift can occur in culture but this time toward producing a society that offers God the glory he deserves.

Note: This article was based on Jonathan Murphy’s recently released book Authentic Influencer: The Barnabas Way of Shaping Lives for Jesus

More by Jonathan Murphy

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