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Recently my eye was caught by a news headline that said something about a particular industry that has been hit hard by the lockdowns. Thinking that it might be about the service industry, or retail, or any number of important layers to the fabric of our communities, I was struck to realize that the industry highlighted in the article was the Influencer Industry.
Those of you reading this who are of a certain age (myself included!) might now be wondering what in the world the Influencer Industry could be. Those of you who are Milennials and Gen Z know exactly what it is, and could name several actual Influencers. To use a modern phrase, this really is a thing.
As best as I can explain, an Influencer is someone who has a large media and/or social media following, and is known for knowing what is desirable in a particular area such as fashion, travel, or decorating. They may or may not be creators of a product or brand, but more likely they are simply curators of what is cool. When they wear something or do something or go somewhere, their followers encourage them with “likes” on social media and emulate them.
Influencers actually shape society. Hold on to that thought…
We are starting on a long road trip today. In fact, I am one in a train of four cars headed west since our daughter and her husband are moving to be a part of a new campus ministry in New Mexico. So I am following along behind the U-Haul, with my emotions all over the map. Still, what a joy it is to know that they are following God’s plan for their life, and there is nothing greater we could want for them.
A few miles back, we passed by what used to be a rest stop on the side of the road. We have lived in this area for a long time, so I can remember when it used to have a large building that served as a restroom facility and break area. Many cars and trucks and trailers could pull off the road and take a break, whether it be in the middle of the day or the middle of the night.
At some point during the last few years, the state of Texas decided that they needed to build a new rest stop. So just a few miles up the road, there is a beautiful new facility and now all the cars and trucks stop there. Somewhere in the process, they came and bulldozed the old building, but the old parking area and grassy fields remained. It has been so interesting to watch the old rest area as the years go by. Since no one has been maintaining it or paying attention to it in anyway, the very earth is reclaiming the space. Now, after about five years, you can hardly tell that anything was ever there. You can barely see the remnants of the once-kept road, the parking spaces, the park area - when no one has cared for it, the whole place has gone back to its natural state.
Isn’t this what happens to our families and cities and even our country when we forget to pay attention? It is plain to see that our society is not currently in its best place. Though we are all well-aware that our 24/7 news cycle keeps everyone in turmoil since it is such a good business model for them, it is still evident that many people are confused and hurting and lost.
There is such an interesting misconception about the way things work. Many people seem to be under the impression that left to our own devices, humankind will automatically rise to sparkling, alabaster cities of harmony and prosperity. Many people seem to believe that the natural state of human beings is peace and perfect brotherhood. This is actually completely backwards! Our natural state is chaos and confusion and turmoil and strife. Just remember the story of Cain and his brother Abel. Community always starts from that same place of strife and selfishness, and needs some sort of help even to become a functioning society.
Many modern people in the west have lost sight of what made our society work in the first place. The influence of Jesus and His Way are what gave civilization such concepts as equality and freedom and democracy - without the Judeo-Christian influence, none of these concepts would exist. This is why removing the foundation of Christianity from our society and replacing it with a religion in which man is the center is causing such chaos. When no one is paying attention, we just return to our natural state, like the rest stop. Without anyone carefully tending the gardens, our children just go right back to the natural state of selfishness, confusion, and turmoil.
They need some help to think and live rightly, and this is our job.
We do need some influencers to shape our society. The people of Instagram are not wrong in this sense, they are just wrong about where to look. In fact, the best influencers probably will never be on social media, yet they are the unsung heroes of our culture and society. We need many, many more of them to step up.
These are the husbands and wives that take their marriage vows seriously, and live to create a home that is safe, stable, and God-fearing. These are the grandparents that choose to invest not only in their own children, but also their grandchildren, reinforcing in them what is right and true and valuable. These are the teachers that put their students’ best interest at the forefront. We hear so many horrible stories about wicked and abusive teachers and coaches - we need thousands of godly Christians to step into this role to help the next generation on their way safely. No one is going to make a lot of money teaching, but there are some things far more valuable than money.
These influencers are the pastors and youth pastors that are not in the business to make a name for themselves, or to have some sort of platform, but who are in faithful service to help men and women and young people know how to walk with God for their whole lives. These influencers are people in every part of society who live not for their own gain or for their own fame, but simply to help others know God and thrive.
Every Christian should be an influencer. We no longer live in a society fully undergirded by Christian principles - if we do not help people understand that there is real justice, truth, love, and hope, no one will. Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to any of us, and we must share the good news from whatever vantage point we have.
Just the other day my daughters and I were talking about how brilliant God’s design for society is. Every generation has to start all over again with the basics of teaching and training. Our babies don’t know anything and cannot do anything for themselves. We have to teach them how to eat properly, how to walk, how to talk, how to read and think, and how to live. No one can ever get very far away from the basics of life, because it is always time to start teaching a new generation. This is all the more true with our faith. We cannot ever become lax and neglect to teach the next generation how to feed themselves on truth, how to walk, how to talk, how to read and think for themselves, and how to live. We have come dangerously close to doing this as a church, but thankfully it is not yet too late to start again.
This new year of 2021, how can you and I become Influencers? There are a thousand different ways, starting right inside your own home and community.
Evaluate your spare time - your "me" time - and give a good chunk of that away:
-Look around in your own family and circle of friends and acquaintances - who needs help and encouragement? Start there and give generously of your time and support.
-Volunteer at your church, in the local schools, and in local kids' programs.
-Find organizations that help disadvantaged kids and work to give them some encouragement and hope.
-Run for office, pay attention to the school board and curriculum choices, be a voice of truth and justice in your community. For too long have we let others with suspect agendas choose the direction we will all go.
We have to work hard and be purposeful to hand things off well to a new generation. We cannot just go on without thinking and expect the rest stop to stay tended. Jesus has forgiven us and given us the message of real life, joy, and peace - let's do everything we can to share it with our hurting world.
Looking for a good resource to use in your small group or Sunday school class? Kingdom Minded is a great help in learning the basics of walking with Jesus and influencing those around you for the long haul.
Follow the link below to order your copies today!
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)