Encouragement From The Word

Influencing

This week, we heard news about a group of individual investors, brought together through Reddit, a social news website with all manner of topics and subtopics available for mutual discussion.  They undertook a risky and interesting social-financial experiment:  they bought up a bunch of shares in low-stock-value companies, raising their value.

The hope, initially, was to cash in and make a quick buck.

But what has happened as a result of this is that the Wall Street and Bay Street establishments have been put on notice:  social media can have a powerful influence on the way things have always been done.

This isn’t really new at all, of course; it’s just new in its application.

Social media have been influencing societal trends for years, and the huge organizations that largely own social media – Facebook (which owns Instagram), Google (which owns YouTube), Twitter, and even upstarts like TikTok – know this all too well, and they use their power over these platforms to influence people toward the views that their owners hold.

Analogously, they have replaced the church in western society in terms of their influential role.

It used to be that if people wanted to know what to believe about any number of issues, they turned to their local church pastor, their parish priest, or their denominational policies.  

But even within the church, that doesn’t much happen anymore.

People are most influenced by that with which they spend the most time.  And for most people, that’s social media.

A couple of thoughts come to mind as I ponder this heavy, stinging reality.

First, we don’t want to isolate ourselves from the world around us, so we don’t want to tell people to avoid social media.  (In reality, it’s pretty hard for most of us to avoid anyway.)  We’re not seeking to create monastic communities of our churches.

But what if we sought to be influencers ourselves, as followers of Jesus, by sharing biblical perspectives on social media?

I have to admit that I find this hard to do, because the feedback that comes is often pretty harsh, and I just don’t want to deal with the drama.  But at the same time, if we have a wide circle of social media connections, we can speak into the lives of others and be influencers in our own right when we stand up for what the Scripture says is true.  Even if other people choose not to believe it with us, at least we have given them another perspective to think about.

The other thought that comes to mind is that if we are going to share what our faith says about various issues, we do well to study what the Bible says about it.  And that means digging deeper in the Word to understand how Scripture applies to these life situations – beyond what the preacher says during worship.

The result is that you end up spending more time reading the Bible than you do reading your Instagram feed.  And I accept this as a word from the Lord to me, since if I’m honest I probably spend a lot of time on social that I could be spending in the study of God’s Word.

If that reversal happens, I’m pretty confident that my posts will be of greater depth and higher quality than they are now, and that my witness for the faith will be clearer.  Maybe the same will be true for you.

So equip yourself:  make sure you own a Bible that’s in a translation you find simple enough to read, and in a print size that makes it easy to read (don’t discount that last part!).  Perhaps acquire a study Bible that has notes in it, prepared with scholarship that seeks to help you apply the Word in helpful, contemporary ways.

But don’t leave it on the coffee table; pick it up and read it every day.  Or use an app on your phone, if that works better for you.  

Don’t bemoan the waning influence of the Christian faith in society; be that influence.

[I]f someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way” (1 Peter 3.15b-16a, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Gentle influence

One of the delights of being on a pilgrimage that includes some people you don’t know is that you have the opportunity to get to know them while travelling. So one day, when someone I didn’t know was sitting across the aisle on the bus from me, I said, “Tell me a story.”

Among the things this young woman told me was how she got involved in the congregation in which she participates. Much to my delight, it was through the gentle influence of a mutual friend.

This friend would care for her children, and would invite the kids to sing Bible songs and learn Bible stories while in her care. And as time went on, and it seemed appropriate, she would make soft invitations – to church events, to fill Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, to come to Christmas services, then Easter services, and then, well, she got involved whole-hog!

A whole family came to know Jesus because of the kind words and simple invitations of a Christian who cared.

Think of the gentle influence you may have…and think of the people over whom you might have it!

…if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way” (1 Peter 3.15b-16a, NLT).