Influence the Influencers…or Maybe Not

“Influence the inluencers.” “Find the key people”. “Who are the movers and shakers”? “If we can only get that guy connected”.

You hear things like that often in church leadership circles when it comes to getting things done. We have this idea that if we can influence the elite in our communities then something great will happen. We act like if we can only influence that one person then everyone will want to be a part of what we are doing. We will grow. We will be effective.

I used to buy into that until I took a closer look at the how Jesus did things.

When God came to earth and moved into the neighborhood to redeem the world, He could have chosen anyone in all of creation to be a part of his team. He created everyone so He had the right to everyone.

Who did he choose? Guys from his neighborhood. He picked the rough around the edges fishermen He met on the beach. He picked the guy that everyone hated because he collected taxes and was possibly skimming some off the top for himself. He picked guys that argued all the time over who was greater. As Robert Coleman in The Master Plan of Evangelism puts it, “Not the kind of group one would expect to win the world for Christ.”

Then, later in His life, Jesus had the ear the most influential political leader around and He said NOTHING. He chose not to influence the influencer. The one guy who could have set him free or who He could have exercised His divine power on and He did nothing.

And then there was me.

When I was in college I was far from “that one person” who was influencing many. I was really just a guy who was taking too long to get through college and couldn’t figure out what to do with his life. I was not impressive.

But, someone, a guy named Tim came after me. I don’t remember the details of meeting Tim – he claims to have met me through stopping a fight that I was involved in during a pick-up game of basketball – whatever the case, that meeting changed me. God brought him into my life to show what it looks like to be “normal”, love Jesus, and walk in life to help other people love Jesus. We ate frozen pizza together, played golf together (we got in trouble for doing donuts in a golf cart while shirtless), we talked about the Bible, and prayed together. He encouraged me, rebuked me, and ultimately helped me grow as a follower of Jesus who has a desire to the same for others.

He believed in me, and I wasn’t even “that one guy”.

Here are two problems with putting all our eggs in the influence the influencer basket.

1) If we only look for that one person who we think will influence everyone then we may never see the potential in the “not so impressive” person. That person may be living next door. She may be working in a less that glamorous job. He may be a student. He may be a retired man. She may be someone that does not have a lot of education. The most influential people may be the ones who seem least influential in the eyes of our culture.

2) If we spend most of our energy on that one person then we are indirectly communicating to the others that they are not as valuable. We can too quickly write some people off because they do not come across as “sharp”. When we make that judgement call, we devalue them. When the lens that we view people through is primarily “what they offer” or “bring to the table” we are looking at them through self-serving eyes. Self-serving eyes always devalue people.

Not that I have become a great world changer, but I could have easily been overlooked for someone more impressive. I am thankful that I wasn’t. My life changed because Tim saw something in me that I did not see.

I love that Jesus chose to use a small band of normal, rough around the edges people. I am thankful he went for a walk in his neighborhood and saw world changers in those fishermen. I hope that I will always being looking for the possibility of God in anyone.