6 Character Traits that Real Influencers Have in Common

I’d be willing to bet that you don’t remember the last Tweet from your favorite author, pastor, or celebrity. You’ve probably forgotten that amazing viral blog post that was going around on Facebook last week. You might not even remember specific chapters or phrases from the most significant book you’ve read in the past year! In a world filled with noise, it’s hard to remember much of anything we read or hear.

On the other hand, if I asked you to name the most influential people in your life, you could probably tell me. You might be able to describe why they influenced you, and perhaps one or two key concepts they taught you. My hunch is a very small percentage of those influential people would be celebrities.

Reach is not the same thing as influence, although there is a connection between the two. Just because you can draw a large crowd doesn’t mean you’ll say anything important. The world is so full of loud voices that having a large audience doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make a lasting impact.

How can we have an impact that won’t fade away tomorrow or next week, when the next new thing grabs everybody’s attention? Here are a few characteristics that I think true influencers have in common: 

1. Consistency. I don’t mean that influencers speak frequently, or even that they speak or write at regular intervals. Instead, they have a consistent message. True influencers become known for repeating one or two concepts over and over again. For the apostle Paul, it was the message that Christ’s death and resurrection paved the way to know God, apart from the Law. For Brene Brown, it’s the idea that vulnerability can transform our lives. For Howard Hendricks, it was the concept that knowing how to study the Bible and apply it was foundational to life and ministry. Influencers beat the same drums so many times that you can’t forget what they’re trying to tell you.

2. Integrity. People who make a lasting impact center their whole lives around their key values. Anybody who looks at the life of a true influencer knows that they really believe what they say. How would you feel if you found out that Dave Ramsey had thousands of dollars of credit card debt? (That’s not true, by the way, but it gives you an idea of the importance of integrity). Influencers know that their actions are as important as their speeches, Tweets, and blog posts.

3. Generosity. Influencers aren’t greedy with their ideas. They aren’t overly worried that somebody else will steal their glory. A true influencer seeks to build others up. Jesus’ early followers knew that the Gospel was more important than any one disciple, so they trained others to understand and teach the Scripture (see 2 Timothy 2:2). As a result, their influence didn’t die out when they did.

4. Love. Influencers are more concerned with people than with anything else. They work hard to finish projects, but they ultimately work for the benefit of other people. When you read Paul’s letters, for example, you can tell that his primary goal wasn’t to write books, but instead to help people know Jesus. That motivation comes through in what he wrote, and it’s a huge reason people keep reading it.

5. Expertise. You don’t need a doctorate to make an impact on other people, but you do need the sort of quiet preparation that is often in short supply these days. Whether you want to be a carpenter, a writer, a speaker, or a businessperson, you’ll have to commit to self-development. My wife is a very skilled newborn photographer, but she didn’t learn her craft overnight. She practiced, went to workshops, and persevered in order to get better. The same is true with anything worth doing: If you want to have an influence, you’ll work for years to develop expertise. There are no shortcuts to a life of lasting significance.

6. Passion. Last but not least, influencers truly believe that they can change the world. For those of us whose message is the Gospel, it means that we care about it deeply. I’m a relatively introverted person, and I don’t wear my emotions on my sleeve. But I still need to project passion and enthusiasm when it really matters. So do you if you want to make a difference. If you find your own mission boring, so will everybody else.

Whether you hope to influence one person or thousands, I think these six characteristics are essential. If you use social media, I think it’s possible to extend these characteristics into your online world, as well. Every tool at your disposal can be a medium for long-lasting (hopefully eternal) impact if you use it well.

Would you add anything to this list? I’d love to hear your examples of those who have influenced your life and how they exemplified these values!

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Lost and Found

“The diamond on my ring! It’s gone!” 

My wife uttered those words in dismay on the final day of our family vacation. The ring’s prongs had snagged on her clothes, and when she looked down, the jewel was no longer in its place. Making the problem particularly complicated, we were staying with my aunt and uncle in Wichita, 500 miles from home. We were literally backing out of their driveway when she discovered the loss.

We quickly ran back into the house and looked in every place my wife had been in the past 12 hours. No luck. We drove home, assuming that the stone was probably gone forever. It was so small that the odds of finding it seemed miniscule.

For the next 24 hours, I combed through our car and slowly unpacked our luggage, hoping that I might catch a glimpse of the diamond. The evening after we came home, I was walking by our empty suitcase and glanced down. There, caught in one of the folds at the very bottom, I saw a glimmer of reflected light. The ring had fallen off while my wife was packing. In a seemingly unbelievable stroke of luck, it settled at the bottom of the bag to be discovered when I wasn’t actively looking.

After the fact, it occurred to me that we had just experienced a real-life version of Jesus’ parable in Luke 15. Jesus talked about a woman who lost one of her ten silver coins. Some scholars actually believe that the coin was a part of her wedding dowry, the ancient world’s equivalent of a wedding ring. She scoured the house for it, sweeping every corner until she located the missing coin. When she finally found it, she not only rejoiced, but she called all of her friends to rejoice with her.

Those familiar with Luke 15 will remember that the parable of the lost coin is followed immediately by the parable of the lost son, also known as The Prodigal Son. A father of two sons experienced the pain of seeing the younger one rebel and run away, taking his early inheritance with him. He squandered the money and found himself at rock bottom, feeding unclean pigs and wishing he could just eat a little bit of their slop. He decided to return to his dad and beg for mercy, hoping to be hired as a servant.

Yet the father cared about the son immensely more than the woman cared for her coin (or her diamond ring). The son found his father waiting, looking down the road, and ready to embrace his lost child. The dignified father gathered his robe and ran to welcome his son home. He gave him a new robe and a ring for his finger (a symbol of family authority) and cooked him a feast.

The older son was angry. “Unfair!” he cried. “I’ve been serving you faithfully for many years. Why does this no-good rebel get a feast?” He refused to come inside because he missed the point. The Father didn’t love the son because he was especially good. He loved him because he was his son. Both sons had the opportunity to experience the Father’s love and grace, but only one of them realized how much he needed it. The older son didn’t believe in grace. He thought he’d earned everything he had and more, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. The Father stood ready at any moment to give him whatever he needed, but he was too proud to ask. 

Of course people are worth more than coins. More than sheep. More than rings. More than diamonds. Even people who are at rock bottom. Even people who sin. Even people who rebel. And that’s the point of the story. If you look eagerly for a lost diamond, know that God looks even more eagerly for lost people.

Every person He made is enormously precious. He loves every single one with a depth that goes beyond that of any human father. God waits and looks and calls people to trust in Him, to believe that no sin is beyond the saving power of Jesus. That’s the message at the heart of Luke 15 — God rejoices more for the sinner who repents than for the “good” boys and girls who think they don’t need it. 

When my wife’s diamond was missing, I kept reminding myself that it was really just a thing. The truly precious treasures in my life were sitting in the car — three healthy kids and a godly wife. God feels the same way. You’re worth more to Him than any coin, diamond, or trinket. He gave the life of His Son for your life.

Do you see Him waiting, looking, calling? He loves you. He waits for you. And He calls you to join the feast.

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Who Owns Your Body?

You don’t own your body. 

To most Americans, that’s a dangerous and offensive sentiment. If there’s one principle that seems to undergird our political discourse, it’s that nobody should be able to tell you what to do with your own body.

Whether the issue is abortion, marriage, or drug use, our political philosophy is generally driven by the idea that individual rights are absolute. Nobody should tell me what to do with my body (or for that matter with my money or my stuff). If my activities don’t hurt anybody else, and only affect me directly, then who are you to tell me to stop my behavior?

From a political standpoint, perhaps governmental non-involvement is the best policy. After all, governments don’t have the best track record when it comes to setting appropriate boundaries, respecting human rights, or spending tax money wisely.

From the perspective of Christian theology, however, there’s no question that our bodies don’t belong to us.

The reason I bring this up is because many Christians are unable to give a good answer when a friend or family member asks, “If my relationship/eating habits/drug use/other private sin doesn’t hurt anybody, then whose business is it anyway? And why is it wrong?”

The biblical answer, of course, is that God owns your body. He owns everything. There’s no such thing, then, as a private sin. God’s standards of holiness do not hinge solely on whether or not our behavior hurts somebody else. The issue, instead, is whether our behavior upholds and proclaims the character of God.

Therefore, any use of my body that doesn’t accurately reflect God’s character is sin. God made me to be a vessel of his holiness, love, purity, and goodness. It’s not enough to get through life “without really hurting anybody that badly.” Instead, I’m called to positively imitate the character of God.

So, for example, if I fill my body with harmful substances, and hinder my ability to serve and love other people, it’s sin.

If I engage in sexual relationships that don’t fit the boundaries of the Bible, then I’m not accurately reflecting God’s character with my body.

If I fill my mind with immoral or vacuous entertainment, then I’m not using my brain to further God’s purposes in the world.

If I eat to the point of gluttony and render my body ineffective for serving God and others, that’s sin.

Recovering a biblical understanding of our bodies will help us understand why the Scripture disapproves of certain behaviors that seem harmless from the standpoint of American individualism. I realize, of course, that we way we approach political issues might vary from the way we approach the spiritual life. It may be that there is an unbridgeable gap between our society’s understanding of moral issues and the Christian perspective on such things.

However, too often we Christians believe the prevailing lie that sin is only sin if it hurts another person. The truth is that hurting myself is sin, because hurting myself is dishonoring to God. When I fail to use my body appropriately, I’m failing to exalt God as He made me to do (and therefore engaging in sin). If sin means “missing the mark,” then it’s possible to miss the mark badly without visibly harming somebody else.

When we understand that we are accountable to God even more than we’re accountable to other people, then some of the more puzzling Scriptural commands begin to make more sense. My body belongs to God, not to me, and He will hold me accountable for how I use it. 

So the next time somebody says, “Whose business is it anyway,” simply answer, “It’s God’s business. And God has made you and me to reflect His character. That’s what’s best for us, and it’s what He requires of us.”

It’s also why He bought us with the blood of His Son and gave us His Spirit, because we are incapable of reflecting His character without the power He provides (1 Cor 6:19-20). He’s given us a standard to keep, and even provided the means for us to keep it. And He calls us to a life so much greater than one that simply tries to avoid hurting people. He calls us to life that demonstrates the glory and grace of the One who made us.

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Why I Believe the Bible

A man recently asked me why I believe the Bible is true. He was trying to convince me of the veracity of a different belief system, and I told him that I couldn’t accept his beliefs because I didn’t trust the writings of his religion’s prophet.

“Why do you believe the Bible so readily but refuse to believe in our book?” he asked me. His question stayed with me for the next day or two. Why do I believe the Bible? I’ve read a number of apologetics books. I went to seminary and eventually received a degree based on studying the Bible. Each week I preach it and try to apply it. But why do I believe it?

My friend didn’t have time to stay and hear my answer to his question, but this is what I would have told him:

1. The Bible has stood the test of time. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s reliable, of course. On the other hand, the Bible has endured well through thousands of years of close scrutiny. People have gone out of their way to destroy it, discredit it, and undermine its authority. Yet nothing devastating really seems to stick to it. I realize there are challenges and things about the Bible we don’t fully understand, but it’s shown itself to be reliable for quite some time.

2. My spiritual ancestors believed in the Bible. I’m not afraid to acknowledge that my belief in the Bible is partly handed down to me from those who came before me. To be honest, we should worry about those who accept a source of authority that nobody else has ever accepted. When I think about great men and women of the faith who studied and preserved the Bible, I’m reminded that I’m not crazy to believe in it. The testimony of the Church over hundreds of years is a huge mark in favor of the Scripture. That legacy of faith was eventually passed along to my parents, who passed it along to me. Contrary to popular belief, the fact that faith is handed down isn’t a strike against it. It’s a major benefit.

3. The Bible offers multiple witnesses of the same events. The book my friend wanted me to believe was written by one man alone. On the other hand, the Bible has an almost embarrassing multiplicity of writers. For the life of Christ alone, we have four gospels. I’m not naive about the challenges posed by the Synoptic Gospels and the book of John. However, the degree to which the gospels agree on the events of Jesus’s life is remarkable. What’s truly remarkable is that all four of them affirm the Resurrection of Christ on the third day after His death. And it’s not only the Gospels, but the writings of Paul, Peter, James, and others. The abundance of witnesses encourages me that the testimony of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection doesn’t hinge on the accuracy of one person’s report.

4. The Bible doesn’t gloss over the weaknesses of God’s people. If the Bible were written to bolster the authority of Christianity’s founders, they should have left out some of the more embarrassing episodes. For example, we read repeatedly of the spiritual dullness of the disciples. We read about Peter denying Jesus three times. We read about Paul and Peter arguing with one another about whether to eat with Gentiles. Over and over again, the Bible points us past the people who led the Church and encourages us to look at Jesus alone as our source of hope.

5. The Bible’s prophecies have consistently proven true. I’ve been writing a short article about Micah 5:2, in which the prophet predicted the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. Micah’s prediction was made more than 700 years before Jesus’s birth, yet it was perfectly accurate. That’s just one example. Over and over again, the prophecies of the Old Testament are found to be true in the person of Jesus Christ. For that reason, I believe that the Bible is correct in what it predicts for the future.

6. The Bible’s testimony about Jesus has the ring of truth. For me, what the Bible says about Jesus is of the utmost importance. The more I read about His death and resurrection, the more I’m convinced it’s true. The responses of His disciples, the reactions of the Pharisees, and the astonishment of the people all seem genuine. The places and customs and rulers it mentions were real people. The whole account has the feel of a true story, not of something make believe. That’s a subjective judgment, I know, but I’m certainly not alone in that assessment. The impact that Bible has made on generations of men and women around the world indicates that this is no ordinary book. It’s a book inspired by God, containing truth about Him and His Son.

That’s really an incomplete list, as I could go on for awhile. I’ll stop, though, and give you a chance to weigh in. If you believe the Bible, why? What convinces you it’s true? 

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