I have to question whether or not “influence” is good with in Christianity. Why? Because I can’t help but think that when another is influenced by someone, that someone is trying to make the other move according to what they may seem is right or wrong. The word “influence” is used very generously in church leadership….. and I understand that. However, is church leadership trying to encourage people to draw closer to the Father or are they influencing them to help preserve an organization in the name of the Father? How can we search our own hearts to make sure that we have pure motives when we “influence” others? Is it a maturity issue deep with in us, or is it something that we may need to avoid as to not be controlling based off of what we may want to accomplish? I believe we all need to wrestle with this within ourselves. I ask, is there freedom in the picture posted to the right?
I really believe that the picture to the right does not depict freedom at all. However, it does depict influence in a form that is very much accepted in religion. The idea that a pastor is a leader that demands followers is not a correct view, in my opinion, of the biblical definition of a pastor. The true heart of a pastor is to encourage those around them to walk in the Kingdom of God and rely on the Father for everything with Christ as the Shepherd. The true heart of a pastor does not demand attention and strive to influence those around them. Why, because the influence of man will, more times than not, be driven by personal desire. If the personal desire of a person is to see another walk in the Kingdom of God, then that person will always encourage another to look away from them and look to Jesus, who is the exact representation of the Father.
So, why is influence so important in leadership? Because it is the way a leader gets another to follow them. At the surface, it may not look bad…even encouraging when we use historical figures like Moses or David from the bible or Winston Churchill or FDR from US history. But what we end up having are groups of people that are now loyal to the visionary instead of The Shepherd, Jesus Christ. The group will say things like, “see what David did”, or “this is how FDR did it”. What this really is, is giving into influence that is based off of the red figure (and whatever drives the red figure) that is surrounded by all the blue figures from the picture. The blue figures really have no freedom whatsoever because if they are seen not being influenced by the red figure, then others in the group will ask for conformity to the vision of the red figure or even possibly asked to go somewhere else because they have been labelled wicked or rebellious. We see this not only in religion, but politics, the workplace, and even the home. In my opinion, this is bad and strips away the very nature of relationship with Jesus that the Father is really calling us all into.
Have you every had someone in church leadership say “Do not question the anointed”, or anything that resembles that? If you have, then what you are experiencing is someone trying to become the red figure in your life, like in the picture. In reality, what any true pastor would do (or anyone in the 5 fold ministry that Paul speaks of) is encourage questions and the freedom to walk ones own path, whom the Father is walking with anyway. Why?…..because you cannot coerce true love or force the understand of it. You can only let it happen as a person is truly “influenced” ( I use this word here because it really is the only place it can be used in its correct application) by the Father.
In the organized church, we are plagued by the influence of the worldly system of business, which has become the standard to measure success. We have incorporated CEO’s, board members, employees, and then followers….and it is all driven by the idea that the lone red figure will influence the blue figures in the “right” direction. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were seen as uniquely loved by the Father and therefore respected enough to walk with Christ instead of driven by institutional influence? Wouldn’t it be nice if we encouraged others to the Father instead of talking at them in the name of influence? Along with this, those who have the ability to influence large numbers of people are used as examples of great spiritual people, which who have never spent a micro-second in fellowship or community with most of those they have “moved”.
Unfortunately, we are surrounded by many who feel they are “called” to be the lone red figure in the picture. This is why we see so much shame, guilt, pressure, control, and manipulation coming from pulpits all over the place. This is also why we view financially successful churches and individuals as the leaders in the christian world. We demand results and we demand movement within our religious systems. Therefore we place the red figures, like in the picture, in our lives thinking that they are who bring us closer to God. When all along, the Father just wants to be in relationship with us. He has brought reconciliation to us through Christ on the cross….so lets live in the Fathers love and let the manipulation and control of the religious systems fade away. We do not need them or their influence. All we need is Jesus Christ, who displays true self-sacrificial, other-centered love from the Father. Now we get to go display that to our neighbors.