Whether we are considering our influences at work, in college, in church, or on the public stage, it is up to us to always look outside of the box they create. Now, when I speak of influence, I am not talking about concrete instruction, such as when your coworker identifies company policy, a professor acknowledges the existence of the earth, moon, and stars, your doctor identifies your sickness, or a preacher proclaims that Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation. The influences I am referring to in this article are those who express seemingly valid opinions, have unique perspectives on the issues in which we are interested, take an authority position from an apparent legitimate platform, or are influential local associates. These are people whose influence is related to specific subjects such as employment, health, spirituality, personal development/education, politics, relationships, or any other specific subject matter. We refer to these influencers as having over us, relative-influence.
It should be understood that a person in your chain of relative influence or authority may not necessarily speak the truth or be well-informed when they provide you with information on any of these mentioned subject matters. People, especially those who are young or are experiencing a particular authoritative influencer for the first time, tend to assume such a personality to be bigger than life. They assume they are well informed, or genuinely motivated when they are older, have more time in business or on the job, have a PhD., or speak from a large, infamous, or well-funded local or national platform. Oftentimes, these influencers are well-known social media personalities or are given credence because they have published material on a subject that impresses followers.
This can be dangerous and can cause one to follow the wrong relative influence or authority. Consider that, when on the job, you associate with a fellow employee who has been with the organization for several years longer than you and seems to have some pull with the bosses. He seems very wise and has a great handle on how to accomplish the job. However, his attitude is that he knows better how to do that job than does the boss. Because of your appreciation for the individual, you begin to adopt some of his beliefs and tactics. As time goes by, you will likely adopt a similar rebellious attitude toward the employer and begin leaning more toward the ways of your coworker without consideration for the company. Now, consider what happens when more employees take on that same attitude and work style. How long will it take for the company to identify the corruption in your department, and what do you think the company will do to get the department back in line with company standards? What do you think the instigator will do to you to keep his or her job - stab you in the back?
In a different scenario, a young person raised to understand the value in and of the Lord goes off to college. They meet a professor in their philosophy class who stimulates their desire to be an independent thinker, all the while manipulating their thinking to agree with their own. It is often the case that the student so appreciates the authority and standing of the professor that they are led away from the standards their parents built into them. How long will it take for them to realize that they are not the independent thinkers they want to become? How far will they deviate from how they were raised, and how much damage will be done to their lives because they followed the wrong person or concept?
Now, let us get real: What does it look like when we allow ourselves to be exclusively led by a preacher or other spiritual leader? Ir is not uncommon for new Christians, or those who are not particularly committed to a full-on personal relationship with the Lord to put all of their efforts into following a human authority. Most of the time, it is the individual's belief that they are doing a good thing following a person who seems to have all of the answers and does indeed seem to possess a righteous concept of life. But know this: It is when lose contact with our responsibility to have a personal and abiding relationship with the Lord that the opinions and ways of humans impede our ability to learn what God really has to say. It is in these cases that man’s opinion corrupts the knowledge and learning path of the follower. It is my personal opinion that we have denominationalism because men have, over the years, allowed the opinions of men to creep into theological reason. However, this is not the subject of this article. What we are interested in today is what happens when we allow a perceived authority or popular personality to influence us.
We all love listening to a great personality preach. It is exciting to listen to a preacher or other spiritual influencer speak our language – so to speak. When we hear a popular speaker or our pastor make a comment or take a strong position on a subject that strikes a chord in us, we tend to perk up and listen. Pastors and public speakers know that it is necessary to get your attention at the beginning of their message if they are going to be able to hold you for the whole 45 minutes. They know who their audience is; they are going to use “hooks” that fit perfectly in the mouths of those who they want to listen to them. The concern is in the attention they command after the hook. Is the message one that is true or is it just an opinion that the speaker wants to promote - or worse, is it simply heresy? How will you know if you put such stock into the personality that you just believe everything they say?
Let us consider the popular speakers. According to Google, the following personalities are the top 25 most popular Christian personalities in the United States. Look at the list and pick 6 of them that you believe you would like to listen to.
· Billy Graham
· T. D. Jakes
· Joyce Meyer
· Rick Warren
· George Whitefield
· Paula White
· Andy Stanley
· Dwight L. Moody
· John Hagee
· John Piper
· Aimee Semple McPherson
· Eddie Long
· Creflo Dollar
· Charles Stanley
· Ted Haggard
· Timothy J. Keller
· Kenneth E. Hagin
· John F. MacArthur
· Robert Jeffress
· Greg Laurie
· Charles R. Swindoll
· Francis Chan
· Jerry Falwell
· Joel Osteen
Now, look at those you picked; do their theologies agree? Why this matters is because confusion can ensue when one denominational perspective clashes with another. When this happens, are you easily moved from a belief that you have held for some time, or does it cause you to question the rest of the speaker’s theology? Truly, putting all of your spiritual education or development in the hands of any one or several people because you believe they are trustworthy can be dangerous. So what can one do about this problem?
It is simple; do your own studying. Look outside of the box the speaker has established. In the case of the job, study the employee handbook and procedures manual, and ask the boss for guidance, instead of the obviously rebellious coworker. In the case of the college professor, do your own research, and consider that if the position of the professor makes you question your beliefs, question his or her beliefs. After all, this is the Scientific Method. In the case of your spiritual formation, back up all information by proving or disproving it using the actual authority on the subject. Take what you have learned from the speaker, pastor, mentor, or teacher to the authority, which is God, and His word. Just because something sounds good is not a good reason to just assume it is factual.
I am not suggesting that you should not listen to the teachings of your spiritual authorities and those who have popular or infamous platforms, but that you must filter everything you hear through a quality filter and that filter must be the Holy Bible. Like with the Scientific Method, it is a good idea to let the Bible do the proving or disproving. Know this, the Bible’s best interpreter is the Holy Spirit, not any one of the men in the Top 25 list. Many of these popular personalities are heretics to the truth while others have denominationaly accurate approaches to the Bible, but know this: The Bible has no respect for persons and if this is true, has no respect for man-made theology.
So, my message for this article is about to surprise you. It is my strong suggestion that you only allow yourself to be influenced by the proper relative authority, who would seem to be the boss in the case of the job, your own research in the case of the Ph.D., or your personal pastor in the case of spiritual development. This is not my suggestion. My suggestion is that in all things, look first to God and His Word for all discernment.
Matthew 28:18-20 18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
God has all authority in all things in Heaven and on earth. There is nothing in which God is to be kept out. He is the one who determines the way you should work, vote, or interact with your social group, he is the keeper of all that is true (even regarding science), and He is the only authority over your spiritual formation. If you are following God’s word carefully, you will be a quality employee, you will not be swayed from your truthful beliefs by someone with an evil agenda, nor will your theology be confused by those providing denominational preaching. Most importantly, heretical messages will not steal your confidence in God’s word or His will for your life.
Keep this in mind:
John 8:31-32 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Now, go join a church, participate in Sunday school, ask an elder to be your mentor, and become informed by listening and reading the words of great men in Christ, but learn by taking every instruction, training, and inspirational message to the holy word of God, where God will prove all He has for you to know.