In the last 10 years or so social media has become more and more popular. It was recently reported that around 3.4 billion people actively use social media. This figure accounts for about 45% of the world’s population. (We Are Social Report, January 2019)
This massive number of users has given rise to the emergence of a crop of individuals knowns as social media influencers. These ‘influencers’ are people who have built a reputation for themselves with particular expertise on a special area or perceived to have knowledge of a certain subject matter. As a result of their expertise, people look up to them and keenly pay attention to what these influences have to say about a specific topic or subject.
Some people become influencers by virtue of their celebrity status or fame. These people often have between 100,000 to millions of followers. There are others who build up their following by becoming experts on a particular subject. Many of these influencers make a lot of money because businesses and brand owners use them to promote their brands knowing that their followers tend to believe and trust their reviews.
Unfortunately, becoming a social media influencer has become very attractive to the point where some individuals ‘buy’ followers in order to attract brand owners. When such people express their opinions, they tailor it in such a way to promote the brand rather than give their followers a true assessment of that brand.
It is interesting to note that while many are desperately trying to make a name for themselves as social media influencers for the purpose of making money, Christians are called to be influencers in order to save lives. The Bible is full of influencers whose motivations were not selfish but aimed at speaking the truth to their followers even at the expense of offending them.One of such influencers was John the Baptist.
According to Matthew 3, people went out to John from Jerusalem and Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Now, that is definitely more than a mega church! You would expect John to say nice things to keep his followers but imagine what he says to the Pharisees and Sadducees when he saw them coming to where he was baptising, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3: 7 - 10)
What strong words! John was definitely an influencer who did not mince words when speaking to his followers because he knew that their very lives depended on them adhering to the message that he was passing across to them.
What about Jesus? When he walked the face of the earth, he was a great influencer. He not only taught and preached, He also touched many lives through healing, deliverance and waking up the dead. After Jesus miraculously fed the 5000, some people conspired to make him king by force. Knowing their minds and what they were planning to do, Jesus left the place and went into the mountains alone. In spite of the massive following He had, Jesus was focused on doing the will of His Father. Our lives, future and eternity was riding on it and He was not willing to compromise that for any kind of earthly fame.
When Jesus completed His mission on earth, He commissioned the apostles and by extension the Church today to “go and make disciples in all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and then teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
We have been called to be influencers in our world today. We don’t need a million followers on Instagram or Twitter to carry out this mission. We are to be God’s influence wherever we go. People may not necessarily like what we say or what we stand for but every opportunity we have to influence anyone we come in contact with should be utilised because we may be the only influence that would save that life.
Steve Popoola is the founder and editor of the Biblepraise newsletter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org