by Carter Brinkley, Student Minister
Recently I was talking with two men, each of whom is the father of a middle school student. We were discussing the societal and cultural differences their kids are facing that perhaps none of us had to face at their age. All of us shared an understandable concern over how students cope with the influences they encounter at school and elsewhere. These two fathers were wondering aloud, “How do we ensure that our kids are influenced by the right things?”
Specifically, these two fathers longed for their children to be influenced by and towards faith in Christ above all else. They are not unique in that desire. All of us who truly follow Christ are eager to see those around us drawn to faith—and greater faith—in Jesus. And God, by grace, has given us a share in the “ministry of reconciliation” [1 Corinthians 5:17-21]. We are called to use our faith in Christ to influence others to faith in Christ.
But that is a daunting task. Having an influential faith sounds good in theory, but as Mike Tyson once put it, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” When it comes down to it, the difficulties of living out an influential faith in the real world often cause us to retreat. We begin to fear that the loudest voices will become the biggest influence in not only our children’s lives but our friends, family, coworkers, and community.
I believe influence does not come merely from what people see but from what they see working. If we are to have an influential faith, it will not be because it is what those around us see the most and hear the loudest; it will be because they look at us and see that faith in Christ works.
Here are three questions to ask yourself if you are wondering how to develop a truly influential faith:
1. Is your faith actually working?
Sometimes it is easy to be caught up in loving the idea of living by faith rather than actually doing it. When we do this we become like those who Timothy warns of “having the appearance of godliness but denying its power” [2 Tim. 3:5]. You cannot convince anyone that Christ is worth their trust if you do not trust Him yourself.
2. Do others see your faith working?
Some restaurants have signature dishes for which they keep the recipe a secret. They do this so that others cannot do what they are doing. This may work in the food industry, but it makes no sense in regard to faith. The Gospel of salvation in Christ alone is supposed to change the way you live so that others will notice. But the Gospel is not a secret recipe; we are to live in such a way that others know the reason for our hope [1 Peter 3:15].
3. Is your faith replicable?
If you really want a faith that influences others, you must live in such a way that others see your faith as attainable. If your idea of living out your faith is to adhere to an impossible standard of morality, then no one will follow you. But this is what makes the Gospel of grace so good: Jesus met every standard for us and took our sin so that we might live out God’s will for us—not boasting in our own effort, but in the cross [Ephesians 2:8-10].
Whether you are a parent, friend, coworker, or neighbor, you are called by God to have an influential faith. It starts with having a faith that works because it is centered on the one who saves—Jesus Christ!