Understand Influence

Here is the first of a series we’re calling “Stories of Influence.” While not an example of “spiritual influence,”Albert Einstein’s work helps us understand the concept.

For much more on how to grow your influence in life and work, see the resources at The Influence Project.

The Influence Project logo


Time’s annual list of the most influential people includes social activists, leaders of industry, heads of state, scientists, artists, and religious leaders. They are leaders who make things happen, but always because there is some driving idea or ideal underlying what they do. That is where the power lies. Influencers are people who have a grasp of something under the surface, something hidden, which becomes the driving force of change in the world. Influence is power. Awesome power. With it some influencers destroy, others save.

And all influence comes out of the core reality of who the influencer is. People whose foundation is their faith in God have an extraordinary opportunity to do something more than influence people and organizations from their personal opinions, preferences, and goals. They can connect faith to their influence, whether their work is in the realm of business or the church or education or any other endeavor. They want to connect them because they know that is the way to effect enduring change, and they believe God is the ultimate influencer.

Today we need to look at the dynamics of spiritual influence as it is expressed in leadership. Now there is nothing new about linking influence with leadership. Many definitions of leadership in recent years include the idea. But the discussions often do not penetrate to the deeper meaning of influence. When used most simplistically, influence means persuading people, or selling them, or getting them to march to a certain drumbeat.

A better concept of leadership includes what happens both deep on the inside and on the outside. Influence is about the hidden forces that make visible results that have an enduring effect. It ties into the core spiritual realities believers know about because they understand the Creator of the universe to be the underlying power and influence behind all things good. Leaders who want to effect enduring change will take the time to understand the power and subtleties of influence. They are not content just to see things happen; they want to see people, organizations, movements, and even culture itself shaped in ways that last for a lifetime.

31 thoughts on “Understand Influence”

  1. Thank you for this insight. I always knew as Christians that we needed to be Christ like influences to the outside world, I guess I never realized the influences we make does affect the core of a human life.

    1. Thank you. I pray that we truly be an influence, by being the SALT & LIGHT . GOD BLESS YOU & ALL YOUR LOVED ONES.

    2. We have the greatest power of influence that there is, we have Jesus the Christ our Lord and Savior. He taught us that our role in life was to tend and care for our neighbors all around the world. He commanded us to go make disciples of all nations. Our lives , the way we live, a person next to us that we take action to care for is what counts. It is through the power of influence of Jesus that we are the light of the world and that by those actions or deeds they will hear His words. May the Holy Spirit work in all of our hearts building strong relationships as Saints in Gods kingdom.

  2. Thanks Mel. We all have a sphere of influence. The new year is a great time to reflect on our life and evaluate what kind of influence have we been to those around us. We can’t expect to be an influence with eternal consequences without first being influenced by the Holy Spirit. Looking forward to reading your book.

  3. Thanks for the reminder that we all have a sphere of influence, Mike. One of the things that has struck me is that influence is so much about proximity. When I ask groups of people to identify the most influential people in their lives, they always mention people whom they have known personally. Big personalities like Billy Graham and C. S. Lewis and Ronald Reagan are hugely influential, but the greatest influence on each of us happens by the people who are an arm length away. So I keep asking myself, who are the people that I have proximity to?

  4. Arvela Campagnard

    Thank you! It’s great to be influenced by the Spirit of God which in turns let me be of influence to my family, my community, my church! Thank you again to open my eyes. Be blessed!

  5. I am so excited to be able to listen and read about your ideas. I want more of Jesus to penetrate my whole being and all of my actions. This is going to be a great year! Thank you.

  6. Thank you Mel. Your insights support the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to produce Godly influence in the lives of the people we touch for lasting change. In this way we leave room for the Holy Spirit to facilitate the life journey as we share and learn from one another. God bless your work!

  7. Thanks for the comment, Jacqueline. It has been interesting researching the idea of influence, which most people think of as simply getting other people to do things. When you look at God as the main influence, however, it changes everything. We get to be part of how God is affecting the world, rather than viewing ourselves as the main players.

  8. The subculture of the church has surrendered to knowing and doing as a counter balance to a society that is self-indulgently experiential. A new balance could be pursued, but it must be fostered by real leaders. The pursuit is for balance between knowing and doing and experience and being.

  9. A much needed message and concept. The church today has compromised itself to the point that it is no longer an influential message to society. Today, people quote “athiests and movie stars” more than they quote Christian influential people. Our church congregations go to Sunday worship as though they were going to Wal-Mart. We do not stand out or stand apart, so how can we be very influential. This teaching is greatly needed and I hope it includes such things as being our best, looking our best, acting our best, and recognizing our influence can be regal if we truly believe we are royal……children of the King of Kings. You can’t get much better or higher than that if we would only recognize who we are because of who’s we are. And I don’t mean a superior presence or attitude, I mean a spiritual presence with a superior message. We start by loving others with a humble heart first of all; there is no greater influence than love. That will allow us to share the greatest influential person in all the world. God bless you.

  10. The essence of Christian schooling is the development of servant-leaders, to prepare them to influence their world. That’s been part of our mission statement for 20 years! 🙂 I think you’ve touched on an area that will resonate with all of us; I plan to use the video for devotions at this month’s teacher in-service — thank you!! Perhaps we’ll do a staff book study again next year…

  11. Good to hear from you, Kris. I have been thinking about educators as I have been working on the theme of spiritual influence. I’m glad to hear you think there is a convergence there. I would like to have a meeting with Christian educators sometime down the road to discuss this.

  12. Thank you so much for that profound thought. We in our country very much in need of Christians who would influence our community and the nation. Today we have so much of restrictions to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. But the Gospel must reach the unreached. I believe the only way it can reach the people by our testimony and integrity, which will influence the fellowmen, our society and even the government power too. The human nature is – any thing good in me they want it, they crave for it. It is universal. So every children of God must ask – “Am I influencing some one to consider Jesus Christ?” or “Am I an hindrance for the reaching of Gospel?”

    Pastor Mell, once again thank you so much for that reminder. God Bless You.

  13. Paul, thanks much for speaking into this from your part of the world. I was in India just last month and taught on this subject for a week. The discussion was strong and impassioned. I so admire the leaders I know from India like yourself, and your desire to see hundreds of millions of people find the grace and truth of Christ.

  14. George Papachristou

    Thanks for YOUR continued influence on so many lives!
    Your words are a great reminder that we all have the opportunity to be an influence on the lives of others….even if we don’t realize it at the time. It is part of the message the Bible gives us to live in such a way as to make others wonder the reason for our hope.
    God bless!

  15. Mel,
    My No Regrets Study group is currently studying how to be men of influence in the workplace. God asks us to act with love towards the people we serve as customers, co-workers and as managers. Your discussion on influence brings clarity to the fact that we do not realize the depth and power our behavior can have on others. We are given the opportunity every single day at work to influence everyone around us. We don’t have to search for a way to influence others, the opportunity is right in front of our faces every minute of every day. We simply need to rise up and take advantage of the moment. I am personally blessed with the chance to influence new lives every day as new customers come into my workplace. Thank you for sharing this message. It has come to myself and the men in my group at exactly the right time in our study! God is using you to influence us in a powerful way. I am grateful for your sphere of influence right now.

  16. Lance – I appreciate your impassioned plea. What I am hearing from many different sectors, and in different parts of the world, is that believers are very ready to take advantage of the opportunities before us now. We have failed to teach people about the many different ways they can be positive spiritual influences right where they are. I truly hope that we can unleash this untapped energy.

  17. Excellent. Your analogy with the underlying forces in nature is interesting and engaging. I pray my heart will perceive in order that I might lead.

  18. I have been influenced at work over the past few months by ungodly men who in their ignorance of God find a new way every day to alienate any one with a godly attitude.How have I been influenced?I suppose by the fact that I dread going there most days. gd and jc are regularly tossed around as easily as the word “the” is spoken.When I have asked that they not use the Lord’s name in vein,I am told not to preach at them. I guess you could say that my influence is beaten down by the fact that I am outnumbered 5 to 1. How can I effectively become an influence for them?Or how might I prevent their negative unglodly behavior from having a negative influence on my spirit?

    1. Dear Sir,
      You already are. You may not realize it, but you are doing God’s will. Jesus said that you are blessed when men persecute you. God told Ezekiel to speak, even if they refused to listen. And sometimes, people respond negatively in groups, but then later when they get all alone, they ponder…

  19. Influence happens every day in our lives to us and from us. It would seem that the better we prepared that influence the more positive it could become.

  20. Dear Anonymous, I too work in a difficult environment, in this case the sarcasm of those around me draws me back to how I lived before coming to Christ. The difference now is, I recognize that in myself as it bubbles up (influence of the Holy Spirit) and can now use prayer and spending time in the scriptures to maintain a more Godly perspective. But it is an ongoing spiritual battle.
    As to influencing them, simply be the man Jesus would have you be. The swearing at work began to decrease after I began mentioning “something interesting that my Pastor said last Sunday”. After a while, one of the guys began to ask questions about my faith. We are called to plant the seeds and allow the Holy Spirit do the work. Our influence is constant, the only question is whether it is a positive or destructive one. I’ll be praying for you Anonymous, God knows your name and your heart.

  21. Mel,
    This piece is wonderful. I’ve always been impressed more by great men than a beautiful sunset, or something else like that. Albert Einstein wasn’t the only great man in that video…he just happened to be the most well known. You are so genuine!

  22. Thanks for the words in the video, Mel, great replies for this issue of influence, thanks to all…! Education is a such powerful tool. I am an educator myself, I have never studied pedagogy formally but one day I felt the desire to teach, some 20 years ago. I started and never stopped, and in the midst of that I became a Christian. Only then I realized why I had become a teacher! It has such a tremendous potential to show Jesus through actions, attittudes, words, gestures, and of course knowlegde. People never forget the touch of God thru us (if we let Him). Praise God for that because He was the always first to enter the classroom, and I just had to be there, willing and waiting upon Him to move.
    I always have this in mind: that above all Jesus cared for the receiver of His message, the person within, his needs. He still does today, and I am to follow Him in that too, as my Master.
    So we just wait upon Him … Psalms 46:10-11
    He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

    11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

    The word “influence” is the most accurate word for this! Thanks!

  23. Wow . . what a powerful statement. Yes Pastor. Mell ever since I met you, you have influenced my life. Today God has been using me to influence hundreds of people. The latest one is, I have been training a group of people in the prison, they are convicts. After I left from the prison, I received such wonderful letter from few of the convicts expressing how they were touched. One man who has been in the prison since last 15 years, he said this was the first time that he was able to see the other side of his life, he felt there is HOPE. and he was begging me to go back to visit him and teach him more skills. Thank you again and God bless you.

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