The world we live in right now is a funny world. We elevate people to rockstar status from a wide variety of platforms that have a little bit of charisma and self-confidence. We see it in just about every single area of life. If you portray the right image in the business world, then you are given influence and power. If you portray the right image in music, you are literally given rockstar status and get to be a judge on a singing show. If you portray the right image in Hollywood, you are given influence and political voice. If you portray the right image in sports, you are given influence and status. Sadly enough, if you portray the “right image” in the church you are given influence and rockstar status there too. In fact it really is a sad state that everywhere you turn, people who have not earned the right to have influence have been given it because of their image.
I would argue that image can gain you influence, but eventually character has to match that image or your influence will quickly be gone. But if your influence is built on character, then your image is one of authenticity and truth. It is the real you. In fact, there is no better you to show people than your authentic self. When you care more about influence than you do about image, God will use you to change the world.
The world is quick to give rockstar status to anyone with a cool image. In my world of church leadership this happens all the time. Now don’t mis-hear me, God uses people on his platform all the time. I am humbled and honored to get to be one of them. However, I am constantly reminded by God and by others that it is not MY platform I am building, it is HIS. As I was reading and prepping for a message a few weeks ago, there is section of Scripture where Jesus tells Simon these words, “Your name shall be Peter and on this rock I will build my church.” Notice what he does not say. He does not say on this rockstar I will build my church. He does not say that Peter is to build his own platform for his image. He does not say to get some skinny jeans, grow a beard, and drink free-trade coffee…(ok, all those are great, and he probably had a beard, but not the point). Jesus was not telling Peter to build his own image, he was telling him to influence the culture for and with Jesus.
Jesus mission was to always help people know the grace and saving nature that comes from him. In fact Jesus himself was constantly telling people after he healed them not to tell anyone about him. Interestingly enough, he cared more about influence than he did image, and as a result his influence spread. So what does image vs. influence really look like?
- Image cares about self, influence cares about others.
- Image cares about what people see, influence cares about what nobody sees.
- Image must be managed, influence must be nurtured.
- Image is fleeting, influence is staying.
- Image tends to be harsh, influence tends to be gracious.
- Image can happen overnight, influence takes years to establish.
- Image is manufactured, influence is authentic.
In a world that is full of those that long to have the right image and right status, Jesus calls us to be a people with the right character and the right influence. True influence is realizing that Jesus is not going to build his church on a rockstar, but is going to build his church on the cornerstone that is himself. May we care more about how we influence others than how we project what we want them to think we are. May we care more about them seeing Jesus elevated than about them seeing us elevated. May we truly be a people that influences an image-saturated world.