We are busy. We balance work and family, home projects and recreational pursuits, responsibilities to others & ourselves. It’s hard enough to fit everything in, who in the world has time for church? I have found many reasons why I make time for church in my life. But influence is the one I’d like to focus on today.
It’s easy to forget the impact other people have in our lives. Our parents, friends, teachers, mentors, even acquaintances are part of the environment that serve to shape who we have become. We have not chosen many of the people who have touched our lives. But it’s the ones we choose, the ones we let “in” to our lives that influence us the most. And yet we too often ignore the importance of these choices in favor of the belief that we are fiercely independent and immune from the influence of others. The church becomes unimportant in such a worldview.
However, there is evidence all around us that we are influenced by others more than we care to believe. In 2011, there were 36 companies in the U.S. who spent more than $1 billion on advertising with the express purpose of influencing your decisions. These companies either wasted their money or they know something we want to ignore. Consider a restaurant study as it relates to how we are influenced… The waiter either brings a sweet mint with the bill or doesn’t. If he brought a mint, the tip was 3% greater. If 2 mints were given, the tip was 14% higher. If the waiter gives 1 mint and starts to walk away, but then returns to give another mint, the tip was 23% greater!
Let’s face it, we are influenced by others. This should be no surprise to any student of the Bible. Satan influenced Eve. Eve influenced Adam. And we’ve been influencing each other ever since. We influence for better or for worse those around us everyday. And we are influenced for better or for worse by those around us everyday. That’s because we are social beings. Like it or not, we need each other. We seek connections in life. Just like the wires in your house need to be connected to an outside source to provide the power you need in your home, you need to be connected with others outside of yourself to provide you with the power you need each day. Loneliness and depression have become an epidemic in this country for lack of meaningful sources of outside connection and power.
Church is simply the term we use to describe how God connects people together to influence one another and the communities in which they live. Bill Hybels has said that “the church is the hope of the world.” I have found this to be true in my own life. It was church that touched my life through the age of 18 when I went off to college. I then attended church, but was not part of the church for several years. During this time I took a journey into atheism as I wanted to deny my need for God or those who follow Him (church). It wasn’t until I was able to settle into a church community in Rockford, Illinois that I found my way back to God.
You will be influenced and you will influence. Who will you choose to be your influencers? And who will you choose to help you influence your community? My advice is to choose the church. Better yet, be the church. God uses the church to bring you hope and He wants to use you to bring hope to others. If you really care about your influence, why not try church?