Everyone Has Influence :: Influence Is A Gift

At Gateway Church in Austin, we started a new series, Everyone Has Influence .

Each of us is given a measure of influence to build each other up, to serve one another, and to help the people around us become the best version of themselves. Have you taken the time to explore how your personal leadership can make a real difference? What will you choose to do with the influence God has given to you?

Next Steps

These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.



Everyone has influence. You have Influence. Do you believe that? If you don’t, I hope you do by the end of this 3 week series.  Influence: the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.  You have that capacity—it’s God given, it’s a gift. But it does matter how you steward your influence—some people squander the influence they’ve been given, some develop it and boldly use it for good and it has a huge ripple effect across society. Maybe you’re saying “No, not me. I don’t have influence. I’m shy. I’m not special. No one follows me.  But I want to challenge you stop thinking about yourself that way—instead—start thinking about how God created you to have influence. Not because you’re great, but because God is great. And because he has given you the opportunity to have influence. All influence requires is interaction with people—and we all have that ability—right!? The real choice is whether you will influence for good. If there were ever a time for Christ-followers to be a good influence, now is the time—right?

Think about all the challenges our world faces right now. I’ve never seen our country so divided, battling so many evils, injustices, struggles—racism, terrorism, drug abuse enslaving so many, families blown apart at alarming rates, children feeling unwanted and shuffled about, anxiety at an all-time high, lack of trust and ethics in business leadership, no loyalty among employees, little trust in government, or any institution. Then you have Isis, N. Korea, geo-political instability, fears of economic collapse, on and on.

What are Christ-followers to do?  Too often, we just curse the darkness.  Social media gets lit up with Christians bemoaning how the world’s going to hell in a hand-basket, complaining and being antagonistic to everyone who doesn’t agree.  And that’s not actually helpful. God calls us not to curse the darkness, but to light a candle using the Gift of Influence He’s given us. You CAN have an influence—no matter how dark things get—in your home, in your school, workplace, in your neighborhood.  God can change your world through you.

That’s the story of Daniel and his friends in the book of Daniel.  God gives us these real-life stories so that we can learn how God works as we trust him. God can use your influence, even in the darkest imaginable places.  Because you think it’s bad now, it can get much worse. That’s where Daniel begins. The year is about 600 B.C.  Nebuchadnezzar is most powerful King in the world—ruling from Babylon (modern day Iraq), which was a military and cultural center—hanging gardens of Babylon, incredible Zoo, conquered most of known world, and God had taken his protection from Israel when they kept rebelling against him for decade after decade, so the Jews had been conquered and deported to Babylon. Babylon was corrupt and evil.  King Nebuchadnezzar is a narcissitic meglamaniac who will set up a huge golden statue of himself and demand everyone bow down to it, or be killed (so it can get worse). And you thought your company had a strict non-compliance policy. They worshipped Marduk and other gods that the Jews saw as demonic—they were into the black arts—mocked Yahweh.

And yet, here’s how it starts off: Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand…. Daniel 1:1-2 Here’s the first thing you have to understand—God is everywhere, and he can work anywhere, through anything. God is present and able to work good, even in the most corrupt governments, the most unethical/backbiting/evil workplaces, the most depraved school environments, the most godless neighborhoods.  God’s not afraid of that, and we shouldn’t be either. Sometimes, he calls us boldly into those dark places to be a light.

That was the case with Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar took some of the teenagers into his training program to indoctrinate them with Babylonian culture and training. Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. You may think—wow, chosen for leadership development—what an honor. But the first class was Castration 101.  Apparently the boss didn’t want any young leaders messin with his harem. So about a sterile work environment—Imagine being forced to move across the country, to a work environment that felt more like slavery, where your religion and values are mocked and persecuted, then you’re indoctrinated in their Pagan ways, while your dignity is assaulted—in fact, cut off. Imagine. Some of you are saying “How did you know what my office is like?”

And yet…Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego ended up having so much influence, it changed an evil king and and evil kingdom for good. Seem impossible?  It’s not impossible—no matter where you find yourself—God is still in control, God is still there, and God has you there to be a positive influence. What he can do in the most impossible situations is possible—if you’re willing.

You can be a positive influence that changes your world.  I don’t care who your are, what you’ve been through, or how bad the environment.  God has given you the gift of Influence—what will you do with it? Let’s look at how Influence works through the life of Daniel and his friends, cause there are some important principles of Influence that’s true whether you have positional influence—like CEO, manager, leader—or if you have no positional authority at all.  You can have influence regardless.

Influence Starts with Conviction – You know what’s wrong with the world? Most people just follow, few gain the conviction to positively influence others.  Following is easy. It’s like floating down the Blanco River. Last summer, we did a fun-day with our staff on the Blanco river. You get in an innertube, get into the river, and just sit and chat while the river takes you downstream.  Floating with the current is easy, relaxing. But at one point, we went through this chute where the current was strong, but then decided it was so fun, we wanted to do it again—only problem—the ladder to get out was upstream. Oh my gosh did it take effort and energy to paddle upstream.

Jesus explained it this way right before he was crucified: 18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world…Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. John 15:18-20 He’s not talking about the world as in the creation, or even people—God created that world, loves that world, Jesus died for that world.  But sometimes the word “world” is used to mean the “World’s system.” The world’s system is like a current that flows away from God and His ways—it’s inspired by evil that hates God and his ways—and that’s the river we are all born into. A world is flowing people away from God and God’s will and ways.

That’s why left alone, races flow apart and against each other. Ethnic nationalism and tribalism flow into genocidal holocausts, marriages drift apart, and scatter children like garbage along the river banks. Floating downstream leads to greed and power corruption until everyone’s out for themselves. Unethical practices, backbiting office gossip and politics, cheating each other, fudging the truth—whatever benefits us is where we flow.

But to lead, requires swimming against the current of what everybody else is doing. That requires conviction.  Influence starts with Conviction. Conviction is like a tree in the middle of the River you grab hold of and hang on to.  Daniel changed Babylon because with a conviction: But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. Daniel 1:8-9  Daniel wouldn’t eat the Babylonian food, because Jews followed a kosher diet, and the King’s leadership development program was bacon & eggs for breakfast, pepperoni pizza for lunch, and pork loin for dinner.  For a devout Jew, it would be like saying to you in work, I’m gonna give you the largest account to manage, but you have to do whatever the client wants—abhorrent sexual favors included. That’s what this would be like. But notice–God had given Daniel favor in the eyes of his immediate boss. Why?  Because God was there working and God saw Daniel had a conviction about serving God first—that’s all God needed to give Daniel the gift of influence. Daniel had courage and conviction that God was sovereign, in control, and if Daniel followed God it would be worth it. But conviction against the current takes guts.

I remember when I was in Chevron’s Leadership Training for managers. I had told God, I want to serve you first. That got tested right away. I was invited to a Leadership class on communication with my boss and his boss and their peers. I was youngest in the room. The first assignment, you have 10 minutes to prepare a 3 minutes speech – the topic, “What’s most important to you in life?” I spent the next 9 minutes wrestling with God about how this was career suicide to talk about Jesus—totally against the flow. It was like God was saying, “Me first? Really? Let’s see it.” I got up and talked about why Jesus was most important to me. I sat down, the person next to me said “that took guts—but didn’t say “guts”. Because of that, 3 people talked to me about their faith, so I started a lunchtime discussion about Jesus—24 people ended up coming. Several came to faith, one engineer’s marriage was saved because she and her husband found faith, and I ended up getting promoted and offered a 2 year leave of absence when I said I was going to seminary.

Here’s the thing—conviction and the confidence to influence others for good is not a matter of giftedness, charisma, position or status—it’s knowing who you are, whose you are, and what you stand for.  Do you know that? If you say you follow Christ, is He your leader you live for and work for?—When the neighbors are flowing the other way, do you follow them, or follow Jesus? Or when everyone’s doing it, and it may mean you lose accounts, or your job, but it’s God’s ways or company ways—where’s your conviction?—Who are you?, Who do you serve?, What do you stand for. You can have incredible influence—but not without conviction

Influence Grows by Considering Others – Influence is relational. Think about the most influential people in your life—the people who shaped or changed you the most—the people you admire, respect, want to be like.  I’ll bet they built you up, empowered you, called out the best in you—they gave you encouragement or opportunities to become a better you. Your influence grows when you stop thinking about being great, or being an influence, and you start thinking about empowering others to be great.

Influence is different than positional authority.  Positional authority can control or force people to do things, but that doesn’t change the world. Influence is relational—it can come with positional authority, but it doesn’t need authority, and in fact the best leaders are the ones who first learned to influence others through relational empowerment rather than authority.  BTW, good companies will quickly spot influencers and promote them because they don’t need position to have a positive influence. If you’re complaining that you can’t get promoted, no one’s giving you influence, stop focusing on position—start serving others relationally—you’ll get promoted because you’re helping people and therefore the company.

Daniel goes to his immediate boss, who he had already built a good relationship with, and asked him if they could skip the bacon, pepperoni and pork because it was against his convictions.  Now, notice something “He ASKED”. Daniel was respectful, honored the authority over him, even though he didn’t agree with his religion or values or methods. He didn’t come in with a haughty, arrogant, pious attitude and demand his religious freedom.  

And I say that because, sometimes, I’m shocked when I talk to business leaders or managers who are not Christians and I hear them complain about Christian employees when they find out I’m a pastor.  They complain about an arrogant or combative spirit, a lack of respect for authority, not doing their best—and I want to say “Well, they’re not following Jesus—they may call themselves Christian, but Jesus taught us to honor authority, and do our best, as if serving God, not people.”

Now Daniel has also read the prophet Jeremiah where God said to the Jewish exiles headed into this horrible, evil environment in Babylon:  “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city [Babylon] to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you.” Jeremiah 29:7-8   2 important things to note, you may feel like you are in a totally godless work environment, but it may be that God has you there for a purpose—to be His ambassador, His servant. And we are always called to serve God and do our best, helping the company succeed unless it’s doing harm to what God wants—we should seek the prosperity of that company. And as a church we should bless and prosper our city!

That’s why we went to the Mayor, City Council, and Police 7 years ago and asked “If we could get churches to work together to serve our city—what could 1000s of volunteers do to help most?” They said, teach 3rd graders to read—if a kid is not reading by the 5th grade, they fall behind in middle school, drop out in high school, and that increases drug abuse, drug dealing, teen pregnancy, even incarceration rates.  Do you know 7 years later, the city is amazed because the churches are mentoring 2000 kids weekly—its influencing the city for good, and giving the church favor and pointing people to the God who is for all people.  

But what do you do when your values clash with other’s values? Daniel looked for a win-win that would help promote his immediate supervisor and help his 3 friends.  He didn’t just demand his way, he looked for a win-win solution, what was good for all. He said, how about this–“Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.  Daniel 1:12-14  Daniel trusted that God’s ways would Daniel and friends succeed and therefore help his boss succeed—a win-win for everyone.  And sure enough the Daniel Plan diet worked—At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished… Daniel 12:15 than all the others. Which you Vegans and Vegetarians are all excited about—aren’t you—now you have to read the book of Daniel.  

But Daniel thought about the needs of his boss, and friends, and found a win-win. And that’s what influence does—it builds up others, it thinks about how to help others succeed, even while staying true to your convictions. So Daniel and his friends do their best—to learn and work hard at the King’s Leadership program—and 18 When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. 20 Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom. Daniel 1:18-20

Do you want to have your influence grow at work—ask God to show you how to do your best for the company, help your boss succeed, and build up other employees, not just those who can promote you, but everyone you interact with. Stop thinking about your own success, and find ways to help others succeed. Don’t ever hide why you do this—to serve and honor God.

Betsy Lawson, who had a huge influence on many people at Gateway, came to faith as a business consultant because she had an assistant who made these “beautiful spreadsheets” Betsy said. She would stay late, work overtime, to make the elaborate spreadsheets for Betsy. Betsy told her, “You don’t have to work late or make them so elaborate.” The woman said, “It’s okay, I don’t mind the extra work because I’m doing it for God.” That comment wedged in Betsy’s heart like sand in an oyster shell, and ultimately led her to faith.

Daniel does this—he uses his God given gifts to serve this evil king, always pointing to God as the source: The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret.” 48 Then the king appointed Daniel to a high position and gave him many valuable gifts. He made Daniel ruler over the whole province of Babylon, as well as chief over all his wise men. 49 At Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be in charge of all the affairs of the province of Babylon. Daniel 2:47-49  

Great Influence Empowers Others – Daniel goes from castrated slave to ruler of the whole province of Babylon—but he doesn’t stop there—he empowers his friends so they have an even bigger influence together than they ever could alone.  Daniel used his growing influence to develop others to be influencers as well. You can too.

How? By first passing on your convictions. The only difference between you and great men and women is how great your convictions are. Daniel had great convictions—worth dying for—and that influenced many others to have conviction too.

Ghandi changed history of two countries because he was willing to die for the conviction that non-violence and love for your enemies can conquer any evil or injustice (a conviction that came from studying Jesus). Martin Luther King had the conviction that dignity and equality was a God-given right for all people—these men were willing to die for their convictions—and that’s why so many were empowered to do the same.  Mother Theresa had the Conviction that the forgotten and outcast mattered to God, and she gave her life to serve the most destitute—that great conviction made her a great influence. All these people had a great influence because of how great their convictions were. Great conviction inspires others. What are you willing to die for? That’s a question worth answering—because then you’ll know what to live for. And if you stand on nothing great enough to die for, you stand for nothing great at all.  

Then empower others by giving away power and authority, and encouraging others to be influential. God will grow your influence, just like Daniel and his friends, as you start with the conviction that it’s God you serve and follow first, then do your best to serve and help others succeed. Then lead others to do the same.  Inspire, motivate, Empower others to be part of changing your world with you.

Same principles apply to influence in your neighborhood, find out what others value and help them succeed—be the one to bring others together to have fun, meet each other, your influence and opportunity will grow. You want to have influence through your kids, model for them and teach them how to build up others—it always increases our influence. At your school—don’t just go with the flow, decide what you stand for—have convictions about God and instead of gossiping and cutting down outsiders, go include those left out, and challenge others to join with you—watch your influence grow.

Last week some of us were visiting our partners, Mission of Hope, in Haiti. 20 years ago, Brad and Vanessa Johnson watched a baby die of malnutrition while visiting Haiti—completely preventable. They came to the conviction God wanted them to sell all, move to Haiti and do something. But what could Brad and Vanessa do—not much. None of us can have a great influence alone—but when we build up others, inspire and empower others, serve together, God does incredible things.  In Partnership with Brad and Vanessa, and all of you, 6 years ago, Gateway hired 3 village champions, Haitians living in Simonette, a village of about 6000 people in severe generational poverty—together we empowered them to get to know every person, and working through the churches, to map the needs and empower that community. Where the water used to cause dysentery among children and adults, now they all have clean water. Every child in that village is in school getting educated now, daily nutrition, learning about Jesus and how to be the generation that leads Haiti out of deep poverty. There are sanitary latrines in place of disease-ridden open sewage. It’s changed the village—and now we’re meeting with another village to do the same there.  90,000 children are being fed and educated daily by Mission of Hope—almost all the staff are Haitians. 2 people can’t do that—not Brad and Vanessa, not you or me—but that’s what’s happened in 2 decades because Influence Empowers Others and Life by Life that spreads and God changes the world through us. How will you let God expand your influence—it’s a gift. Think about how you will expand it as you see all the great things we are doing together around the world.


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