In the secular world, the word “influencer” has become a common buzzword for certain celebrities, industry experts and social media personalities who all have an agenda — and not always a positive or godly one.
In his book “Authentic Influencer: The Barnabas Way of Shaping Lives for Jesus,” Dallas Theological Seminary professor, pastor and author Jonathan Murphy notes, “Influence matters. It happens all around us. It’s not a question of whether it occurs, but what type is occurring.”
Discipleship occurs when a person influences others to become more Christlike, countering the negative influence, he writes.
Barnabas’ discipleship made a tremendous impact on the lives of the Apostle Paul and John Mark. However, because he is only mentioned a few times in Acts, people can miss him.
“[Barnabas] didn’t write a book. … He isn’t world-famous. … We don’t have his sermons like we do Paul’s … and Peter’s. So we can connect with him a little bit more. He’s like us. He’s just an ordinary Christian who served Jesus wherever Jesus put him,” Murphy said. “But if you paused and stopped and watched what he did, you’d be amazed at the influence he had.”
Barnabas affected others by shaping and launching them into God’s plan for their lives, Murphy asserts.
“It’s more than evangelism. It’s discipleship and formation of others … Because Barnabas invested himself and his time into the likes of Paul … Paul became the man he became,” Murphy explained.
“We knew of Paul in light of who he became, but Barnabas didn’t know Paul in light of who he became,” he continued. “Barnabas made it his life’s ministry to produce what Paul became.”
“There are very few Billy Grahams. There are very few Chuck Swindolls. There are very few Apostle Pauls. But the rest of us have a role to play,” Murphy said.
Murphy wrote “Authentic Influencer” as a nod to the way he was influenced during his upbringing.
He grew up in a Christian home. His parents were Baptist missionaries who served in Spain and the United Kingdom, where community life revolved around being with each other and worshipping and serving the Lord together. He’s thankful to have been influenced by his parents as well as mentors who poured themselves into him.
“I had benefited from the influence of just ordinary Christians [who made] me want to follow Jesus and serve Him. In the Scriptures, I saw a lot of characters who also were somewhat unknown — they were just regular people God used to spread the gospel and to influence and make disciples of the nations.”
Due to the way he was raised, Murphy naturally leaned toward the secondary characters in Scripture, like Barnabas.
“Authentic Influencer” weaves together 15 key principles about influencing others for God through the stories and examples of ordinary people who became influencers. Each chapter features a section called The Barnabas Way, which expounds on these principles through Scripture and what is known about Barnabas’ life.
Completing each chapter are sections called The Barnabas Way Through You and Some Food for Thought, which include action steps and questions for reflection.
Murphy is excited about what can happen if ordinary Christians are mobilized to reach out to and serve those they encounter every day, while leaving the results to Christ.
He noted that the Church in the West has drifted into an attitude of “I go to church. I help my local church, but really it’s the pastors and ministry leaders that reach people and disciple people. What could I ever do?”
“The pastor, the preacher or the author can’t get into that family or that neighborhood or that relationship or that workplace. But God has [placed influencers] there — if you just see their lives and the sphere of light where God has put them as the sacred space where God has called them to [be an] influence for Christ,” he suggested.
He believes strongly that if Christians believe they have influence, society can become very different.
“A lot of Christians just don’t believe they have anything to offer and that discourages them. … When they look at somebody like Barnabas, they can see … Barnabas was kind of like a part farmer, part missionary, part pastor, part mentor, part postman. He was just willing to do whatever God asked him to do,” Murphy asserted.
“He can inspire people to go, ‘I might not think I have anything to offer, but my little influence does make a big difference in the long term in somebody’s life.’ If Christians caught that, we could represent Jesus in the 21st century in a way that is remarkable.”
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