“I figured since you listened to it, it’s fine.”
That sentence, so casually spoken by my younger sister, made my stomach drop. True, the song was fine. The artist was fine. But it was a brutal reminder I am always being watched. Studied. Emulated. I’m always influencing.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in some form of leadership, whether it’s being a big sister; coaching my sister’s soccer team or playing on volleyball, basketball, or soccer teams myself; somehow being the one those in my homeschool group assumed was the leader; being the one friends talked to and sought advice from regarding topics ranging from boys to potentially life-threatening struggles; the one whose shoulder friends cried on; and the one whom my sisters’ friends looked and listened to during the homeschool co-op days.
More so, my sister always watches. Listening how I react when I’m impatient, angry, frustrated, tense, or in dealing with those I dislike. Watching how I approach, deconstruct, and argue against the unending slew of unbiblical causes and ideas the world pushes in our faces and demands we accept. Seeing what I watch, read, say, and listen to.
Dear writer, maybe you aren’t a leader. Maybe you’re content being the one who follows that person leading the charge and shouting the battle cry. Maybe you don’t want to be a leader. The thought of people watching your every move and listening to your every word, the thought of people placing you in a high enough position that your actions and deeds influence them may give you chills or make you nauseous. That’s okay. The world needs both leaders and followers.
But, fellow writer, though you may not be too keen on being a leader – or even if the thought doesn’t bother you – there’s a serious reality check you must realize.
You are a leader.
You are being watched.
Your words and the things and topics you advocate for and advise against are influencing others.
Whether you blog, write books, or do both, you are a leader. Your writing holds influence. Whether your platform is massive or has ten followers, you are a leader. People read your words.
With the written word, we influence others. Just think about the authors and bloggers that influence you. Do you hang on their every word? Devour what they write? I can guarantee you’ve been influenced in some way by their books, blogs, or social media posts.
Just as we are influenced by the written word, so do we influence others.
The thought of just one person being influenced by our writing can be both thrilling and terrifying. That’s why it’s so important to comprehend our influence. Not how far it reaches, or how powerful it is, for regardless of which end you are on, you still influence. No, comprehending influence is coming to the realization that we have the ability to alter lives, thoughts, actions, views, and hearts.
Leadership is not easy. It’s gritty, hard, and requires we watch what we say and do. With one word, whether written or verbal, we can change a life. With one action, whether seen or mentioned in a post or blog, we encourage others to do as we do.
The Bible is clear about the ramifications of leadership failure. Matthew 18:6 says, “[W]hoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea”.
Christ is speaking of causing children to stumble, but the point is clear. If we cause others to stumble and sin, it’d be better to have a millstone around our neck and drown. Look up a millstone. The best swimmer or the world’s strongest man couldn’t swim with one of those things around their neck.
The Bible also says in James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”.
Yes, leaders have it hard, and God will hold us to higher standards because we possess the potential to lead others astray. Let me be clear on this: we have no control over those who follow us. We cannot control what they believe, say, or do. If they’re nasty, that’s not on us. What this speaks of is knowingly encouraging others to follow or believe that which is contrary to God’s word.
To this I must issue a solemn warning: be careful who/what you recommend. How can our writing influence others for the truth when we ourselves are lead astray?
In this age of internet, technology, hand-held devices, and speakers, teachers, and organizations galore, we are bombarded with words and falsehoods disguised as truth. Unfortunately, not everyone or every group beneath the Christian umbrella is as they claim to be. Remember these verses:
“And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” – Matthew 24: 11
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” – 2 Peter 2:1-3
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
These are but a few reminders that not everyone who says they’re a Christian really is. We cannot see the hearts of men, nor declare in general who is and who is not saved, but we can get a pretty good idea on those who are wolves in sheep’s wool based on their actions. Namely, what they preach, who they elevate and join with, and what they do.
Consider who and what influences you. What do they say? What do they do? Who do they recommend deserves your following based on who they link hands with?
We need to be careful, fellow writers. We influence others, yes, but one source of influence must come from another. How and what we influence others with springs from who and what influences us.
Matthew 7:13-14 speaks of two gates, one wide and one narrow. The wide one leads to destruction, but is traversed by many. The narrow one leads to life, but is entered by few. There are many so-called Christian groups and organizations who, unfortunately, have not entered the narrow gate. Now, recall what I said above. Only God knows if someone is saved, but we can get a decent idea if they are or aren’t based on their actions.
There are many who do not align with God and His word. The following groups and names are but a few of those who, regrettably, do not align with God. Be wary of the songs they sing and the messages they speak.
- Elevation Worship
- Cory Asbury
- Joyce Meyer
- Beth Moore
- Andy Stanley
- The Gospel Coalition
- Tim Keller
- JD Grear
- Rick Warren
- Priscilla Shrier
- Todd White
Please, do not take my word for it. One quality of a good leader is to go to the source and investigate for themselves. Research these individuals and organizations. Protestia and Reformation Charlotte have some good articles about false teachers and heretics.
There are many secular groups that demand we adhere to their unbiblical views as well. It’s okay to allow secular influences influence you, but be cautious. Be very cautious. Many organizations/groups/whatever-other-categories-they-fall-into are not okay. Some may look like it on the surface, but you don’t need to dig very deep to understand they’re antiBible, antiGod, and antifaith.
Be careful. Not all that is popular is good. When we take what someone or a group says as truth, and forego being a Berean, we run the weighty risk of letting that influence us. It leaks into our writing, thereby leading others astray. And, as we saw in the aforementioned verses, it is not a good thing if we lead others astray.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. Dear writers, if our hearts are tainted, through our writing we will taint others.
Leading is scary, especially when you didn’t ask to be put in that position. But we shouldn’t be afraid to lead. Our words can bless, guide, and influence others for the better. As I’ve contemplated this post, it has occurred to me that writing is an extension of the writer’s heart. What we believe, struggle with, hate, love, and hold dear will emerge. Readers will pick up on that and be influenced by it. We must guard our own hearts and minds, for by doing so we can help others guard theirs.
We will not be perfect leaders. We will not be perfect writers. We cannot control who follows us, who we influence. But if we focus on keeping our writing centered around God and His Truth, we need not worry about leading others astray. Take encouragement in that, and do not be afraid to influence others.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include at least one song. Why? Because Madi is a music freak and believes songs can teach valuable lessons and provide oft-needed reminders.
In “Lions” by Skillet, John Cooper sings, “We’re not waiting for permission/We defy our inhibition/ Like our middle name is “fearless”/ Unafraid“.
Fellow writers, be fearless. Be unafraid. Realize God has given you the honor of influencing others for His glory. Charge ahead in your writing. Be courageous and bold as you write for Him.
You have these words, this desire to write, for a reason. Use them. Pray for God’s will to be revealed. And, above all else, dedicate your writing to Him. He will guide you and your writing journey. Write every word according to truth, according to the Bible.
Next week, Lord willing, I will have Part Two of this up about how to be a leader. If you have thoughts to add, experience or wisdom to contribute, questions about the false teachers/heretics listed above, questions about other artists or groups, or just want to discuss the struggle of knowing you influence others (or, if you just want to discuss life in general), I’d love to connect and talk with you. Let’s encourage each other as we walk together and strive to write for Him.
A REMINDER FOR WRITERS SERIES