This is a guest post from internationally known writer and speaker, Phil Cooke. In episode 55 of the BoldIdea podcast, Phil and Jonathan Bock talked about how to recapture our credibility.

Most Christians would agree that when it comes to impacting our culture today we don’t actively pursue “power” as much as “influence.” But in the research for our book, The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Win it Back, we discovered that’s not how the culture views us. We discovered that most of the criticism of Christians today comes from a perceived pursuit of power. We did an informal, casual survey of nonbelievers we work with in the entertainment industry about what they dislike about Christians. The single biggest response was about influence—but it wasn’t what we expected. Instead of reporting that Christians were not influencing them enough, they said things like:

  • “Stop telling me how to live my life.”
  • “I’m sick of Christians trying to push their agenda on me.”
  • “Don’t tell me who I can marry.”
  • “Just leave me alone.”
  • “Stop shoving your message down my throat.”
  • “When did you become the lifestyle cop?”

After that experience, we looked it up in several different sources. Here are a handful of the words that could be used in place of the word influence: Power. Rule. Authority. Bias. Direct. Control. Instigate. Induce. Dominate. Persuade.

The truth is, even in our well intentioned efforts of trying to influence culture for the better, we must be very careful that we don’t convey the pursuit of power. In so many ways, it’s the exact opposite of the message Jesus preached, and yet it’s the single biggest reason many non-believers push back from the message of the gospel.

In his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey wrote: “As I read the birth stories about Jesus I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog.”

It’s a powerful reminder that when Christians pursue positions of power, it not only puts us in a dangerous position personally, but it creates a perception that can actually hinder our ability to share the gospel message.

But we want to change the world, so what do we do?

We lead. We inspire. We motivate. But most of all we love. And during it all, we should never forget to do it as Jesus did – in a Spirit of humility and service. Only then will we make the kind of mark that actually changes lives.