To what extent are followers of Christ obligated to not just follow but to lead? Must all followers of Christ lead? Can that leadership be passive? Can I get away with leading “merely” by example? Or must I lead with active intent?
What did the Savior say? Certainly his instruction to “let your light so shine” (on a conspicuous candlestick, no less) was aimed at all of His followers. Likewise his identification of disciples as “the salt of the earth” seems like an admonition to all. To Peter, he said, “strengthen thy brethren” and “feed my sheep.” Can we excuse ourselves from doing the same by thinking he was speaking exclusively to a priesthood leader? I don’t think so.
In a talk given in 2001, Sherry Dew described righteous women who inherit eternal life as enjoying “eternal increase in… influence”—as well as wisdom, joy, and posterity—all things we desire in this life and not merely the next. Influence is a desirable and worthy possession. We should strive to both acquire it and exercise it as best we can – for the purpose of leading others to Christ.
How do we acquire influence? We care. We accept. We love. We offer real encouragement (not nagging or riding). We make it personal. We get involved with others and build friendships. Introverts may need to overcome some things – though being the life of the party isn’t a requirement.
The Savior acquired influence by spending time with people. He reached out to those who particularly needed reaching out to. He walked and talked with people, asked them questions, and provided relief. He certainly set an unwavering example of devotion to His Father in Heaven and to principles of love and commitment. His consistent example provided authority for his words.
You and I must set an example, but we must also strive to do more. We should be with people providing sincere love, acceptance, support, and encouragement. We should even dare to teach in the right ways. We should strive to influence for good and be intentional about it. It isn’t enough to set an example and hope somebody catches on – though whatever example we set, good or bad, others will most certainly “catch on.” We must seek to acquire and exercise influence for good.
According to Church Handbook 2, “being a faithful disciple in order to help others become faithful disciples—is the purpose behind every calling in the Church.” Further, it says there are four specific things we can do:
- Remember names and become acquainted with people. (Moroni 6:4)
- Love without judging. (John 13:34-35)
- Strengthen individuals “one by one.” (3 Nephi 11:15 and 17:21)
- Build friendships and visit with people. (D&C 20:47)
Those are things we can do!
The challenge: Increase our own discipleship, but don’t wait to be perfect before reaching out to others. Identify the people we can influence and develop sincere love, interest, and caring for them. Strengthen relationships and in our relationships provide encouragement toward greater discipleship of the Savior. Be sincere enough in our efforts that these relationships will endure beyond the unwillingness of others to more fully embrace the Savior. We can do this. Doing so brings great rewards to all of us.