'The difference between noise and influence is relationship'
We can refine our message until it’s perfect, then pump it out with every piece of technology we can find - but if we don’t connect with any real people who are willing to listen, it may not bear the fruit it could.
Andy Flannagan introduces the Influence Course from Christians in Politics
How much do you know about Obadiah? If you’re anything like me, not very much. That’s because he worked behind the scenes – you could say he was the sound guy to Elijah’s worship leader.
King Ahab has been leading Israel astray, dabbling with other gods and Elijah is told to challenge him. But Elijah doesn't just rant about this dysfunctional political leadership from the desert, screaming into the ether on social media and drumming up signatures for his “Down with Baal” petition. Instead he seeks a connection with an actual human being.
Obadiah managed Ahab’s palace and affairs and it couldn't have been easy for this God-fearing civil servant to be present at the heart of a regime that was doing such damage to God’s honour. But he stayed. He was faithful. Then at the right moment he meets Elijah and is perfectly placed to broker a very unlikely meeting. The distant is brought close.
So the rap battle to end all rap battles takes place on Mount Carmel. The prophets of Baal suffer total humiliation and an impossible bonfire that even Bear Grylls couldn't have managed leaves a lasting impact on the consciousness of the people of Israel. But it wouldn’t have happened without the event management skills of Obadiah. It’s as important to be holding the clipboard as it is to be holding the microphone.
Elijah constantly confronted King Ahab from outside the court. We need brave people like him. But fewer of us are working on the inside like Obadiah. We need more brave people like HIM. Let's face it – it’s much more exciting to see dry altars burst into flames, than to be forwarding emails around a government department. Elijah gets to be the hero of Sunday School stories. Obadiah – not so much.
We can refine our message until it’s perfect, then pump it out with every piece of technology we can find, but if we don’t connect with any real people who are willing to listen, it may not bear the fruit it could.
The difference between noise and influence is relationship.
If the very nature of God is a set of relationships, could it be true that the kingdom of God never moves faster than the speed of relationships?
We live in a noisy world. There is so much information, but not much wisdom. How do we filter it? How do we work out which words to believe? We believe what’s said by people we know and trust. So wouldn’t it be better if people were hearing our message from people they know and trust?
Making noise helps us feel better, but may not be so great for the rest of the world.
Noise makes you move away from some-thing. Relationship draws you closer to some-one.
Christians know how to make noise. It’s in our DNA. Whether it’s trumpets at Jericho, cymbals in the Psalms, or worship bands with intolerably huge PAs. We can mobilise huge numbers of people to march to make poverty history, send emails about climate change, or write letters about abortion. But can we make the journey from disconnected commentators to wired-in participants who are being salt and light in the midst, rather than at the edge of society?
Do we just want to feel like we’ve done our duty or do we want to have real influence? If so, we need to do the hard yards of relationship-building. It may not be fast and it may not be pretty, but we will learn and be transformed in the process, and it may just lead to moments when like with Elijah, impossible and beautiful things cause everyone to stop and stare and say, “The LORD – he is God”.
But if you’re wondering how on earth to even start taking those sort of steps into public life then there is a solution. The INFLUENCE COURSE is designed by Christians in Politics to give participants a biblical understanding of God’s call for every one of us to be involved in the public square. It’s not all about being a candidate - as the course says, it’s as important to be holding the clipboard as it is to be holding the microphone.
It’s a six week course that your church small groups can do in person or online. The online course is the first course from the ground-breaking ChurchRooms interface, which is on a mission to erase the pain of the Zoom gatherings we have all experienced. All your content is pre-loaded, so there’s no more “Sharon, can you share that powerpoint?” conversations, and the discussion tools and whiteboards allow extraverts and introverts to contribute!
Most important to note is that this is a course that ALL of your church can do. It’s specifically designed to take people on a journey from zero. It’s not just a course for the ‘politically interested’ or ‘politically active’. It could be a brilliant way for you and your church to journey together. It’s a far cry from dry intellectual, political point-scoring and theorising. There are genuinely fun activities and weekly challenges, alongside some ground-breaking animated video material. You don’t even need to feel like an expert to run the course - the course guide gives you everything you could need.
Some new local councillors and a campaign group have already emerged from the churches who piloted the course, not to mention a question written by one of the groups being asked at Prime Minister’s Questions! So who knows what this might be the start of for your groups. There may be a future Prime Minister in your midst…..
Head over to www.influencecourse.co.uk to find out more, or order the course materials from your local Christian bookshop or online stockist.
Andy Flannagan is Executive Director, Christians in Politics. He is member of Park Church in Luton, a missional community sent by Stopsley Baptist Church
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