When “No Compromise” Limits our Influence

February 1, 2014

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As you know I live and work in South Africa. We recently said goodbye to an incredible man, Nelson Mandela.

There was national mourning for ten days. All television programming was preempted for 24/7 tributes.

I’ve never seen anything like it

One question that people were asking during that time is whether or not Mandela was a Christian. The answer was not easily found. It was the elephant in the room.

After Mandela’s death I read an article written by a minister friend who declared Mandela to be a closet Christian, very private with his faith. The article states, “But Mandela held an aversion to speaking publicly about his own faith for fear of dividing or – even worse – using religion as a political tool, as the apartheid regime did.”

Did Mandela compromise? Was he ashamed of his faith?

Or did Mandela wisely use his influence to change the world?

He could have boldly proclaimed his faith, but was so concerned about mixing religion in politics in the aftermath of a religiously motivated apartheid government.

He was so widely accepted among all ethnic groups and religions by using his influence rather than his faith.

Which value must we hold in greater esteem?
Was Mandela guilty of compromising his faith or wisely using (and not using) tools at his disposal as he sought to bring change?

Mandela choose to be less public with his faith to have a greater influence.

Rick Warren was recently asked in Time Magazine to weigh in on the homosexual marriage debate. He was asked, “Do you think the church has lost the same-sex-marriage fight?”

Wow, here is an opportunity for one of the most influential pastors to make a clear-cut statement on this issue.

His response was,  “I’m going to pass on that. I don’t know

Did Rick Warren compromise by not coming out boldly on this issue? Or did Rick Warren skillfully maintain his influence so he could potentially reach some of those in the middle of this issue.

A third example is Andy Stanley.

In a message preached at his church last year, Andy caused a quite a stir. A situation came to his attention of someone serving in his church was a practicing homosexual. Rather than condemn the homosexuality, Andy challenged him to not commit adultery, since his partner was still married.

The internet furor that followed was epic. “Andy Stanley is not against homosexuality!” “Stanley is adding his name to a long list of liberal preachers”

I watched to see what Stanley would do.

He did nothing!

A month or two later, in a Leadership podcast Andy addressed the subject of keeping your influence.

At times you will be accused of something. If you answer the critics, you will appease those who already follow you, but you may sideline or limit your influence with those you are truly trying to impact.

I believe this was Stanley’s response to the furor.

He explained why he did not come out with a blanket statement against homosexuality. If he did, it would have limited his influence.

You see, Stanley’s goal is have a church, unchurched people attend, thereby exposing them to the gospel, and ultimately hoping they will believe.

If Stanley had made a statement against homosexuality, many of his target audience would never, ever return. But, he would have appeased those who are already with him; thus “preserving” his reputation.

I believe this was the motive behind all three examples, Mandela, Warren, and Stanley

How does this relate to us?

In this day and age our words, our tweets, our Facebook posts, our selfies have the ability to totally impact our influence.

Even if you say the “right” thing and do not compromise.

Duck Dynasty anyone?

While this may have been a ratings ploy, we can learn how far and wide our words could go.

So I am not telling you to compromise. Don’t compromise your beliefs and values. But be wise in how you do this.

Biblically, Daniel and Paul are great examples

Daniel served under the worst of the worst governments. Nebuchadnezzar makes President Obama look like the tooth fairy. He served faithfully. He did not protest, he did not lobby for moral laws in an immoral society. He didn’t pray for a Christian president. He served.

The apostle Paul goes even further, telling us to serve and submit to governments. The Emperor Nero was in charge at the time, he makes Nebuchadnezzar look like the tooth fairy!

Often in Scripture, believers are admonished to not put stumbling blocks in each others path. Could we inadvertently place roadblocks in the way of an unbeliever coming into the kingdom by unwisely wielding our influence in the name of “No Compromise”?

Do we really expect unbelievers to share our values? It makes no sense. When dealing with unbelievers, influence may be more important than no compromise.

Within the church, we can speak of not compromising. But outside, influence is one our greatest evangelism strategies.

Please, let us not bomb so many bridges in order look good to our followers, but destroy any attempt to enlarge the kingdom of God. Rather, let’s be bridge builders.

What do you think? How do we walk the fine line between two truths? The truth of not compromising and the truth of maintaining our influence with unbelievers? 

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God