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Last year I had a casual meeting with a book publisher. As we talked about my writing and ideas for future projects, the publisher asked how many social media followers I had. The question caught me off guard. I entered the world of social media about 10 years after my peers, and at the time of my meeting, I’d only been on for nine months. My unimpressive tally made me feel small.
In the publisher’s defense, I realize that publishing is an industry. Books need to be sold, and social media followings help. Still, the question left me unsettled. I wondered whether the value of my work could be measured by likes and followers.
John - Gospel - Idea - Followers - John
As I recently studied John’s Gospel, the idea of followers popped out as I read about John the Baptist and the first Jesus followers. John—despite his strangeness—was an influential man. He was the son of a priest. He was chosen by God to bear witness and point people to the long-awaited Messiah (John 1:7–8). John was clear he wasn’t the Messiah, but he created such a stir with his baptism and message of repentance that he developed his own following. He had disciples who were learning from him.
But when Jesus showed up, John redirected his disciples’ attention. There was no jealousy over ministry or influence, only an authentic desire to point his followers to the King of Kings. God had given John a platform—he had become famous and influential in his own right. But John used his platform to draw attention to the only One who could satisfy and save their souls.
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To despair is to turn your back on God, you can never despair.