Rings of Influence

January 12, 2020

David Sorn

Who you surround yourself with is who you become.

Rings of Influence

January 12, 2020

David Sorn

Who you surround yourself with is who you become.


(Rwanda slide)

Before we get into week 2 of our Friendship series… I wanted to bring an important announcement to you as well.

Every other year, we do an amazing (and incredibly impactful) missions trip to Rwanda, in Eastern Africa.

We are going again this summer, June 12th -22nd, and I want you to come with me.

Both Pastor Josh and I are going on this trip…and a few of our other amazing leaders from this church have already signed on to go as well.

Here’s why I need you to come with us.

When we went in 2018, our group shared the Gospel in front of 34,000 people total in one week…and we saw 3,400 people give their lives to Christ.

I just said, our group led 3,400 people to Christ.

It was like being in the Book of Acts.

You tell me what else you’re going to do this summer that is better than that?

No, I’m serious. ☺

Let me tell you a little bit about what we do.

We spend most of our mornings and early afternoons in public schools.

The Rwandan government allows us to go into public schools and share how to become a Christian…because they believe it’ll make better citizens out of their people.

How awesome is that?


And so we go into Elementary schools, where we share the Gospel through skits and other things.


And to high schools, where our team members share their testimonies, and someone then explains how to follow Jesus.

In the afternoons, we’ll work with local churches who will set up in a park with their R&B African choirs (which are amazing), and before you know it, there will be 500 people gathered around.


You’ll share the story of what God is doing in your life (which they’re fascinated by because they believe that all of America is like Hollywood and you are all lost to Satan ☺ )

And we will TRAIN you how to share your story.

And then again, someone will preach, share how to accept Christ…and then…

You’ll get to watch as 40, 50, 100 people will walk down a hill, with tears streaming down their face, and give their lives to Christ…in part because of your story!

It doesn’t get any better than that!


Listen, Rwanda is ripe for the Gospel right now.

But in history, this is a window that almost always closes.

They’re hungry for God’s Word, they’re even letting us into public schools, even into marketplaces with microphones and share the Gospel.

But that won’t last forever…

Even now in the capital city, they’re starting to outlaw public proclamations without proper permits etc.

And so we want to go NOW.

For over a year now, we’ve been praying that we’ll be able to take our largest team in the history of our church…

Our goal is to take TWENTY-FIVE of you.

We’re going to reach thousands…please come.

And don’t worry about the money.

Many people on our team last time actually raised ALL of the money…and paid ZERO dollars to go…

Some paid less than a thousand out of their own pocket.

We’ll teach you how to fundraise the money.


And finally, if you want, there is an optional first-class, African Safari in Kenya that you can go on at the end of the trip…for just over $1,000

Most people never go on a Safari because most of the cost is in just getting to Africa.

But since you’re already there, why not?

Before we start our message this morning…let me just show you a very quick video preview of what this trip will look like:


Applications are out in the hallway…please pick one up even if you’re just a tiny bit interested.


(Friending Series slide)

On my day off on Monday, I went up to Cambridge to visit my parents and my cousin was also coming up.

And my 4 year old son, Lincoln, came with me

We went out to lunch at a local dive, the Brass Rail, locally famous for their amazing broasted chicken.

I got a ham sandwich.

Anyway, my dad ordered cheese curds as an appetizer.

As we were talking about it, my 4-year old said, “I don’t like cheese curds”

I’m not sure he’s ever even tried them, but his older siblings, one day, to my embarrassment, decided they didn’t like cheese curds.

And they’ve talked to him about it, so he too, decided he didn’t like cheese curds.

But while we were waiting for them to arrive, others at the table were talking about great they were at this restaurant, and I even told him, “buddy, I think you would love cheese curds”

Well, the cheese curds arrive, and out of the corner of my eye, I see Lincoln chewing something.

He had snuck his hand into the basket and was already munching them down.

And he ate more than anyone else at the table.

And it got me thinking about how susceptible we are to influence as human beings.

If he had been there with just his brother & sister, first of all, I would have been arrested for sending them out on their own…

But second of all, he would have never eaten the cheese curds.

But with a different influence present, the story changed.


And I wonder…do you know how easily influenced you are?

I think most of us way over-estimate are ability to not be influenced.

But the Bible tells us we’d be wise to not think so highly of ourselves

In actuality, our friends have a major influence on our lives…both positively and negatively

As we enter into the 2nd week of our series on friendship…today I want to study the Bible’s unique teaching on WHO you should let into your life as a friend

There are a number of places that the Scriptures discuss this theme, so we’re going to jump around a bit more than usual today…as we study this particular topic in the Bible.

The first place we should look is Paul’s teaching on this in 1 Corinthians

(1 Corinthians 15:33) – NIV

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

What Paul is saying is that you could be quite passionate about Jesus Christ…and your life could really reflect Him…

BUT…if you begin to surround yourself with “bad company”, those who don’t follow Christ and don’t live for Him…

…they will corrupt and negatively influence your character.

(Rings of Influence Slide)

To the teenagers and young adults in the room…this is an absolutely CRITICAL Bible verse for your stage of life.

To the parents in the room (of school-aged kids)…this is a critical message for you to think through as a parent as well!

I was a high school youth pastor for 5 years before I started this church, and I watched student after student…who once had a passionate relationship with Christ…

Lose their faith…because they began hanging out with friends who led them down the wrong path.

Or, perhaps even more commonly, began to date someone who didn’t follow Christ.

I can remember as a college student, and a brand-new Christian, watching some of my Christian friends saying, “I’m just going to this ONE party…I’ll be fine…I’ll be a good influence”

And a few hours later they’re stumbling back to the dorm..

We way overestimate our ability to avoid negative influence.

I actually think how some of the older translations translate the beginning of this verse is a bit more helpful than the NIV.

The NIV says “Do not be misled,” but most other translations says, “Don’t be deceived, don’t be fooled…bad company corrupts good character”

Don’t fool yourself.

You’re human.

And the deception continues as we age…

Some of you are 30 and older have already said to yourselves this morning: “Oh, this one doesn’t apply to me, I’m past that high school / college age where people let their friends influence through peer pressure”

Nice try.

Again, “Don’t fool yourself”

As adults, it just looks different.

You know what’s interesting about the wider context of this passage in 1 Corinthians 15?

It’s in one of the great chapters of the Bible.

And it’s actually quite the theological chapter.

It’s Paul’s great defense of the resurrection of Jesus.

It’s quite philosophical.

And in the midst of his theological arguments about the resurrection, he stops to say, “Bad company corrupts good character”

Who you surround yourself with, is who you become.

This verse is not in the midst of a chapter on drunkenness or some moral issue…it’s a chapter on “right thinking”

And as adults, often our “bad company” that corrupts our faith isn’t necessarily someone who might sway our actions, but our thinking.

The problem was that these Corinthian Christians were spending too much time listening to the pagan thinkers of the day who thought that the idea of the resurrection was ridiculous…

And that “bad company” was “corrupting” their faith.

And for many of us, that’s our problem.

It’s not that we have friends that are always pressuring us to go out and party anymore…

It’s that the nature of the conversations we have with our friends are leading our minds away from believing in Christ.

And you need to treat that as a dangerous thing.

But many of us don’t.

Some of us think, “But isn’t it intellectually inferior (or cowardly) to hide myself from arguments that would say that Christ isn’t the only way, or that the Bible isn’t true?”

Isn’t that like the child who just plugs his ears and says, “I don’t want to hear it!”

That’s not what I’m saying.

We believe that Christianity is intellectually sound and reasonable, and it’s fine and good to understand counter-arguments.

But that doesn’t mean you expose yourself to it every day.

If I had a friend who always told me, “You shouldn’t stay married to your wife. You should get a divorce.”

Would I keep listening to them say that week after week after week, just so I could make sure I always had an open mind?

No, of course not..

As GK Chesterton famously said:

“Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” – G.K. Chesterton

Others of us don’t struggle with the temptation that our friend’s intellectual or religious arguments bring…but it’s the influence of their emotions.

Maybe you have a close friend who’s always negative about everything.

They can turn anything and everything negative?

Or, perhaps they are incredibly draining

Or, maybe they just get worked up about a lot of things.

Do you know people like this?

Look what the Bible says about angry friends.

(Proverbs 22:24-25) – NIV

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, 25 or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.

It’s like the story of the two friends, Erik and Jake, who went hunting in Texas.

Erik had a friend who said he’d let them hunt on his ranch.

When they reached the ranch, Erik told Jake to wait in the car while he checked in with his friend.

Erik’s friend quickly gave them permission to hunt, but he asked Erik a favor.

He had a pet mule in the barn who was going blind and dying, and he didn't have the heart to put him out of his misery. He asked Erik to shoot the mule for him.

When Erik came back to the car, he had a funny idea.

He pretended to be angry. He scowled and slammed the door.

Jake asked him what was wrong, and Erik said his friend wouldn't let them hunt.

"I'm so mad at that guy," Erik said, " He lied to us! I'm going out to his barn and shoot one of his mules! "

Erik then drove like a maniac to the barn.

His friend Jake protested, "Are you sure you want to do this?!"

But Erik was adamant. "Just watch me," he shouted.

When they got to the barn, Erik jumped out of the car with his rifle, ran inside, and shot the mule.

As he was walking out of the barn, all of a sudden, he heard two more gun shots, and so he ran back to the car.

He saw that Jake had taken out his rifle, too.

"What are you doing?!?" he yelled.

Jake yelled back, face red with anger, "We'll show that guy! I just killed two of his cows!"

Anger can be dangerously contagious.

And it’s always been that way among friends.

You can see this in our political landscape.

People are angry.

Do you have friends who are just angry about politics?

And by the time they finish talking to you, you feel angry too?

For many, it stems back to the political talk radio shows and news channels.

Any of these shows, left or right, if you turn it on, the host is angry about something. Anything.

And they tell you that the latest news oughta make you angry too…

And before you know it…you ARE angry.

Because anger is contagious.

Which, this brings up another point, for many of us, our most influential friend isn’t even a real person.

It’s our TV…or our tablet…or computer.

It’s the “friend” that talks to us 3 hours a night…and through its shows tells us what to think about families, relationships, sex, worldview, faith, you name it…

And if the Bible is right…and bad company really does corrupt good character…what is the bad company you need to cut out of your life?

If “who you surround yourself with, is who you become,” then who do you need to cut out of your life?

Maybe it’s an electronic friend?

Maybe it’s a podcast or a radio show you listen to that is actually drawing you away from Christ.

Or a show you watch, that if you really thought about Jesus sitting on the couch watching it with you (which He is), you’d never watch it…because you know it’s drawing you away from Him

Or maybe it’s a friend that when you hang out with?

I remember reading of a writer once whose mother used to say to her when she was little, “Honey, I know who you were playing with today.”

And she could tell…because her daughter would begin to act like those she had played with.

Her mannerisms, her attitude, and so forth.

Who you surround yourself with, is who you become.

And we all probably have people in our lives, that if we’re honest, their influence pulls us away from God…not to Him.


Now, let me pause for a second…because some of you are going, “Something about this doesn’t feel right.”

“Like, shouldn’t I as a Christ-follower, spend just as much time with non-believers than believers??”


“But, I thought this was a church that was really serious about evangelism and reaching the lost for Christ.”


“But didn’t Jesus hang out with lost people and show them love?”


See, there’s a tension here…a balance…that I think many Christians don’t understand.

We often think of how Jesus dined with tax collectors and prostitutes, but we forget that Jesus too lived certain type of balance.

Let me ask you a question:

Who did Jesus spend the vast majority of his time with?

The 12 disciples.


Now, should you still be befriending non-Christians? Hanging out with them?


I’m spending somet time with a friend who isn’t following Christ coming up here…hanging out…because A) I like him as a friend and B) I want to influence him for Christ!

Again, this is the model of Jesus.

Who spent the majority of his time with the 12 disciples, but remember, he was also called a “Friend of sinners”

Christians generally aren’t very good at this topic.

They tend to either be completely out in the world…or they haven’t talked to an unbeliever in 10 years.

So think about this balance in terms of “Rings of influence”

Yes, as a Christian, you absolutely need to be out there loving people that are far from God…

But if we follow the model of Jesus…

If we recognize that “who you surround yourself with, is who you become…”

Then you want the people closest to you to be people that encourage you to follow Christ.

Is that true in your life?

Do you have people like that…that are close to you?

This is exactly why Proverbs says this:

(Proverbs 12:26) – NIV

The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Could that first part be said of you?

The Apostle Paul says a very similar thing in 2 Corinthians

(2 Corinthians 6:14) – NIV

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

We use this passage a lot when we talk about marriage (and that’s a great application of it), but it can just as easily apply it to your close friendships

We are not be yoked together…like oxen that are linked together under a yoke…with unbelievers.

A friend who doesn’t believe that Jesus forgave you …or doesn’t believe God is in control…

That’s not the person you want walking side by side with you (in the yoke)…counseling you through life’s biggest moments.

Because eventually, whether it’s morally, intellectually, theologically, or emotionally, they will affect & influence you.

They don’t see your life as Jesus sees your life.

And here’s the danger…for YOU.

DL Moody, a famous evangelist from the 1800’s, was once visiting with a prominent Chicago citizen who had said that, as a Christian…

…he didn’t really feel that he needed to be surrounded by Christians…but could just be out in the world loving people.

Moody didn’t say anything.

He just moved over to the fireplace, and removed one burning coal (from amongst the other coals), and placed it on the hearth (harth).

The two men sat together and watched the ember die out.

Moody had made his point.

When your inner ring of friends is hot…on fire for Christ…so will you be.

Who you surround yourself with, is who you become.

But if you surround yourself with people who are spiritually cold (indifferent to Christ)…your fire for Christ (like that coal) will begin to die out.

And this might cause some of you to have to make some hard choices…

But choices that will reveal who is the real Master of your life.

And others of you…who are just checking out God…I can’t encourage you enough to keep coming here…and even sign-up for a House Group…to get more Christian friends in your life


And my prayer is that you all see the positive value of this teaching.

(Proverbs 13:20) – NIV

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

If your inner ring is full of spiritually wise people…you will become wise.

Since this is true, let me ask you…

Who do you need to spend more time with?

Which Christian friend, do you need to text this week and say, “Hey, let’s go grab coffee?”

This is a big deal…I encourage you to pray about it and ask God for wisdom.

Another way to say “Who you surround yourself with is who you become,” is this:

Show me your friends, and I will show you your future

Or one study said that people end up being “the average of the 5 people they spend the most time with”

The influence of the inner ring is so strong…that for many people, their inner ring is THE SINGLE best predictor of their future.

If you want to know who you will become like over the long-haul…10, 20 years from now…look at your friends.

Are they all doubting Christ? Or complaining all the time? Are they passionate about serving Jesus?

Then, over time, so will you.

Trust God’s wisdom, and put the right people around yourself.

Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.

JANUARY 12, 2020