9 Traits of Biblical Outliers
In this article, I use the word “outlier” to describe an exceptional person who operates primarily outside the mainstream norms to change the world.
Notable biblical heroes such as John the Baptist, Jesus, Micaiah, Elijah, the Apostle Paul, and our Lord Jesus Christ were outliers. They did not conform or function within the institutional religious frameworks of their day. For example, before Scripture mentions the word of the Lord coming to John the Baptist, it gives a litany of all the so-called great and influential men who were alive at the time but were bypassed by God. Instead, God chose to speak through John in the wilderness (Luke 3:1-2).
When Jesus taught, the religious leaders were shocked by His knowledge because He was not formally instructed through their institutional systems (John 7:15). The prophet Micaiah risked his life and wellbeing when he refused to speak in sync with the majority of the Jewish prophets declaring victory for King Ahab (1 Kings 22).
Of course, Elijah usually stood alone before God and was active in confronting the wicked queen, Jezebel while seven thousand prophets were hiding in caves (1 Kings 19). Even though the Apostle Paul was not one of the original twelve apostles, he wrote 1/3rd of the New Testament and was chosen by God to bring the gospel to the gentile world.
Perfect examples of religious outliers in church history are Martin Luther and John Calvin, who bucked Roman Catholicism and launched the Protestant Reformation. The 18th century evangelists George Whitfield and John Wesley held enormous crusades in open fields because they were shut out of the Anglican churches. The 19th century evangelist Charles Finney resisted hyper Calvinism and brought the Second Great Awakening by establishing new measures in evangelism. Later on, in the 19th century, evangelist Alexander Dowie taught and founded Zion, Illinois. The 20th century pastor, William Seymour, used a shoe box as his pulpit and launched the Azusa street revival that brought Pentecostalism to the globe. Finally, Dr. Martin Luther King used his extraordinary oratory strategic wisdom, convening ability, and his brand of non-violent civil disobedience to launch the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century.
The following are eight traits of biblical outliers:
1.Outliers are resolute
Every one of the biblical outliers mentioned above was committed to the point of death to their cause. Isaiah prophesied about one of the traits of the coming Messiah when he said that the Messiah would set His face like flint and give His back to those who would smite Him and not hide his face from shame and spitting (Isaiah 50:4-7).
- Outliers are creative
Outliers usually get bored with conformity to the norm. They think outside the box and look for unique ways to accomplish their mission. Christians are called to function on the leading edge so that they can influence culture as co-creators and image-bearers of Jehovah (Genesis 1:27-28).
3.Outliers take the road less travelled.
While most people in the world look for safe, secure, and predictable pathways, outliers like John the Baptist and the Apostle Paul blazed new trails for others to follow.
4.Outliers are prophetic.
Outliers have an acute prophetic sense regarding their mission and how it fits in with contemporary society. They are the ones who intuit a trend before it happens and create new paradigms to be at the tip of the spear of new realities. They are the ones who see things before most people notice them. While most are just discovering the truth of a matter, the outlier is already implementing possible solutions to the challenges this discovery may bring.
5.Outliers transform problems into opportunities.
While most people accommodate themselves to and embrace the a’priori conclusions of mainstream culture, outliers dig underneath the surface until they discover the root issues responsible for cultural maladies. Outliers then use their creative ability to transform problems into possibilities that burst into new avenues of opportunity.
6.Outliers are prepared for their time.
Most people are short on preparation and long on activity. John the Baptist prepared himself thirty years for a brief ministry while Jesus prepared thirty years for a three and a half year ministry. This is one reason why they had such an extraordinary impact on the world.
Outliers study, practice, and hone their skills to be more than ready when their time comes.
7.Outliers risk all for truth.
All the biblical and historical outliers mentioned above had one thing in common, they were ready to die for their faith and mission. They did not live a life built upon convenience but crafted a life built around their purpose. The worst thing that can happen to an outlier is not physical death but missing their purpose.
8.Outliers fear God more than men.
Biblical outliers do not live for the accolades of others. They love and fear God more than men. During Jesus’ day, many of the rulers of the Jews believed in Him but did not confess Him publicly because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43).
I have met many prospective leaders in my time, but many of them have made the wrong choices and limited their potential in life because they were afraid of being out of the mainstream.
9.Outliers are voices, not echoes.
They shun cultural groupthink, stand on biblical verities and declare scriptural truth. In conclusion, we are living in a day in which many in the Evangelical church have acquiesced to popular culture, even to the point of agreeing with laws and policies that are unbiblical. Many in the church have taken the safe road. They act like the prophets of Micaiah’s day, choosing to only declare things that they know will give them the approval of pop-culture and the political establishment (1 Kings 22).
May God nurture outliers who are willing to pay the price, stand against compromise, and use their unique calling to advance His Kingdom.
(I just released my latest book, The Purpose, Power, and Process of Prophetic Ministry. To purchase click here. )