Our influence is temporary
It was given to us by God
It can be taken away
One day we will give an account for how we used it
“Influence” is a buzzword these days, with volumes being written about how to achieve it and steward it well. In our ministry culture, leaders (and usually their wives) automatically have a platform of influence, simply due to their position or church office. But true and lasting influence is not automatically attained by a high-level job, but by being purposeful in how we relate to others, what we communicate and how we seek to cultivate the opportunities that God gives us. In my own observations from forty years of ministry life, I have watched many people do this so very well, serving as a model for those of us who come behind them. But on the flip side, I have seen others who seem to have squandered, or wasted, the opportunities that were given to them. When there is little interaction with their church members or community, they often miss one of the greatest gifts God gives – being a source of encouragement and blessing to those they lead. How do we squander our influence? By:
1. Closing ourselves off from people outside of our own family and closest friends.
Because of the demands of life and work, we may neglect to cultivate relationships with those outside of our immediate circle. Ironically, as our circle of acquaintances and tasks increase due to ministry growth, often our interest in others decreases. At best, this is a result of busyness. At worst, however, it can be a result of just not taking the time to care.
Pay attention to what is happening in your church family and your community. One of the reasons God made social media (some would challenge that!) is that it gives us a quick overview of others’ lives. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”, Rom. 12:15. It takes so little to voice your encouragement or concern but can carry such weight with others. Isolation never lends itself to leadership or influence.
2. Yield to cynicism
Cynicism is always suspicious that people have an ulterior motive or are wanting to use you in some way. Cynicism focuses on the worst in people, never the best, and is a joy destroyer. Yes, it is very true that people occasionally take advantage of us or betray our trust in some way. True, many of our expectations of life have not been met. Hey, welcome to adulthood, it happens to everyone, certainly not just those in ministry. The danger of cynicism is that the distrust we feel towards others inevitably leads to a default stance of always thinking the worst about people. Ken Burns said, “Cynicism is fear, and it’s worse than fear – its active disengagement.” It pushes us away from others, rather than drawing us toward them. Obviously, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be knowledgeable and wise about human nature, but we must remember Jesus’ words, “…be wise as serpents and gentle as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
3. Regularly schedule “Poor Little Me” pity parties, indulging in self-pity or self-condemnation for all you are not. Believe the lie that you have nothing to offer and are totally inadequate.
Someone once said, “Self-pity tends to distort, like a fun-house mirror.” Truth is not clear through the lens of self-pity. At its root, it posits that God is mean and intentionally withholding good from us. It’s also the root of just about every other sin of self-indulgence. I have had some of the finest pity parties ever held, and have learned that they are exhausting, fruitless and depressing. Self-pity leads to cynicism, isolation and is a dead end.
Andy’s quote carries a sense of urgency. We don’t have time to waste. God has given us all varying levels of influence, and it is crucial that we willingly receive it, utilize it, invest it and steward it for the good of the Kingdom.