This last weekend, I went back to my hometown to visit my mom and spend some time with family and friends. While there, we attended services at my home church. This is the church where I was baptized, preached my first sermon, was involved in all types of ministries and activities, was ordained, attended (and officiated) a wedding and a funeral, and just have a long history there. It had been quite a few years since I was last there, but even after so many years, it was so great to see and say hello to a number of people who over the years, and particularly when I was a young, obnoxious, punk, poured into me, encouraged me, and gave me opportunities to learn what it means to follow Jesus. I can list a lot of names of people who were very influential in my life.
It got me thinking about this idea of influence. As anyone at Central has no doubt heard before, leadership is influence, and our hope is to help everyone at Central maximize their leadership abilities. But I think we can sometimes get hung up on the leadership aspect of that over the influence aspect, especially if we do not see ourselves as “leaders” in a positional sense. We minimize our ability, or even more so, our opportunities to influence others because we often don’t see ourselves as having that role or responsibility. However, our opportunities to influence will always be greater than our opportunities to lead in a positional sense, and I believe our influence can often have an even greater impact. It all comes down to how you choose to use your influence.
Paul the Apostle clearly was a leader, and had incredible influence far beyond his leadership role. In 1 Corinthians 9, he outlines his intentionality for doing what he did and his desired outcome.
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
I think many of us read this passage and get hung up on the “win” word and feel overwhelmed. What Paul chose to do is find as many points of connection with those he encountered as he could in order to influence them in a Christlike manner and hopefully help them to discover Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. He wanted to influence people for Christ, and in this we too are encouraged to do the same. Here are just a few ways I thought of in which we can do this:
Be Friendly: It costs us nothing to be friendly, so smile a little more and be willing to say hello and be friendly. I think so many of us walk around with our guard up, mostly because we feel uncomfortable speaking to people we don’t know, and so we put off the “I see you but please don’t talk to me” vibe. Let your guard down a little and see what might happen.
Encourage: Who doesn’t appreciate an encouraging word from others? I know I do, and I know a lot of others do too. So take a moment, and rather than focusing on what you don’t like, share an encouraging word with someone that could brighten their day, and change their perspective on people.
Serve: Serving is influence, and speaks volumes to others. Find places to serve others, and you will find yourself influencing others.
Be Generous: One of the most significant ways people influenced me was by their generosity. Being willing to support others in difficult times in very practical ways goes a very long way in influencing them to be the same.
Pray: I know there were a lot of people praying for me and all the others I grew up with. And I think it had an incredible impact on us. Pray for people, and pray for God’s Spirit to move and transform their life. That is influence!
I encourage you to sit down and think of some people you could influence, and figure out ways to do that, and trust that the Lord is going to use that to draw people to him. Who knows what impact it will have.