The Power of Influential People

Take a few minutes and think about some of the people that God has brought into your life _ people who have influenced you in your decision-making processes.

Who is the most influential family member? Maybe it’s your spouse or your mom or dad maybe it’s a grandparent, or an aunt or uncle, or a sibling _ the one that took time to help you become the person you are. Who is that very special person?

Who was your most influential teacher _ the one that peaked your intellectual curiosity _ who challenged you to stretch the way you think _ who encouraged you to pursue your dreams. Maybe it was in grade school or middle school or high school. Maybe it was in college or trade school _ maybe it was at home or at church. Well, whoever it was, whenever it was _ that person made a difference in how you think. Who is that very special person?

Who was your most influential spiritual leader? Maybe it was a pastor, or a youth minister or a Sunday School teacher _ maybe a spouse or parent _ a sibling or a cousin _ maybe a friend or a neighbor _ whoever it was, it was that someone who showed you what it means to be a follower of Christ, who prayed both with you and for you, who taught you, who encouraged you. Who is that very special person?

What professional person helped you become the person you are at work? Maybe it was an employer or a co-worker_ someone whose book you’ve read _ someone that helped you become more committed to excellence _ more effective in doing your job. Who is that very special person?

Take a moment to think of who these people are, and what they’ve done for you. Then take a moment to thank God for the role they’ve played in your life and while you’re at it, think of a way to show those special people your gratitude.

Ok, now I want you to take a moment to imagine this: Wouldn’t it be great if you could have that same positive influence for others? Wouldn’t it be great if the words that you use would strengthen and encourage them _ if the example you set for them today could give them a guideline to follow in the years ahead?

When your life connects with other people, you are an “influencer”. Maybe your circle of influence reaches hundreds or thousands of people. Maybe your circle of influence is small, reaching the dozen or so people in your Sunday School class or a handful of co-workers or the members of your family or members of the bowling team or the spell bowl team or a few close friends at school _ maybe it’s the praise team or some other group at church.

Like it or not your influence is powerful for those in your circle. The question is what kind of influence are you leaving in your wake? Is it good or bad _ is it positive or negative _ is it building people up or tearing them down. When you walk away are people discouraged or encouraged _ are they glad they spent time with you or happy to see you leave?

Since we are all leaders _ people that influence other people I think it would be good for us to not only be thankful for those that have influenced us but also to consider some ways that we can have a positive influence on those we contact.

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Inspire, Inspire, Inspire!

I’ve mentioned in other blogs that all of us are leaders, or at the very least, leaders-in-training. You have the potential to influence others to accomplish something worthwhile. Tom Landry, the legendary football coach of the Dallas Cowboys, said, “The job of a coach is to make people do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.” Effective leaders know how to do that. They know how to motivate _ how to inspire people to be more than they already are. They do it even though the steps to getting there may involve doing some things that aren’t necessarily a barrel of laughs.

Leadership is not lordship _ it’s not being bossy _ leadership is about becoming a servant _ it’s learning to sacrifice. A key word for leaders to remember is influence. Let me show you what I mean. In Philippians 2:6-8 we read this: “Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross!”

Here is the preamble to those verses: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… Jesus is certainly the ultimate leader so what should a leader’s attitude be? It involves humility and sacrifice and service and obedience.

It’s been said that if you think you’re leading but no one is following, you’re not leading at all — you’re just taking a walk. Leaders are usually self-motivated but they take it a step farther by motivating others. Leadership is: taking people from Point A to Point B. In Jesus’ case it is taking people from being hopelessly lost to being wondrously saved.

Leadership is about getting people to do what they need to do in order to accomplish the dream that God has given. If God has given you a dream, it will involve recruiting others to work with you _ not for you. And that means the leader must keep people encouraged and motivated for the duration.

Think about how you recruit people, how you make your appeal. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Go to them. Invite them to participate in something great for the glory of God. Give them a piece of ownership in the work _ give them the recognition they deserve. That is what great leaders do; it’s how they get projects from Point A to Point B. It’s how they get the job done. It’s how they make God look appealing.

Remember we are all leaders _ at home, at work, at play, at school, at church. But like I’ve told you before: For every single one of us leadership must begin with a walk with a life rebuilder. His name is Jesus.  So, church be inspired by Jesus and then go and inspire, inspire, inspire.

Leading Takes a Lot of Preparation

I had a scary dream some time ago _ at least it was scary for me. I’d been invited to speak somewhere, the church was full, the service had already begun, and I realized that I forgot to prepare a sermon. I decided to look at my Bible, and then I realized that I forgot my Bible. I was supposed to be preaching, and I didn’t even have my Bible with me. I asked myself, “What in the world were you thinking? How could you just show up completely unprepared? How could you forget your Bible?” Like I said, “It was scary.”

William Matthews said, “Unless a man has trained himself for his chance, the chance will only make him look ridiculous.”  Leadership isn’t easy. It requires a lot of hard work _ work that no one ever sees. It’s preparing yourself for your chance _ your opportunity to lead. Now there’s nothing glamorous about getting ready, but in order to be an effective leader, you will have to spend some time in preparation. And so today, as you think about those you influence _ about those that watch you _ about those that do what you do prepare, prepare, prepare.

Since getting ready to lead is so important, what are some things we need to be doing to get ready? Well, here are five things we can do to be ready when the call comes:

  1. Patiently wait.
  2. Watch for the door to open.
  3. Spend lots of time listening in prayer.
  4. Know there may be some dark and lonely nights.
  5. Prepare for opposition

I started this blog by telling you about a very scary dream I once had. When it comes to sermon prep most people don’t realize or care about the time spent in agonizing prayer _ the research for Scripture references and illustrations _ pondering what to write _ what to leave in and what to take out _ wondering if it is going to help people _ wondering if it is God-honoring. No one is cheering you on; the only thing that is driving you is the will to accomplish something great for the glory of God.

You may not be preparing a sermon but as a leader you must prepare to lead. I am praying for all you leaders. I pray that you will lead with conviction with the ultimate goal being for God to receive great glory and honor.

Nehemiah was called to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. So, he challenged the people to join him. “Let us start rebuilding.”  Because Nehemiah had properly prepared look what happens next… So, they began this good work. (Nehemiah 2:18)

Church, there is a world that needs Jesus, so roll up those sleeves, do the prep and lead on!

Everyone Is a Leader

No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what the circumstances _ you are a leader because someone is watching you _ someone is doing what you do. Some of you are leaders at work, others lead here at church, others lead at home. Some of you have been leading for years. Some of you are in the early stages of leadership _ you’re a big brother or big sister _ a new parent or grandparent. Some of you are Bible school teachers. Some of you are group leaders at work. Some of you may coach a sports team or be a team captain.

Bill Hybels says that the greatest need of the 21st century church is leadership. The same holds true for every business _ every volunteer organization _ every sports team _ every political ideology _ every family. And what is needed most are godly leaders _ at church, at work, at school, at home, at play. It’s a simple fact that there is always a need for gifted, well-trained, committed, competent leaders.

Here are three things you can do to become a great leader:

  1. Become more than you are right now.
  2. Have a tender heart.
  3. Be a catalyst by taking responsibility for making good things happen.

God uses people who are willing to be used. That’s the bottom line. That’s where leadership starts. It doesn’t matter who you are right now; it only matters who you’re willing to become. It only matters how much you’re willing to care, how much of your heart you’re willing to give. It only matters how much you’re willing to do _ to what extent you’re willing to take responsibility _ how far you’ll go to make things happen.

So, church be the leader that God has called you to be wherever and however He leads you!

Peace _ The Gift of God

On that first Christmas night, as the shepherds were guarding their flocks, the angels announced the birth of Jesus with these words, “Peace on earth; good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14) That is great news. After all, I think almost everyone wants peace: peace with God _ peace with people _ personal peace. I know I do. But peace and goodwill are among the most elusive of realities. Conflicts rage all around us. Families are fractured.  Friendships are strained. Nations are at war.

Even though peace is the essence of the message of Christmas _ it’s is not always a very peace-filled time. That probably has a lot to do with how commercial Christmas has become and how far removed Christ has been taken from Christmas. I realize that material things are nice, but it’s the spiritual and relational things that are most important.

That’s what makes the angel’s message so alluring. The angel’s message that a Peacemaker was born in Bethlehem is an incredible promise, but the reality of peace is not experienced by everyone. There’s a reason for that. Peace is conditional. That’s why you can live in a mansion and still be miserable.  You can have perfect health and still be sick in your spirit.  You can have people all around you and still be lonely.

Listen again as the angels proclaimed it as seen in Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  Did you hear it? The key to genuine peace is linked with “favor,” the favor of God.

The Jews of old understood what the angels were saying. They often used the simple greeting of “shalom,” a word that has two meanings. The first describes perfect wellbeing, serenity, happiness, contentment and joy; that has its roots in a right relationship with God. The second addresses the need for right relationships with people. It’s about intimacy and fellowship and uninterrupted good will.

But let’s face it, when it comes to uninterrupted good will among people, the prospect for peace seems pretty iffy at best. According to the Peace Research Laboratory over the last 3,500 years there have only been 270 years in which there were no declared wars.  And in some of the 3,230 years of conflict, there have been as many as 25 wars raging simultaneously. But we still hope and pray for peace.

So, what will it take to have peace _ real and genuine peace? Well, the favor of God and peace are always conditional, it’s conditioned upon a right relationship with God and that can only come through Jesus Christ. That’s exactly what Jesus promised His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27) That is really an extraordinary promise, and one that everyone can have through the One called the Prince of Peace. ( see Isaiah 9:6)

So, let’s celebrate this Christmas because the favor of God and peace that comes through a relationship with Jesus, His one and only Son are there for the taking just like it was so very long ago.

One Is a Very Lonely Number

Creation was incredible _ of course it was after all God was involved. The Bible says that things were good _ good _ good _ and very good. Then God looked at Adam and saw the first thing named “not good” _ a lonely man. What Adam needed was a companion _ a mate _ a helper _ a friend. So, God put him to sleep and when Adam woke up _ voila _ all those wrapped up a single package named Eve.

Loneliness really is a terrible thing. Three Dog Night’s song put it this way: One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do. But here is something that is really sad. There are lots of husbands and wives and children and Christians that are living isolated, lonely lives.

I know a minister who recently lost his job. He told me he was struggling to get his bearings back and find some direction in his life. He said he had never felt so isolated _ so all alone. So, I asked him. “Who do you spend time with?” His reply was a sad one. “No one, really. I don’t have many friends.” I guess “any friends” would be more accurate.”

In June 2006 a study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, revealed that Americans have fewer people they can confide in than past generations. In 1985, the average American had three people they trusted enough to tell anything. In 2004 that number dropped to two. Perhaps even more striking, the number of Americans with no close friends rose from 10% in 1985 to almost 25% in 2004.

People neglect to build strong, lasting, meaningful relationships. We may know people _ we may have lots of acquaintances _ we may even see them every week at church _ but all too often we fail to nurture our relationships beyond the “Hello, how are you?” stage. Those we would call intimate friends are far and few between. We find ourselves living in virtual isolation.

And so, yes, loneliness is still a problem. In his book Restoring Your Spiritual Passion, Gordon MacDonald tells how the Apostle Paul was a man committed to raising up a band of special friends. His address book would have included Aquila and Priscilla, with whom he occasionally worked and lived _ Onesiphorus, of whom Paul said, “he often refreshed me” _ Philemon, of whom Paul said, “I have derived much joy and comfort from your love.” There’s also Luke and Barnabas and a host of others. MacDonald says, “Paul’s friends came in all ages and backgrounds, and he seems to have taken great care to cultivate a lasting friendship with them.” One of Paul’s closest friends was a young man named Timothy.

But that was Paul _ what about us? Someone once said that friends make good times twice as good, and difficult times only half as bad. That’s why you need to surround yourself with friends. If you can’t name two or three people that know you well _ people that you pray for consistently _ people that you spend time with consistently _ people you know well enough to know their hurts and struggles _ people you love enough to offer encouragement and support to  _ then I challenge you to ask God to fill your life with some close friendships.

Today, I hope the example we’ve seen in Paul’s life will encourage you to build closer, stronger, more durable relationships with the people whom God has placed in your life.

 

Hey! That’s MY Car You’re Ramming

A lady pulled into a parking lot in her big, expensive car. As she approached a parking spot a young man zoomed in ahead of her in his hot little sports car. She rolled down the window and asked if he would move. He replied, “No way.” She asked him why and his response upset her: “I’m young and I’m quick. You snooze, you lose old lady.” He headed into the store laughing as he went. After he was done shopping he went out and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The “old lady” was ramming his car over and over with her car. He ran up and screamed, “What are you doing? Are you crazy?” She just smiled and hit the gas again smashing his car one last time. All the boy could muster was a “Why?” She calmly looked over and replied with a cynical grin, “Because I’m old _ and _ I’m rich, young punk. “I think most of you have heard that illustration at one time or another. If we had witnessed a scene like that we might have wanted to cheer on the “little old lady.” Well, before you get your pompoms out let me share something that Jesus said:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, ‘Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?’ Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48)

It has been said that few passages of Scripture better summarize Christian ethics when we have been mistreated than this passage. There are several recognizable phrases _ ones you have probably used more than once. Like: “Turn the other cheek” _”Go the second mile” _ “Love your enemies.” Even people who have never set foot inside a church gathering are familiar with those sayings.

Let me ask you something: When someone does you wrong _ when someone takes advantage of you or bullies you _ when someone takes your parking spot _how do you react? Chances are that you want to get even, to have your day, to take pleasure in the taste of revenge. However, that revenge can leave a bitter after taste.

So, church rather than planning your counter attack it would be better to ask yourself what would Jesus do?  How would He handle the situation? He would do more than was required of Him _ He would do the righteous things required of a godly person_ and _ so should we.