Posts Tagged ‘Influence’

It has taken me a bit longer to continue the series than originally planned. Trying to get a semester of ministry started can fill your days and nights quickly. Here is the final post on Influence.

What are some practical things campus ministers can do and help students do to maximize influence?

The answer to this question is not difficult nor are my suggestions here earth shattering. Matter of fact, it is rather simple. And they are things many have done and are currently doing with students and others. But I state them with the hopes campus ministers and the students they work with will take the simplicity of maximizing influence and learn to think differently and strategically about the communities God places us on any given day.

First way to maximize influence is to invite people to come along. Create the community for yourself. Jesus invited 12 men to come along with him as he lived his life, ministered to others, and strategically invested in each of them (Matt. 4:18). He created the opportunity.

Create opportunities by inviting others to join you. This could be an invitation to a small group you lead, a discipling or mentoring relationship, leadership team, mission trip or project. By inviting others to join you on such journeys you place people (students, peers, etc.) in a place where you can engage and influence their lives.

Be willing to extend invitations. You never know how God may already be at work. Be prayerful, watchful and strategic.

Second way to maximize influence is to engage people along the way. Jesus took advantage of open opportunities as they came along. In Luke 11, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. It was an open opportunity to exercising influence.

On the journey opportunities to engage others will present themselves. Take advantage of those opportunities. The random encounters taking place has you walk across campus. The student asking the “can we talk” question after a Bible study or event. The unexpected stop by the dorm room. The time you spend with your lab-partners, mates (suitemates, roommates, classmates & teammates), co-workers, and leadership teams will present opportunities to influence.

This requires us to open our eyes to the everyday opportunities God is creating as we journey along through every day events and happenings. It requires open eyes and ears as well as willing hearts. How is God working in the everyday encounters of the journey?

Third way to maximize opportunities to influence is to be present in life circumstances. Jesus made his presence known during life circumstances. In Mark 8, Jesus steps forward and feeds 4000 people. In John 2, Jesus turns water into wine. In John 11, Jesus comes on the scene to raise Lazarus from the dead. All these circumstances created opportunities for Jesus to maximize influence.

The happenings of life can create some great opportunities to influence other people. Current events can create opportunities to talk about world views, spirituality, justice, mercy, etc. Life events like deaths in the family, divorce, or illness open many up to spiritual things and the opportunity to simply be present to offer love and care. Tragedies, worldwide or close to home, create opportunities to present a Christian response.

Three keys to exercising influence in these ways:
1. Take Initiative – you have to step out to speak and respond when opportunities present themselves. One can’t just stand around and watch. You have to get in the game.

2. When you see or hear the Spirit’s prompting – ACT!! God’s Spirit will show us opportunities. Be obedient to those occurrences.

3. Earn the right to influence – (Ryan makes this point in the comments section of part 2. Read it HERE.) This means we learn to listen well. Close your mouth and open your ears. It means we serve abundantly. When the chance to serve someone occurs, take it. It requires we love completely. We must choose to love even when it is inconvenient and difficult. And it means we pray unceasingly. We have to become people who pray for opportunities to influence and the stamina to see them through.

Again, these are not new ideas. But the reminder can do us some good in helping us and our students think through how to be an influence in a world filled with many.

What are your thoughts?

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Jesus maximized every day opportunities in the context of his communities to exercise his influence. I think we can learn to do this as well. But first, we need to identify the main communities in which we operate.

Most communities we operate in can be placed in three categories: Those created by me, created by others, and those created by circumstance. Let me give some examples. (Again – there is overlap and these are generalizations. However, looking at these categories can help us and our students identify opportunities.)

Communities Created by Me.
These communities are leadership positions I hold or ministry teams where I have responsibility. It is the small group I lead. These communities are my mentoring or discipling relationships. By in large these are the communities I created by my own initiative or choice.

Communities Created by Others.
These communities are my relationships with my (as one friend puts it) mates (classmates, teammates, roommates). They are organizations or groups I participate in but don’t necessarily lead. These communities can be intramural teams, lab-partners, study groups, or group projects. They are my co-workers and neighbors. A big part of these communities are dependent upon the other individual’s willingness and participation in the relationships.

Communities Created by Circumstances
These communities are driven together by the circumstance of hardship, tragedy, celebrations or victories. It is a life event bringing people together in a relationship. Death of loved ones, natural disasters, loss of job, retirement, graduation, engagements, weddings, etc. These relationships are fused on the fires of a life event.

So how do I maximize my influence opportunities in the communities God has placed me? I think we start by asking questions about our relationships and our communities in our every day encounters. To maximize influence one must think more strategically about every day life. This does not mean everything and everyone is a “project” to be “accomplished.” But rather, to embrace the truth that God is at work all around and He wants to involve people in His work.

We need to ask ourself and help our students ask an important question. Could it be God has placed specific relationships in the context of certain communities to be influenced? The obvious answer is yes. But is it the answer most believe? The answer to this question determines the validity to one’s desire to be an influence.

So if God is placing people in our life to be influenced we need to ask ‘who?’ Who are the people God is placing in my life in these communities? By identifying who we begin to put a face with the idea. Ideas help us think but a face can bring brokenness and reality. Once we know the face (who), we can think further about how (next post).

We need to learn to ask and help our students learn to ask these questions. People are constantly moving in and out of relationship with us in the communities in which we live. The above question can be used to help us identify the opportunities before us. The better known the opportunities the better prepared we are to be used by God to influence others.

Take your own assessment – see who God is placing in your communities and sphere of influence.

Next time we will finish this series by looking into the practical steps of maximizing influence. In the mean time, what do you think?

A Continuation on our Influence discussion

A couple of things before we look at examples of Jesus exercising influence in the orientations mentioned in part 1.

The three orientations I have proposed are generalizations and they do not encompass every sphere of influence we encounter. They are only meant to help us think through specific areas influence can be exercised. And has Mark mentioned in the comments of part one, it is possible to find examples of influences that fit in all three orientations.

Also, certain influences can not only fit into all three orientations, but can move between orientations through seasons of a relationship. An example would be a mentor. The mentor / mentee relationship can move from orientation to orientation has the relationship evolves and grows. I am sure you can think of other examples.

My hope with these post is to help us think specifically about the places in our lives we can exercise influence and to help our students do the same thing.

Now lets look at examples of Jesus exercising influence in the specific orientations of Position, Proximity and Permission.

Position Oriented
Jesus used his position to exercise influence in lives of the disciples. He called them out to be prepared for the spreading of the gospel and the for founding of the church. Jesus also empowered them to do the work of the ministry he sent them out to do {Matthew 10:1-15; 26:26-29}.

It is seen also in his specific relationship with Peter, James and John. Jesus pulls these three aside on several occasions to see and experience things the others did not {Matthew 17:1; 26:36-38}.

Proximity Oriented
People were always around Jesus. Simply by there proximity to the Savior they were influenced. You see his influence with the crowds who followed after him {Matthew 4:23-25}. He healed the sick, cast out demons and proclaimed the gospel. He also taught the crowds with authority and power {Matthew 5-7}.

He influenced the religious community at the time. In most cases they did not respond positively, but Jesus’ presence had influence {Matthew 26:3-5}

Jesus presence at events in the community also had influence. The wedding where he performs his first miracle launches his ministry forward {John 2:1-11}.

Even at the cross Jesus had influence. At the dying of Christ a Centurion soldier is convinced Jesus is the son of God {Matthew 27:54}.

Permission Oriented
Many people gave Jesus permission to influence their lives. We see it with the sick and dying being brought to Jesus asking to be healed {Matthew 8:14-17}. Another example would be the Centurion servant. He sends the Elders of the Jews to Jesus asking for his servant to be healed {Luke 7:1-3}.

We can see it also in the friends of Jesus. Jesus is invited into the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus to be taught {Luke 10:38-41}. Again with the same friends, Mary and Martha send for Jesus to come and help their sick brother Lazarus {John 11:1-44}.

These examples are not exhaustive. You can think of many more. But in each orientation of influence you can see how Jesus maximized every day opportunities to exercise his influence.

Next time we will talk specifically about how to discover and how to help students discover opportunities to exercise influence.

In the mean time – what are your thoughts?

Influence is defined as: the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.

I think we all would agree ‘influence’ is an active force in our life and the lives of those around us. If we attempted to list the influences in our life at any given moment we would find ourselves on an overwhelming and possibly convicting exercise. From people to life circumstance; from music to the weather – influence is all around us.

The life of a collegiate is no different. Life is engaged by a shower of influences. Parents, professors, friends, life-circumstances, academic major, etc. So how do we help students see their own power as an influence? How do we help students maximize those opportunities for God’s kingdom and His glory? How do we maximize our own opportunities of influence?

For the sake of time, this discussion of influence will focus on the influence of people. This is not to say other influences are not important, however, most influences we encounter are person based directly or indirectly.

What kinds of people influences do we encounter? I think we can categorize our influences into three orientations. (These are generalizations – and there is some overlap.)

1. Position Oriented Influence – these influences are based on the variety of positions one find themself living in at various stages and moments of life. Examples are: Supervisor – Employee / Coach – Athlete / Teacher – Student. Influence is exercised from one’s position of authority in another’s life.

2. Proximity Oriented Influence – these influences are based on the nearness of the relationships one will operate in during a life time. Examples are: Family (parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles) / Co-workers / Peer groups. Influence is exercised from the consistent presence of the person in one’s life.

3. Permission Oriented Influence – these influences are based on one’s choice to allow sight, involvement and input from another. Examples are: Close friends (best friends) / Roommates / Significant others. Influence is exercised from the openness of one’s life to another.

In the next post we will look at examples from Jesus in each influence orientation. Until then, what are your thoughts? Can you think of other examples of influences that fit the orientations above? Let me hear from you.