Circle of Influence

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Our pastor has been doing an incredible sermon series at church. It’s called Outside and it’s a call to get “outside” – outside of our own self-centeredness, outside of our comfort zones, and outside of the walls of our church where we like to hang out with other church folks and warm the pews.

You know those pastors that like to preach those watered-down, feel-good messages that don’t hurt anyone’s feelings or call you to change anything about your warm comfortable lives? Yeah, we don’t have one of those. Our pastor has been challenging us to make radical changes and to really have Jesus’ heart for people.

That’s hard for me for many reasons. For one thing, I’ve often been heard to say that I don’t like people. That’s not exactly an accurate statement. I do like people. I like a lot of people. I just often don’t have a lot a patience with people, which can become really obvious in places like Wal-Mart and traffic. It’s not that I don’t like people, but rather that I often have an impatient attitude toward many of them.

Another thing that makes it hard to have Jesus’ heart for people is the fact that I can be very reserved – not in situations in which I am comfortable, but definitely in situations in which I might have to put myself out there a bit and face the possibility of being rejected. I guess that’s probably fairly common.

My last favorite excuse for living inside my own little comfort bubble is my limited circle of influence. I mean, I regularly share my faith with my kids, the main people I’m with every day. Of course, I feel that they are my most important mission field and I don’t belittle that at all.

Then, there is my extended family. I like to think that I played a role in my step-dad accepting Christ before he died in 2001. And my sister has become a Christian and is active in her church. I think my prayers for her probably played a role in that.

Beyond that, though, who can I really influence? I don’t go to work or school daily. My friends are nearly all fellow Christians from church or my homeschool group. So, I’ve been sitting there, in my safe little bubble.

Then, my pastor said, “What about when you go to Wal-Mart? Are you going in just trying to hurry up and get your stuff? Find the shortest line? The closest parking space?”

Ouch. Yes, that exactly what I’m usually doing when I’m there.

The fact is, we are called to go.

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” 

– Mark 16:15

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photo by donkeyhotey
Our life group leader pointed out Sunday night that the Greek (I think it was Greek – it could have been Hebrew) word for “go” used here  gives the connotation of “as you go on your way.” In other words, as we live our lives, we’re to preach the gospel to all creation. The way we live our lives should preach the gospel.

Do I think that means that we should be standing on street corners, shouting Bible verses at people? Not at all. I think that’s an extremely ineffective means of sharing Christ with others. I do, however, think it means that we do what Peter said:

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” – 1 Peter 3:15

I think that means that maybe we pray before we head out to Wal-Mart and ask God to make us receptive to any encounters that we may have while we’re there. Maybe we hang up our cell phones and talk to the cashier a bit. Maybe we cut the people who stop in the middle of the aisle, seemingly oblivious to their surrounds, a little slack. Maybe we go out of our way to look for simple little, unexpected ways to bless those around us instead of being so caught up in ourselves.

Maybe preaching the gospel to all creation as we go about our way looks something like a guy at church suggested recently: we step out of our comfort zones a bit and tell our waitress, “Hey, we’re going to be praying over our meal in just a minute. Is there anything we can pray about for you?”

He said you’d be amazed at some of the responses that you get. People are hurting in ways that we often can’t even imagine and they want to know that someone – even a stranger – cares. How do you know that God didn’t place you at your particular space in time, at any given moment, for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a blog. A few people read it every day. I have a circle of influence right at my fingertips. While I’m not really an in-your-face-preaching-the-gospel kind of person, I hope you see Jesus in me sometimes. And, I hope that I will remember that it’s okay for me to let you see Him a little more often.

What about you? What’s your circle of influence? It’s probably bigger than you think. If you – or I – could use some ideas for ways to bless people, check out this fantastic list of ideas for making community service a part of your homeschool because teaching your kids to step out of their comfort zones and minister to others is a great way get you out of your own.

How can I pray for you today? Really. That’s not just a cutesy question with which to end this post. I want to use the platform that God has given me to share His love with you. I’ll write down every prayer request mentioned and be praying for them this week.

Who will you let see Jesus in you this week?

 

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21 Comments

  1. Convicting and your attitude/comments about Walmart sounds like mine.

    "Our life group leader pointed out Sunday night that the Greek (I think
    it was Greek – it could have been Hebrew) word for “go” used here  gives
    the connotation of “as you go on your way.” In other words, as we live
    our lives, we’re to preach the gospel to all creation. The way we live our lives should preach the gospel."

    I am glad he shared that and you passed it forward.

  2. I think about this pretty often; One of our biggest issues with homeschooling is that we felt we could have more influence and relationships in our community if our children go to the local school. We're church planting in our area, and I constantly struggle with "how do I meet local people?" Especially as, the longer I homeschool, the more I realize that our life is happier and more productive when we're not signed up for a million activities. But that just leaves me home, alone with my children. 
    But not too long ago, I was praying about this, and thinking about a missionary's story I had just read, about helping a little girl named Sarah.  I was praying along the lines of : "Lord, if you want us to go, I'll go." But I felt like he reminded me that everywhere on the earth are people who need the Lord. I asked him to show me the Sarah's around me. And wow. There are a LOT. 
    The hard thing now is trying to figure out how much time I give to them. I feel like I'm constantly pulled away to "minister" and have to force myself to stay and just be mommy at home. It's so easy to see so many needs out there. But I'm afraid of my kids ending up with "pastor's kids" syndrome, where they feel like they were behind everyone else in the world in order of attention. 
    Anyway, long comment. I just started reading your blog recently, but I really like it. Thanks! 

  3. Amen, Kris!  I think that we make it so much harder than it is.  It's not about walking through the steps of a formula, it's about letting Jesus shine through us.  It's about taking time to allow him to work through us exactly where he has us.

  4. I just shared this on my Facebook page 🙂 Thank you for posting this! It goes right in line with the series our pastor has been doing for the past 4 weeks. 

  5. Wow! Why am I so often SURPRISED by God's faithfulness? I've just been struggling with similar questions, so your post is sooo timely for me. My kids do Awana, and every year in every book they have the 'bring a friend' section. Actually, two friends. x 4 kids. 8 stinking friends they're supposed to come up with  – EVERY  YEAR! From their (safe) circle of churched friends, many of whom ''do' Awana already. And we live in the country, with very few neighbours. And their activities are mostly church-based. (Well, the oldest volunteers at an adult family home, and has had some really good conversations with both the residents and the staff, but few of those folks would be age-appropriate for an Awana meeting. 🙂 ) I hear myself asking, "Father, how do I teach them to love the lost when WE DON'T KNOW ANY LOST???"  Thank you for the affirmation that this is a good and necessary question…

    Prayer? Menopause symptoms! I'm not sleeping worth beans these days (M related) and that makes it so hard to "be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another" and "bear(ing) with one another with love". I'm sooo foggy… Need sleep…. Thanks, Kris! In return, I'll ask the Father to remind me to pray for you every time I'm at Walmart! 🙂

  6. Great post Kris!  If we had more pastors like yours, the church might actually go out and DO what we're called to do!

    Thanks for the community service list too!

  7. Wow, Kris, what a post!  I could have written some of it myself.  I don't necessarily have patience with a whole lot of people and I tend to be a bit reserved in some situations, as well.  I really felt like you were writing about me and to me here!  🙂

    Thank you for reminding of our call to be witnesses to others, not preaching on the subway or street corners, but in the little things that can mean so much and have more influence than we could possibly imagine.  Thank you for the beautiful verse from 1 Peter.  I am writing that one down and am going to memorize it and really try to live it.

    As for prayer, thank you so much.  I humbly ask that you pray for my marriage, that it continue to grow stronger and that we are able to continue to weather whatever storms head our way.

    Many blessings to you, my friend!
    Lisa

  8. My husband is/was a PK and I know that syndrome that you mentioned. It's such a fine — and often difficult — line to walk. I love your comment about asking God to show you the Sarahs around you. They are everywhere and He will show us, if we just ask. I want him to show me the Sarahs around me, too. I'll be praying for you that God will guide you to balance between your family and your ministry.

  9. I'm praying for your menopause symptoms. I know how horrible it is when you can't sleep. I go through occasional periods of insomnia and it's awful. I love that you'll be praying for me when you're in Wal-mart! If you're there as much as I am, that's a lot of prayer. 😉

  10. I agree, Joesette. Our pastor — and our church — is awesome! I've never been in such a service-minded church before. It's definitely forcing me to step out of my comfort zone, but I love it.

  11. Wow, outstanding post!  I, too, struggle with the balance between homeschooling my five children and interacting with the lost.  But I also agree with you, I've come to realize I minister to several people who read my blog as I simply share my life (which is a daily walk, sometimes struggle, with the Lord).  Additionally, as we've now lived in this community for 17 years, I'm coming to realize I've influenced more people than I realize, which is actually a sobering thought.  You know, it would be easier if we had a light start flashing when we are representing Christ to others (so we represent him honestly, you understand)! 😉  Cuz we don't necessarily think about it every minute of every day, even though we ARE constantly saying *something* about Christ in our actions.   Thanks for sharing, and if you would like to pray for me, you can pray for my husband in his job search. Thanks! 🙂

  12. Brilliant, challenging post! The only prayer request that comes to my mind is that you would pray for me to be more mindful about my own circle of influence and my walk with God.

  13. It *is* a very sobering thought to realize that people are watching you when you're completely unaware — like the time we had someone come up to us and comment about us praying over our meal before eating at Chick-Fil-A. You never know who's watching and, like you said, we're always saying something about Christ in our action, be it good or bad.

    I'll be praying with you for your husband's job search.

  14. I could use prayers for my boyfriend to which my two boys are not his because he can be so extremely mentally abusive to and seems to have no heart for and for me to find the courage to leave him if he can not do this. And maybe a little prayer that I may find work soon as life is becoming so uncomfortable with out many of the things that I can not get for us often times that other people take for granit like toilet paper for instance.

    Thanks for the post I love it and I will pray for others that have commented as well : )

    Sharon

  15. I should also mention that I as well as most I'm sure that follow your blog am homeschooling one of my two boys. He has ADHD and sensory integration and public schools just want you medicate medicate medicate. Long story short I felt he would benefit greater and learn a lit more homeschooling than he ever would in public school so while I'm not homeschooling for the purpose of instilling Christ into my children the way public schools can not I am still a very spiritual person but do often ponder my and my families need for more Christ in our lives and how we would benefit as a family and how maybe my children would learn to give more than expecting to receive. And of course there's the whole subject of which your blog talks about. Again I love the post and as a single mother everything is life being that much harder really makes me think I should and can live more through Christ and instill those things into my boys as well. Thanks so much for this post today!

  16. These are the post I love the most from you.  Maybe one reason why is because they come in between other posts, but I love hearing about others' walk with the Lord and their challenges and battles and victories.  We rarely eat out, but the idea of asking the waitor if there's something we can pray about for them is brilliant – like it a lot!

    As for a prayer request… my husband and I have been through a very difficult 3 years, with illness, false accusations (sadly from family and leaders in churches) and family deaths which had put a huge strain on our marriage.  I believe the Lord is turning things around for us.  The allegations were proven false, but the family relationships are still poor.  Our marriage is improving too, but we need the Lord to continue to break through in us and for us.  The more I'm asking for prayer (sometimes with fewer details, sometimes with more) and even if that person only prays whilst we talk, I'm seeing the Lord working things out.  He is an amazing God and I'm grateful to Him for this post which has encouraged me so much!
    Sarah

  17. Somehow I just saw this comment, Lisa. I'm not sure how I missed it, but I want you to know that I am adding you to my prayer list.

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