Without a doubt, our greatest resources for Christian servant leaders are the indwelling Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
But a leader’s greatest commodity (something useful that when in plentiful supply diminishes the importance of other factors) is influence.
Think about it.
- If you have authority, but no influence, your long-range effectiveness will be limited.
- If you have personal character, but no influence, your impact on others will be limited.
- If you have great drive but no influence, your ability to lead a team will be limited.
So what builds our influence as Christian leaders?
1. Maintaining a passion for your work
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;—Colossians 3:23
Think about the people whose influence you have welcomed into your life. Undoubtedly they had different personalities, but in every case, you surely sensed their passion.
Passion is contagious. What one person is passionate about, others want to be part of.
This is why it is important that we as Christian leaders keep our passion focused on God’s glory, not our own, and that we keep our passion refueled by spending personal time with God.
2. Maintaining a planned calendar
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.—James 4:14
People don’t generally have respect for someone who is completely disorganized, always forgetting commitments, and seems to always feel three steps behind.
Organization is a skill you develop over a lifetime, for sure. No one has arrived. But having an action plan that is attached to a calendar is a basic start.
I encourage leaders to identify their God-given life roles (Christian, spouse, parent, teacher…) and to set aside time weekly to identify their top weekly priorities based on their roles. From there, they can develop a week at a glance and a daily plan. (I developed the Stewarding Life Planner specifically to help with this process.)
We only have one life, and it is but a vapor. Don’t waste your vapor chasing the most urgent thing in front of you.
3. Mentoring others constantly
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.—Philippians 4:9
Any group you might lead—a classroom, Sunday school class, church family—has individuals who deserve a chance to grow. In many cases, they won’t reach out to you and specifically ask to be mentored, but they would welcome your invitation to involvement.
Mentoring requires that you give others attention (noticing and acknowledging them), acceptance (loving them right where they are at) and assistance (helping them grow).
The apostle Paul did this constantly, and it not only increased his influence in the lives of those he directly served, but it also furthered his ministry long after he was gone.
4. Confronting indifference effectively
When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.—Proverbs 21:22
Nothing diminishes a leader’s influence like oblivion or inaction to an obvious problem. For instance, if you’re a teacher, and someone in the class is throwing spit wads every time you turn your back, you won’t have the respect of the class until you deal with it.
Indifference takes many shapes and ultimately includes a spectrum ranging from disinterest to overt resistance.
There will be some on your team or under your influence who don’t share your passion and need your personal investment to bring them along in developing passion. This may sometimes require gentle confrontations, but falls more properly under the label of mentoring.
But there will be others who blatantly resist your efforts. In these cases, the rest of the group needs your willingness to specifically confront that person. And you need wisdom from the Lord as to how and when to confront.
These kinds of conversations can be difficult, but they are necessary. Always confront kindly and professionally, and know ahead of time what is non-negotiable to you.
Some people will respond and others will not. In the latter case, be willing to endure hardship or slander for the sake of helping the rest of the group.
5. Managing yourself daily
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.—Luke 16:10
In the book The Effective Executive Peter Drucker wrote, “Executives who do not manage themselves for effectiveness cannot possibly expect to manage their associates and subordinates.” If this is true in the business realm (and it is), how much more so in the realm of spiritual influence?
So how is your walk with the Lord? How are your relationships? How is your personal integrity?
Would others look at how you manage yourself and welcome your influence into their lives?
Increase your influence
All of us have room to grow in all five of these areas. So don’t let this list discourage you.
But if you, as a discerning spiritual leader, desire greater influence in the lives of those you serve, take these five areas to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help you more effectively develop the influence He has given to you for Him.