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Spiritual Influence

By Whitney Hopler


Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Mel Lawrenz's book, Spiritual Influence: The Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012).

Our fallen world is in urgent need of people who are willing to serve God by helping people as spiritual influencers. You can be one of them. In your sphere of influence – your family, your workplace, your church, your neighborhood, and everywhere else you’re in relationships with others – you can influence people spiritually, joining God in His redemptive work. Here’s how:

Understand influence. Influence is a form of leadership in which you can become a channel God uses to help bring powerful and lasting change for the better to people who need it. When you spiritually influence people, you help meet their needs for faith, hope, and love, by showing them that they can have faith in God, hope for the future, and rely on God’s love for them.

Learn to follow. The way to successfully lead others is to follow Jesus Christ first. When you follow Jesus, He empowers you to lead others to Him – and the greatest gift a leader can give people is to teach them how to follow Jesus. If you make people dependent on yourself alone, you’re setting them up for disappointment, because as a fallible human being you’ll eventually fail them. But if you teach people to depend on Jesus, you’ll connect them with a perfectly reliable source of whatever they need.

Engage with God. You build your spiritual influence on the foundation of a connection with God, so aim to strengthen your relationship with God every day. Then you can see people and understand their potential and problems from the right perspective, and you can understand your role as a leader accurately. Incorporate worship and prayer into your life, making a habit of bowing to God’s greatness and goodness often. Ground your relationship with God in spiritual disciplines such as frequent Bible reading and meditation. Doing so motivates you to submit your will to God’s will, putting you in a position where God can best use you as a spiritual influencer. 

Build integrity. You need to earn people’s trust in order to effectively influence them, and the way to do so is to model a lifestyle of integrity for them. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind every day so you have right motives for what you say and do, and to help you become a person who is more honest, humble, and self-controlled. Seek to bring coherence between your public and private life and between every aspect of your personality so that you behave with integrity in every situation.

Explore new horizons. Since the Holy Spirit is always leading people to explore new horizons, it’s essential to take the risks necessary to explore those horizons in the process of spiritually influencing people. You can inspire people by exploring new horizons, because everyone wants to discover something new and fresh.

Stream ideas. As ideas from God flow into your mind, you should let them flow out to others by communicating them regularly. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind daily. Make time to think deeply about the decisions you make and discuss with others the reason behind your decisions. Help others understand how biblical ideas about topics such as human purpose and dignity, community, peace, well-being, and justice can inform their lives.

Seize opportunities. Expect God to constantly bring you new opportunities to spiritually influence people. Discern if the opportunities you encounter are from God by considering whether or not they’re consistent with biblical values and God’s purposes for your life – and if so, say “yes” to God and take action.

Make things right. Invite God to use you as one of His instruments for making things right in this fallen world. Cooperate with God in His redemptive work by pursuing justice, mercy, and humility.

Speak into crises. People are especially open to spiritual influence from leaders who help them during crises. Do your best to be a caring presence for people as they go through crises, listening to them, speaking to them with wisdom and grace, praying for them, and giving them practical support as God leads you to do so.

Develop discernment. Accumulate the knowledge you need to be well-informed before making decisions, and pray for the ability to make decisions with good judgment.

Pursue wisdom. Seek wisdom from God rather than from any lesser source. Make a habit of reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible while asking the Holy Spirit to help you apply its wisdom to your life.

Receive power. Humble yourself before God, setting aside ambition for selfish power and instead asking God to let His power flow through your life as you serve others. In the process, God will use you to transform people’s lives for the better.

Accept authority. Recognize that any real authority you may exercise when you’re trying to spiritually influence people comes only from God, as a gift – not from yourself or anything that you’ve done to deserve it. Be open-minded about others exercising spiritual influence, realizing that the Holy Spirit may use anyone at any time.

Promote truth. Help people ground their lives in the reality of biblical truth by communicating it confidently as you write and speak with people throughout each day.

Manage expectations. Offer people encouragement, support, and accountability as they try to live up to the expectations involved in fulfilling God’s callings for them. Do your best to exceed people’s reasonable expectations of you, and be graceful with others when they try to meet your expectations of them.

Persevere and plod. When you keep going in the face of adversity, stay faithful to God when you’re disappointed in life, and continue to live with integrity when you’re mistreated, you’ll inspire people to take their own faith seriously. Envision Jesus telling you when you get to heaven: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Let that motivate you to persevere every day.

Expect wounds. Don’t be surprised when other people wound you or you wound others; it’s inevitable in a fallen world. Whenever that happens, rely on God to reset your thoughts, words, and actions so you can pursue forgiveness and healing.

Deal with criticism. All leaders will be criticized sometimes, so don’t be shocked when it happens to you. Respond calmly rather than angrily. Ask God to teach you whatever He may want you to learn from constructive criticism, and to help you heal from destructive criticism.

Build past failure. Accept the fact that you, like all leaders, will sometimes fail. When you do, admit it and learn from it so you can emerge from it a stronger person and leader.

Sanctify ambition. Direct your ambition toward pursuing God’s purposes for your life and pray for the wisdom you need to stay focused on that without getting distracted by any lesser pursuits.

Adapted from Spiritual Influence: The Hidden Power Behind Leadership, copyright 2012 by Mel Lawrenz. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com.

Mel Lawrenz trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years, having succeeded Stuart Briscoe, and now serves as Elmbrooks's minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought (Marquette University) and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com

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