In the church world influence is both coveted and despised. Christian leaders desire influence but then cautiously avoid it to not appear too prideful. We ward off the desire to “make a name for ourselves” or “build our network,” otherwise we would be operating in self-aggrandizing pride… right?
But does having a good reputation and working to grow your influence diminish the fame of God?
I was recently in a meeting where we were discussing influence. In the middle of the meeting a leader said “Ryan I want our team to have a strong influence for themselves.” And though it was a fairly benign comment, it triggered a title-wave of thoughts and emotions. The undertone of this comment was that any influence I currently have was simply bestowed to me. That it came easy.
But the network and contacts I have now, was developed. It came from over a decade of hard work and being faithful with the influence in front of me.
The network and contacts you have now is being developed. The question is, how are you fostering the influence you already have?
In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable of the talents. He describes a ruler who divvied out investment money to different servants. He gave more to some than to others. It wasn’t an even game. And all the servants invested what the ruler gave them. All of them took risk and stuck themselves out there so that they could multiply what was given to them.
All of them except one. One of them just buried and hid what was given to him. He kept it safe.
But the ruler didn’t want the investment safe. He wanted it multiplied. He wanted it risked for his kingdom. In fact his response was “You wicked and lazy servant!..take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.”
I know. Harsh. But Jesus is saying there is accountability with his investment into us.
Some of us are taking the influence and talents we have and we’re burying them. All in the name of humility. All in the name of not wanting to “make much of ourselves.” And maybe you are tempted to build your own kingdom. That is between you and God. But I don’t think that is the thing that holds most of us back.
I believe it’s fear that holds many of us back. It is a false humility marinated in the jealousy of others that keeps us from risking to be ourselves.
I do not believe God’s name is glorified through us when we fearfully hide our gifts. Having influence and good reputation is hard work. It requires time and energy. And when it is done with eyes on Jesus and expanding his kingdom, it is something that will yield a return on what he invested into you. And that when that happens, influence expands.
God has given you everything you need for the task. The talents, money, connections—everything. And what we do with the little—or much—in our hands determine how much more God will give you.
Let’s go back to Jesus’ parable. When the master saw the servants who invested his money, he said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
Take risk. Work to develop and expand your influence. Be faithful with what you currently have in your hands. We have a great mission, and a short life. Let’s get to work.