How do we make the biggest impact? This is a question near and dear to every Christian leader’s heart.
I’m not sure how important the modern study of leadership is to pastoral ministry. During college I completed a half-dozen courses on various aspects of organizational leadership. At least three shelves in my study bow under the weight of leadership/management books. I’m familiar with the field of study and know it’s important, but I’m just not sure how important it is to the pastoral office.
But in light of that caveat, what makes good sense to me as I think about making a difference in the world is knowing what it is I can actually impact. I can be concerned about many things, but what things can I actually influence? Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People makes this point well: productive people focus their energy in the areas they’re actually able to do something.
I frequently find myself with a few people who complain about the moral decay in America and how the church is to be faulted for it. I don’t necessarily disagree with either of those opinions. But when the complaining starts, I’m usually frustrated, not for someone bringing up the topic, but for being stuck in a conversation about a problem that I know neither myself or the person talking has much control over. It always seems to me a serious waste of our time. There are many people and situations that I actually have an influence in and can make a difference in. It’s true for them as well.
More importantly for what the leadership books say truthfully, the Bible says better. The Apostle Peter instructs elders to be focused on the people God has given them to care for: “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Peter 5:2). If you are seeking pastoral ministry, even if you are just looking to make a difference in this world, who are the people or what are the situations God has placed in your life that you have direct influence in? Is it a circle of friends or a college campus? Is it your immediate family? Is it your workplace or the street you live on? Is it your marriage? Is it your children? What’s going on in your church that you have influence in? Who are the specific people and what are the specific situations you actually have power to affect?
To make the most difference (and accordingly increase your circle of influence), you can be passionate about many things, even vent a little about the nation and the Church if you must, but spend your energy and effort in the people and places that you have the most influence in. Shepherd well the flock among you.