Spiritual Influence {Leadership Thoughts from Mel Lawrenz, Part IV}

Today is the fourth and final installment of highlights from Mel Lawrenz’s Spiritual Influence. Part Four of his book is Facing Challenges.

On expectations–

  • “Playing to expectations of others can drain our best energy and distract our attention…Worst of all, we might miss the most important thing–God’s expectation of us.”
  • Most people do not reflect on the expectations they have of others; they just expect.” 
  • Some influencers think that the sum total of their job is to control, and impose expectations accordingly. Wiser people know that a higher aim is to motivate people toward accomplishments that are a match for who they are. But the wisest influencers believe it is their duty to help people live up to the calling of God and the expectations God places before them.” 
  • When people work just to please the boss, the fulfillment never gets any higher than the boss’s imagination.”
  • Respond in a timely way. If you are not able to respond to emails, say so. If you cannot attend an appreciation brunch, send regrets immediately. Never ignore an RSVP (remember what RSVP means: respondez s’il vous plait, “please respond”). To say ‘no’ is not disrespect; ignoring people is.” (Oh, thank you, thank you for this!) 
  • “The beginning of all things (Genesis 1) is ‘good’ and ‘very good.’ The end of all things is a new creation in which God makes all things new. In between, spiritual influence must focus on what the all-good God calls good. He requires these things not just by fiat, but because this is specifically how God restores the world to its proper order.” 
  • How? Micah 6:8. Act justly“That means doing it, not just talking about it.” Love mercy“We need to go looking for opportunities to show mercy, not just deliberate when a need arises.” Walk humbly with God“As a ‘walk,’ humility is a continual string of opportunities in life. Every attitude, every decision, every conversation. Every relationship, every email, every purchase. And humility is defined by relationship with God…There is wonderful clarity here: if we walk with God, that is, with a steady awareness of God’s presence and authority over every area of life, then we have every reason not to pretend that we are God–and that is exactly what humility is.”

On perseverance–

  • “We undercut joy in our lives if we think it is the same thing as pleasure or happiness…Joy comes from a deep inner conviction that doing the thing you do is right in God’s eyes, is the right fit for your abilities, and is worthwhile even if it takes a long time to accumulate accomplishments.”
  • “There is no prefabrication in the work of God.”  (That line is money. Can someone please get that framed for me?)
  • “There is only one line of sight that will bring order to all our life and work: a vision of Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father, ruling with all justice and mercy. Our influence only means something if it is is plotted along that trajectory, and work ultimately leads people to that same goal.”
  • Spiritual influence is a countercultural movement today because it assumes that the best growth is organic and progressive. Discipleship develops over time; character forms in response to hundred of different encounters; knowledge of God doesn’t jump off a Wikipedia page.”
  • “Sometimes, instead of asking whether our vision is big enough, we should be asking, is it far enough?”

On wounds–

  • “The biases and prejudices that are at the core of who we are often retain leverage over our actions even when we think we’re rising above them.”
  • “We may say that we believe ‘when we are weak then we are strong,’ but we treat the weak or wounded leader as fatally flawed, and look for ways to discard him or her…we shoot our wounded…We live in a disposable age…just throw the old one out and buy a new one…The tragedy is that the whole aim of spiritual influence is to restore the fallen order to what God intended it to be…When we simply dispose of people, or take wounds and make them deeper, we betray our call to be agents of healing, reconciliation, and restoration.”

On criticism–

  • “People criticize when they are searching for truth…healthy criticism is a way of getting at reality.
  • Here is one last observation about dealing with criticism. If we do any work that is significant–especially spiritual work–it will create reactions. That will help us reframe the experience of criticism. We can take criticism as a sign that God has allowed us to be a part of something important.”

On failure–

  • “Dealing with failure is not the occasional distraction from our mission; it is the mission. The metanarrative of Scripture goes from creation to fall to redemption to glory. Living as we do in the age of redemption means that life is a continual battle to suppress sin, defeat ignorance, and restore relationships. That is, to build past failure.”
  • “We will always be tempted to describe our failures simply as mistakes. But we would all do well never to use that all-too-common platitude: ‘I know I’m not a perfect person.’ Saying that we are less than divine hardly qualifies as an honest assessment of failure. Most of the people around us have already figured out that are not Jesus.”
  • “Patterns matter. If the people closest to us point out an error or shortcoming in us, and it is an issue that has come up many times in the past, we need to connect the dots. This is important: all of us will at some point take on a task or responsibility that is beyond our capabilities or gifts. We will come up short. We can keep trying, but the results will not change if we have risen to the level of our incompetence. The solution is for us to bring the talents of other people to bear on the issue, or to step out of the role.”
  • “Todays’ culture does not help us deal with failure in healthy ways. The pace and impatience and superficiality of our culture make dealing with failure an inconvenience. It is challenging enough to be brave about honestly looking at failure, but the tyranny of the ‘next thing’ causes us to short-circuit the process.”
  • “We substitute public relations for personal credibility.”

On ambition–

  • “Ambition that is a drive to grab and possess automatically soils spiritual influence, even though the rottenness may be invisible to the crowds.”
  • “Compulsion is tamed by calling. Rapacity is nullified by service. Ambition can be sanctified as spiritual influence settles out as shepherding care.”
  • “[Billy Graham] was willing to step into the limelight, not because it served his ego, but because it served his message. No one can know the deepest motives of other people, but our motives have a way of leaking out. Graham simply came off as sincere in every respect–a quality that is hard to fake. He was captivated by the message of the saving work of Christ. Not just captivated, but possessed, compelled, and convicted. Fame was an awkward by-product.”

Lawrenz’s final words are exactly the message I believe the Church (that’s you and me) need to hear and to which we need to decisively respond: “It is one thing to realize that you influence other people; it is another to be driven by a compassion that will cause you to influence for the right reason. This means influencing because we allow ourselves to be burdened, brokenhearted, and frustrated because there is no other way to close the gap. We accept the reality that things are not the way they are supposed to be–and then reject the idea that we will leave things that way…and then we get to work.

This book has been deeply recalibrating for me. I hope you will check it out for yourself…and then we can get to work together.

You might also check out the Influence Project online. There you will find great resources by which to continue this conversation.

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