For many years, I had a walking partner. We met at a local junior high track and walked our three miles together just about every evening. Life seemed simpler then. I put the kids to bed, turned them over to my husband, put on my walking shoes and headed to meet her. Now I can’t seem to stay awake past 9:00 p.m.
When I was going through a really difficult time trying to adapt to change, my friend would listen intently as we made our rounds on the track. The relationship was not one-sided. She, too, would share her latest and greatest struggles. While we were physically going around in circles, our conversation clearly guided our paths.
The subject of influence was brought up one evening. She observed and pointed out that at one point in my church history, I was a person of influence. I was a leader. I taught bible study classes, worked with the youth, sat on committees, and directed women’s ministry. I was respected. At times, I was even consulted. I didn’t become conceited in the fact that I impacted the direction of my church. I believed I was being a good steward of my spiritual gifts and yielded to those things God called me to do for Him. As ministers, paid and laity, we all must answer the call placed upon us. My circle was quite large and I touched the lives of many people. They touched my life as well.
With the change in church staff, my influence slipped. The new pastor and I never really connected. He was a great guy. I think I am a pretty good girl, but we truly had very different philosophies on life, service, and the role of the church in the community.
My good friend and walking partner helped me wade my way through the many changes and subsequent landslides that occurred by the changing of the guards at my home church.
As the years past and once the dust settled, I looked back and realized that I tried to reclaim my influence through intimidation. I wasn’t really trying to be mean or critical. I really felt God had plans for me. The new pastor stood directly in the path of my trying to fulfill God’s role for me in the church’s future. I demanded a voice. I demanded an audience. The harder I pushed, the worse it became. The end result was too very good people parting ways with very deep wounds that will take years to heal.
I believe we both had something to learn. God never wastes any experience. He molds us in each and every step we take in our lives. I no longer keep in touch with this nemesis of mine so I have no clue what God taught him through his hurt. What I do know is that God taught me there is a HUGE difference between being a person of influence and using our gifts to intimidate. Intimidation does not foster influence. Intimidation breeds hate. Influence cannot occur in an environment of intimidation.
If I could say anything to this pastor who has now left the church and moved on in his career and life, I would ask him why he didn’t find it beneficial to embrace me and to utilize the spiritual gifts that I had to offer. I’d be interested in hearing what he has to say. I am not interested enough, however, to try and influence or intimidate him.
“But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12
Lord, heal the hurts that spiritual brothers and sisters lay on one another. Remind us, Lord that we all serve on the same team – Your team. Guide us into a clear understanding that Your purpose must rule our hearts, our minds, and YOUR church. Amen.