Our greatest influence will come through our personal interactions with others. Distant and unapproachable leaders may look impressive (for a while) but they will not have the kind of deep influence that a present and approachable leaders has. Our greatest influence is life on life and that requires relationship, time with others and shared work or life.
Through high school I had contact with Dr. Walter Kaiser as he mentored me from a distance in theology and the Old Testament. I admired him greatly but did not know him well. Then, as his teaching assistant at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School I saw him almost daily for four years when school was in session. I was in his home and saw his interactions with his family. I was in a small group with him and students in my cohort. I watched him deal with the many challenges he faced as the Dean of the Seminary. I saw the authentic, honest, unvarnished and transparent Dr. Kaiser and his life rubbed off on mine in a powerful way. Most of all I saw his amazing heart for God and desire to influence the world for Christ. He gave me an amazing gift, one that I can never repay in allowing me into his life and I was changed because of it.
People who want to have deep influence have a commitment to other people. They love people and are willing to invest in them. While I am by nature more of an introvert than an extrovert much of my life is spend with key individuals who are my colleagues and whom I desire to influence. My writing is merely an extension of that time with people where the real lessons are learned and the deepest influence takes place. This is where the power of transparency is at its best.
Since high school I have practiced the discipline of spending quality time with a select number of individuals – usually around ten at a time – and continue to do so to this day. These may be formal mentoring relationships or often informal where time together, dialogue, and discussion allow life on life influence. Sometimes it is fairly one way, sometimes two way. These are individuals that I believe God desires me to have influence on for a season. In some cases they are fairly young, in others, middle age or older.
One of the mistakes in the western world as it relates to spiritual transformation is to focus on class room teaching or reading. While these can be valuable pieces of the equation, the reality is that the most powerful growth and transformation is life on life rather than primarily classroom. That is why Jesus lived with twelve disciples, dialogued with them, did ministry with them and even sent them on their own for special ministry. But his influence was one of presence with them rather than simply through his teaching. It was life influencing life.
I was influenced by Dr. Kaiser through his preaching and mentoring from a distance but I was profoundly influenced when I had personal contact with him over a period of four years. What people see in us, what they discuss with us, what happens when we invite them into our lives is far more profound than any classroom experience.
At fifty four years old I know that my deepest influence will be through a new generation of leaders whom I can have a part in developing. These are national leaders from around the world as well as those from this country. It has become one of my four key priorities and it takes place first through presence so that I can invite them into my life. Once there is presence and a relationship there can be ongoing mentoring face to face or from a distance.
What is interesting about presence is that we don’t know how God is going to rub off on others. Often someone will say to me, “Do you know what I remember about our time together?” When I say “What?” they will relate some facet of a conversation that I don’t even remember. The Holy Spirit had been working just where they needed encouragement or a word and I had no clue at the time – but that is the magic of life on life interaction.
Because time is precious I think and pray about who I choose to invest in personally through my presence. I want to develop other deep influence individuals who will in turn do the same. At its heart this is about transparency and inviting others into my life.