Lay of the land.
Harriet's uncle Bill was a registered land surveyor. For nearly forty years I observed him working. Years ago he tried to explain the basics of land surveying to me. Being mathematically deprived I never really grasped the complicated admixture of geometry, trigonometry, and use of the technical apparatus involved in marking the boundaries of a piece of property. So, he simplified. He said it was essentially geometry. More than that, it was drawing triangles and measuring them. Exasperated with my blank look, he told me his job was to decipher the lay of the land. As a math slacker, that made a little more sense. He wanted to know everything about the land right now.
Deciphering the lay of the land is important in just about every relational category, relational geometry included. The vital statistics that define our personal influence must at times be measured and evaluated before we can enlarge it. There's a strong biblical case for some honest assessment if our influence is to extend beyond the closest concentric circles of our lives to the world around us. We can be sure our faithfulness with the corner entrusted to our influence will be honored by the One who has called and equipped us for this important stewardship. Consider these thoughts about being aware of the lay of the land, that is, how things are right now---
1. Self-examination is a constant in relational geometry.
Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church included significant instruction
regarding Christian influence. His own apostolic credentials had been
questioned and he was forced to defend himself for the sake of the Gospel. He
gave them some profound spiritual advice when he wrote, "Examine yourselves
to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves" (2 Corinthians 13:5). A
fresh survey of our influence is always in order as a consistent element of our
own personal growth. We should test our influence at every occasion.
2. Knowing our influence requires vigilant awareness.
In a strategic chapter about personal influence, which will be the basis of my
post on the subject of relational geometry tomorrow, Paul told the Corinthians,
"Look at what is before your eyes" (2 Corinthians 10:7). It was an exasperated
plea for their honest assessment of their own spiritual influence. How much
easier it is to see the spec in others eyes and miss the plank in our own! Paul
wanted them to be aware of themselves and their own need for enlarged
3. The character of Christ is being formed in us to prepare us.
Sometimes we are not ready for enlarged influence. This thought takes me to a
passage that always challenged and prepared me for spiritual leadership. It was
the occasion when Jesus frankly explained his plans to go to Jerusalem to die.
Peter had asked him where he was going. Jesus answered in a brutally honest
way---"Where I am going you cannot follow me now..." (John 13:36). Peter wasn't
ready. The character of Christ was still being formed in him. And, that may be
the case of many of us. We must remain teachable if our influence is to be
4. Greater expectations attend enlarged influence.
In the parable of the faithful servant Jesus said, "Everyone to whom much was
given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted
much, they will demand the more" (Luke 12:48). When the sphere of our
influence is enlarged, what is expected of us grows too. It's one of the
enormous burdens of spiritual leadership, what is required of those who must
give account (see Hebrews 13:17).
5. Our influence isn't about our personal ego.
Once again, 2 Corinthians 10 is a central passage about those things that
attend enlarged personal influence. Several of these verses will form the
baseline of my blog in the future. But, the conclusion of this section is notable
here. Paul wrote, "For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved,
but the one whom the Lord commends" (2 Corinthians 10:18). This thought also
reminds me of an important word from Solomon about the purpose of God's
work in our lives. Solomon wrote, "I know that all God does will last forever;
there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in
awe of Him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14, HCSB). God expands and enlarges our influence
so people will be in awe of Him, not us.
My fifth year of retirement is almost complete. It has signaled a change of venue, a new platform for spiritual leadership, and yes, a totally new sphere of influence. Serving through www.finishperiod.com, coaching pastors, publishing one book and struggling through several others, and writing to my two readers has required constant awareness of the lay of the land. My personal influence has diminished as a result of this smaller platform. But, what is heart breaking is that our corporate influence has become so much smaller in this increasingly secular culture.
I'm praying that spiritual leaders across our nation will take invest time for honest assessment and deciphering the lay of the land so that our corporate influence will be enlarged because the influence entrusted to you and me has grown.
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