Your “Sphere of Influence” is calling and You must go

As happens every September, there’s a feeling of newness in the air.  It’s not just the crisp morning air and footballs flying, it’s a returning from the unusual syncopations of summer activities to the more rhythmic routine of autumn. I’ve returned from vacation this year particularly refreshed and focused, and for particular reasons.  I’ve watched with growing concern as America has become increasingly polarized politically, so much that our fragmentation is becoming, more than either party’s ideology, the biggest present threat to our future.

The church hasn’t been immune to this polarizing.  We’ve mirrored the culture’s political tribal hatred, enough so that it’s increasingly rare to find people of differing political parties willing to worship together, let alone dialogue about their differences.  We then add theological layers to the debate, elevating particular ethical issues to the status of litmus tests for fellowship, while knowing full well that there are good people who love Christ and hold to a high view of scripture who hold the opposite view.  But for too many, that fact is of no consequence as they withdraw from fellowship because of “those people”.

Toss in a healthy dose of #METOO, courtesy of a NY Times article regarding a well known evangelical church, and an ever expanding sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and I find myself, on my worst days, wanting to pull out completely.  John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go…”.   I hear them calling too but there are two phrases, each different than Muir’s, that keep me coming to work, day after day, as I soon enter what will be my 24th year of ministry in the same place.

1. The mountains are calling and I want to go…  Of course I do.  My wife and I enjoyed our first dates on hikes and snowshoeing.  The mountains are reminders for us of so much that is true and life giving:  our smallness in the light of eternity – God’s grandiose generosity and immense creativity – glimpses, in the majesty of mountains, abundance of waters, beauty of wildlife, silence of a starry night, of life as it should be:  glorious, peaceful, interdependent, thriving.  Yes, I’ll keep getting out:  for morning runs, sabbath hikes, photography meditation walks, ski tours, and more.  I need to read God’s other book, the book of creation, as much as I need to read the Bible.  Maybe you do too.

But it’s also true that….

My sphere of influence: develop leaders and invite people to body/soul/spirit wholeness

2. My sphere of influence is calling, and I must go.  Sphere of influence is a little phrase I picked up decades ago in one of the best books I’ve ever read.  The author spoke of our sphere of concern, things about which we care, but are outside our control.  We care about politics, climate change, health care, increasing urban density in Seattle, the lazy employee on our team at work, the senior management that are incompetent, etc.  But many of these things, for most of us, are well outside our authority to fix.  Of course for some of them we can vote on, and perhaps if we’re motivated, we can and should organize as well, or do something more dramatic.  But what we shouldn’t do at all is spend time worrying, complaining, lamenting, gossiping, grumbling, whining, posting social media grenades, or being vexed, if it’s a matter outside our direct sphere of influence.  If we do we’ll be paralyzed, overcome with worry, and ultimately feel like disempowered victims.  Does that sound familiar to you?  Increasingly, the Victim card is the most popularly played card in the game of life.  But it’s often misguided and disempowering.

It’s far better for me to focus on my sphere of influence.  I’ve developed a personal mission statement, which I’ll share in the next blog post.  My goals come out of this statement, and my to do list, at my best, comes out of these goals.  That way, no matter what’s going on in Syria or Washington DC, I needn’t succumb to the anxiety, fear, anger, and hand wringing that is the soil out from which our current cultural crises are being born.  Instead, I can follow the advice of Paul when he prayed that his friends would “live a life worthy of God’s calling…”.

Be faithful on your path because nobody else can!

My commitment to you:

I have a goal this fall of using this blog  as a means of encouraging you to define, refine, and excel in your calling.  I’ll write about finding your gifts, writing your own mission statement, and developing a set of core values by which to live.  YOU CAN HELP in this process by engaging with the material, subscribing (see below), and sharing the posts you like with your friends.

I’m asking you to share the material because my hope and prayer is that more and more people will step away from the negative and cynical culture wars, disempowering victim mentalities, and disengaged cynicism, and instead live fully into their callings to be people of hope in this very difficult time.  Will you join me on the journey?

O Lord Christ…

With each headline we sense a vast machine at work, destroying some things we hold dear, no matter our party, even as those operating the machinery do so in the name of preservation.  Forgive our fears, our cynicism, our anger – all of which have blinded us to the seminal truth that each of us have a place in this world: gifts to use; neighbors and children and enemies to love; our own souls to nurture toward wholeness; joy to impart.  May we get on with it, each of us, in our spheres of influence, doing whatever our hands find to do, with all our might.  And we’ll thank you for the joy, and privilege, and adventure of it – in Jesus name.


3 thoughts on “Your “Sphere of Influence” is calling and You must go

  1. i yield to the Holy Spirit trusting I’ll be a reflection of HIS character and influence. Sometimes I am discouraged when i have a truth that is not received or someone doesn’t want my gifts or influence. But in walking hand in hand with God , He has transformed me into only being responsible for be open to Him and a possibility of influence. I can not control the reception of others hearts or timing of what they might receive and of course i am wrong at times…so I honor that someone has the discernment not to accept my influence. I’m struck that Jesus died on the cross and offers eternity , life , survival, transformation to many , many who will never take hold. My identity can not be tied to whether I’m an influence but i must be prayerful and open. Passing this test forces your identity in Christ because we are so tempted to want to feel tangibility in purpose…and sometimes as you’ve preached …we will never know. I
    I confess i feel judged and unwelcome in some of my world views. I was a product of an affair and could have been easily aborted. My oldest daughter miscarries due to a genetic issue on her husbands side that causes her to miscarry 64 percent of the time. While I don’t judge or think abortion is unforgivable sin..I feel that is is truth to honor life.that God has created and He is redemptive in the hardest of circumstances…The pain people sign up for for making that choice is a life long heartache…sometimes it feels there isn’t a balance in convictions because the is the hot button issue –and their is understandable concerned someone will feel unnecessarily. condemned….Theres the hope with God’s help– maybe “they ” could feel embraced in their pain..and concomitantly the unborn cd be supported more than in cursory statements. I bring this up not to harp on this subject but it seems like its the subject thats swept. I get that it is hard.

    People also have forgotten to pray for our administration like in the olden days as if some people aren’t worthy of prayer. The women at the well and tax collector were not welcome and it feels like our society talks about some people as if they’d never be welcome in Gods sphere. Won’t we be surprised about so many?

    You are a gifted pastor and your sermons are Holy Spirit inspired….WE are grateful for you and how you are used powerfully.

  2. I wish I would have edited my spellings and such. I tend to have ten seconds to boldness at times and push send to readily.!

  3. Look forward to upcoming posts to learn more about your journey. Just bought your Journey book. Would you be willing to share the name of one of the best books you’ve ever read?

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