Did you ever consider that the pastor of a church could be one of the least influential people in the church? I say that after 14 years of being influenced by one of the most inspiring pastors in America, Andy Stanley.
The difficulty is that Andy is part of the church staff. Every staff member of a church has a vested interest in having others become part of their community much like every employee of a company has a vested interest in selling what they produce.
Several years ago we formed a gathering of Christians at work that would meet every other week to discuss various topics and share life experiences. It was a great group that led to some very private, one-on-one discussions that were transformational not only for them but for me.
Around that time a dear friend from North Point approached me about a position with the church. It was an awesome role with an awesome church working for an awesome guy. In short it was awesome.
I didn’t take it.
The main reason I wanted this role was to be able to help others in their faith walk. The reality is that I was already doing that. I was effective outside of church because I wasn’t inside the church. The reason that I held any influence at all is that I was just like them. I was just an average Joe.
It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Who are you going to trust more when you buy a television, the salesman or the comments of those that don’t work for Best Buy? The employee has something to gain from selling the new Samsung 52″ flat screen TV and makes him suspect regardless of how pure his motives may be. I can’t fully know his motives.
I realized this over the years after I saw the church grow to become a mega-church and I started to hear the same messages starting to repeat. Andy became more North Point talking to me rather than Andy, Tim or Sean. As the church became more successful it actually became harder for them as individuals to influence me.
Yet after fourteen years I still love my church and am under its influence. I am drawn closer to God when I see and hear the incredible baptism stories. I am in awe of faith when a member of our small group tells me about how they believe even more despite the most tragic events in their lives. I am assured of my beliefs when a friend of mine shares his struggles of justifying his faith because he can’t account for the dinosaurs.
I love North Point and Andy is better than ever – but it is no longer Andy that influences me. I think he would take great comfort in knowing that. Those that he and his staff baptize or puts into small groups are now far more effective roles in my life. I know from those early conversations in the green room as well as many of his sermons that was his design. All great leaders know where the most lasting influence is generated.
During this holiday season as you look toward a new year where you can look for ways to become infinitely influential realize that your greatest affect may not come by virtue of your title but from where you stand in the crowd.