Sunday, May 08, 2011

Focus on Influence, Not Size

Artist: Gary Wilson
Reading Eugene Peterson's The Pastor: A Memoir, solidifies in me an idea I have had for many years, which is: as a pastor and Jesus-follower I am to desire influence rather than size in terms of numbers of people. I don't think it is important how big a church is. I think it is important how influential a church is. Influence, not size, is what really matters. 

By "influence" I mean the kind of things Jesus talked about when he used metaphors like "salt" and "yeast." "You are the salt of the earth," Jesus said (Matthew 5:13) A little bit of salt can flavor a lot of food. What's needed are salty Jesus-followers. Salt influences food rather than it is influenced by it. Salt is active, not passive. In your life influence the world rather than being influenced by it. Non-salty "Christians" are, in Jesus' eyes, "no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." (Matthew 5:13)

Jesus-followers are to influence and salt "the earth," which mostly takes place outside the walls of the church building. I now think of my philosophy students. For most of them "church" flavors nothing about their lives. They can't taste "church" at all. I attribute this to a lack of influence.

How many people are in your church? Wrong question! How salty is your church? Is it influential as regards Jesus and the Kingdom? Focus on influence.

Be yourself influenced by Christ. Such influence flows from the Vine to the branch as one continuously abides in Christ. My central focus is this: stay connected to Jesus. This results in a daily being-influenced by him. None of this has to do with a focus on size. My understanding of church history is that cultures and communities and even nations that have begun to  follow after Jesus do so as a result of what God is doing in a small number of people, and sometimes only one person. Why not you?