How Discipleship Becomes More Than a Class: Influence

Does your church only see discipleship as a class to be taken or a study to attend?

The story of discipleship in the beginning days of the church was lived out as those early Christians went about their lives – telling family, friends, masters, slaves, soldiers about their new lives in Christ.

In other words, they lived out their faith every day in the relationships they already had with others.

Fast forward to today: Every weekend, untold numbers of Christians leave a church building seeing no connection between their faith and their everyday lives. The next six days between Sundays seem like a spiritual vacuum, with little to no spiritual meaning.

For first-century believers, daily life was intertwined with discipleship. What happened?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Workplace Grace, by Bill Peel and Walt Larimore

You can take your faith to work in appropriate, engaging ways. Workplace Grace offers a simple, non-threatening approach to evangelism. Whether your work takes you to a construction site, a cramped cubical or the corner office, every Christian plays a significant role in the Great Commission. Between Sundays, you can be a pipeline for God’s grace in the most strategic mission field in the world: your workplace.

Workplace Grace is for Christians who are not gifted evangelists, yet they want to make a spiritual difference at work and see their coworkers and friends come to faith in Jesus Christ. After adopting Workplace Grace strategies, Christians who once felt awkward sharing their faith now say, “A load of guilt has been taken off my shoulders.” “I never knew sharing my faith could be so simple.” “I can do this!”


Mention the word “discipleship” to most Christians and the likely response will have something to do with a class they attended at church or something similar. It may even progress to something deeper, like learning how to “witness” to others.

While that’s not wrong, it’s not all the story.

Our job is not so much to bring people to Jesus, as it is to bring Jesus to people.

Spiritual influence is about more than zeal to spread the gospel. People need to see and be attracted to Jesus in us before we try to persuade them to trust Him.

In Acts 1:8 the word “witnesses” is a noun. The emphasis is on being a witness, not on witnessing. In fact, we are never commanded to go witnessing (verb), but to be witnesses (noun). Focusing on doing before being disconnects who we are from what we say.

When we “go witnessing (verb),” we usually know little to nothing about the status of the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of the people we meet. And they know little, to nothing about us that gives them a reason to trust what we say. In the context, we challenge people to take a quantum leap of faith, rather than a small step toward Jesus. This can add more rocks on the hard soil of someone’s heart.

Whether growing acres of wheat or planting a backyard vegetable garden, cultivation is key to a successful harvest. Breaking up the soil, removing rocks, and pulling weeds always comes before planting.

God often uses those whose own heart soil is softened and fruitful to cultivate the hearts of others. People who reflect Christ’s character and demonstrate His love, compassion, integrity, graciousness, and patience.

Cultivation is all about earning the right to be a spiritual influence in someone’s life. The goal of this phase is to break down emotional barriers by earning trust and creating curiosity about our faith.

Trust is not automatic. It is a response to character and actions.

Bill Peel and Walt Larimore, Workplace Grace


As we live out our lives and spend time with other people, being alert to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, we are beginning to understand how God can use us to disciple others, and in the process, grow as disciples ourselves.

Developing relationships with others – especially those with whom we have regular and close contact – can be very difficult. But God didn’t give us a pass on this – the Great Commission is pretty specific that we are to “make disciples” as we are going about our daily lives.

Developing relationships with others in our daily lives requires us to earn the right to be heard, and often that requires understanding and practicing new rules of engagement with others.

Gather your staff or key leaders and brainstorm personal and intentional ways in which each person can earn influence through obedience of these commands of Jesus:

  1. Turn the other cheek. “I tell you, don’t resist and evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:39). The “slaps” of Jesus day today take the form of rolling our eyes at someone, acting too busy to listen, or anything that communicates a condescending attitude toward others. Letting an insult bounce off us without any visible effect may quietly be the first step toward developing a conversation rather than a confrontation.
  2. Give whats asked for – and more. “As for one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well” (Matthew 5:40). The coat referred to here is like an overcoat today. Jesus’ words demonstrated an extraordinary thing to do – seeing if going beyond the initial request would settle the matter. People are more important than the point. We can plant many seeds for developing relationships by treating other people as more valuable than our own appeals for fairness and justice.
  3. Walk a little further. “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (Mathew 5:41). Roman law of the first century required Jewish cooperation in helping soldiers and officials in daily life – a practice that continually reminded the Jewish people of their second-class status. Jesus’ command turned a legalistic requirement into an act of grace, by allowing the needs of others to take precedence over our own.
  4. Show generosity. “Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42). Sharing the generous, open lifestyle of the kingdom with others is as much about the state of your heart as is the size of your wallet. We’re all needy people – we may not have the same needs, but we have many needs. Looking for ways to do more and want less is clearly not seen in much of society, and may help develop a relationship with others.

Actions like the above – when we start deliberately letting God do remarkable, countercultural things through us – are some of the best ways to help others see a difference in you, and lay the groundwork for developing a relationship as the beginning point of sharing Christ with them.

Adapted from Subversive Kingdom, by Ed Stetzer

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 61-1, published March 2017


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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6 Habits That Grow Your Influence as a Leader

Ever wonder why some people are influential, and others, well, aren’t?

Take getting others to buy into your ideas, for example. Some people seem always to be able to win the day with their ideas. Others, not so much.

I get asked all the time by leaders how to get their team members to take their ideas (and their leadership) more seriously.

What’s fascinating to me is that the conversation almost always begins from the angle of how to pitch ideas. It’s as though most of us have convinced ourselves that we just need a better argument, point or insight and then our ideas will catch on.

Sometimes that’s the case, but more often than not it’s deeper than that.

It’s easy to think leaders buy (or reject) our ideas. But I’m not sure what’s what really at play most of the time.

At a deeper level, it’s often a question of whether leaders buy you.

As harsh as it sounds, here’s the truth: if a leader doesn’t buy you, they’ll rarely buy your idea.

Leadership, as John Maxwell says, is influence. So the question about whether your ideas or viewpoint catches on quickly becomes a discussion about influence.

Your influence as a leader is never static. It’s either advancing or declining.

If you’re struggling to get your ideas adopted, you’ve likely got an influence issue as much as you have a communication problem.

If you have a strong influence at work, leaders will usually race to embrace or adopt your input. Conversely, if you’re not respected in the workplace, your ideas will likely get ignored no matter how logical or persuasive your ideas seem to you.

So how do you gain influence in the workplace? Here are 6 non-negotiable traits of leaders who have influence.

1. Be Sensational At What You Do

Not surprisingly, there’s a direct connection between competence and influence.

Leaders instinctively develop a habit of listening to their highest performing team members, even if they might initially disagree with their approach on issues.

When I see to leaders who never seem to be able to get their ideas adopted, I often wonder if it’s because their teammates don’t respect them.

If you want more influence at work, be sensational at what you do.

Your ideas are always attached to you. If people respect and admire you, they’ll tend to respect and admire your initiatives.

2. Grow Your Character

Being great at what you do is one thing.

But we’ve all met competent people who we don’t like spending time with.

Character impacts your influence as much as competency does.

And long term, it even matters more. Ultimately your character, not your competency, determines your capacity.


Because character is still the ultimate lid on leadership. Every day, highly competent leaders lose their jobs, their careers and their families because their character imploded.

Your competency will take you only as far as your character can sustain you. So work hard on your character. It’s the last cap on your leadership.

3. Cultivate Humility

The only person who likes a know-it-all is the know-it-all himself.

Paradoxically, if you want to cultivate greater influence, make your leadership less about you and more about others and the cause.

Prideful leaders are incredibly reluctant to share the spotlight. After all, you’ve worked so hard and so long, why share this moment with anyone? So if you’re a proud leader, you want the stage as often as it’s available. You want to chair everything and are reluctant to let anyone truly lead or get credit.

But humble leaders willingly push others into the spotlight.

They share credit. They share the stage. And they don’t have to lead everything.

In fact, they intentionally develop others leaders and even replace themselves in many key roles because the mission is more important than they are.

A humble leader rejoices in the success of others. A proud leaderresents the success of others.

If you want to overcome envy and insecurity, do what proud people fear doing: push others into the spotlight. It will break the stranglehold of envy in your life.

4. Do What You Said You Were Going To Do When You Said You Were Going To Do It

Honestly, if you want more influence starting tomorrow, just do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it.

So few people do this.

Missed deadlines and excuses are the staples of the vast majority of people, including people in leadership positions.

Do you have any idea how many bosses/employers wake up every day to a string of phrases like:

  • I’m sorry
  • I didn’t get it done
  • Sorry, I had a bunch of things come up
  • Oh, I didn’t think it was that important
  • I’m so slammed right now
  • I just forgot

If you simply do what you said you’re going to do when you said you were going to do it, you’re ahead of 98% of the population of planet earth.

Furthermore, people will gain confidence in you.

And confidence, of course, is the basis of trust. If they know they can trust you, they’re far more likely to trust your ideas.

5. Initiate

A surprising number of people sit around waiting to be told what to do next.

The best leaders never do that. They see what needs to be done, and they do it.

If you’re not sure whether you have permission, ask.

An occasional “Hey is it all right if I reorganize this entire system?” is better than “I went home early because I couldn’t find anything to do.”

Leaders look for self-starters. Self-motivated people always have more influence than people who sit around waiting for their next assignment.

You likely have more permission than you think.

6. Finish

It’s great to start things. It’s another to finish them.

So many projects get started and then get abandoned. You and I can both point to hundreds of blogs and podcasts that started well and died a dozen posts or episodes in, because leaders had a lot of passion to begin but none to finish.

Ditto with projects at work.

So many great new initiatives fail to see daylight not because they were bad ideas, but because team members never finished what they started.

Shipping beats dreaming. Finishing trumps starting. Completing beats planning.

What Do You See?

These are 6 non-negotiable traits I see in leaders who are increasing their influence.

How about you?

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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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The Slow Leak of Leadership Influence

If a leader loses influence, it rarely evaporates instantly.

It’s usually more like a pin-sized hole in a balloon. The leak is so slow it’s barely perceptible. The balloon flies high at first – seemingly tugging on its string. Then it slowly begins to drop. In few days, you wake up and see the balloon laying on the floor, and much smaller than it used to be.

There are rare circumstances, such as a moral failure, that result in the loss of influence overnight. In the vast majority of situations, it’s subtle and slow. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not noticed until it’s too late.

Whether it’s the pastor, someone on staff, or a volunteer leader, the issue is the same. The person is leading in such a way that he or she is losing influence and is often unaware. They may have been coached, but feel the issue is “not a big deal” and resist change. The result is decreasing influence.

The following examples are the most common “pin holes” for the loss of influence. Keep in mind these are not “problem leaders.” They are often good at what they do and in most cases people like them.

The issue may stem from a blind spot, lack of wisdom or maturity, or perhaps just lack of good and honest coaching. Whatever the case may be, each of these examples must be corrected as quickly as possible.

3 subtle ways a leader loses influence

1) Constant questioning, without offering solutions.

Asking questions is a good thing.

Asking the right questions at the right time is a practice of great leaders.

But something very different happens when a leader seems to question everything with more of a spirit of criticism rather than helpfulness. Let’s be honest; it doesn’t take much talent to spot problems. It doesn’t require a genius to point out what’s not working.

It takes a leader to come up with creative solutions. It also takes a capable leader, committed to the vision, to help make those solutions become a reality. That’s the best way to stop that influence leak.

Then an interesting thing happens. The more solutions a leader puts into play, the greater permission the people give that leader to ask more questions – even hard questions! It’s because that leader has earned it, and his or her influence is rising.

2) Stretching authority, without producing results.

Taking the initiative is a good thing.

Exercising leadership authority beyond the bounds of your formal responsibility is great when the church benefits.

However, when a leader shows up “large and in charge” but ends up more talk than results, a slow leak in influence is guaranteed.

It’s natural for strong leaders to push the envelope, and sometimes a few feathers get ruffled. That happens. But when a leader pushes the scope of his or her authority, and yet nothing of consequence happens to advance the mission, people quickly tire of that.

The better plan is to lead at the edge of your given authority, perhaps stretch it just a little, but only as you help make things happen. And as you do, it’s likely that more authority will be given to you, as you consistently produce results.

This will cause your influence to rise.

3) Making progress, without caring for people.

Moving the ball down the field is a good thing.

Taking new territory to advance the mission is the reason you have a position of leadership.

But few things in the local church will diminish your influence more than not tending to relationships. Everyone wants to win, and because of that, they will (temporarily) tolerate a less than caring leader if that leader can help achieve success. In this case, your influence is decreasing ever so slowly and subtly. Almost imperceptibly.

All leaders, however, hit a season where progress is not made. It’s in those times that the people will allow your influence to leak much more quickly. The hole in the balloon becomes large.

Progress is important, and a good leader wants to lead successfully, but that process must always include a genuine care and concern for people. As leaders, we must want more for the people than from them.

Loving the people gives you permission to lead them, and when cared for, they will help lead the way to the desired dreams and vision of the church.

I pray these thoughts are helpful to you and your leadership.

> Read more from Dan.

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Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
— Okello.moses
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
— Russell C
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
— Thomas TC Gotcher

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.