You are a person of influence. You might not see yourself as influential, but there are individuals and groups of people you influence by your relationships, interactions, and decisions. Your influence gives you the opportunity to be a leader.
Brené Brown writes, “A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” Whether you hold a position in a corporation, a company, a church or you are a parent, a teacher, a dance instructor, or a little league coach you influence people by finding and developing potential in their lives.
The question is, do you have the courage to be that kind of leader?
The word “courage” comes from the Latin word for “heart”. It originally meant, “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, the definition has changed. Today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. We certainly need heroes. But courage has a deeper meaning.
I want to know if you have the heart to be vulnerable with the people you influence. Do you have the heart to be vulnerable? I like the way Brené Brown expresses it, “I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.”¹
Putting Your Vulnerability on the Line as a Disciple
I experienced this kind of courage through my fourth grade Sunday school teacher. Although she worked as a clerk, collecting money for the water department, and never held a position of leadership in the church, I was within her sphere of influence. Mary would greet me every Sunday at the classroom door with the words, “Timmy, I knew you were going to be here this morning.” Then with a welcoming hug, she would send me into the classroom to meet other classmates who had gathered. As I entered the room I would hear her say, “Nancy, I knew you were going to be here this morning.” When I would look back she would be hugging Nancy and sending her into the room to meet the rest of us. Mary greeted us as if we were the most important people she knew.
She developed relationships with eight 10-year-olds who gathered every Sunday morning. Because she took responsibility to develop those relationships, we listened to her lessons on Jesus. I remember her telling us about Jesus touching a leper and about Jesus receiving a woman who was sick. I will always remember her saying that we love like Jesus because that is the way we thank Jesus for loving us. We were under her influence as she developed our potential to become followers of Jesus.
Several times a year, Mary would bring cookies or brownies or little square sandwiches, along with Kool-Aid to our Sunday School class. As we ate, she would tell us how Jesus invited people to eat at his table. Once when we did not have enough room around the table, she said, “There is always enough room at Jesus’ table.” She then asked us to help her add an extension to the table so everyone had a place. By her teaching and action, she influenced how we related to one another.
Teaching the Great Commission
I remember the Sunday she taught us about Jesus sending his disciples into the world to tell others about God’s love. As was her custom, Mary pointed her finger at one of us and said, “You read the first verse.” We continued around the table, each of us reading a verse. When we ran out of verses, she said, “Okay, let’s start over.” Again, she pointed her finger and said, “Now, you read the first verse” and we continued until everyone had an opportunity to read.
On that Sunday, our scripture was Matthew 28:16-20. Each of us took a turn reading a verse:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
I don’t think I will ever forget what happened next. When we finished reading, she looked at each of us and said, “One day, one of you will go someplace in the world and tell people about Jesus.”
Mary was taking responsibility for the people with whom she had influence. She was developing the potential of a group of 10-year-olds to follow Jesus into the world. She put her vulnerability on the line to lead fourth graders.
When we “graduated” from fourth grade, Mary continued to send us notes of encouragement. I still have the gift she gave me for my high school graduation. It was a book on character. She led with courage. She encouraged my development as a person and as a Jesus follower.
Living the Great Commission
When I was 32, I was invited by the Institute for World Evangelism to participate in a school of evangelism in West Africa. I was partnered with a Nigerian pastor and assigned to a Methodist church in a fishing village just outside of Accra, Ghana. Titilayo, my Nigerian partner, and I joined the pastor of the church in visiting the people of his parish, teaching bible studies, leading prayer meetings, and preaching on Sunday mornings.
One afternoon the pastor took us to visit the matriarch of the church. She lived in a small four-room house with her sisters, their children, and their children’s children. There was a total of 40 people in the house. As we entered the compound behind the house, there were children playing, chickens and goats running, and several women cooking dinner on an open fire.
The pastor greeted everyone in his language “Ga.” With his greeting, we were welcomed with smiles, waves, and extended hands. As he introduced us to the group, several of the younger women went into the house and led an older woman, the matriarch, out of the house and into the compound. One of the women placed a small white bench on the ground. The older woman sat on the bench. Everyone in the compound gathered around to listen.
The pastor introduced us, Titilayo Fatimyembo from Nigeria and Timothy Bias from the United States of America. He told the group that we had come to tell them of God’s love in Jesus. As he introduced us, the older woman reached out her hands to welcome us. Titilayo and I instinctively took her hands. With everyone standing around us, she began to sing in her language a tune that I recognized.
In Christ there is no east or west
In Him no south or north
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.
Leaders Develop the Potential of Others
Do you know who I thought of at that moment? My fourth grade Sunday school teacher. I remember the day Mary said, “One day, one of you will go someplace in the world and tell people about Jesus.” Mary had taken the responsibility of finding the potential in a group of 10-year-olds and had the courage to develop our potential.
Your Next Step
You decide: are you a person of influence? You are if you’re leading the people around you to live into the potential of their lives.
Take the next step by doing one or more of the following:
- Focus on your purpose. As a person of influence, you have the opportunity to lead people into becoming who God has created them to be. Knowing your purpose is fundamental in helping others find their purpose.
- Look for God’s presence in the lives of the people around you. As a leader, being able to identify God in the people you influence allows you the opportunity to connect them with God.
- Cultivate relationships with the people you influence and lead. It is the depth of your relationships that allow you the opportunity to be vulnerable and courageous.
- Listen to “Do You Want To Lead With Courage?”
- Download the Transformation Guide to take this next step. The Transformation Guide offers you four skills that will assist you in identifying what is needed and what is missing in Leading with Courage.
As a Jesus follower, you have the opportunity to develop the foundation of God’s presence and purpose in your life. As a person of influence, you have the responsibility of finding and developing the potential in the lives of the people you influence. Because of who you are and how you lead, one day someone will contact you and say, “Thank you for having the courage to lead me in becoming who God created me to be.”
Today is the day you can begin to change your corner of the world. Let’s lead with ordinary courage.
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, as found on http://www.bhevolution.org/public/gifts_of_imperfection.page