Defining Your Ministry Area of Influence (pt. 3) - The Influence of Others
We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence. (2 Cor. 10:15 & 16 emphasis added)
As pastors, we all have the same job to do. That job is to make mature (Col. 1:28) disciples and equip them for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12). That's what we do (or at least what we should be doing), right? So how do you view the labor of others? Are they a help or a hinderance? In this post, I hope to show how it should be a help and how I (too) often see it as a hinderance.
Why the labor of others is important
- The labor of others frees us up to do what God has called us to do. Because others have gone before us, we can look to their experience for help. We don't have to re-invent the wheel. We can use their work as a resource and stay focused on God's unique calling on our lives in our unique situation and circumstances.
- The labor of others can be a source of encouragement. We have the ability to evaluate their work and experiences to hopefully avoid some of their mistakes. We can be encouraged that we are on the right path as we learn and grow from them. We can see that we aren't alone.
- As an opportunity to network and partner together. Because we can't do it all, nor will our ministry be a fit for all people, we can work together to do more together than any one of us could hope to accomplish alone. Through networking and partnership, the kingdom of God is grown, just like the verses say, that the gospel is preached "in lands beyond you ..." This is the goal after all, isn't it?
The labors of others are important. So, why do they seem so annoying sometimes? Why do I often see them as a hinderance? Mostly because of my pride.
How we wrongly boast in the labor of others
- By not giving them the credit they deserve. In my pride, I can steal the thunder of others by not giving them credit for their work. I do this by citing their work as my own. It annoys me when someone says something I've been thinking better than I could have. So what am I prone to want to do? Say what they said as if I came up with it, instead of giving them credit.
- Out of sheer laziness. While the labor of others can be an encouragement, they can also feed my prideful laziness. I can view their work and not have to put any thought or care into mine. I'm often tempted to take them at their word and not work through the issue myself.
- By building my platform on their performance. Instead of partnering with others, I want to use their work to build my own platform. This is the pride of wanting what they have, instead of being content with the gifts and talents God has given me.
Who's kingdom are you building, yours or God's? We should be rejoicing with others in their labors, allowing them to rejoice with us in ours. Instead we grumble and complain as we see others achieve what we think we deserve.
Thankfully, God is still at work in our hearts, through the Holy Spirit, growing us closer to Christ-likeness. When we see the labor of others as God sees them, then we can rejoice as we see His kingdom expand. Luckily, we can still be discipled and made mature ... if we stay humble.
In the next post, I'll focus on why this is true and where our hope is.