Over my life and ministry, I have watched and observed men and women of influence and have learned as much as I could from them. As I’m sure you have noticed in your own life, there are times you absorb things that are tremendously positive, but then there are moments where you learn from someone’s actions and decide you want to choose differently and not model their example.
Through this exercise, I have found that most of life and ministry can be summed up in three areas of focus and I have strived to dedicate my life to these areas so that my influence is strong, ever expanding, and untarnished.
I believe life is all about connection. A connection between God is where all life and true successful influence begin. I recently had a lady come up to me after one of our Christmas productions and say very spiritually, “It’s all about the story isn’t it?!” Although I knew what she meant, I replied to her, “Actually no, it’s all about the connection of the story.” The story of Jesus, by itself, doesn’t do anything for anyone. In fact, Satan knows the story better than you or I will ever know it, and it’s not doing him any good. But the whole reason we have the story is because of sin in the garden; we were disconnected from the Father. Jesus came as the Messiah so that we might be reconnected once again with God and have a relationship with Him.
This connection has to ALWAYS be the first priority of any believer in Christ, but especially the leader.
However, just as connection has a vertical aspect to it between God and man, it also has a crucial horizontal piece as well. How you and I relate to one another many times will depend on our level of influence because without relationships, trust, community, teamwork, and even submission, we won’t be able to lead how God intended. I have seen many talented individuals who have struggled throughout their life because they have a hard time working with people. A constant focus on life’s vertical and horizontal connection is key to success.
Webster Dictionary defines character like this, “one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual.” I love that last part where it says a person’s character is what distinguishes you, and that is how God designed it to be. As artists and musicians, I think we all want to be different and have certain attributes that separate us and make us unique. I would submit to you that the character qualities in your life will do this as much to distinguish you as anything else in your life. Seek out the character qualities of wisdom, integrity, discernment, loyalty, compassion, truthfulness, initiative, sensitivity, boldness, justice, dependability, obedience, gratefulness, discretion, and many more which include all the fruits of the Spirit. Proverbs 4 speaks clearly how these qualities will protect you, lead you, honor you, be grace and peace to you, and will even add years to your life.
My dad was the greatest model I know of all these three areas. This past January, he passed away suddenly and so I have thought more than ever about his legacy and what it takes to make an impact that will last much longer than our time here on earth. Do you know what we talked about more than anything at his funeral? His godly character. Oh, he loved God and people more than anyone I have ever known and was extremely talented and successful with anything he put his mind and heart to, but the greatest thing he left to us was his example of how to be a person of unwavering character.
The last area that I believe is absolutely crucial is the excellence in your craft. Or in other words, how you do what you do. This is the principle of the talents. (Matthew 25:14-30) Your craft can give you credibility and a platform in so many ways within the church as well as the secular marketplace. I recently talked to a group of collegiate students and many of them wanted to take Jesus and the gospel to the secular community and wanted advice on how to do it. I told them to be great at what they did and that will turn heads, lend ears, and give you the credibility and stage to make a difference and have an impact for Christ. Although the Christian community is hopefully godlier in its critiques of talent and abilities, the same principle applies. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said that you should be so good at what you do that the world will see it, and then glorify the Lord because of the Light that is within. I urge you, no matter what stage or age you are in, always get better at what you do and never settle for where you are. You are either going forward or sliding backwards. There is no inactive place for one’s craft. Strive like David to not offer to the Lord that which costs you nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). He not only wants our best, He deserves it.
I like to think of these three areas as a 3-legged stool. Only when the legs are present, even, and reliable can it support who you are. The same is true with these three areas and your ministry.
There are those of strong talent and character, yet because they are unable to work with people and build relationships, they have struggled. Likewise, I have known people who have been so good at what they do, it would almost make you envious because of their talent. Yet, because the character in their life was weak, over time, their ministry and life suffered. Like you, I know many who are no longer even serving because of a moral failure or lack of character. Any one of these areas, without ALL of these areas, results in less than excellence product and person. I have seen that only when all three of these parts are challenged, nurtured, and developed, can one truly have a stable, godly, and successful ministry and life.