Is It Wrong to Desire Influence?

Most chapters in Explosive Preaching prompt me to think of several posts.  Hopefully Boyd-MacMillan will forgive my leaning on his book for ideas so often in recent weeks in exchange for my encouragement to others to buy it for themselves.  Chapter 28 in the book is a chapter that stands out as unlike anything I’ve come across in other preaching books (I appreciate that, as I also get feedback that this blog contains things not found in preaching books too!)

Success.

Is it wrong to desire it?  This chapter focuses on three very diverse preachers – Billy Graham, Martin Luther-King Jr and Robert Schuller.  The author writes, “They all became influential preachers.  But they all wanted to become influential preachers.  They were not modest in their desire for influence, nor bashful in the way that they sought to extend their influence.” (p237)

He goes on to write under several headings: the sermon, the person, the wave, the moment, the movement, the network, the event.  His conclusion, the lesson he learns from these men is “if you want to be an influential preacher, then don’t just preach a great sermon!” He sees their concern with reception and reverberation.  Reception refers to their making sure that their words were heard optimally.  Reverberation meant ensuring that their words would be heard long after delivery.

I suppose this is a matter of prayerful balance.  We desire to influence others as good stewards of the ministry that God gives us.  Yet we feel very uncomfortable at the suggestion that we should pursue influence (or “success” in any human measurement).  I know this post could prompt a strong reaction.  I suspect it may get a reaction that is unfair to the book that prompted the post.  I would encourage you to read the book.  I would encourage you to prayerfully wrestle with the issues raised in this post.  Fleshly or spiritual, a desire for influence is very real in most of us – let’s not ignore that, but rather prayerfully wrestle with the issue.

We Need Repeated Prodding

I believe we need repeated prodding on this issue.  It’s a critical issue in ministry and church health.  I believe it is the heart of biblical ministry.  Here’s a prod from Explosive Preaching, 145:

There is no greater tragedy for preaching today than the senior pastor who claims to be too busy to mentor preachers.

I say, amen.  This line comes at the end of a paragraph describing the mentoring of Martin Luther-King Jr by J. Pius Barbour.  He would spend time every Saturday with a group of younger preachers who would practice their sermons in front of him and the group.  Then on Sunday, after he had preached, he would ask them to analyze his sermon under the headings of content, delivery and audience reaction.  Talk about accountability as well as mentoring!

It takes effort, time and sometimes even sacrifice.  Yet mentoring is multiplicative ministry, it is exponential ministry, it is biblical ministry.