I’ve been a college pastor for eight years now, so I’ve seen several generations of students come and go. One of the most intriguing aspects of college ministry is watching the process of discipleship happen in a compressed time frame. While an adult might leave a legacy at his church over the course of several decades, a student only has four or five years, at most, to make a mark.
I’ve learned, though, that most of us have more influence on others than we think we do. Even though they’re only around for a few years, many students impact the feeling and direction of our ministry for years to come. Students who lead with integrity and faithfulness often leave behind an army of like-minded student leaders. On the other hand, students who are immature, lazy, or unkind can create a toxic environment that takes a long time to overcome.
Most of us don’t think we have very much influence. We’ve been conditioned to believe that the real influencers in our culture are celebrities, business moguls, and politicians. Those people certainly have an influence, but to be honest it’s more of a wide-spectrum influence than a deep one. Think about the people who have really changed your life, and chances are they aren’t famous. They’re ordinary people: your parents, close friends, teachers, pastors, boyfriends/girlfriends, and roommates.
When Paul told Timothy to teach the truth of Christ to faithful men, who would teach it to faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2), he understood that real cultural change happens one life at a time, as one person influences another, who influences another, and so on. That’s the process of discipleship.
Although we tend to think of discipleship in strictly Christian terms, it actually works the opposite direction as well. If I use my influence to hurt others or to insult them or to feed my own ego, I’m going to produce others who act in the same ways. On the other hand, if I use my influence to draw others toward Christ and to share with them His kindness and love, I’m going to leave an entirely different sort of legacy.
So here’s a challenge for you this morning: Think about the people you influence. Make a list of your friends, family, classmates, roommates, professors, and anybody else who could be impacted by your words and actions. Then ask yourself, “What sort of legacy am I leaving?” It might be that you need to make some adjustments. Whether you think about it often or not, you are making a difference. The question is simply, “What sort of difference are you making?”
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