When I was a Boy Scout, my Scout Troop took an annual trip to Kerr Dam, VA. We would spend 3 or 4 days boating, fishing, swimming, and camping. Late one evening, two of the older scouts were playing a board game under the light of the picnic shelter. They were playing Risk: the game of global domination. The goal of the game is to conquer the world, and to cover the board. Each player begins with a number of territories and they set out to battle each turn trying to conquer more and more territory. Although the competitor in me always thinks, "It ain't over til it's over," (Yogi Berra) there generally comes a point in the game when one play has an enormous advantage and is most likely to win. They cover most of the board and have great access to more resources and have more influence in the game overall.
Sphere of Influences
Although, I am glad that there are some major differences in between the game of Risk and the real world. There is some reality to the idea that certain nations have greater amounts of influence in the world, because they have a larger sphere of influence. The United States is one of, if not the most, influential nation on Earth. In the field of international relations, a sphere of influence is a spatial region or concept division over which a state or organization has a level of cultural, economic, military, or political control over another state or organization.
On a more personal level, there are various people in our lives where we have a level of influence in their lives as well as there are people in our lives that exert influence on us. (Spouses, children, parents, family, friends, employees, employers, etc.) We all live in an interconnected web of people, with varying levels of influence on one another.
Church, Christianity and the Kingdom of God
Jesus often taught about the Kingdom of God, which began in his life and continues in his resurrection (remember it is still the season of Easter). Sometimes we use the terms Christianity, the catholic (universal) Church and the Kingdom of God interchangeable without making distinctions between the terms. However, no matter what term we use, we are referring to no less than 2 billion people. The Kingdom of God has the largest sphere of influence in human history, and this comes with the potential to do either great good or great harm.
You may not have never thought about it, but Community UMC also has a sphere of influence (just on a different scale than nations or the global church). Our sphere of influence grows every time the church serves in the local community and has the potential to grow every time that we encounter new people with the life changing message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is because their lives are changed and focused on Jesus and applying his teaching in the world, the word will be different, it will be transformed.
Nurture, Outreach and Witness
As a denomination, the United Methodist Church has local churches provide for ministries in the areas of nurture, outreach, and witness. Nurture involves areas of pastoral/congregational care and visitation, age-specific programming for students and children, educational programming for adults. Nurture Ministries are meant to build people up, to help them to mature in their life of faith and in their love of God. Along with worship, Nurture is where we the reason(s) why we believe what we believe and how that should motivated us to act in both outreach and witness.
Outreach Ministries are predominantly ministries of service. These ministries include everything from mission trips to the other side of the world, to our in-house food pantry for those who need food assistance. As I mentioned above, when our Outreach Ministries serve the local community, we encounter people that we may have never met before, we build connections with individuals, groups, and organizations. These connections not only provide for a great link within the larger community, thus expanding our sphere of influence, but they help us to develop a love for our neighbor. However, if we as individual are not connected with our local community in missions, our impact and our sphere of influence will shrink.
Witness means to see and tell, so naturally Witness Ministries are about being a witness to the local community about the gospel. From our church website to individuals being welcomed in worship, Witness Ministries is about how prepared are we to tell others about the gospel of Jesus Christ, how do we invite them into a intentional community seeking life transforming relationships with Christ, and how do we welcome them and encourage them to belong among us in that intentional community.
Your Sphere of Influence
So what does any of this have to do with you? Your sphere of influence matters. Your sphere of influence, the people that you are connected are the people that we have the chance to reach with the gospel. Your connection to an individual or a community could be the catalyst for them having a relationship with Jesus. Your sphere of influence might make you alert to how the church could serve the needs of others, and change their lives by responding to their needs. Will you use your influence well in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? That is up to you.
Grace and Peace be with you,