Spheres of Influence
Photo: Craig Englert, Michael Bagby and Truman Cunningham lead a pastor's conference on Discipleship in Sawa, on the Rio Coco in Nicaragua.
The book of Acts is about the spreading of the Gospel in the First Century. It not only is a reliable history book, it is filled with “how to” principles for us in our “spreading of the Gospel in the 21st Century.
In Acts 17, we see Paul arriving in Corinth, the sailors’ town on the Gulf of Corinth, where ships travelling between Italy and Athens took a short cut, by having their ship dragged across a four mile isthmus on rollers, saving days of dangerous sea travel around the rocky Peloponnese Peninsula, AND giving their crews shore leave to revel in the sex capital of the ancient world. In Corinth was the Temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of Love, where over 100 temple prostitutes helped many "worship" this goddess through various sexual acts.
Photo: The ruins of the Temple of Apollo with the acropolis in the background where the Temple of Aphrodite was located.
Now there is a canal cut through this narrow isthmus that ships pass through.
Paul spent over two years here establishing a successful body of Christ Followers, who were dealing with the same personal growth issues that we ourselves have experienced. Once Paul moved on to Ephesus, other Bible teachers following behind him, often teaching things contrary to sound doctrine, and in the process maligning Paul. These ‘teachers’ sought to replace Paul’s authority as the spiritual father of the Corinthian congregation with their own.
Paul wrote a letter to his friends in Corinth, attempting to restore their relationship, as God intended it. In chapter 10, he writes about the spiritual conflict behind the overt issues, and invokes an image that is very useful to us in our day:
- A round solid figure, or its surface, with every point on its surface equidistant from its center;
- An area of activity, interest, or expertise; a section of society or an aspect of life distinguished and unified by a particular characteristic.
Paul uses this geometric figure to describe an area of ministry, an area of “ergon” (supernatural works), and an area where we have been given the orders to work, and the authority to do the work.
But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you.
2 Corinthians 10:13 NAS
This “sphere of influence” is our assigned area of ministry. He goes on to describe this “sphere”, but I will switch to the New Living Translation, to make the point more clear.
13 We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority (sphere). We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us, which includes our working with you. 14 We are not reaching beyond these boundaries when we claim authority over you, as if we had never visited you. For we were the first to travel all the way to Corinth with the Good News of Christ.
15 Nor do we boast and claim credit for the work someone else has done. Instead, we hope that your faith will grow so that the boundaries of our work (sphere) among you will be extended.
Imagine a bubble around you, that goes everywhere you go. This bubble is filled with your relationships, your community, your morality, and your behavior.
. This is your sphere of influence. Within this sphere, God has assigned you relationships, given you tasks, and the authority and ability to accomplish these tasks.
Photo: Part of my "sphere" on the Rio Coco- Our Seek The Lamb Leadership Team.
Many times your sphere intersects with the spheres of others. Relationships are formed for a moment or a season. God has a purpose in all this, to extend his Kingdom and invite many to share Eternity with Him.
Photo: Another part of my "sphere": Our Project Ezra Teachers
But what do we do with this concept? How are we to operate within this sphere God has given us? How will we be effective in accomplishing His Purposes?
First, it is obvious from so much of the Bible that God wants us to enjoy our relationship with Him. When we realize that He is the source of true love and true life, it becomes apparent that fulfillment in this life will come only through our relationship with Him.
When Jesus was asked “What is the greatest commandment?”, He quoted a verse found in Deuteronomy chapter 6:
35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied, “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Our first priority within our sphere is to have a love relationship with God that encompasses our emotions, our morality, our obedience, and our priorities.
Jesus defines our second priority: Express love for the people around us and place their needs ahead of our own. Be others centered! Love them with your actions!
So this is the atmosphere inside our Sphere: it’s a pervasive sense of love towards our Creator, and love toward those who walk into our Sphere.
Its within this atmosphere that we accomplish the mission.
The writer of Deuteronomy records how we are to do this:
4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
God has given many of us biological sons and daughters. We are told to teach these children about God, His Love for us, His character, His standards of right and wrong, and His plans for our lives. We are to do this continually, in a very relational manner.
Photo: Another part of my "sphere": my children in Jerusalem November 2000.
God has given all of us spiritual children. These are people who He brings into our Sphere who don’t know Him, or who do and need some encouragement, exhortation, and equipping. This is what “Loving your neighbor as yourself” is all about.
I found myself being pulled into the Sphere of my cousin Kean Salzer in the fall of 1981. He and his friends invited me into their homes. They served me meals. They listened to me. They developed real friendships with me, without condemning my morally loose lifestyle. It was through their active love that I came to experience the love of my Heavenly Father.
Later, I noticed that many who were in that morally confused state I was in were suddenly in my Sphere. I took great joy in inviting them into my home, feeding them, listening to them, and becoming friends with them. As the Holy Spirit gave me opportunity, I spoke words of life to them. I saw many of them come to experience the Love of their Creator.
I also have found myself pulled into the Spheres of Christ Followers who are further down the road than I am, whom God has used to encourage me, nudge me forward and challenge my habitual ungodly behaviors. I recognize their role, and their authority in my life.
Secondly, we are to write the words of God on our hands, wear them on our foreheads, and write them on our doors and gates. I have seen Jewish people tie leather Tefillin on their arms, and strap a phalactery (small box) on their foreheads, and nail a mezuzah (small box) to their door. All of these contain these verses from Deuteronomy.
Do you really think this is all that God wants us to do? Write them on leather straps and small paper and put in small boxes.
I think there is a great principle behind this prescribed practice: God wants us to live out His Love and morality, not just proclaim it.
I have a book titled Coffee With Jesus, by Radio Free Babylon. Here is Carl discussing this concept with Jesus. Put a Christian Fish on his business logo? Jesus says to let his clients know he is a Christ Follower by his honesty, work ethic, and workmanship.
What is your sphere? How are you moving within it?
For me, recognizing my Sphere is the first step toward a day filled with God adventures and a restful night’s sleep.
Arielle Saree’ Uyeda Bagby, our daughter, third child after a 5 year hiatus after Lukas will turn 21 on June 17th . When she was born, Mikaela and Lukas both were thrilled to have her as their sister and cared for her with great passion. A passion that led Lukas after waiting patiently for his turn to hold her (after Mikaela) said to me with certainty, “Mommy, I want my own (to hold)!” Prayers answered when, Moselle (now 18) came in our lives ready to conquer her world and everyone elses…Mik and Luk had their hands full and no longer had to take turns…they each had their own. These younger two learned a lot from their older siblings in many ways.
This month we celebrate our youngest, Moselle, being on the President’s list with a 4.0…
And the Birthday girl, Arielle, also doing very well in college and her own bathing suit company, Saree’Swim. (from the onset of learning how to make suits, to taking it to Honduras personally (she and I) to be manufactured. She is well respected among her siblings, peers, team mates and friends (both old and young) She has earned the nickname, “Mom” because of her care of those around her. She has become a gem of a friend to me and many who she touches and knows. I am blessed to call her one of my closest confidantes in this life. She knows me, understands me and relates to me in a way that reaches me. This is not easy. I am often in awe of her and her gentle and wise ways of speaking even when she is not (speaking). She has grown into a woman who knows what she wants and is willing to take the necessary steps to achieve those goals. At the same token she has grown into her God given roles within our family and company and is readily respected for it.
We have shared many answered prayers between us…healing, straight teeth (when they were all crooked and kind of scary)…our more recent answered prayer was for her to have another sport to be involved in. She was about 15 and she had gone through getting her black belt and had enough swimming and running around Charles Park with the family. She decided to join the gym Mik became a coach at…it was then called Cross Fit of Vero Beach…now Vero Strength and Conditioning. She became very disciplined on her own and decided that she wanted to be fit and healthy and began to take all the necessary steps and decisions toward that daily and consistently. She competed in a few little fun events and proved to be a very disciplined & successful in her results.
I realized a couple of weeks ago that God had answered our prayer for her to find a sport she could excel in when she entered her first Sprint Tri-atholon and took first place in her division along with her friend she trained with, McKenzie (soon to go to the Cross Fit Games to compete with the big boys and girls world class athletes) who also took first in her division.
Wow ! The owner of Mik’s gym, Rob leaned over to me and said, “This could be her sport.” I thought ,”Right!!!! We asked about this…and again …Yay!!! Ask and you shall receive, Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open !” What a great display of asking and receiving, seeking and working toward goals and being active toward opening up opportunities….and being willing to devote ourselves toward finding our ways and answers .
I love how birthdays bring out the thoughtfulness in all of my children…siblings who have learned how to be close to one another and practice the steps to keep the relationships real and honoring mostly (you know how that goes…we are a bunch of hard headed knuckle heads) They are closer than most and care greatly what goes on between them…so thankful for these relationships. Thankful also that we can do Life together on such an intimate level…in our home and at work and in the middle of ministry and relationships….Powerful.
Let’s Give Thanks!
1) For the new 15 HP motor for our teachers on the Rio Coco!
2) That Augusto is getting a new leg!
3) That we are able to pay our teachers this month.
You may donate online at Seek The Lamb Giving. Thanks!
Fire Your Spiritual Arrows:
Please pray that God will:
1) Provide for our teachers & missionaries this month.
2) Bring many into the Rio Coco Cafes this month.
3) Pray for guidance in a new café opportunity in Hawaii.
Thanks for your prayers!
Rio Coco Beans
We have been selling much of our Maui Coffee, as many love it!
Take a look at this as well as our other coffees.