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  • Writer's pictureAdrea Tilford

He's Got the Sphere of Influence in His Hands

What is your greatest sphere of influence?

One of the things I continue to feel challenged by as an aspiring writer and now speaker is this push for platform. Platform is the number of people who are in my sphere of influence. The people who might buy a book from me if I sold one. The people who would most likely buy a ticket to a speaking event of which I held a spot.

(Photo of me building my platform. Sam took this as I had just wrapped up my interview with Rachael Hunt Elmore, guest on Episode 8 of the Pod)

Platform building has been a key topic at the writers and speakers conferences my friends and I have attended. She Speaks, the writing and speaking conference that Lysa Terkerst hosts each year was no different. I listen to all of the advice for social media. I study it on my own at times. I try something here or there and then I find myself wondering if this is really where it's all at.

After all, I have this sphere of influence right in front of me that somehow gets blurred when I sit on my phone to write the funniest post. Oh wait, it only got two likes, guess I'm not that funny. And meanwhile my precious daughters are another day older and wondering what's so great on that little screen I carry around with me and focus on so intently that I miss a somersault into the pool.

On Tuesday morning this week, I read a prayer in Ruth Haley Barton's The Soul of Leadership. The prayer asks God to help me as a leader focus on the sphere of leadership I've been given and to wait for more until God gives more. I prayed that prayer sincerely. Feeling still torn in the midst of my reflection about where exactly that call falls for me.

(The Prayer)

My sphere right now listed in order for which I think there is largest impact from my presence:

My family

(Sam and the girls have the largest impact on my life as well)

My friends

(My friend Erica. Friendship is reciprocal impact

My church

July's Pray and Play was small and fun with knocking down the pins at the bowling ally.

My school

I work with incredible teachers who inspire and influence me too!

My writing: Podcast, blog

Guest churches I preach in, speaking events I do in person

School District through leadership teams

Social Media

Social Media falls last on this list of likely impact on lives. That makes sense to me when I consider all I know about human beings and their design for connection. The people in front of me in real life are going to be significantly more impacted by my presence than those who encounter me on a screen. I am not anti social media. I think it can be used as a ministry tool, but I do think we need to think about the people God places in our presence as priority.

I gave a sermon on July 17 at another Presbyterian church in town. I shared some of my story, stating how hesitant I often feel about sharing because of my fear of repercussions and judgment toward my family, toward myself. Yet I know that God is asking me to be real that not only do I speak on behalf of the child with a hard story, but that indeed I am one of those children who is now an adult in healing. And God was with me in the hard parts. And God is with me now in maybe what feels like the hardest part - to speak openly about healing and recovery and hope. I wonder if it feels hard like that for others who are doing this work?

Here's the thing. I don't know the exact impact of my message on July 17. I do know that I had a person share with me that they too had been abused as a child and that they felt that "no one wants to hear about it." But that the way I shared changed that perspective for them. Maybe God's people can hear about the fact that abuse happens to children and those children become adults who have to function and raise children and work jobs but who carry a heavy burden in this world because they "can't talk" about the very thing that silenced them when they were small.

Can we change this church? Can we make it okay for a person to have a story that is hard to hear and learn from how God is moving through the story for good? Can we welcome the hardest parts into our midst? I think we can. And I know God's asking me to say so within my sphere of influence.

I had another person tell me that she was so glad "this person" was listening to my sermon and "that person" was in church that day because well you know they have these really hard stories... and then she said, "but you know what, at a certain point in the message, I thought to myself, this is for me too."

That is the power if God's platform. If we can be obedient, and speak to those whom we have been entrusted to impact within our sphere of influence, God will decide who else might just benefit from that message. Maybe its no one and maybe it's 70 listeners on a podcast. On Wedndesday, I checked my podcast data. I had almost 60 listens on my lastest episode. It had just been 10 on Saturday. Somehow, someway God opened a door for that episode to influence more people. I know it's hard to trust that God will take care of it - that's my prayer every single day, but I'm learning and leaning in and feeling grateful.

And today, I'll keep on focusing on the sphere that's right in front of me because well you know - that impact is world changing.

You can watch my July 17 Sermon (sermon starts at minute 27:29) by clicking here:

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