Danny Loeffelholz has been on staff with Grace Community Church in Tyler since September 2007, originally as associate pastor and now as the pastor of the University Boulevard Campus. Prior to his arrival at Grace, Danny served as the Director of Pine Cove’s Bluffs Family Camp and Shores Camp from 2005-2007. Before Pine Cove, he worked for three years as youth pastor at Grace Community Church in Bartlesville, OK.
By Danny Loeffelholz | Courtesy Photo
“Thank you Craig, thank you for investing in my life.” These were the simple words of gratitude I recently shared with my friend over some good Texas barbecue. My friend’s initial response was a polite “you’re welcome,” but I wanted to express how deep his influence has gone in my life; I am a better husband now, a better father now, a better pastor now, because of Craig’s selfless and intentional influence in my life. I don’t believe Craig ever envisioned the amount of influence he would have with me 19 years ago when he invited me to play a pick-up game of basketball, but over time, God has surprised both of us by the lasting impact of intentional and selfless influence.
The Need and Action of Influence
Do you see yourself as an influencer or someone who has the potential to influence? Most would say no to both questions, probably because we don’t feel adequate, or have enough knowledge or the extra time to give. But what if true influence wasn’t adding another task to your already-full plate, but instead, intentionally leveraging your personality, your skills, your resources, your surroundings, your voice and your sphere of relationships — for God’s fame and renown?
A great example of this in the Scripture is the Prophet Elijah. In 2 Kings 2. We have the privilege of following Elijah through his last few moments on Earth, and he knows his time is coming to an end. So how does Elijah spend these precious final minutes? How would you spend your final day(s)? Would you go skydiving, mountain climbing or spend 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu (reference for all country music fans)? In all seriousness, would you spend time with your family, ask for forgiveness from those you’ve hurt or do something adventurous that you’ve always wanted to do? I’ve had the honor to be around a handful of people who knew their time here was coming to an end, and I’ve observed a commonality between each of them. When they knew their window of life had drastically shrunk, they cut out all the stuff in life that doesn’t matter and became intentional about how they wanted to spend their last moments on this Earth.
Examples of Intentional Influencers
Let’s go back to the final hours of Elijah’s life. He intentionally traveled to three different schools of prophets to encourage future leaders. By the way, these schools of prophets were not down the street — Elijah traveled nearly 25 miles to meet them — by foot. That challenges me, because Elijah leverages his time, his words and his life experience to influence others. He didn’t have to do this, but he understood the benefit for these young prophets.
A few months ago my friend’s father was diagnosed with throat cancer, which threatened his ability to speak again. Days after his father’s laryngectomy, my friend walked into the hospital ready to bring his father back home to East Texas. But upon his arrival, he found his father bent down with one arm around a young man who was recovering from major reconstructive surgery of his jaw. As this young man was fighting back tears, my friend’s father, struggling and learning how to speak in a new way desperately proclaimed, “You will make it through this—you will make it through this and I’m here to pray for you.” Much like Elijah, my friend’s father did not have to do this, but he chose to intentionally influence a young man even during his last minutes in the hospital.
The Selflessness of Influence
Our human nature tends to be impressed by what others accomplish, conquer, build or gain in life, yet the most impressive lives can be defined by what they’ve given their lives to, not what they’ve done. As impressive as Elijah’s accomplishments were, I would argue his life is forever marked by his very last words. Just before he was pulled up in a whirlwind, the prophet turns to his successor Elisha and said in 2 Kings 2:9, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” Of all the things Elijah could have done at the very last seconds of his life, he selflessly asked Elisha what he could do for him. Would you have done the same? I hope that I would have, but I’m not completely confident. What strikes me the most is we find Elijah at the end of his life and he’s not a grumpy old man, but instead his life has vitality. Anytime there is a focus on us, there is loss of vitality in our lives. Elijah had vitality, because he welcomed the death of his own desires and embraced the opportunity to intentionally and selflessly influence somebody.
The Call to Influence
If influence is truly leveraging your personality, skills, resources, surroundings, your voice and your sphere of relationships — for God’s fame and renown, then what excuse(s) do we have to not be influencers? We might not know the exact time of our last day on earth, we do know life is short and we must be intentionally and selflessly influencing our children, our neighbors, the next generation, etc. Consider for a moment the following questions:
• How are you currently leveraging what God has entrusted to you for the sake of influence?
• Do you see other generations, older and younger, as your opponent or an opportunity to influence?
I often wonder what my life would be like if Craig (an Elijah) hadn’t been intentional and selfless enough to influence me. My life has been far from perfect, but I can say with confidence that it has been influenced in a great way — thanks to one man being intentional and selfless.