I have a small pond in my backyard with a waterfall that I can turn on or off. Each rock around the pond was initially positioned to either hide something or look like a more natural setting. When kids under the age of five come to our yard, they gravitate to the water, and the rocks. Each kid loves to pick up the biggest rock that their little hands can manage and throw it into the water. Why? Because we love to watch the splash – it makes us feel like we did something to effect change. I still want to effect change and make a splash.
Big splashes don’t really change the landscape – depending upon the size of the splash! A tsunami is an inverted splash that certainly changes the landscape, but didn’t the changing landscape cause the inverted splash? Long-term change of culture happens through ripples. I could throw a big rock into the pond of culture and create a momentary change, but that requires a lot of effort that only certain people can accomplish – a big person or a big God. But what if everyone was mobilized to throw repeated rocks into the pond of culture? Wouldn’t this create continuous ripples that would keep it from becoming stagnant? Isn’t this how a big God wants to effect change?
Relationships are the ripples that change culture. Religion provides the rocks, but we cannot become religious about our rocks. “Stop throwing my rocks!”
How many relationships do you have? All discipleship (training and teaching people to follow Jesus) is best done in the context of individual relationships. Certainly systems, processes, structure, and organizations are helpful in discipleship, but ultimately, we are shaped by relationship. Rocks are helpful for creating ripples, but we must make the rocks manageable for little hands.
Relationship has within its power to influence and change. Very little change has happened in my life in a vacuum of relationship. Even accountability is best done in the context of a relationship, not a one-way engagement, but a relationship of love and mutual accountability. It is much harder to dismiss an issue once we are in a relationship with someone on the other side of the issue.
This is not to suggest that we should ever use relationship to manipulate or control. However, I must view my relationships as my circles of influence – fully embracing the reality that every relationship is a two-way street of influence. It is so annoying to be in a conversation where one or more individuals have no interest in listening, understanding, or willingness to be influenced.
We are each called to be in relationship with our Maker and with one another. Did you realize that you are invited by God Himself to influence Him? He invites us to ask Him move things and even change His mind about big and small things. Every father wants to be influenced by his children – and Jesus says that we have a Good Father in Heaven who wants to be influenced by His children. He says, “Tell me what you need and ask me to move something on your behalf.” Why? Because relationship is characterized by influence and He wants a relationship with us because He knows that we need a relationship with Him.
We need to be in relationship. We need to influence and be influenced. Jesus called us to make disciples – influence each other into what it means to follow Him and change the landscape. Discipleship is characterized by relationship and the ripples of influence. Who is influencing you? Who are you influencing? When was the last time you influenced God? When was the last time He influenced you? What rocks are helpful for creating ripples of influence? What rocks are unmanageable?