Impacting lives includes guiding and teaching those who will rise to positions of Christian leadership. "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:2).
Impacting lives also includes ministering to those who are weak, encouraging them to continue and grow in their faith. "Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed" (Hebrews 12:12-13).
Impacting lives is required of spiritual leaders. "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Ordinary Christians are also expected to minister in this way. "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing" (I Thessalonians 5:11).
What characteristics enable believers to edify each other effectively?
People who impact others have compassion. The greatest potential for impact often comes at a time of struggle, hurt, or need. Not only is this a critical time for intervention to take place, but it is also a time when people are likely to be looking for answers and help. People who are struggling welcome the help of a caring and concerned friend or leader. Without compassion for the individual who is hurting, the opportunity to impact will often be lost.
People who impact others build bridges and invite interaction. When someone finds himself needing help, he often goes to someone who has previously shown interest, given encouragement, or offered help. People who impact have often taken the first step, either deliberately in initiating a platform for impact, or indirectly by establishing a rapport that will be remembered later.
People who impact others are concerned especially for spiritual needs. Sometimes people need practical help with the events or circumstances of life. While ministering in practical ways is important and demonstrates love, it is ministry to spiritual needs that has lasting impact on the life. Beyond merely assisting with outward needs, spiritual impact brings about real change with inward needs. A person who impacts will regularly share Biblical truth and will consistently challenge others toward a fuller understanding of the Bible and a deeper relationship with God.
People who impact others pray for those to whom they are ministering. Prayer is powerful, opening the door for success that can come only through God's intervention. Prayer takes commitment, and knowing that another person is committed to praying for him is significant to the one needing help. Praying with someone helps to build a bond that facilitates greater impact.
People who impact others are selfless. No one is without problems, so the decision to focus on another's problems displays selflessness. Often people who impact give things of monetary value: a card, a meal, or a small gift. The greatest gift, however, is that of time. People who impact are willing to give their time and listening ear, often in regular or significant portions, in order to minister to others.
People who impact others remain committed for the long term. Too often those who are seeking help find someone who is willing to talk with them a single time. Spiritual problems and spiritual growth are complex; they require extended time in order to achieve real and lasting change. If the process of growth takes time, then the support and guidance must also cover a range of time. Without continued support, the danger for victories to be reversed increases.
People who impact others have patience. If the goal is to bring someone closer to God, then the reality is that there is currently some distance from God. Perhaps the person has never yet built a strong spiritual foundation, or perhaps he is drifting from the foundation to which he once clung. In either case, that instability is going to result in frustrating shallowness, obvious displays of the sin nature, and probably times of stumbling or even moving backwards. A person who really impacts will not give up due to these disappointments and setbacks.
People who impact others share from their own hearts and lives. One challenge for people who need to grow is that they recognize their own weaknesses, sometimes to an extreme, and they think they are the only ones to struggle so much. It seems to them that victory is not possible. It can be helpful to realize that the struggle for godly growth is not unique. The person who is ministering can share (with discretion, of course) times of struggle in his own life as well as the victories God has given. A certain amount of transparency serves to reveal the example of another imperfect heart that is genuinely seeking God, which is often the exact pattern and testimony that the struggling person needs.
People who impact others are not perfect. The realization of one's imperfections make him compassionate and understanding. When focused on or intimidated by his own limitations, a Christian can be reluctant to become involved with others. If everyone waited for perfection before reaching out to others, the church and world would be in a sad state.
In general, spiritual impact is most effective through personal interaction, though a pastor or teacher often influences on a broader scale. Peer impact may not seem as dramatic as that coming from a spiritual leader, but is also quite valuable. Whether deliberately guiding someone through a particular challenge, or simply edifying him in the course of normal life, everyone can impact someone.