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Anecdotal Leadership: More Important than You Think

Years ago while speaking at a youth camp called Go Tell I met a young man on staff named John Mark. He also served on staff at a great megachurch whose pastor was (and is) a good friend. At the time our son Josh was young, barely in middle school, and accompanied me on the trip.

Josh really looked up to John Mark. I could understand this because he seemed to be a sharp young man. He played football a couple of years at a major university and seemed to have a lot on the ball. We went to lunch and he also seemed hungry to grow. He did not seem too serious about his education, however. After all, he was already at a great church and life was good.

At that luncheon I said something that would have a major impact on John Mark’s trajectory. In fact, years later he and I sat with other student pastors as he recounted the lunch meeting that day. He remembered specifically how I told him of my gratitude for his impact in Josh, and how I would love for him to have more influence in Josh’s life. But that would not happen, because John Mark did not seem serious enough about education and long term ministry. That caused him, he said, to finish college, earn his MDiv at SEBTS, and now he is both an effective minister and a student earning his doctorate at Southeastern.

Here is the funny thing: I have no recollection of the lunch we had that so affected John Mark’s life. That was one meeting as I have had hundreds, no thousands of times over the years. In John Mark’s case he has continued to keep a relationship with me and we still talk several times a year. He has become in my mind one of my sons in ministry, a remarkable young man. That one lunch meeting changed things.

As my friend Jim Gillespie says, “Every conversation is a ministry opportunity.”

You may not have the opportunity to influence large numbers of people. That’s okay. Take advantage of the individual, anecdotal times to influence others, like I did in the lunch meeting above. You have no idea the people you influence, the impact you can make, in a one time conversation. Some will lead to further relationship, some will not. But God can use those anecdotes to build lives. Especially when those you speak into have a hunger to grow.

The following TEDS talk make a similar point in a very humorous way. Enjoy.

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Alvin L. Reid (born 1959) serves as Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin and his wife Michelle have two children: Joshua, a senior at The College at Southeastern, and Hannah, a senior at Wake Forest Rolesville High School. Recently he became more focused at ministry in his local church by being named Young Professionals Director at Richland Creek Community Church. Alvin holds the M.Div and the Ph.D with a major in evangelism from Southwestern Seminary, and the B.A. from Samford University. He has spoken at a variety of conferences in almost every state and continent, and in over 2000 churches, colleges, conferences and events across the United States.