The Nuts and Bolts of a Godly Legacy
My sermon last Sunday was entitled, “How to Leave a Godly Legacy.” If you were not present you can listen to the sermon here. We looked at several characteristics of a life worth honoring from 1 Timothy 5:5–6, 9–10. Hopefully the sermon spurred you to consider what kind of legacy you are leaving, and hopefully you came away motivated to impact people for Christ. But you may have also left wondering where to start, because I didn’t have time to lay out any sort of systematic process. There really are countless ways that you can invest in people, but I’d like to highlight four practical steps you can take with your family or a friend. Any Christian can take these steps no matter how spiritually mature or gifted he or she is.
1. Walk with God every day.
This is such an obvious step that we often overlook it, and yet it is foundational to everything else. It’s very difficult lead people somewhere you are not going yourself. But if God is at work in you, then you have a strong foundation for spiritual impact. The Apostle Paul frequently drew on his own walk in order to challenge others (1 Cor 4:16; 11:1; Phil 3:17; 4:9), and Peter challenged pastors to primarily lead by example, not by throwing their authoritative weight around (1 Pet 5:3). I’ll never forget hearing Dr. Ollila, the president of the college I attended, say that the hardest teenager to reach for Christ is the one whose parents are hypocrites. For years this teenager has watched his parents put on a spiritual front at church that he or she knows is not real. It’s no wonder when this teen adopts a similar sort of immature faith or rejects Christianity altogether, because he doesn’t see evidence of the gospel’s power in his own family. He only sees a façade. Don’t be a hypocrite. Walk with God every day. When you fail, be honest about it, rest in the gospel, and do better the next time. As people see the grace of God at work in your life, it will challenge them to pursue the same grace.
2. Seek people and love people.
Maybe you love the idea of impacting others, but you don’t have any idea who to impact. You don’t have many friends, and you feel like there are no ministry opportunities for you in the church. Be encouraged that there are plenty of people out there who need a friend, and plenty of people who need encouragement. You just have to find them. Maybe that sounds intimidating or intrusive, but it doesn’t have to be. Start by taking a genuine interest in people’s lives. Write down their prayer requests, pray for those requests, and then follow up. Let people know that you prayed for them, and ask thoughtful questions. Take other practical steps to demonstrate love. Help people with their kids, or carry their things to the car. Write a note and put it in the mail. You won’t connect with everyone, and everyone isn’t lacking for relationships. But there are people out there that are hungry for influence. When you find one of those people, invest.
3. Study the Bible together.
This one is essential to your ministry with your children. God commanded Israel to always be teaching God Word to their children (Deut 6:6–9). If you have children in the home, you must teach them God’s Word and teach them how to pray. But reading the Bible together is a simple but powerful way to impact any fellow believer. I can think of few things that would more dramatically affect our church than if many of us had a Bible reading partner, and we committed to meet once a week to read Scripture, discuss it, and pray. Any Christian can do this. If you are interested, I have some simple guides to help you get started.
4. Serve together.
All of us are busy, and maybe you cringe at the idea of disciple making because you can’t imagine adding another commitment to your calendar. You may also cringe at the idea of serving in the church because you feel overwhelmed with responsibilities at home and at work. Why not consider combining these things. Make a disciple by bringing him or her along while you serve. When I was a kid, my dad worked very long hours on the farm, but I never felt neglected because I followed him everywhere. In the process not only did I get time with my dad, but I also learned a lot of skills and how to work. Parents, look for ways you can minister with your family. Have people into your home, take your kids on Outreach, or bring them to a workday. You will get quality time with them, while also teaching them very important lessons. You can do this with people outside your family also. This is how Barnabas discipled Paul and how Paul discipled Timothy. Taking someone along is a great way to spend meaningful time together and to develop a new minister.
There are a multitude of simple steps you can take to pass your faith onto someone else; you just have to see them. Walk with God, love people, and look for ways to invest in people. And God will use you leave an impact of eternal significance.