A Leader Extends His Influence for the Benefit of His Follower (part 3 of 4)

June 15, 2011 — 2 Comments

Today’s post is part 3 of 4 blog posts from the book of Philemon about how a leader extends his or her influence for the benefit of his or her follower.

Here you can read part 1 and part 2 to catch up on my thoughts about how a leader extends his influence for the benefit of his follower.

A Leader Extends His Influence for the Benefit of His Follower

Photo Credit: chimothy27

When reading and studying the text of Philemon, we can argue that Onesimus was useful to Paul and the church at that time, which happens to be the Hebrew meaning of his name.[1]

In the past as a slave and possible criminal, Onesimus was not useful. Now, Onesimus has become a Christian and more than likely has found his spiritual gifts. Paul writes, “He (Onesimus) is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me.”[2] Paul sees Onesimus as a partner in working to spread the gospel. They are “beloved brothers” who share the same spiritual father and who serve the same God. Then Paul writes “Now he (Onesimus) is very useful to both of us.”[3] And finally, further explaining how useful Onesimus now is, Paul writes “I wanted to keep him (Onesimus) here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf.”[4]

Before, when Onesimus was working with Philemon, Onesimus was not much use for either Paul or Philemon. But now, Onesimus has committed his life to following Jesus Christ, he has discovered his spiritual gifts, and he is now very useful in Paul’s work of preaching the gospel and strengthening the church. Paul, arguably the greatest Christian alive at that time, saw Onesimus as useful to him for the work they were doing together, so useful in fact that he repeats it three times.  Paul extends his influence and takes a risk for someone he leads in the work of Jesus Christ because he sees Onesimus as useful. This is a great benefit to Onesimus that a leader such as Paul would extend his influence to make sure Onesimus gets to stay in a place where he is “useful” in deploying his spiritual gifts to serve Jesus and Paul in spreading the gospel.[5]

Like Paul, you too can extend the influence you have for the benefit of the people who follow you. How honored Onesimus must have felt to have a leader such as Paul advocating for him. Onesimus must have truly felt that he was useful for the benefit of Paul and the Good News. That is the benefit you offer when you—as a leader—extend your influence for the benefit of a follower. You give them tremendous encouragement to do the work they were meant to do.  As a result of you extending your influence for the benefit of the person who follows you, that person gains belief in herself, and she gets to be placed in a position to use her spiritual gifts. That is what happened Onesimus, as I will explain more in the final paragraph.

Depending on your own position working at an organization, you can also extend your influence for the benefit of the people who follow you. This is especially true if you are the leader of a successful company, nonprofit organization, government, or church. You have tremendous influence given to you because of the position you have earned. Paul used his influence to place Onesimus in a place where he could use his spiritual gifts to spread the gospel. Do your best to use your influence for the benefit of the people who follow you to help them work in the area of their spiritual gifts because those are the areas that God wants them to be.

In my own unique way, like Paul, I can extend my influence for the benefit of the people who follow me. I have some influence as a leader because I have founded and run a program for five years called A Day of Hope where we fed families in our community for Thanksgiving.  Recently I wrote a book by the same title, A Day of Hope: Leading Volunteers to Make a Difference in Your Community. Both of these experiences and accomplishments give me some influence that I can lend on behalf of others. If you dig into your background of experiences and accomplishments, I am sure you can find at least a few things you can point to that make you someone who has influence to lend.


[1] J.B. Lightfoot, “Philemon,” in The Definitive Bible Commentary, ed. Owen Collins (London: HarperCollinsReligious, 1999), 1439

[2] Philem. 1:16

[3] Philem. 1:11

[4] Philem. 1:13

[5] Philem. 1:13

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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