First, a confession: I enjoy reading blogs and articles on leadership. Especially as they relate to ministry and business. I love these writings even more than I ever loved food and recipe blogs and magazines. Food blogs stimulate my senses and emotions, while leadership articles activate the factual and logical areas of my brain. Both are soul food of a different flavor.
Early this morning, I read an article from The Business Insider and several from LinkedIn—with one point standing out over all other words: You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Whoa! And What?
And if this is even remotely true, it should motivate us to choose our five people purposefully and wisely. It should also drive us to our knees, seeking God first for who should be the people we surround ourselves with.
While the article I read did not give specifics for choosing your five people, they did say they should be mostly positive, encouraging people. But everyone needs an honest critic to make them better.
The Bible provides some backing for this concept, when you look at different characters in the stories and how the same few names seem to have more mention in their stories—over all the other people who were surely present in their lives. Some examples are David, Joseph, Paul, Ruth. (While Jesus had a core group of three especially close disciples, I don’t know that he fits this example. Being fully God, he would not have been influenced by humans like we are. All I know is how blessed Peter, James, and John were to have the incarnate God in their group!)
Though I have much room to grow in this topic, I would like to propose five possible suggestions for who your five people could be.
1. A leader/mentor
Be careful with who you allow to fill this immensely huge role in your life. This is not a spot to give to just any leader in your life. This space should be directly proportional to who you are called to be. Don’t surround yourself with a leader who is either going in an entirely different direction than the path you are walking on. Nor should you give this place to someone you can’t fully trust and respect—for both of your benefits. This space is reserved for someone who can call out the yet hidden abilities or gifts in your life. And make you better in the process.
Ask yourself: Who do I want to most be like? Am I willing to be humble and teachable? Can I honor and respect this person and his or her role in my life? Is this person willing and able to lead me? Will their leadership propel me further into my calling? Will he or she make me more or less like Jesus?
2. A disciple/mentee
As you grow in your own calling and work/ministry, you should be looking for the next person you can raise up. This is a beautiful thing—to not just excel as an individual, but to help someone else succeed in their own life. This spot should be filled with someone who has something in them that you can call out. As is true of the leader position, this position should not be occupied with someone whose life is going in a totally different direction from yours’. To be blunt: Don’t throw your treasure in or waste your time on a person with an entirely different mission in life. Disclaimer: Yes, there are times when God allows us to see something in someone that they just don’t see yet. In these times, seek and trust God, and then pour yourself into the individual.
Ask yourself: Who has God put in my life that could benefit from what I have learned? Is this person a learner? Am I also willing to learn from him or her—and understand that I don’t have all the answers? Will mentoring this person be a wise use of my resources? Is there a time-frame to this relationship?
3. An encourager
This is your Barnabas. Everyone should have a strong encourager in their life. Hopefully, your mentor/leader is an encourager (and hopefully, you are the same to your trainee), but usually, there is a difference between the encouragement offered by a person in leadership vs. a dear friend. This person should love you—but not give you false compliments to feed your ego. Rather, they should encourage you to press on in your relationship with Jesus, in your calling, and speak the “take heart” sentences to you when your world feels dark and God feels far away.
Ask yourself: Do I have someone like this in my life? If not, who has offered consistent and honest encouragement to me in the past? Is it possible for me to further develop this relationship—to more fully reap the benefits of their encouraging, inspiring, God-saturated personality and life? And will I allow this person to also speak the truth into my life—even-and especially-when it hurts, as sometimes the best encouragement goes after the heart of an issue in my life?
4. An honest critic
This could sound like a poor choice for position four, but this is an especially important place to fill. Hopefully, the leader and encourager in your life can also give you honest evaluations (and if that is true, you may be able to fill this space with a different person). But oftentimes the people who are the most honest with us are neither the encourager nor the leader. Leaders should be good at correcting mistakes and pointing us in the right direction, but many times, one needs an honest critic in the other areas of life that may not be directly related to the leader’s expertise.
Ask yourself: Do I have someone in my life that I deeply respect and trust to give me feedback and “criticism” even if it is painful? Does this person also love me—so I know their evaluation is coming from the heart of God instead of a mind intent on destroying or diminishing me? Am I willing to be broken and bruised? Will I choose to become better rather than bitter? And will I allow God into the criticism?
5. The God who created you, knows you, and loves you
This may seem like an odd place-filler, but I think there are far more reasons to give this place to Jesus above any and all other people in your life. Who better to have in your group of five than the Trinitarian God (it’s like having seven members in your group!)? God is your ultimate Leader, Encourager, and Critic (though Convictor is probably a far better choice of words—even if it is grammatically incorrect).
If your greatest ambition in life is to be all that God calls you to be, then he should definitely be the one you are around the most. If you desire to love Jesus more, then spend the most time with him. If you realize how much you need the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, then you need to be asking him to show up in your life.
Having God in your life is the best choice of all. Creator God’s own breath flows in your lungs. This God also knows you perfectly…and yet, loves you just as perfectly! Your heart is safe with Jesus—he will never destroy or diminish you. Rather, he loves you deeply. But as all-encompassing as these attributes are—God also died for you. He is Savior King.
You can have humanity, divinity, and royalty in your small clan of five!
Ask yourself: If I don’t really want to give this position to God, why might that be? And if there is someone else I would rather have here, who would that be and why? If I am overjoyed to have Jesus as one of my five people, how I am I going to do life with him? Am I willing to let him lead me? Love me? And break me? And, in return, will I love, honor, and follow him?
It is my hope that all of us choose our own five people. Don’t let someone else pick them for you (unless it’s God himself). Surround yourself with the people who will take you farther and deeper in all areas of your life. You will not be disappointed.