Leighton Ford’s Deep Influence
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Is your influence on others deep or wide?
Today’s culture extols the wide reach. For people in my profession, worth is measured by how many followers we have on social media and how many people come to speaking events or purchase books. Megachurches are often considered more significant than small country chapels.
The time and investment it takes to go deep in another person’s life—to have that kind of influence—is not so easily measured for the masses.
Leighton Ford was once a young man with incredible gifts of preaching and ministry, and so it was not at all surprising when he became a popular pastor, evangelist, and author. Married to Billy Graham’s sister, Jean, he partnered with other twentieth-century Christian leaders and had a wide influence through large crusades.
I was privileged that my very first job out of seminary was on the editorial staff of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, which Leighton also directed. I observed firsthand a man of devout faith and integrity. He and Jean were an encouragement to me when I was just getting started, trying to figure out God’s call on my life (and now in their eighties, they continue to be gracious). Leighton’s passion was for raising up leaders all around the world for kingdom work. And he did it well.
In the ensuing years I spent my ordinary days raising four children, serving with my husband in ministry, and writing articles and books. Leighton, meanwhile, buried his young adult son Sandy and began to reevaluate his own life. He released his responsibilities of the Lausanne Committee to others and decided to follow the nudge of the Holy Spirit in stepping out of the limelight and quietly investing in young men and women through spiritual mentoring.
In the midst of his own suffering, Leighton sensed God’s clarification on what was most important—not conventional success but work done quietly and without fanfare. He chose deep.
One of those young men he discipled reflected recently: “Even though Leighton’s new ministry was humble and obscure compared with his rock-star stadium evangelist status with the Billy Graham team, his original vision to make a difference in people’s lives has been fulfilled in a beautiful and unexpected way. Over the decades Leighton has continued to walk with a small number of people in a deeper way as “an artist of the soul and a friend on the journey.” And over time, the ripple effect of one dedicated life has been felt around the world, across generations, and into eternity. . . . His influence is deep and wide. And he is now at home in his own skin, truly content with his life and calling.” (Ken Shigematsu, Survival Guide for the Soul)
It takes courage to walk away from big. It takes a person who is absolutely confident in God’s unconditional love and acceptance. One convinced that if God is calling them to be Jesus to the world, He will provide every opportunity for that to happen. Big ones. Small ones.
I believe it is a sign of security and contentment when we are able to embrace with joy the small opportunities—the one-on-one encounters—with as much enthusiasm as we celebrate the loud and large.
This is a goal for my current season of life. And, like Leighton, I am finding great meaning and purpose in going deep with a few—people whose names you don’t know. Yet.
What is your own calling?
Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Seminary, says, “The vocation of every Christian is to live as a follower of Jesus today. In every aspect of life, in small and large acts, with family, neighbors and enemies, we are to seek to live out the grace and truth of Jesus. This is our vocation, our calling.”
That calling—that which we consider our first thing—never changes. But how our specific calling is manifested in varying details and seasons are next things, and they will evolve over our lifetime.
Jesus says to us as He did to each of His disciples, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). Be careful with your choice and your response—your influence has the potential to be both deep and wide.
under the mercy, Lucinda
excerpted from Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most by Lucinda Secrest McDowell, November 2019, New Hope Publishers
This week Leighton Ford’s newest book, A Life of Listening, was released and I am honored to serve on his launch team and privileged to have read this amazing memoir during the summer.
Here is my review: “What comprises a life when we take the time to listen to all the voices that have influenced us through the years? Leighton Ford has offered us an exquisite life tapestry woven with threads of both dark and light in his new book A Life of Listening. Reflecting on eight decades of international ministry, family tragedy, influence, and true vocation, Leighton becomes to the reader, as he describes himself, “an artist of the soul and a friend on the journey.” Most poignant to me (I adopted three of my four children) were both the struggles and insight from his long journey of realizing the legacy of both his birth parents and adoptive parents. I’m grateful that grappling with one mother who let go and another who held tightly contributed to Leighton’s encouragement of women in leadership. I’ve always appreciated how Leighton Ford chose, in mid-life, to turn his back on wide influence through the masses and focus on deep with a few. As I continue to learn of many younger leaders who call him their “friend on the journey” I know that this man’s life legacy is truly both deep and wide. A Life of Listening is an important book to read – not only for the spiritual truth suggested for anchoring a life, but for the authenticity of a true Christian leader. How precious to have this rare glimpse into the life of a man I’ve always admired and respected. Perhaps the most important message of this book is most clearly revealed in Leighton’s response to a young pastor questioning his calling: “Remember God is an artist. He doesn’t do copies. He does originals. And if you are called here, God will do something new through you.” Thank you, Leighton Ford, for calling us to be true originals in the hands of the Artist. Lucinda Secrest McDowell, author Life-Giving Choices and Ordinary Graces
“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”
My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order AMAZON. Or pre-order CHRISTIANBOOK.
©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell www.EncouragingWords.net
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