“We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us - a sphere which especially includes you.” - II Corinthians 10:13
There are three important points to note about the above verse:
- God appoints spheres
- There are limits to these spheres
- It is important to discern and operate within your sphere
Based on these three elements, it is vital that each of us to define our sphere and stay within its boundaries. When we operate within these spheres, things are blessed. But when we move beyond the limits of these spheres, we tread in areas where we are not called nor authorized to visit. What worked in our appointed sphere will not longer be effective.
There are many spheres within every local congregation. Every cell group leader, for instance, has a sphere. So does the worship leader, the deacons, Sunday school teachers, teen leaders, etc. They all have spheres that need defined in order for the church to operate with efficiency. When people work within the scope of their spheres, things move smoothly. But when they trespass beyond those limits, they will infringe into unauthorized territory where there is usually trouble.
Every local pastor has a sphere. When they operate within the boundaries of that sphere, they have authority for leadership and ability to fulfill their calling. However, when they move beyond the boundaries of that sphere, they lose their authority because they are operating beyond the point of their appointed calling. It is vital, therefore, that pastors define their sphere with respect to his or her ministry within their city, the Body of Christ in general and their congregant’s lives individually.
Apostles have spheres. Prophets have spheres. Evangelists have spheres. Just like other ministries in the local church, it is essential that each of these ministries discern the scope of their calling and operate within the boundaries of their sphere. If they do, there will be peace and blessing. But if they don’t, they will trespass in dangerous territory.
When people move beyond the limits of their sphere, there is frustration, confusion and offense. Sometimes others can see it more clearly than the trespasser. This causes extreme problems as the person who has moved beyond their sphere tries to operate with the same authority that they used inside their sphere. This can easily lead to manipulation, intimidation and control. This has been a source of many problems in the Body of Christ. Businesses, governments, families, sports teams and congregations have all have experienced similar problems when people move beyond their spheres of responsibility.
The graph to the right illustrates three specific spheres that every person must define in his or her life, ministry and occupation. Wherever there is a group of people functioning together, it is important for each person to define all three spheres in order to achieve maximum impact.
Sphere of Responsibility:
This needs to be the primary place of our attention. 90% of our resources (time, energy, mental, imagination, human and financial) need to be given to this principal sphere. This area represents the primary place of calling and gifting from God. This is where you and I will be the most successful. Since it is the place where we will be judged by God, it also represents the area of our responsibility. It is within the boundaries of this sphere that we can operate with the most confidence, competency and effectiveness. Others will recognize our authority to lead in this sphere. What we do in this area describes doing the right thing as opposed to doing the good thing or, even worse, the wrong thing.
Sphere of Influence:
This represents those places where we have influence but not necessarily calling. In other words, we may be able to influence people in this area but one must stop and ask, “Am I really called to be here?” Just because a person CAN does not mean they SHOULD. In this arena, leaders are especially prone to manipulation and control because they are not particularly equipped by God with the necessary authority to lead in this sphere. For that reason, no more than about 10% of our resources should be spent here. This represents areas where we may be permitted to get involved but not committed; serve but not lead; comment but not command. While it represents a good thing, it is certainly not the right thing. For that reason, this realm is especially dangerous as people are met with just enough success to stay here without ever really operating in the full scope of their potential within the sphere of their true responsibility.
Sphere of Concern:
There are many things we may be concerned about but it doesn’t mean that we are authorized to try and fix them. If a person ventures too deeply into this arena, they may find themselves fruitless and frustrated. Squandering resources in this area should be avoided. This is the place, unfortunately, where many pastors and leaders wear themselves out. They work hard with no results. This is a place of frustration where we can do little more than worry about things we are not equipped nor authorized to change.
Responsibility and authority are two sides of the same coin. A person can not have one without the other. Authority without responsibility is dangerous. Responsibility without authority is frustrating. When considering the issue of spheres, it is especially helpful to judge things according to the degree of responsibility that God has given you and me in that area. Ask yourself, “Will I be judged on this one?” If the answer is no, then move with caution. If the answer is yes, then move with confidence.
As the church comes into new alignment with the inclusion of prophets and apostles working alongside teachers, pastors and evangelists, defining spheres is an essential piece of the functioning puzzle.