Perspective is so important. How you and I choose to see opportunities, obstacles and circumstances is important.
As you look at ministry, your life, the future, ask yourself this question: How is your perspective?
For the past year, I’ve had lots of conversations with different leaders and pastors from around the country. I’ll ask, “How are you doing?” They’ll always say, “I’m fine. I’m good. I’m all good.”
“No, no, really,” I’ll press. “How are you doing?”
And what do you think the most common answer is?
Do you remember when COVID first started and was only supposed to last two weeks? That was a long time ago. I have lost proper perspective often over the past couple of years.
Like you, I have walked through some difficult things. People I love, who I had a relationship with, left our church over stupid things. It hurts and it’s stressful.
There would be days when I would come into the office, and one email would be all about how I’m a coward, because we didn’t open our church’s worship services sooner. And the very next email was telling me I’m a killer because we were back.
I’m a coward because I had our staff and volunteers wear masks. I’m a killer because we were having services at all.
And in the midst of this journey over the past two years, I’ve had moments where I’ve lost proper perspective. Perspective is powerful.
One of the things I say in our church is, “The Christian life is not about achieving. It’s actually about receiving.” We call this amazing grace.
But not just the Christian life as it pertains to our salvation is about receiving. We think Christian leadership is about achieving, but it’s primarily about receiving. We are to surrender to the flow of God in our lives because we cannot give what we do not have.
So, in our relationship with God, we receive. God works it in, and we work it out. And the more we surrender to that flow, the more we grow.
But in moments I lose perspective, it’s because I think my leadership is about me. I think about what I have to do, what I have to accomplish, how I’m going to handle something. I forget Christian leadership is not about what I’m achieving ― it’s about what I’m receiving.
Ten spies who lost perspective
In Numbers 13, a dozen spies go to check out the promised land. Ten had lost proper perspective. God had already delivered his people from Egyptian bondage and led them across the desert. Next, it was time to go into the promised land.
The 12 spies were sent out to check it out. They were to be gone 40 days, then come back and give a report.
These 12 men had seen some amazing things during their lives. They saw God deliver them from Egyptian bondage. That’s about receiving. Do you know what they did to get delivered? Nothing.
By God’s amazing grace, they received what God was doing. God sent plagues on their behalf: frogs, gnats, water turned into blood. These 12 guys stood in front of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army behind them. And then God made the sea part, and they walked across on dry ground.
They had seen God miraculously provide. They knew it was not about achieving, but receiving, because over and over again, they saw God provide for them.
And yet, when they went to check out the promised land, all of a sudden, they thought it was about what they could achieve. They forgot the flow of God, and that it is about what you receive. It’s about God working in you and through you.
The account of these 12 spies shows five things that happen when we begin to lose proper perspective. I’ll admit these things have happened to me over the past couple of years, and I would guess they have been a part of your life, too. But in the midst of these five things of what not to do when we lose proper perspective, there are valuable leadership lessons.
1. When we lose proper perspective, we get stressed out by conflicting information
“We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and are very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there” (Num. 13:27-28).
When the spies returned from the promised land, 10 of the 12 came back with a bad report. But Joshua and Caleb reported that it’s still about receiving what God is going to do. Let’s do it.
We get stressed out by conflicting information. We can’t see the future. We don’t know what’s in front of us, and we’ve got to make big decisions based on conflicting information. And everybody’s got a different opinion about the decisions we make.
The spies gave conflicting information. “It’s great, but….”
There’s always a but in any leadership decision. What we decide to do with that great, big but determines what happens moving forward.
When God gives us a vision and we’re on the border of God’s blessings and all we have to do is go across, there’s always going to be a but.
“It’s going to be great, but we have to do this.”
“It’s going be great, but we have to raise the money.”
“It’s going to be great, but I’ve got some opposition.”
“It’s going to be great, but it’s going to be difficult.”
When it comes to perspective, what big but is keeping you from moving forward and doing what God wants you to do? Never let the but make the decision.
When pressure is on and emotion is high, logic is low. When that happens, you’ve got to calm yourself and give yourself the right perspective.
What has God done so far? What will he do? It’s not about you achieving, it’s about you receiving what God wants to do in and through you. Don’t let the but make the decision.
2. When we lose proper perspective, we develop a scarcity mentality
The Amalekites live in the Negev, the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea, along the Jordan” (Num. 13:29).
When we lose proper perspective, we develop a scarcity mentality. All of a sudden, we turn into Chicken Little and the sky is falling.
There won’t be enough money.
There won’t be enough volunteers.
There won’t be enough time.
There won’t be enough energy.
This is not going to work.
Ten spies told Moses there’s not enough room for the Israelites in the promised land. Ten spies were saying, “We can’t do it.”
They were right. But they weren’t where they were because they could do it. They got there because they received the work of God, and in that work, they worked their way to it.
Our Father owns cattle on 1000 hills. He’s not surprised by COVID. He’s not wondering what’s going to happen. He knew it was coming. He loves you.
It’s not about you achieving ― it’s about your receiving from him and walking in that.
3. When we lose proper perspective, we fulfill our own self-defeating prophecies.
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” (Num. 13:30-31).
You may have heard this line before: The one who says, “I can,” and the one who says, “I can’t” are both right.
We all need a Joshua. We all need a Caleb. I want to encourage you to be a can person when it’s difficult to gain proper perspective.
Watching ministry leaders for the past 25 years, I’ve noticed two extremes: Some leaders are risk-adverse, and some are risk-addicted. Both are bad.
Those who are risk-addicted are always pushing the envelope financially, always pushing everything all the time. They go beyond wanting healthy growth and kingdom expansion. They are addicted to growth.
The church is not a business, it’s a body. It’s not an organization, it’s an organism.
There is a limit to the growth of all organisms, and all bodies. You can keep pushing it if you take steroids. You can get bigger, but you can become unhealthy. We must be wise.
Admittedly, I sometimes lean in the direction of risk-addiction. I have moments when I lose proper perspective and have to ask myself, “What is this really about? Why do I want to push the envelope with such intensity? Is this about the kingdom, or about my trying to prove something to someone who is probably never going to approve of me anyway?”
The church is not a business, it's a body. It is not an organization, it's an organism.
We have to be very careful because all kinds of things drive us. Some risk-addicted leaders will blow up the church over stupid decisions.
By the way, the book of Proverbs is in the Bible, too.
On the other side are the risk-adverse. If you are risk-adverse, you are success-adverse and faith-adverse. Faith, by definition, is risk oriented.
So, if you’re going to move forward, things are going to be a little fuzzy. We have to manage our leadership in the tension of those two extremes.
When we make these important decisions about us, we tend to go to one extreme or the other. Can or can’t? Is this wise? We have to manage this tension.
4. When we lose proper perspective, we infect others with our negativity.
And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people there are of great size (Num. 13:32).
There is nothing so contagious as negativity. Omicron and every other COVID variant have nothing on negativity. Negativity is viral.
I once heard Bishop T.D. Jakes say, “If you’re going to walk through the door of your God-given destiny, you must first walk through the hallway of haters.” I’ll add, “But if God led you to it, God will get you through it.”
There’s always going to be negativity. But keep proper perspective. What does God want you to do?
5. When we lose proper perspective, we see ourselves as inadequate and unworthy to meet life’s challenges.
We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Num. 13:33).
“I don’t know if I can do it, God.”
Guess what? You never could.
“I don’t know if I’m worthy, God.”
Guess what? You never were.
But if God led you to it, God will get you through it.
In reality, the 10 spies who gave the negative report had no idea how they looked to those in the promised land.
When we lose proper perspective, we project our insecurity onto others. But they don’t know about our insecurity. It’s irrelevant to them.
I’ve learned over time people aren’t thinking about me. They’re thinking about themselves. And sometimes they’re thinking about what I’m thinking about them. So, I’m trying to learn not to try to impress, but to try to influence and love.
We can feel inadequate for what God’s called us to do. Embrace that. Remember this heavy, weighty, wonderful truth: God loves you.
Take a deep breath and inhale the truth. God loves you just as you are; not as you should be. None of us are as we should be, anyway.
God loves you no matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done or what’s been done to you. He loves you no matter what email you received. He loves you no matter what leadership mistake you made.
It’s not over. If there still breath in your lungs, it’s not over.
Storming the gates
Recently, I had to repent with my staff. I had been talking a lot about pre-COVID times and where our church would be if it hadn’t been for COVID. One day, I got so convicted about it, I had to apologize.
The only reason I kept saying those things about COVID was for my own ego. So, I decided I was going to stop talking about it because it’s irrelevant.
Do you know what leaders do? They lead. And life only moves in one direction. Forward.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter, “On this rock, I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (ESV). We hear that and we think, “Hell is going to attack us, but it can’t destroy us.”
That is not what that verse means.
Gates are a defensive measure. And when Jesus says that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, he’s saying that hell can’t stop you. He’s saying, “I will build my church.” He’s saying, the only thing that can stop the church is the church ― through disobedience, through lack of faith, through laziness, whatever. But the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.
So, let’s storm the gates, no matter our circumstances, in whatever God calls us to. Let’s rescue people out of darkness and into the light in Jesus’ name.
And let’s pray we will see what God sees, because that is proper perspective.