By Ben Mandrell
In The Ride of a Lifetime. Former Disney CEO Bob Iger describes the quantum leaps he led Disney to make. Perhaps the most daunting of all was the day he asked Steve Jobs if it would it be possible for Disney to acquire Pixar.
Iger knew it might not be probable. But he believed in his heart that this acquisition was possible. It had to happen. Disney’s last five films had flopped and Iger knew that “As the animation goes, so goes Disney.” Pixar was not only a step ahead of Disney’s animation; more like a thousand steps ahead. They would not be able to catch up to the work of those creatives.
As Iger describes the day he mustered up the courage to ask Jobs about the possibility of acquisition, he writes this line that has stuck with me since I read the book:
Long shots aren’t as far as they seem.
Why do I tell this story? Because when I read that line in Iger’s book, I realized something: In order to create dramatic change, the leader must believe.
That’s the most important ingredient in leadership—faith. We can’t stop believing that God is getting ready to do something that will blow our minds and turn our ministries upside down in the best way.
Whatever you have, you will share. If it is fear, it spreads. If it is faith, it spreads. Jesus said that your eyes are the window to the soul, and when the people you lead look into your eyes, they need to see a person with surging faith, particularly in times of struggle.
Lifeway Research recently released the results of its Greatest Needs of Pastors Study. And when 1,000 pastors were asked what their most looming struggles 66% indicated they needed to refocus on trusting God.
I appreciate their honesty and I have wrestled many days with depressing thoughts about the future. We are all human with our ups and downs, but what does James say about the doubter?
For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways. James 1:6-8
The leader, if he is to be stable, must, above all things, believe in God’s power to reverse any trend and conquer any foe.
Do you believe that God called you to bring dramatic change to your church or organization?
Do you believe that long shots are not as long as they seem?
Do you have in the tank this thing called faith. If you don’t, you’d better find it.
Read what Hebrews 11:1-2 says:
“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For by this, our ancestors were approved.” — Hebrews 11:1-2
Without fierce optimism, the floor will collapse beneath you.
Faith is the fierce optimism that God is not only real, but he is at work behind the scenes, getting ready to do something big in your life and in your ministry.
Imagine for a moment that I have received a note from the governor of Tennessee. I am required to come next week to Nissan Stadium. Upon arrival, I will play running back for the practice team that will face off against Tennessee Titans.
As I read the official letter, my heart begins to race because I know that I am likely to be killed. David faced one Goliath. I will face 11. Fear wells up inside of me, but to make things worse, the Governor goes on: “Not only will you run the ball against the Titans, be advised that you will be playing without any pads, without any helmet, without any shoes.”
With this, I drop the letter and finalize my will.
The apostle Paul is not writing fiction when he warns us that we are fools if we run out into the world without spiritual armor. What would drive someone to play football without pads? Even crazier is the Christian who tries to face the Great Enemy his minions, without shield and sword.
Ephesians 6 is the classic description of the equipment one must have in order to survive out there. I won’t go into all the details of that text, but I do want to point out one major piece of equipment listed: the shield of faith.
That protective board is what prevents the fiery arrows of the Enemy, what is it? What is he describing? He’s describing the Christian’s ongoing belief in the goodness of God. He’s not going to let me fail.
Look again at the passage: faith is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.
More important than articulate preaching, is a fierce hope in God.
More vital than award-winning music at your church, is the sound of hope in the pastor’s voice.
More crucial than a well-oiled small groups ministry, is the belief that God is on the move in the lives of our people.
And they are looking to you for that. Their faith will likely not rise above yours. In verse 6, it says, without faith, it is impossible to please God. Because anyone that comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
The leader must believe.
Years ago, I heard a leadership talk on the subject of seasons. A seasoned pastor made the point that God has a purpose for spring, summer, fall and winter in the world of farming. He said: one of the things that happens in the winter months is the killing off of the bugs. The cold front kills the unwanted insects that threaten the harvest. Winter purifies the land.
He made the point that God allows winter seasons in our lives, in our ministries, for the same purpose: the cold kills the bugs and in ministry those things are called arrogance, pride, prayerlessness, self-reliance, and of course, our unhealthy obsession with strategy. The book of Acts says nothing about strategy, it says much about the movement of the Holy Spirit among those who cultivated great faith.
This fierce optimism was the “secret sauce” of the Old Testament standouts.
What the writer of Hebrews says, is that when you scan the stories of the ancient history of the church, the diverse personalities that God has chosen to use for his kingdom—there is one thing that they all had in abundance: Faith.
The writer of Hebrews says: Just look back at Christian history and you will see that God uses people who have high confidence in his performance.
Let me give you one more statistic from Lifeway Research. According to our data, one of the leading frustrations for pastors right now is this:
Pastors are saying: My people are not committed. They are flaky. They are on and off again, but expect me to be always on. They are fair-weather fans.
That may be true, and you may have a church full of fair-weather fans, but the worst response to apathy is more apathy. Why do you think Paul said, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season … ” (2 Timothy 4:2)” In the midst of a hard season, the last thing people need is a halfhearted leader licking his wounds and wondering why the glory days are behind us. The book of Ecclesiastes says:
“Don’t say ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ since it is not wise for you to ask this.” —Ecclesiastes 7:10
The process of looking back and romanticizing the past, will destroy your faith in God. If you keep looking backward, your people will too.
The leader must believe.