Imagine that the job you are in right now is what God wants you to do for the rest of your professional life. It might be discouraging to feel truly “locked in” to your job. But such a change in perspective may be one of the best things that could ever happen to you and your ministry.
To live without professional advancement opportunities could, of course, be demotivating and create an unhealthy situation for both you and your ministry. But to lead as if you must remain in that same position forever -- and live with the long-term consequences of every decision -- will shift your perspective, align your priorities, and build lasting strength in your ministry, rather than allowing you to settle for the comfort and accolades of immediate results.
When a leader is thinking, living, and acting in terms of only the short-range, everyone around him or her may be harmed for years to come, because the decisions of today will narrow subsequent options and opportunities. The compounding weight of each shortsighted decision speeds the deterioration of the ministry’s foundation.
To protect against this crippling pattern, a bit of periodic self-evaluation will reveal your current longitudinal view in leadership responsibilities:
- If you knew you could never have a different job, which decisions over the past year might you have made differently?
- Do you find yourself putting off a difficult personnel issue or a hard decision in hopes that someone else in the future will have to deal with it instead?
- Which of your recent decisions made you feel most proud -- were they made in light of the long-term implications or the short-term impact?
- Have you purposefully made decisions recently that were best for the long run, even though another choice would have made you look good in the short term?
When President Jimmy Carter held a thirteen-day summit at Camp David in 1978 with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, a formal state of war still existed between the two countries, with Egypt determined to reclaim the Sinai territory seized by the Israelis twenty-two years previously. In the woods of Maryland, these long-hoped-for negotiations came to multiple stalemates. But each time Carter found a way to keep the discussion alive, even though deep-seated mistrust between the two Middle Eastern leaders kept them from talking directly to each other, causing the U. S. President to shuttle between their private cabins, triangulating the dialog.
On the morning of the eleventh day, the arduous process appeared to disintegrate when Prime Minister Begin decided to leave the meetings over the wording of a side letter on the status of Jerusalem. He wouldn’t have his mind changed by the immediate needs of securing the peace in the Middle East and freeing his country from the relentless cycle of violence. But with brilliant insight, President Carter shifted the perspective from the immediate results to the long-term implications: as Prime Minister Begin was packing his bags to leave, President Carter brought to him eight personalized autographed pictures of the three leaders working together, and told the Prime Minister they were for him to take home to his eight grandchildren so they would always remember what the three men had tried to accomplish together. Confronted with this vivid long-term perspective, Begin unpacked and days later signed the Camp David Accords.
In an age of mobility and global connectedness, God is not likely to call you to only one place of service during your career. But no matter where God calls you, you need to think, work, live, and commit as if it is the only future God has entrusted to you.
Roger Parrott is President of Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. He is the author of The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders (David C. Cook).