It is easy to get stuck in the valley and only see impossible mountains to climb. On top of the mountain everything looks different. In the valley, you only see what is right in front of you. On the mountain top, you step outside the valley and can see the whole picture. In the valley, it can be hard to see the way through and the way out. In the valley, you can feel like you are stuck forever. In the valley there are many paths to take to the top of the mountain, and you know more than one person has gotten lost trying to get to the top. On the mountain top you can see everything and it feels like all things are possible. You can look back and see the path you’ve come, you can see there is in fact a path out of the valley. You can see a lot of neighbourhoods from the mountain top. #1neighbourhood
Can you tell I have hiked up a mountain recently? I’m currently traveling in the Czech Republic and last week we hiked to the top of Lysá Hora Mountain. It’s a steep climb up 1324 m. The climb is worth the experience and view, but it’s hard slogging to get out of the valley, up the quad-burning climb, to the mountain top.
Ministry and leadership situations can make us feel stuck in the valley. It can be hard to see the way out and the right path to take. It is so easy to get stuck and be indecisive which was to go. It’s easy to lose perspective. It’s hard to see if you are still leading in step with God’s desires and purposes. It’s difficult to see if you are moving in the right direction. Valley’s can be very confusing.
As ministry leaders, we need time on the mountain top, time outside of our ministry and situations to step up and try to take a bird’s eye view. While I’ve been on this ministry trip in Europe it has afforded me time to look at my life and ministry from the mountain top view. It is good to get out of the valley. Each day I’ve been working through two or three questions that help me reflect on my life and ministry from the mountain top view (I’ve also heard it called “balcony time”).
May I encourage you to step outside of your regular routine and take some time to reflect from the perspective of an outsider looking at the whole picture of your situation, life and ministry? You don’t need to travel all the way to Europe, you could simply travel to a coffee shop a few neighbourhoods away or a nearby hiking trail.
Here’s the various questions I’ve been using during my mountain top time. I try to be really honest with myself, seeking to gain a realistic, whole picture view of my situation, life and ministry.
1. What are the bright spots in my life and ministry?
2. What is not going so well in my life and ministry?
3. How am I actually doing at fulfilling my mandate and vision?
4. What is wearing me out?
5. What is giving me life?
6. In this next season, what primarily needs my attention?
7. What, more firmly, do I need to say “no” to?
8. How is my heart and soul?
9. What has my posture and attitude been like in this season? What do I want it to be?
10. Where have I been slacking off in my leadership and responsibilities?
11. Where is my imposter (shadow mission) sneaking in and tempting me off course or tempting me to forget my true identity?
12. What longings or temptations are surfacing in my life? What does it look like to surrender these to the Lord?
13. What is the big picture?
14. Who needs my attention? (Notice I didn’t ask what needs my attention, I asked who.)
15. How am I joining God in my neighbourhoods and networks? Where do I need to lean in more?
16. As I enter back into the next season:
a. What rhythms do I need to keep healthy, thrive in current reality and hear from the Lord?
b. What two or three things especially need MY focus?
As you can tell, these are tough questions. They force me to get rid of my own pretenses and false images. They force me to take a hard look at reality, starting with myself.
Let me be honest, it has been really hard taking this mountain top time this past week.
I’ve found myself trying to avoid answering these questions I’d written out for myself before this journey. I’ve found myself inventing other things that need my attention instead of the question at hand.
I’ve found myself trying to make my answers sound better than they really are, even when the conversation is just between God and myself.
I’ve discovered my own self is the hardest person to face.
It’s so easy to create an alternative reality, even an alternative self, when you are in the frantic pace and limited perspective of the valley.
It is hard to get to the mountaintop perspective. It is hard to pull myself out of the valley and force myself to take a good hard look all around.
However, the fresh perspective is just what I needed.
Climbing the mountain, asking the tough questions, is difficult work. Just ask those who climbed the mountain this week whose legs are still aching! Taking this time to get out of your current situation and ministry will not be easy – you’ll have to work for it, and the toughest person you’ll have to fight is yourself. Force yourself to take mountain time, look all around, ask the tough questions and trust God to bring His fresh perspective. You will be a better leader, and person, for it.
Friends - Get to the mountain top. Take a look around!
Hope this helps.