Harness the Power of Faith-based Optimism!
Faith-based Optimism When I came to Mountain 21 years ago, during the interview process I was asked for a philosophy…
When I came to Mountain 21 years ago, during the interview process I was asked for a philosophy of ministry. I don’t remember everything I said, but I doubt it was ripe with earth-shattering brilliance.
But I do remember trying to explain a conviction I felt deep inside, to put words to a value I believe must under-gird everything we do. I called it “faith-based optimism.”
I want to be part of a team that operates with a positive outlook. A team with buoyant energy that churns everyone forward with holy expectancy about what God might do next. I think everyone wants this.
Winston Churchill dragged nations through World War II by the leash of his own outlook, conveyed over radio talks filled with themes of hope and gritty determination.
In the midst of uncertain time his voice crackled over the airwaves, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Isn’t this what God does best? Taking those difficult situations, our losses, struggles and transitions, and turning them into something better? Instead of being surprised at this, faith-based optimism expects it.
Helen Keller spent her life blind and deaf but her viewpoint reveals a secret: “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”
Faith. Hope. Love. Vision. Courage. Adventure. Discovery. Dreaming. These are the vital elements of Godly life and leadership. And they all only sprout in the soil of faith-based optimism.
In the end, no true disciple of Christ can be a true pessimist, because Christianity is a system of radical optimism. Our foundational event is the resurrection. Even at the end of life’s hallway where there seems to be no exit, Jesus winks and points to a secret latch which opens a hidden door to a whole new life.
That’s why we opt for a “faith-based” optimism.
This doesn’t mean our outlook is some naive, immature idealism that refused to be grounded in reality.
The pessimist complains about the wind. The faith-based optimist believes it will change, but in the meantime prays and adjusts the sails.
Whatever happens, we are counting on God to do good things – because of what God has done in the past. We believe there is a bias toward God’s good. We are trusting that’s God’s nature is positive and forward looking. Our optimism is firmly rooted in Christ.
“Oh no, Jesus. There must be 5000 hungry people here, and we got nothing. Send them home.”
And Jesus says, “You get them something to eat. We got this kids’ lunch here. What can we do with this?” And moments later they are passing out food to the crowd, sourced from the abundance of God.
“Gimme a mere mustard seed of faith and we can move mountains,” says Jesus.
One time a desperate man brought his son to Jesus.
“This kid is possessed!” he cried.
“When the evil spirit grabs him he can’t talk, it throws him down, he foams at the mouth – it’s awful. I asked your disciples to help and they said they couldn’t do anything.”
And right then the spirit saw Jesus and threw the boy into a wild fit, throwing him on the ground. He’s rolling and roiling and everyone is terrified.
The father says, “He’s been like his since he was a little kid. It throws him into the fire or the lake – it’s trying to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
I’ve always loved what Jesus says in reply:
“You said, ‘IF you can do anything???” IF you can? IF? Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23).
And the boy’s father immediately said, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!”
In other words, “I do believe! Well, um, er, okay…there’s a part of me that isn’t so sure, but I WANT to believe! Can you help me with that?”
That’s faith-based optimism.
Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and healed the boy, and the shrieking spirit fled. In a moment, a beautiful young man stood before them, no longer hidden behind the evil spirit. The people saw only a shrieking demon. Jesus saw a boy behind it all. The father wanted to believe it, too.
The next time they faced an evil spirit, maybe they wouldn’t be so scared. Faith-based optimism grew in them.
Later the disciples asked Jesus, “Why couldn’t we drive out that spirit?!”
And Jesus said, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
I don’t know all that this means. But I think it means there are some problems so big and some situations so hard – the kind that seem hopelessly impossible – that we actually need God to get involved. But when God does get involved, nothing is impossible.
Try living with that outlook for 5 minutes. It will change you.
This operating system running in the background of a church staff has a huge impact. It means when we face the inevitable challenges, we respond in positive ways, rather than negative ones. We look at obstacles with God’s eyes of power and creativity rather than our humanly limited perspective. Every transition in programming, staffing, or resources is an opportunity. Difficulty isn’t just to be endured, but actually opens the door to a change which we believe, however unwelcome or unexpected at the time, God will bless in his time.
Faith-based optimism is a game changer.
When you’re hiring, don’t hire a pessimist. At risk of sounding too pessimistic myself, I’ll say pessimists never lead anyone anywhere. They suck the life out of a team. Realists are welcome, but don’t be fooled by some who prefer to call themselves realists but who are actually negative pessimists who just don’t want to be thought of that way.
We have made this principle part of our staff “15 Commandments” of Mountain culture. We want to bake it in so pessimists don’t fit in. On mantra we repeat is “Whatever it takes.” Because what you celebrate you duplicate. Your vibe attracts your tribe. We want to make heroes and leaders out of those who lead with faith-based optimism.
And those who approach things with a glass half-empty, negative, whiny outlook, giving in to the flesh of fear, gossip, worry, or complaining won’t find themselves with anyone who wants to follow them. And when you see it in yourself or another, call it out. Because what you tolerate you duplicate as well.
I don’t want to be like the people of Nazareth who were so small-minded and negative in their attitude toward Jesus he could not do any miracles there (Mark 6:5). Small, negative thinking, where expectancy is low boxes God in and Jesus heads for the exits. I believe Jesus still chooses to do miracles among those who can’t wait to see what he will do next.
There appear to be some things even God cannot do through us if our attitude stinks.
Faith-based optimism doesn’t happen by accident. Almost nobody oozes this stuff all the time, without deliberate intentionality.
So I’m going to work at this, by soaking in scripture so the perspective of Jesus infuses my mind, my family, my teams, and my church with faith-based optimism…
- …when you’re setting our church budget for the coming year – count the cost, but leave room for God!
- …when you’re deciding whether to launch a new campus – base your planning on the past, but dream about what God could do in the future!
- …when you are setting goals for baptisms – rather than basing your aim on what you’ve done, dare to dream what God could do!
- …when a cherished and valuable staff or church member leave, it’s a gut punch for sure, and there will be grief – but believe it’s an opportunity for something good to happen that could not have happened otherwise – for them and for you.
- …when you are working through interpersonal conflict and wondering if it will resolve – trust that God is at work and that even the hardest of hearts can come around.
It’s more fun to live like this. It’s more visionary. It makes for a healthier team, a more attractive culture, a stronger church. And a better you.
So it’s worth thinking about the vibe you are putting off.
- Not just because it affects whether people want to follow you or not.
- Not just because it has everything to do with how much you get done.
- But because it shapes the culture. And culture determines everything – like how effectively the mission of Jesus happens.
The simple fact is this: you are contagious. Whatever you say, how you think, what you choose to do in leadership – it rubs off.
Today’s question: “If everybody on our team had the same outlook you do, what kind of team would you have?”
You probably already do.
Some struggle to overcome their insecurities to lead this way. Some give in to the demons of cynicism. Some say they can’t help their fear or negativity.
But I have every confidence in you.