Having just moved to Colorado I now know a few things about elevation! For example, Denver is the Mile High City because it is 5,280 feet above sea level! Also, the higher the elevation, the thinner the air- and believe me, you do notice the difference! Further, I’ll be climbing my first 14’er (a mountain over 14.000 feet- 54 of these in Colorado) next Friday, and they tell me the view from the top is going to be well worth the seven mile hike!
I know too, that elevation isn’t just about physical mountains and altitude; there are profound applications to life and leadership that relate to higher levels. Tuesday and Wednesday I was in Dallas, TX as part of a gathering of four other leaders that unquestionably had the sense and surrealism of elevation– an incredibly elevated level, a breathless experience, and an expansive view! How do you attain such leadership and life elevation?
An Elevated Level: I’ve learned in my life that there are two critical components to aspiring to a higher level of leadership and influence. First, you seek out the counsel and coaching of leaders who obviously live and lead at the highest levels- of course, I mean this in terms of character and conduct, not self-promotion or arrogance. These leaders can teach you much about what it’s going to take to get there and to continue to summit the next “mountain” of opportunity. Second, it’s going to be a climb; effort is going to be involved; planning, preparing, and actually making the ascent. And as mentioned earlier, you never want to attempt this alone- you need to join and follow those who have already summited the mountain or level you need to ascend.
A Breathless Experience: Frankly, being around, having opportunity to engage, and certainly chase/follow high level leaders should leave you breathless! Breathless in terms of the amazement you feel simply by having such an incredible opportunity afforded to you, and breathless in terms of the higher the ascent, the more spiritually demanding it’s going to be. So again, you’ll never make it without having prepared and being in the proper spiritual shape necessary, which also includes depending on the “breath of the Spirit” when your’s is spent!
An Expansive View: Great leaders know that the effort and energy of climbing to new, and higher levels of life and leadership gives you a perspective that you would never otherwise have. Elevation gives you an expansive view of your world, your life, your mission, your purpose, etc. Elevation, mountaintop experiences and levels, is where you receive heightened awareness to the world around you, an ability to see great distances in regards to vision and mission, and a profound sense of renewal of mind, body, and soul born out of the satisfaction of summiting the task, the challenge, the opportunity presented.
Both the Old and New Testaments are replete with references to going up and into the mountain, especially, of the Lord. David fills the Psalms with such words as a metaphor for spiritual growth, development, and encountering God’s wisdom and strength. Jesus modeled ascending into the mountain to pray and communicate with the Father. Someone once said, To grow up, you have to go up! The fact is, both in leadership and life, without elevation, we will only live in the depressions and valleys of struggle and oftentimes, self-inflicted challenge and misery. Yes, we will all experience “valleys” in life- but we are never meant to live or dwell there- you are to go through them on your way up and into the mountain!
Elevation! I want to keep climbing!
Make sure you drink LOTS and LOTS of water! It will relieve altitude sickness and the headaches!!
I have learned, though, that at an elevated level, you can lose “context”, and your way.
1. Elevated leaders should come down often to re-connect
It has been said that “Generals think war smells like fresh paint”. That is because administrators and well-meaning middle managers try to make the lives of their superiors easy and carefree. In the military, they order all the jeeps and buildings and signs to be freshly painted, so everything is clean and tidy and nice. Meanwhile, the harsh realities of war continue to rage.
2. Elevated leaders should experience the war
That is why all believers should serve on a missions trip. But that is also why the Senior Pastor should have a connection with each individual Pastor. Senior Pastors sometimes have “handlers” who do their work, like “Generals Aides” (a “General’s Aide” never becomes a General). Having a “handler” do the work that a Senior Pastor is called to do builds elitism.
I do not believe that Jesus ever wanted any of his disciples to be his “handlers”. Instead, they were continually mystified at the way Jesus personally ministered to people, young and old, sick or well, destitute or in places of power.
I remember reading about the US soldier in Iraq who on his own, contracted with a local Baghdad welder to modify the underside of Humvees in his unit. The simple armor modification immediately saved lives. Now, the Humvees are manufactured with the modification. The soldier broke rules to do this – and his Unit and Major got a visit from a General. As the story goes, the General said something like, “Private, good call. Good thinking. Major, you’ve got a good man, there.”
With that, the General re-affirmed his command, re-affirmed that the Private is noticed and appreciated, and re-affirmed that the Major, the middle manager, is backed by the General, and is responsible for the Private. That builds a team, and structure, and loyalty, and keeps all focused on the mission.
Terry, as Senior Pastor, do you really know
Doug- thanks as always for your great comments. The intention of my blog was not at all to imply elitism or disconnect from the “troops.”. On the contrary my desire is to always ascend to the highest moral ground, to live at the pinnacle of the Spirit-filled and led life, and to live and lead in a way that does exactly what you imply. I confess this is an ongoing climb for me, as my self nature likes to pull and hold me back. My greatest ambition has nothing to do with climbing the ladder of ivory tower egoism, but to humble myself in the sight of the Lord so He can lift me up- I want to pursue Christ to live at the highest and best level of humanity.