In 2018, Siya Kolisi became the first black person to captain the South African rugby men’s team, the Springboks. It was not only a defining moment in his career, but also a defining moment for the country. Kolisi was entirely aware of the significance of his appointment given the racialism associated with rugby in South Africa. Beyond winning trophies and personal accolades, he stated his goal as follows:
“I wanted to change their perception of what is possible”.Siya Kolisi, Rise, page 46.
This is a simple but powerful statement. Kolisi understands the power of perception. How we perceive the world significantly influences our attitudes and actions. A root of racism is a false perception about oneself and others. If Kolilsi, through his role as Springbok captain, can change perceptions about race and identity, then this could positively impact the attitudes and actions of countless people.
Perception is powerful! In particular, as Christian leaders, how we perceive what God is doing in the world will critically shape our approach to life and ministry.
In Isaiah 43:19, God promises that his activity in the world is continuously working for the good of his people. He states, “See, I am doing a new thing”. But then he asks the pointed question, “Do you not perceive it?”.
The challenge we face is that there are many ungodly perceptions of what is happening in the world that invade our minds and hearts on a daily basis. Whether it’s the 24/7 news cycle, the radio chat show we listen to, the prevalent secular humanist academic worldview, or our social media feed, we can quickly get the perception that God has a diminished role in the world. If unchecked, this can fuel our doubts and extinguish our faith.
However, if we are to retain our effectiveness as leaders, then we need to consistently renew our perspective on God’s present activity in the world.
Henry and Melvin Blackaby write,
“Whether you see him at work is irrelevant to the fact of God’s presence in our world. He is actively and intimately involved in both the affairs of this world and the details of your life”.Henry and Melvin Blackaby, Experiencing the Spirit, page 26.
I would propose that a primary role as spiritual leaders is to perceive what God is doing in the world and communicate that effectively to others. To perceive means to recognise, discern, envision, and understand (Dictionary.com). I struggle to think of a more powerful way to serve people than to help give them a fresh perspective on what God is doing in the world. This can help motivate, encourage, and empower people to serve God. This is where servant leadership becomes prophetic leadership – the kind of leadership that we sorely need in the 21st century.
There is no doubt that we’re living in difficult times. Yet, as followers of Christ, we need not succumb to the narratives of our culture. Rather, we should endeavour to comprehend what God is doing by engaging our physical and spiritual senses.
I find a simple prayer helps me to engage my spiritual senses:
“Father, give me eyes to see what you are doing,
Ears to hear your voice,
a mind to understand your Word
and a heart to obey” Amen.
As we pray this prayer, I believe we will receive the same blessing that Jesus gave his disciples:
“…blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear” Matthew 13:16).
Regularly praying this prayer (or one like it), can help us perceive God’s activity. We then have the exciting opportunity to join him, and lead others, in the incredible things he is doing in this generation.
I shared some of this at a talk I recently gave at Jubilee Community Church. You can watch the whole talk by clicking here.
*Image by rawpixel.com on Freepik