On the first day of class, Rev. Dr. Mark Labberton, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, shared with our doctoral cohort a portion of his faith journey. Raised in a secular home, his father consistently proselytized that “religion takes great things and makes them small.” This narrative, like cherubim with a flaming sword, guarded Dr. Labberton against any potential exploration of the Christian faith while he was living under his father’s roof. In his book Called, Labberton reflects:
When I was considering the possibility of embracing Christian faith as a young college student, what I feared most was that it would make my life smaller rather than larger—less love, less joy, less creativity, less wonder, less engagement…when I finally came to faith in Christ as a college student, it was because I discovered that Jesus saves people from the very smallness I feared. I saw that the very essence of the kingdom of God is a life bigger than I would ever find outside of it.1
Speaking to a classroom filled with expectant pastors from around the world, Labberton confessed that a central conviction of his faith is that, unlike the religions of the world which take great things and make them small, Christianity cracks open the universe. In other words, faith enlarges our vision.
Conversely, fear produces tunnel vision. When that most powerful emotion floods our brains, the results are twofold: our ability to process details diminishes and we prioritize quick decisions over wise decisions. Fear triggers “fight or flight,” the purpose of which is to activate a rapid response which may save our lives. However, in this state, details become fuzzy and we are less likely to engage in higher order processing, sacrificing wisdom for speed. An extreme example of this is consistently found with those who have witnessed a crime. Studies reveal that when a gun has been drawn, eyewitnesses of the event consistently struggle to provide an accurate description of the perpetrator. The mere presence of the gun incites fear which tunnels their vision.
If faith enlarges a leader’s perspectives where fear narrows, Christian leadership must be by faith, not fear. In fact, my experience has revealed that great leaders often enable us to see the larger perspective as it relates to current challenges. For the Christian leader, faith taps into a much larger perspective—the very wisdom of God which is promised to those who ask (James 1:5).
Faith causes us to seek God’s divine perspective, enabling the leader to see beyond what fear might subvert. This is the type of leadership that allowed Israel to enter the Promised Land despite the spies’ report that it was filled with giants (Numbers 13:32-33). The same leadership drove Elisha to tell his servant not to be afraid. When it seemed that they were surrounded by an Aramean army, Elisha calmly said, “Don’t be afraid… Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16). After the prophet prayed, God opened the eyes of his servant to see that the heavenly armies did indeed outnumber the Arameans. This is the leadership that allowed Paul to proclaim the Gospel boldly and without hindrance even though he was under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:17-31).
Christian leadership is by faith and not by sight because there are times when our limited vision incites only fear. However, when everything looks lost, faith pulls back the curtain and cracks open the universe so that we might see from God’s perspective.
Consistently in Scripture we are encouraged, “Do not fear, for I am with you…” (Isaiah 41:10). “…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid… for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). “…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). These are not platitudes but rather promises spoken by the Lord! They are consistent reminders that nothing escapes the gaze of the Lord; nothing surprises our God. We can lead boldly and with confidence when we are with Him. When we lead by faith in God’s perfect wisdom, foresight, and vision, then and only then can we lead without fear.
by Pastor Brad Rogers
1 Mark Labberton, Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today, Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014
“Fear is always the great dream killer. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. Fear kills creativity. Fear cripples the imagination. Fear puts limits on a limitless God. Ordinary people do extraordinary things when they overcome their fear. Remember, courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the conquering of it. So, let your fears inspire action.”
– Kirk Cameron
Actor, writer, Christian evangelist, host of The Way of the Master TV/radio program
Excerpt from Grand Canyon University Commencement, October 18, 2019
KIRK CAMERON will be with us on March 23, 2021 for Season 16 of the Bonita Christian Forum.