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Why Leadership Changes After Big Breakthroughs

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we as leaders and communities respond when we experience times of Breakthrough and times of Battle, particularly in how we use our energy.

What I’ve noticed in myself and with other leaders is that when we hits times of Breakthrough, we want to make the most of it and see that we get as much of our enemy’s territory as possible. Using the lens of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000, we want to make sure there aren’t any leftovers sitting around that are easy to get. Let’s make the most of the Breakthrough.

At the same time, it’s essential we recognize the Breakthrough came into being because of the Lord. He wins the battles, and while we are participants to be sure, if we get breakthrough it’s because of the Holy Spirit. We simply join in him what’s already happening.

Think of it this way: Imagine you are a cyclist in the Tour de France. You are going through the Alps and the Pyrenees, some of the steepest and difficult range of mountains you can imagine. The journey you are on isn’t a sprint but a fight that will last day after grueling day. In this fight, there are days you spend almost the whole of it climbing the mountain range, and it all feels like one giant battle. There will be other days that the majority of the journey is downhill, and the wind is at your back.

Up the mountain in this metaphor = Battle.
Down the mountain in this metaphor = Breakthrough.

Here is the key: We will be tempted in times of Breakthrough to over-exert ourselves, trying to get all of the leftover fish and loaves. We will pump the pedals going down the mountain with everything we’ve got, forgetting that as long as we are attentive to the breakthrough, the Holy Spirit will give us all of the leftovers; so we get the whole of the breakthrough, not just some of it.

If we don’t manage our energy in times of Breakthrough, we have a frightful scare ahead of us: The next Battle awaits, and we will be knackered when we get there.

Can you imagine if you were a cyclist in the Tour de France, and on the days of downhill racing you gave just as much then as you did powering up the mountain?

You wouldn’t last. You’d be done.

In the Battle up the hill, it’s about power and steering. In the Breakthrough down the hill, it’s about steering and brakes. I think this is, perhaps, one of the least understood things about how we operate in Battle and Breakthrough.

What we need to do is recognize the Lord gives us breakthrough, be attentive in it to what he’s saying, collect all of the Breakthrough, but realize this is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s great that we are seeing Breakthrough now, but the next Battle is just around the corner … and we must be ready for it.

Maybe we can think of it this way: The principle task in times of Breakthrough is to listen to God and then Obey. Moses listened to God, got the word of breakthrough for water coming out of the rock and did more than what God said. We don’t need to push beyond what God has asked us to do.

One last sporting metaphor: As a golfer, I know when I get up on the tee box and I feel the wind at my back, the temptation is to go after that ball and hit it as hard as humanly possible. “With the wind at my back, I’ve got a Tiger Woods drive in me today. This will be the farthest I’ve ever hit it!” But when we do that, almost always the ball sprays right or left and doesn’t go straight into the fairway.

What is really needed is the same smooth, intentional, easy swing we always use, and simply let the wind do the rest.

The same is true of spiritual breakthrough. Let’s do the thing the Lord is calling us to, but let the wind of the Spirit at our backs do the work.   

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Mike leads 3DM, the global home for an organic movement of biblical discipleship and missional church. He and his wife, Sally, have three children.