The View From the Mountaintop

Living in Atlanta has allowed me to live close to some mountains. I am never more than an hour from a mountain—Stone Mountain downtown or the foothills of the Smokies upstate. I love it. I love taking the day off and hiking to the top of a mountain. The journey through the woods, the wildlife you see, and the other hikers along the way all make for a wonderful day. But my favorite thing is the view from the top. Standing there, at such a high vantage point, gives me a view of my city that I miss in day-to-day life. I see new things that have been built, new places where traffic is stacking up, and land that could yet be developed. There’s something about the view from the highest point that helps you see what is often missed.

When it comes to leading a local church, I think about the summer like a mountaintop. It’s in the summer when you get a different vantage point of the year. Think of the year like a big arc: You launch into the arc in January and keep climbing through June—which is the highest point of that arc— and then you take the rest of the year, starting in July, to land that year in December. I call it the mountaintop of summer. And it’s a beautiful view. You can see the year’s first half behind you and the second half in front of you. You see where you have been and where you are going.

Many pastors, unfortunately, don’t like the summer months. Often, they talk about “surviving summer” only. They are concerned about families leaving on vacation, the crowd getting smaller on Sunday, people unplugging from small groups and outreaches, and the like. This makes summer a place of tension for many pastors.

But I think the wisest pastors love summer.

Because if they will use the mountaintop of summer to get the best vantage point for their year, they will see things they might be missing. If they will engage in a few ways, I think it could radically impact the rest of the year in front of them.

Use this summer to pray and see and plan to have the best second half of the year ever. You can do that by asking three questions:

1. Where have we been?

In the frantic pace of ministry, it’s very easy to find yourself in summer and almost wonder how you got there. You know you have torn some pages off the calendar, but you cannot really remember what you have done or what you have achieved. Your pace has impacted your perception.

So it is very important that you ask locating questions like:

  • Where have we been as a church or ministry?
  • What did we do so far this year that I don’t want to forget?
  • What have we accomplished that I am most proud of?
  • What have we overcome that needs to be celebrated?
  • What have we learned—the easy way and the hard way?
  • If I could do the first half of this year over, what would I do differently?

Standing on the mountaintop, you get a great glimpse of the first six months as a whole. I encourage pastors to take a day and review their calendars for the year so far. Remember the meetings you had. Review the board meeting notes that you tookCheck out your journal or places you have written down prayers. Review your finances and giving. Take the time to see where you have been as a church, as a ministry and as a pastor. This insight will often encourage you more than you realize.

You can see where God has been at work and what he has brought you through. You will be reminded that what felt so devastating or challenging earlier in the year is now behind you, and you are the better for it.

2. Where are we going?

The next part of seeing from the mountaintop is that you can see you still have a lot of years left. Your first set of questions will show you some things you really liked and some things you want to change. The great news is on the mountain of summer, there is still enough time to celebrate or correct before the year is over. Here is where we start to plot a course from where we are to where we feel God wants us to go. Because when you are on the mountaintop, you can see farther than when you are just on flat ground in day-to-day life.

This is a perfect time to ask one of my favorite questions: What do I want to be true about us at the end of the year?

This is a time to flip your calendar to the coming months. Look at the holidays that are coming, the transitions, the celebrations and the milestones and see how to make the most of them. Then, start looking at the opportunities in your community and their schedule and ask God for wisdom on how to bring the gospel to your city in a new way. Then, ask what your flock needs and what God wants to be true about them by the end of the year. Think about that last Sunday of the year. What do you want to celebrate on that day?

All of this will begin to shape your ministry, your preaching and your leadership. It will begin to empower your prayers and engage your faith.

3. How do we get there?

Nelson Mandela famously quoted author Joel Barker, saying, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision is merely passing time. But vision with action can change the world.” Ask yourself, In light of where we have been and where I want to see us go, how do we get there?

Some great questions to help you start the planning:

  • Who are the people we need to get engaged in our future?
  • What are the steps of faith I need to take?
  • What are the tools and partners we need to get on our team?
  • What do we need to invest in?
  • What do we need to stop doing?

Start writing down the answers to these questions. Bring them to your Board or your counselors and leaders. Ask them to weigh in, pray through and help you plot a course forward.

If you use the mountaintop of summer properly, you will come down that mountain with fresh gratitude for where you have been, clarity on where you want to go and plans for getting there.

Summer is more than something to survive, it is something to engage. In fact, it might just be one of the most important seasons in a pastor’s life.

So, start scaling your mountain now. Set aside a day or two in the next few weeks to spend time on the mountaintop. Block it off. Protect that time. Go into these days with hope, faith, honesty and trust. Ask God to lead you. Who knows what you might see. Here’s what I think you’ll see: Your best days are just ahead.

First published on StartChurch.com. Used by permission.

Nathan Camp
Nathan Camp

Nathan Camp is the chief executive officer of StartCHURCH.