Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Legendary college basketball coach, John Wooden, used to advise:  "Look in the microscope and the telescope."  His point was that we need an appropriate balance between seeing the long-range bigger picture, and keeping an eye on the details.  I have found this to be an important truth, both in the work we do, and the emotional equilibrium we must maintain.  

I have met leaders who are constantly thinking huge, visionary thoughts, and tending very little to the details which matter so much, to so many.  People around them are asking, "When are we going to solve problems around here...When are we going to actually make progress?"  I have met other leaders who micro manage, but get disoriented in a sea of minutia.  People around them are asking, "Where's this all going...What are we doing here?"  The ratio may be different depending on how God has wired you, but there needs to be a mix in a leader's profile between the the 30,000 foot view, and where the rubber meets the road.  You may have to "lean against the prevailing wind" as you chart your course; alternating between sweeping questions that start with "Why", and more pragmatic queries that start with "How."  

The macro/micro balance also has helped me emotionally through the years.  There are times when the "smaller picture" is discouraging.  The specifics of the ministry are not going very well.  I feel that I am bogging down in the details.  It is at those times that I need to expand my vision to see the much, much bigger picture.  Where is this story heading overall?  What is God doing in the meta-narrative (sorry, had to throw some jargon in there for the emergent, resurgent types)?  But there are times where I have literally had to read the book of Revelation again to remind myself that God actually wins in the end.

At other times, the bigger picture doesn't make any sense.  For instance, there have been many times where I have had no idea where we're going.  I don’t feel real comfortable at those moments, but they happen, more often than a leader might like to admit.  It's at those times that I will take a more microscopic view of the body for encouragement.  I'll take joy in the person who has recently been save and baptized, or the marriage that is being reconciled.  When the bigger picture is fuzzy, I look at the smaller picture.  When the smaller picture is fuzzy, I look at the bigger picture.  When a marriage blows up, for instance, I look to the heavens and remind myself that God is still on the throne.

Do you tend to get more joy out of looking through the telescope or microscope?
What ratios do you normally express between large and small scope?
What ratios do you need to express between large and small scope?