by Lt. Colonel Jonathan Rich
Territorial Secretary for Program
My great grandfather, William Booth Davey, once wrote an article for the Officer magazine he titled “Appointed for Eternity.” The gist was that officers, though appointed to a corps for a finite time, should approach their decision-making with an “infinite mindset”—in other words, we should make decisions that will outlast us and stand the test of time. I have given that approach a lot of thought. Am I a short-term, finite mindset person or someone who approaches my calling (my work, my ministry, my whole life) with an infinite perspective?
With that as a backdrop, you can imagine my interest when I was introduced recently through the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast (# 417) to a book by Simon Sinek called The Infinite Game. In it, Sinek outlines the difference between finite and infinite games. A finite game is one with which we are all familiar. There are winners and losers, a beginning and an end, fixed rules—games like football, soccer, checkers.
He goes on to distinguish finite games from infinite ones. He writes: “In infinite games, like business or politics or life itself, the players come and go, the rules are changeable and there is no defined end point. There are no winners and losers in an infinite game. There is no such thing as ‘winning business’ or ‘winning life,’ for example, there is only ahead or behind.”
As I read, I automatically began substituting “mission” for “game.” We have an infinite mission that calls us as Salvationists to approach our callings to advance the mission of our Movement with an infinite mindset.
What characterizes this mindset? Sinek names five practices: advance a just cause, build trusting teams, study worthy rivals, prepare for existential flexibility, demonstrate courageous leadership. I don’t have the space to go into these but recommend you check out the book or leadership podcast (or drop me a line at [email protected]).
These five practices capture the mindset of a leader who is sold out to the mission that he or she has been called to advance. “Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ while meeting human needs in His name” is an infinite mission. We will never “win,” but we can be “ahead or behind.” So, the question is: “How do we then lead?”
• We lead as though OTHERS depend on it. What is in front of us every day is not about you or me. It is about others for the glory of God.
• We lead as though we have an infinite audience of One. It is HIS glory we care about. His mission. His ministry.
One of the most poignant examples of a finite mindset is found in the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12. You know the story. A man decides he is going to create a huge nest egg from a bountiful harvest and build huge barns to hold his excess crop so he can live out his life by “eating, drinking and being merry” (Luke 12:16-21). But God looks at the man and calls him a fool and takes his life. Then God says, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
He could just as easily have said, “This is how it will be for those who lead as though it is all about them and short-term finite gains, while forgetting that it is all about God and others for an eternity that begins now.”
May we each lead in our corps, families, workplaces—wherever we find ourselves—as those advancing an infinite mission.