Perception is Reality
This story reminds me of a teaching I learned years ago in college and really took to heart:
The authority that we have as a minister in someone else’s life is directly related to their perception of us.
This is important, so read let’s read that again: The authority that we have as a minister in someone else’s life is directly related to their perception of us.
Mark says that Jesus was unable to do great works in Nazareth, but it’s not because he lacked the authority intrinsically, but because of their perception of Him – they couldn’t get past seeing the child they once knew in order to see the Messiah that he is.
The fact is perception is reality. Now I don’t mean to sound all post-modern on you, but this is true: how someone else perceives you is their reality of you. It’s all that they know.
My old campus pastor taught me that if you have a picture on Facebook holding a red plastic cup at a gathering with friends, it doesn’t matter if you’re just drinking soda, there is a perception about that red cup that will affect the way other people interpret that image.
What other people perceive and experience from you is what they consider reality. Even Jesus had to deal with this; to the Nazarenes, Jesus would always be that little carpenter boy and they could not get past their disbelief that this little boy from down the street was the Messiah.
I know that to my own family and old family friends, I will always be a son, an annoying little brother, a nephew, cousin, or child of a friend. These people might love me, they might respect me, they even might even listen to me if I were to share the gospel with them, but I will never have the same influence with them that I could with someone else who hasn’t been blinded by an old perception of me. This is why how we are perceived is so important to our ministry.
Billy Graham knew this very well. He was meticulously concerned with how he might be perceived by others, because there was always someone watching and waiting to criticize him for something – he had to be on guard with his every move. So when he traveled, he would never let someone else carry his luggage, so that he couldn’t be perceived as using his status to be served. He would never travel alone with another woman, even a close friend, so that he couldn’t be perceived as having an affair. He left no room for doubt. He put practices in place to ensure that other people’s perception of him could not be skewed, because he knew that their perception is their reality, and that reality would either increase or decrease his influence with them in ministry.
How are you being perceived by others? And what steps might the Lord be calling you to in preparation for a life of ministry?
The authority that we have as a minister in someone else’s life is directly related to their perception of us. Like Billy Graham, it is important for us to set boundaries to guard ourselves from other people’s perception of our integrity. However it is also important for us to be like Christ, who didn’t let any perception of Him stop Him from his ministry. Jesus would have known how his hometown was going to react to him, yet he chose not to skip over Nazareth in his ministry. Even to those whom he knew would reject him, Jesus wanted to teach, preach the kingdom of heaven, bring healing, and work miracles in those people’s lives. He didn’t let the fear of rejection, nor the fear of mis-perception, stop Him from carrying out His mission.
When faced with rejection, even by his own family, Jesus simply did what he could. He healed who he could, and kept on teaching among the other villages.
So this is my charge to you. Be mindful of the perceptions that others might have of you, because their perception of you is their reality, and it will influence the authority you have to be a minister in their lives. Yet like Jesus, never fear rejection, and never let rejection stop you from ministry. Like Jesus, when faced with rejection, simply do what you can, where you can, and carry on.
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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