Thursday, March 1, 2018

Salvation Army Leaders - I Have to Change...

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I was not ready for this word from the Lord.

And you might not be either.

I preface what I'm about to say with this:
Have you ever had to endure discipline? Maybe you made a wrong decision or you said something offensive and you had to apologise. We've all been there. Discipline from someone holding you accountable is painful and humbling.

The writer to the Hebrews sums it up well. In the start of chapter twelve he writes that first of all we should throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1b). Then the chapter continues by highlighting the importance of God's discipline in your life. Check out these verses:

'Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as his children.' (12:7)

'God disciplines us for our good.' (12:10)

'No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.' (12:11)

Now, if you're still reading (because no one likes to talk about discipline, let alone read about it on a blog), I'm about to tell what I feel God is saying to me.

The words have come from hanging out with many different ministry leaders and other pastors and teachers in recent days. One moment was at a wedding sitting on a table chatting with other Christian leaders. One moment was listening to a leadership podcast. Another moment was listening to a great leader of an effective church speak on leadership.

Here's what I feel like the Holy Spirit has said to me in recent days:
'Pete, your leadership style is not always conducive to producing a flourishing church.'
Ouch! 

Come again Lord... That can't be right?! Are you telling me, I'm not leading well? That I need to change?

I felt a little rebuke. Not a huge one, but like a father disciplining his son. A nudge that says, 'You realise you could change your behaviour and be more effective?'

You may wonder what I'm talking about.

I spent a few hours this week buying skewers to hold together chicken burgers, and a plastic tub for a new ministry. Last week, I spent a few hours in the hardware store buying a new broom and double-sided tape. We needed to purchase these items, don't get me wrong, but the truth is this: When I'm running around buying items for ministry tasks, I'm not doing leadership. Let's not beat around the bush friends. I may be doing nice tasks, but I'm not leading. I'm not empowering someone. I'm not casting vision. I'm just busy doing nice things.

The fact is, I work in the ministry far more than I work on the ministry. It's powerful when you grasp the difference. Salvation Army leaders, dare I say, work tirelessly in ministry, but we don't work on building the ministry. We spend too much time on pragmatic tasks, than we do on developing leaders.

See, failure to operate in a way that identifies, trains and releases leaders into ministry will always cause my ministry to be small. The ministry is like a small tree in a pot; that tree will only grow to the size that the pot allows. In that modus operandi I can only do as much as what my own time and energy allows.

Think about The Salvation Army more generally. The pragmatic nature of Salvos has caused us to neglect leadership development, which has been at the expense of the growth of our movement. We then have had to shift our theological position of 'size', in order to justify to the Lord that we're not doing as bad as what we think we are. I believe (and you know by now, these are personal opinions), that our hands-on approach to serving the lost has not been coupled with an intentional desire to train up people for the work. We have neglected that. At least from a personal perspective, I feel the Lord saying, 'Right, Pete, it's time for your to invest in building leaders! You can do ministry until you fall asleep at night, but unless you raise up other leaders for this work, you are just a one-man-band trying to be a Messiah!'

We must fundamentally shift how we view ministry as leaders. We need to be comfortable with the idea, that as leaders, often we need to spend more time in teaching, leading and empowering ministry leaders, than actually doing the ministry. I am happy to debate this. I think, irrespective of the differing views, discussion on this is worth having. We spend too long doing pragmatic things at the expense of leadership development, which ultimately is at the expense of the growth of what we do.

Maybe the fear is that we are not being true to Salvationism, if we step too far away from the front-line. I understand that. We need to model servant leadership. Jesus washed the disciples feet. He multiplied the bread. He healed the sick. Though he also, sat in the Synagogue and taught. He regularly took the 12 disciples aside and explained what the parables meant. There was a balance in the ministry of Jesus between just doing ministry, to actually training up 12 disciples, who after the resurrection would take on the leadership of the early church!   
When we are doing kingdom work, we should see that work flourishing and multiplying. When we don't see it flourishing and multiplying someone needs to ask some critical questions. But no one likes accountability or discipline right? Also, being nice and happy to leaders, is not necessarily developing leaders. Having coffee with leaders is not necessarily building them up or increasing their performance. Sometimes we can simply become busy touching base with people, with very little intention about growing the person's capacity and maturity in Christ.

Sometimes we can even keep someone in a leadership position long after the ministry has outgrown their capacity, simply because it's too difficult and painful to have a conversation about the reality of such matters.

Lastly, the way I spend my week, is not always directly related to my heart for God to transform people's lives. That is, often, if I'm honest, my time is taken up on things that do not add direct value to the kingdom of God, but that I find easy to do. I am challenged to consider what I should do differently to move beyond mediocrity and embrace focused, passionate, intentional leadership that seeks to empower generations to lead the mission of The Salvation Army forward.

There you have it. The discipline of the Lord is gentle, but loud in my spirit. I must change the way I lead. And I say that, because failure to do so will cause me to miss the flourishing and growth that God so intends to provide.

I have to change.

What about you?

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