Committing to deep personal change

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by Lt. Colonel Sharon RobertsonI was born into a generation that cried out for change. Change, both personal and societal, was not a frightening concept to us–in fact we viewed it as critical to the survival of not only the church, but the world! I guess what we never realized was that there would come a time when the folk who needed changing would be US.

These are the words of him…who walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:1b-5 NRSV)

According to Robert Quinn in Deep Change, “In today’s organizations, many people are dying, not physically, but psychologically. To turn this situation around, for the healing process to begin, people must engage in deep personal change–change that will only occur when people take active charge of their own lives.” Quinn ends with what may be the understatement of the decade–“This is a very uncomfortable concept for most people.”

Both the passage from the Revelation and the quote from Quinn are talking about deep change–metanoia.

Most of us recognize and hail the need for change–for the other fellow. We just never thought it would be we who would need to change, we who would need to re-align our practices to accord with the vision we had in the beginning–the vision of a caring community of committed Christians working together to win the world for Jesus. We have substituted the personally assigned task of caretaking for the God-given task of caring for.

Morris Shechtman, in Working Without a Net, writes:

Many apparently good intentions are undone by the confusion between caretaking and caring for.

Caretaking means that

You do things for people that they’re perfectly capable of doing for themselves.

The things you do persuade people that they are utterly unable to solve their own problems; that anyone else would be better able to solve them.

Caring for means that

You challenge people to be the best they can be.

You tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

Morris further points out that caretaking, the paternalistic approach to leadership, is destructive. It makes a relatively small group of people–the over-extenders–responsible for carrying the load. “It sends a hostile message to employees: ‘Unlike us (management) you’re not capable of doing what others can do, so we’ll have to do it for you.’ It is plantation paternalism at its worst. The two consequences of this demeaning system are (1) feelings of ungratefulness and entitlement; and (2) a need for revenge (people want to get back at people who demean them).”

Sound familiar?

But there is yet another consequence of caretaking (i.e. paternalism) that impacts effective leadership–we get so busy “taking care of business”–looking over the shoulders of our subordinates to make sure they are “doing things right”–that we find less and less satisfaction in our own sense of ministry–our own sense of fulfilling our original calling. We have created–in our own minds, at least–an untrustworthy society, a society where the only person on whom we can rely is our own self. Both our superiors and our subordinates are suspect. We question their motivation, their sincerity, their commitment, and so we want–no, that’s the wrong word–we feel we need to take control, if God’s purposes and the betterment of the organization are to be accomplished

Metanoia. Repentance. Revolution. Deep personal change at every level of administration–from field to THQ! A change of heart and mind. A recognition of the spiritual arrogance of believing in our own “superior” abilities and discernment to the detriment of those whom God appointed to their own tasks. Learning to trust one another, instead of looking for hidden meanings or projecting unworthy motivations. A willingness to be vulnerable, to lay ourselves open to criticism of our own leadership abilities.

The ability to capitalize on what we have–to make tart, refreshing, thirst-quenching lemonade out of the lemons we are handed. The willingness to let God truly be in control, so that we will have the courage to release control to others. The ability to be so confident in the vision God has set before us, and in our freedom to pursue it, that we are willing and able to free others to pursue their God-given vision.

The determination to pursue our first love, our calling to ministry in Jesus’ name, to evaluate every goal, every strategy, in the light the vision he has given us.

And the determination that the lampstand known as The Salvation Army shall burn brightly and steadfastly, a witness to the working of God among us for the accomplishment of his purposes.

Frontlines — News Briefs of the West

Frontlines — News Briefs of the West

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve just celebrated my 11th anniversary



BY ROBERT DOCTER –  They used to call it “junior high” —

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