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Help Wanted: Leadership, Ownership, Change

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by Lt. Colonel Sharon Robertson –
Assistant Chief Secretary

We will promote a lifelong learning commitment among our people, helping them identify and use their gifts in service. Identification of leaders and potential leaders will be a high priority…

HELP WANTED: fast-growing organization is looking for dedicated, innovative personnel to fill key management positions; look forward to a bright, fulfilling future in an aggressive worldwide marketplace. If hard work, commitment, a concern for people, a zeal for God and a zest for meeting difficult challenges are your forte, we have a job for you! (Only those not afraid to get their hands dirty need apply.) Call (310) 544-6436.

The title for this article is supposed to be “Building Leadership, Achieving Ownership, Accomplishing Change.” As an obedient little (using both terms loosely) lieutenant colonel, I include that information so you can substitute that title if you want. Problem is, “saying it don’t make it so!” That fact that you choose to substitute a different title doesn’t change the actual title (unless you are the editor of the New Frontier,, that is).

The same challenge applies to all of this “visioning” business. “Saying it don’t make it so. Nothing but commitment and prayer and study and hard work and a lot of good, honest sweat and the power of God is going to accomplish the kind of change you and I are looking for–the changes that will allow God to accomplish his vision for The Salvation Army in the Western Territory.

Somehow we have gotten the idea, over past decades, that change is the function of territorial/divisional leadership ­ that if only the Army’s leaders would change their ways of doing business, we, THE Army, could better accomplish what needs to be accomplished and win the world for Jesus.

PREACH IT, BROTHER! It does take leaders to help bring about change ­but to reference an old Pogo line, “they is us.” You and me, buddy. The accomplishment of God’s purposes for the Army in our own community is not going to depend on the decisions of territorial leadership nearly so much as the decisions we make at the local level. The responsibility for transforming our vision from a dream to a reality is going to depend on local leadership ­you and me, the soldiers, officers and friends of the Army in our own communities.

“Leadership” is a noun, but by rights it ought to be an active verb. There are varying levels and styles of leadership, but there are certain characteristics that I especially admire in a Christian leader, a few of which are listed below:

1. Sensitivity to (and willingness to yield to) the leadership of the Spirit of God. The Christian leader who is thoroughly submitted to obedience before God will accomplish more for the Kingdom than the most forceful, personally charismatic but self-directed leader. Even the Lord himself prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.”

2. Willingness to act upon the authority we already have. Authority ought to characterize every servant of Christ, for Jesus chose to delegate authority to all of his servants, not just some. While certain types of authority, legal and ecclesiastic, may be delegated by an organization, every servant of Christ has the God-granted authority to work toward the accomplishment of his purposes. There are many things we could do to “take charge” and make a difference–and remember that according to Jesus, those who are faithful in the small things will be entrusted with greater responsibilities.

3. The ability to ask questions and seek for answers: The Christian leader should never be afraid to ask hard questions, since we have no reason to fear the answers. Certainly the answers may sometimes be unwelcome, but only as we seek to truly understand a situation can we deal with it intelligently and effectively. Superficial examinations result in superficial remedies.

4. Willingness to take risks: The “risk-taker” factor doesn’t imply foolhardiness. Scripturally, wisdom might be defined as “understanding the will of God as revealed in his word, and to put it into practice in one’s daily life.” Wisdom was never the product of intellectualism or education, but the product of how our intellect and education, formal or informal, were applied for the accomplishment of God’s purposes. God values wisdom so much that he promised to make his own wisdom available to us on request (James 1:5-8). The risk-taker weighs the alternatives and bases his/her decisions on what will best accomplish the divine mission–and then is willing to walk the tightrope, in full knowledge of the risks, if that’s what it takes.

5. Commitment: Call it commitment, call it determination, call it steadfastness or “stick-to-it-iveness,” it’s the trait that characterized Job and made it possible to him to be chosen of God to be an advocate for his well-meaning but confused friends. This is the trait that enables the servant-leader to stick to the God-given task, no matter what the opposition, until it is finally resolved in a way that is pleasing to God.

6. Acceptance of personal responsibility for the consequences of our actions: This is really a partner-trait to the willingness to be a risk-taker (#4, above). All of us make mistakes, and sometimes they will be whoppers, since none of us perfectly understand the will of God as it applies to all situations. Solomon was a wise man, but some of his errors in judgment contributed eventually to the splitting of the kingdom. The walk of the Christian leader is no different from any other walk, in that at times we may stumble, but we then try to identify the cause of the problem, acknowledge our responsibility in it, and prayerfully try to work out how to do better next time.

God has given us a glimpse of his vision for The Salvation Army in our community. Accomplishment of that vision is not the function of our corps and headquarters officers alone ­ it is the function of every one of us who claim to be soldier-servants of Jesus Christ. Whether the leadership task God assigns to us is great or seemingly insignificant, it is our most earnest prayer that God will, as a companion to vision, grant us the wisdom, the courage and the determination to our part in its accomplishment.

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