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Should I have my breakfast now or wait for my next appointment?

by Lt. Colonel Kurt BurgerThe Salvation Army’s system of periodically transferring officers is both its strength and weakness. To describe the Army as a “lean, mean fighting machine” is only a slight exaggeration: few organizations have this kind of flexibility at their disposal. It allows for quick response to breakdowns, flexibility in adjusting to new situations, and greater ability to match skills with demands of the field. It is one of the few vestiges of the old Army still in use. Booth always believed that one of the main characteristics of an army must be its ability to respond quickly. While “quickly” has slowed down somewhat, I believe it is still an Army distinctive that gives us a certain edge.

As with everything else, however, it has its problems. It no longer is as easy to move and start over in a totally new situation with different challenges. Learning curves are longer because of much greater complexity, community involvement takes time to cultivate, and consideration for family issues must be highest on the priority list.

The longevity of this system has spawned its own organizational mindset—some aspects are good, other aspects of it not so good. Expressing it another way, different “minds” have developed over time that characterize officers’ and soldiers’ attitudes towards it.

First, there is the “Appointment Mind.” Short-term thinking, limited vision and narrow perspective are its hallmarks. Figuratively speaking, they are the officers and soldiers who are willing to “skip breakfast” because their mind dwells too often on the next appointment. Hence, they miss the joys of the moment.

Then, there is the “Potential Mind.” These folks always see potential but never recognize and embrace it. They forever lay a foundation. Conversely, some see potential and fulfill it as best they can. When they leave, the soldiery and the new officers will carry it forward and keep building. They realize that one can never fully own a vision but rather fulfill parts of it and pass it on. After all, the vision of reaching all people with the Gospel is never ending. Potential is always present. We must make sure we recognize it.

Next is the “Fixer Mind.” I’ll fix the previous officers’ mess and then move on. Sometimes this is indeed what officers must do. Just as long as we are not guilty of dismissing our predecessor’s good work because we think we can do better. Pride disguised as progress is a hollow thing. Henry and Richard Blackaby point out in their excellent book Spiritual Leadership that “pride may well be leaders’ worst enemy, and it has caused the downfall of many…. Pride tempts leaders to monopolize the credit for their organization’s success. Pride drives leaders to seek the limelight. Pride moves them to magnify their own involvement and to minimize the efforts of others.” (Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennesse, 2001, p. 230ff)

The “Victim Mind” is one nothing good can be written about. “It’s administration’s fault.” “I should have received a better appointment.” “I should be higher in the organization than I am” are all counterproductive attitudes. They keep us from fulfilling Christ’s mandate of preaching the Gospel to the ends of the earth. While I may think I am at the end of the earth, according to Christ, however, there are people even there who need the Gospel. I will never have to give account for appointments of others, but I will have to account for what I have or have not done in the appointments that have been given to me. “Victim Minds” are plagued by a sense of helplessness, inarticulate disappointment mixed with vague but persistent guilt. It needs to be avoided at all cost.

Think, next, of the “Focused Mind.” I am not referring to one’s ability to concentrate on a given task, but rather the ideal state of harmony between officers, soldiers and ministry, everyone focused on the main thing. It is looking at the appointment process from a comprehensive perspective: I am in God’s will, and even if I think I should be somewhere else, I rest in the conviction that God can use me anywhere. It is the seed of genuine joy in ministry, to be content in whatever state.

In any case, I am creating quite a mix of “minds” making the expression “double minded” seem like clear glass. What clears it all up is the “Christ Mind.” At one time or other, we all struggle with or enjoy multiple “minds” on this long-standing subject. The question is which of these dominate? As you think, so you are. As you are as an officer or soldier, so people see you. As people see you, so will be the strength or weakness of your ministry. To strive after the mind of Christ is our best assurance of not getting caught in the negative aspects of our appointment system. Perhaps all officers in our territory should commit to preaching on the mind of Christ for the entire month of, say, September; it would have a healing and strengthening effect.

I think I’ll have my breakfast now.

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