THE BRIDGE BUILDER
by Geir Engoy –
Cross Cultural Ministries
He steps into a nearby phone booth and voila! out comes Superman!” Oh, how quaint and so not current. You can tell the story about Clark Kent and his alter ego was written way back when. Today, of course, he would have had a cellphone on the belt strap of his blue underwear, offsetting his dashing red leotard. Unless, of course, he would fly swifter than time and miraculously appear in the place to which he would have placed the call. But I digress. The point here has more to do with the obsoleteness of the phone booth for a cutting edge guy like Superman, and it has even more to do with the fact that new inventions make old customs passé.
We are living in dot com days of rapid change and instantaneous access. I read today’s news in the local edition of Süddeutsche Zeitung, India Sun or Aftenposten with a click or two of my computer mouse. I make a call today and I’m in business tomorrow.
There is a major clash between this ambience and the time honored structural system of many of our institutions. If you wanted to get ahead or have your voice heard, you had to pay your dues, go through the ranks, wait your turn and be well connected.
The Salvation Army is not much different: The overwhelming majority of our leadership is Anglo. The Anglos have paid their dues. After all, they were the ones who spread the Salvation Army abroad. They are the ones who have been steering the ship ever since. Over the past couple of decades or so, Salvationinsts from Spanish speaking backgrounds have become better ingrained in the Army tapestry of the Western Territory. Will this group have to “pay their dues” for a hundred years before they are afforded “full membership” and allowed into meaningful leadership positions? What about, say, Laotians, whose track record within the SA is even shorter? Are the leadership models and election procedures of different groups compatible? If the present majority stance is behind the times (phone booth versus cellphone), what ought we to do?
Depending on whom you ask: Rules are to be broken or to be followed. If desired results follow consistent breaking of some rule, the rule is often changed. Is it time to change the way we share leadership of our multi-ethnic body of believers across the Western Territory?
All analogies break down sooner or later. Still, bear with me: A football coach is hired. He may come from within the organization or from outside. In either case he is not new to the sport. Depending on results of the team, he may be fired (where the analogy breaks down!). However, he is sometimes kept on board in a different office position or maybe rehired as a defensive coordinator for another team. Later, he may very well shift into top leadership again, or to another “lesser” position. The point is, his positions do not necessarily escalate in perceived importance. From the “higher” position he takes with him learning which will benefit him in other positions, and vice versa.
It is important to establish our goal. If we produce shoes, we do market research to find out what kind of shoes people want, and how much they will pay for them. The factory that is most effective in answering those needs will prosper. Our goal is Heaven and we must strive for making the road there to be one of service and ministry. By giving voice and making leadership available to all groups the Kingdom will be built according to its components.
Interpreting superman correctly, it isn’t Clark Kent, but only Jesus who fits that description, by modeling for us at once the reality of man’s need and the potential of his future. You also don’t need to duck into a nearby phone booth to reach him; he is closer than the cellphone clipped on your belt.