February 2014 Leader Spotlight

Lt Colonel Allan HoferFebruary 2014: Lt. Colonel Allan Hofer

“For the sake of others”

Someone characterized great leadership as follows:

“A great leader…their character is deeper, their ideas fresher, their spirit softer, their courage greater, their leadership decisions better, their concerns wider, their compassion more genuine. They give away power…they ask great questions. They understand the key role of a leader is to create other leaders.”

Three years ago I was asked by a colleague as to why I felt it necessary at that stage in my ministry to apply to attend a leadership course with the ARROW Executive Stream program.  He thought I was already well established in leadership. My answer to that question was simple: “For the sake of others around me”.

If I was to lead well and in a manner honoring to the Lord, I needed to increase my capacity to lead for the sake of those around me and frankly for the sake of the Kingdom.

I am very conscious that leadership in one word is influence. Leaders can influence in both negative and positive ways.  Leaders either cast shadows or light wherever they go.  Jesus meant for us to be salt and light.  He calls us out of darkness into light.

Christlike leadership is crucial in helping us and those around us become all that God wants us to be.

Proverbs 11: 14 states: “Without wise leadership a nation is in trouble.” This is true of every area of life. Without wise leadership a family is in trouble, a business is in trouble, a community is in trouble, and/or a Corps (Church) congregation is in trouble. Without wise leadership your own team is in trouble. No single factor is more important in determining the effectiveness of an organization than the quality of its leadership.

Based on this reality leaders need to invest in their own personal growth. That investment is not to receive acclamation from those around us nor is it just for one’s own sake.  It is meant to help people around us grow and become healthier and whole.

The ARROW journey for me was instrumental and transformational in my own leadership journey.  For a period of 18 months I was in community both onsite and online where I was held accountable by the ARROW faculty and by fellow leaders as well. Their approach and aim is to help leaders in three areas: To be led more by Jesus, to lead more like Jesus and to lead more to Jesus.  This seemed to be a perfect fit for me.

It was a time for me not only to gain new skills but also to reflect back on my role as a Christian leader.

  • To be led more by Jesus

As a Christian leader I am first and foremost a follower. To use Salvation Army terminology I am a soldier first and secondly an officer. I must continue to learn to surrender and submit to the Lordship of Christ, spending time in His presence, being rooted in Him and  learning to understand God’s heart for people.

Henry Nouwen, in his book “In the Name of Jesus” writes:

“Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice and guidance.”  (pg 45)

The One who offers life giving water calls us to come and spend time with Him so that this water may overflow from us to others.

  • To lead more like Jesus

Jesus spent much time around people.  As a leader I need to invest in others never putting a task before people.  More to the point, I must understand that my tasks are completed in the context of serving God and His people.   The disciples were a motley crew but He still led them in love, speaking truth into their lives and not fearing to confront them when this was necessary. Jesus was a leader worth following because people knew that He was authentic. What He said and what He did were one and the same.  They knew that He loved them.

Jesus modelled Servant Leadership. Servant leadership is always in the best interest of those being led for it always rejoices in the growth and development of others. Oh Lord help me to lead more like you.

I love the following quote by Andy Stanley:

“You can lead without character. But character is what makes you a leader worth following.”

My only hope is to emulate Christ’s leadership by being led more by Him myself.

  • To lead more to Jesus.

In the corporate world success is measured and defined by financial returns, by profit.   Christian leadership is not positional or power-based as defined by the secular world. It is a delegated influence given by God. Christlikeness and service defines us.

Brother Lawrence writes:

“Neither success not status defines Christian leaders, service defines a Christian leader.”

It really is about reverse marketing. We begin with Jesus and we end with Jesus. It is all about Him, His Name and His Glory. Sometimes when under pressure we can lose this perspective and miss the whole point of the mission. I have learned the importance of when faced with a relentless schedule of meetings and decision making of stepping on to the balcony for a few moments and regaining a new sense of purpose and perspective. It is all about Jesus.

We work under His authority.  General (R) Linda Bond is quoted as saying:

Christian leadership recognizes the privilege of the role as a channel of Christ’s authority. It is responsible to Him and committed to selfless service, marked by integrity and humility.

My prayer is that I may emulate Christ’s leadership and that my service as a Salvation Army be one that will bring Him glory and honour.

The same person at the beginning of this article recently asked me if I was now done with learning after ARROW. My response to him was: “For the sake of others, never.” As long as I have breath I will continue my quest to learn.

 

Relentless Repentance

Autryby Lt. Sharon Autry

Christmas = Trees, Lights, Gifts, Santa.

Easter = Bunnies, Eggs, Peeps.

Lent = Clueless.

We know by definition Lent is 40 days of something, bookended by Mardi Gras and Easter. Our encounters with Lent usually start off with seeing some of our friends marked with ashes on their foreheads. Those signs are then followed by 40 days of tweets and Facebook statuses with everyone whining about their commitment to give up chocolate or soda.

At its worst, Lent is just another time to jump-start your failed New Year’s Resolutions and get 40 days of amazing self-improvement. But at its best, its true best, Lent is the season where the sparks of revival are fanned into flame.

Have you ever been dumped? I mean really dumped. The one you thought was ‘the one’ ended up with another one. What song did you bawl your eyes out to? What did your heart feel like? They don’t call it a heartbreak for nothing. Sometimes it literally feels like your heart is breaking.

Remembering romantic heartache might help you, in a sense, understand the heart-shredding humbling that Lent calls us into. But Lent is not a season of heartbreak. It is a season of heartsickness.

Heartsickness, in the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ, is a condition where Godly sorrow has led us to the place of deep humbling and consecration, often to a place of tears. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Let me give you an example of what this looks like.

A few weeks ago, a story popped up in my Facebook news feed about a group known as The Satanic Temple seeking to construct a monument of satan (being worshipped by small children) in the Oklahoma State Capitol.  A spokesman for the group of satanists said, “The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation.”

Sad, right?

Of course it is. And for some people it created a sense of disgust and anger, maybe even hate. The news story was shared and clicked and commented on. The news spread like wildfire.

But did anyone cry?

Did anyone pray for the people who made this fearless display of evil their cause?

Was anyone heartsick?

A lot of times in Kingdom living we feel like we’re gaining ground because we are informed, are informing others, and are making prideful strides. But in truth, in real Kingdom-life, the currency of heartsickness is incredibly precious and valuable in the sight of God.

Why is it valuable? It’s valuable because of what it draws us to. Heartsickness (Godly sorrow) draws us to repentance. And that, Royal Priesthood, is what Lent is all about.

It is 40 days of reLENTless repentance.

Instead of forsaking dessert and tweeting about caffeine-withdrawal headaches, get heartsick.

Pray to be heartsick. Work to be heartsick. Be heartsick for yourself. Be heartsick for your family. Be heartsick for your corps. Be heartsick for your community. Be heartsick for your enemy.

Each day for the 40 days of lent do something like this:

Make it to school or work 30 minutes earlier than you need to. Sit inside your car (or outside on the sidewalk) and pray. Pray that the Holy Spirit would move you to a place of heartsickness, a place of tears, for the people God loves that will spend their day inside that business or school. Bring tissues, and be ready for joy.

When we are humbled, heartsick and seeking the Lord, He will heal our land. The rain of revival will fall. So much better than passed-up desserts.

You in?

#reLENTlessrepentance

March 2014 Leader Spotlight

Tom & Moosh-079-_MG_5274“The Life I Was Meant to Live”                         By Tom Walker

The title is filled with implication.  Is there a specific vocation, or path to which God calls me?  Certainly God calls everyone to salvation.  And scripture makes clear that He also calls us to service.  But does He equip and call some, or all, to specific roles at specific times and places?  Scripture clearly affirms this.  My view of “calling” is largely informed by my history in The Salvation Army where the call to vocational ministry as an officer at times has unfortunately been described using qualitative language.  My limited experience first suggests this to be unique to The Salvation Army and second runs some risk of marginalizing God’s call to other roles or vocations.  I wonder if a greater focus on the obedience to God’s call, whatever it entails, might provide a more solid footing for our discussions on this subject.

Having spent my entire adult life on university campuses, I’ve engaged a fair number of Christian young people concerned about finding God’s will for their lives.  Most often they want to be certain that they find the field of study, the spouse, or the vocation that aligns with God’s plan and will for their lives.  What advice should be offered to those who affirm Christ as their Savior, and are intentional in their walk; how can they know the specific direction God wants them to choose?  And what if they follow advice concerning their personal walk and relationship with Christ but still have no indication that God is answering their question?  In addition, a looming graduation increases their anxiety and often narrows their options

Scripture is abundantly clear that the ultimate purpose of a Christian is  to become like Christ.  And, of course, we don’t do that in a vacuum.  We begin to accomplish that in relationship to, and in fellowship with, other believers who provide encouragement and accountability.  And while community offers rich benefits, we also know that Jesus spent a great deal of time alone.  In solitude He studied.  In solitude He prayed and communed with his father.

At a point in my life in the distant past, I developed a habit of beating myself up for all the things I wanted to do, but did not.  I desperately wanted (and needed) time daily in Bible study and prayer.  Despite my noblest intentions I was unable to do these things consistently.

I happened upon a book by Steve Farrar.  At the time of its writing he was a pastor, husband, the father of several children living at home, an in demand speaker, the leader of a men’s accountability group, and a writer under contract.  I vividly remember the straightforward analogy he drew between physical exercise and practice of spiritual disciplines.

Given his specific circumstances, if he was able to get in some form of physical exercise three times a week, he deemed that to be adequate. Likewise, if he managed to exercise the spiritual disciplines at least three times a week that was acceptable.  At the time I was an assistant professor quickly approaching a tenure process that required evidence of high quality scholarship, performance, teaching, and service. And with three children under the age of 12, you will understand that Farrar’s analogy released me from a huge burden of inappropriate guilt.

Fast forward twenty years.  Life circumstances are dramatically different.  Children are now independent and successful adults.  Although responsibilities associated with work are significant, I find ample time for daily Bible study and prayer.   As I have been more consistent in the practice of the spiritual disciplines I find that I long to be even more engaged in being a disciple of Christ.

I was recently reminded of the “WWJD” bracelets that were in vogue a decade ago.[1]  The serious recommendation of a Christian novel was trivialized (in some cases) to nothing more than a fashion statement.

The bracelets were to remind one, when facing every decision, to ask the question, “what Would Jesus Do?”  Christian author and philosopher Dallas Willard pointed out the potential fallacy of the exercise.   Simply asking the WWJD question, in the absence of actually following Jesus’ teachings and His word, is likely to be a vacuous and frustrating exercise.  If you are seriously interested in learning to reason and respond like Jesus, you must live the disciplined, sacrificial, and focused life that Jesus lived.  Willard suggests that Christians are called to live simply – primarily to avoid distractions.  We all have experienced the angst of possessing some thing that requires or demands our attention.  Taken to the extreme, one can become controlled (or ‘owned’) by the object(s).  Beyond this, a simple lifestyle was modeled by Jesus.  He compels those listening to His voice to“abide in him”, to be nourished and grow because of the lifestyle that He offers (John 15:4, 5).  Living simply allows one to be relatively free, unencumbered and available for His purposes.  Jesus lived a life of discipline and one of routine.  I heard it said recently that “Jesus never sought converts”.  Rather, “he called on followers to become disciples”.  As a teacher of a performance art, I can attest that not all students, even talented ones, are disciples.  But when a student chooses to become a disciple it is a transformational process, and one that is quickly recognized by the teacher!  It begs the question whether one can appropriately be called a disciple of Christ if examination of one’s life reveals little or no practice of the spiritual disciplines?

I am confident that In His Steps and the ‘WWJD’ concept was well intended.  But I think that Dallas Willard’s point should be well taken.  There are no short cuts to Christlikeness.  It requires discipline, commitment, and persistence.

My experience suggests a strong correlation between my desire to be like Christ and my willingness to engage in the spiritual disciplines.  The result has been an abiding joy in studying, in praying, in teaching and encouraging others.  I experience RESONANCE between the things I’ve grown to love to do and the transformed person I’ve come to be.

In conclusion let me share how I advised the students who questioned me about finding God’s specific will for their lives.  I first asked the question, “Will you be obedient if God speaks specifically to the issue?”

And then, “Is there anything you would be unwilling to do if God so directed?”

“If your heart’s desire is to be obedient to God, isn’t it appropriate to assume that God now has some degree of responsibility in the matter?

“It’s like signing a blank contract.  He requires that you sign first – let Him fill in the details as He chooses.”

So doing will give you confidence that yours will be the life you were meant to live.

 


[1] In His Steps, written in 1897 by Charles Monroe Sheldon was well-intentioned.  It is one of the all time best selling Christian books.  There is no intention to criticize the original intent of the book or it’s recommendations.

With The End In View – John 13:36

Jesus teaches His disciples in His Final Hours
Meditation 4
John 13: 36

            Let’s recount the very human emotions expressed in this passage of Scripture:  the need to feel loved and to belong, the need to feel significant and secure and the need for interdependence.  We’re around the table of the last supper.  Jesus is still preparing his own for his departure.  Today we come to a little twist in the story.

“Follow me.”  Those were the initial words of invitation at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry to the disciples who were sitting around the table that evening.  Peter and John heard those words on the seashore.  Matthew heard those words as he was called from his life as a tax collector.  Simon, the Zealot was called to follow from his political party.  Each heard those words:  follow me.  You have heard those words and so have I.  In fact, it is those words that constitute the primary call on our lives.  “Follow me!”  The action, the subject, the direction of our life is all tied up in that invitation to follow Jesus.

Following is not always easy.  It entails commitment.  It means going places that makes you feel unsure.  It means giving up control.  It means trusting another person.

The disciples were just about getting the hang of this “following” thing and now Jesus says to Peter “where I am going you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

You can hear the disbelief in Peter’s voice.  What!?  Why!?  This is what I’ve done for three years, Lord, and now you call a halt to following?

No, Peter, not a halt for good.  But it is important—no, it is imperative that we stop here for a moment.  For while I want you to follow me completely and wholly, Peter, I need to take this time to build into the fabric of your life qualities that will enable you to follow well.  I can still hear the frustration in Peter’s voice.  And, I hear his insistence.  “But, Lord, why can’t I follow you now!?  I’m ready to die for you.”

How little Peter knew about himself.  How little we know of our inner fortitude and resolve.  But Jesus knows and sometimes slows us down or calls us to halt temporarily, not so that we will turn to follow something else but rather so that we won’t!

When frustrated on the journey because it looks like you’re on hold, hold on, because He’s building into you the fabric of His own character!