Book Review: STIR

by Mindy Caliguireb8fe-square-400

As Christian leaders our most important purpose is to be a witness and develop other believers. For years this has been done in the context of congregations, small groups like Sunday school, or other “discipleship programs.” However, many church leaders have come to the conclusion that this type of one-size-fits-all spiritual development is not always effective. This issue is even further complicated by other “first world problems,” like the advent of the mega-church and virtual campuses. Technological advances have the ability to allow believers to isolate and create even more stratified spiritual communities and that seriously impact the levels of spiritual maturity. As a response many churches, have instituted “small group” communities and developed curriculum designed to facilitate growth in an effort to create a sense of community in larger congregations. And so, the need to develop programs that facilitate growth and development in the context of authentic community has become even greater.

In “STIR: Spiritual Transformation in Relationship,” Mindy Caliguire reviews a process of Christian development in the context of an ever-changing Christian community. She emphasizes that effective spiritual development only occurs in diverse, authentic Christian community. Caliguire asserts that authentic community is facilitated and categorized by three elements: learning together, journeying together and following together.

All believers will be faced with learning the Scripture, understanding core beliefs, and learning the way to relate to God and each other. Each of these areas change as a believer develops. Caliguire asserts that learning together is an essential step of the maturation process and growth and development of the believer. This process builds a frame of understanding about the Scriptures and facilitates the ability to learn key truths from within the Scripture.

While knowing the Scripture is essential, Caliguire also says that having an understanding of core beliefs is essential to learning together in community. This is complicated because there has to be a way of diversifying based on the level of spiritual development within the community while the depth of understanding of core beliefs continues to change as a believer develops. This is not to say that the community should be divided by spiritual maturity but rather there should be an opportunity for development at all levels. The purpose of learning the basic tenants of the Christian faith are so that we can learn to effectively relate to God and each other.

The process of journeying together allows believers to experience and understand the goal of spiritual maturity. Since Christians are called into community, it is only natural that God would use our relationships with other people to help us mature spiritually. Consequently, this develops a greater reliance upon God, as we discover our inability to love well apart from Him.

When done well, the journeying process naturally aids in our ability to respectfully follow God together. Caliguire develops the idea that when God’s activity in and around a person is the primary subject of discussion, prayer and conversation, we are then able to see beyond our own perspectives, recognize God’s assignments, and stay attentive to God’s ongoing transformation in our lives.

The subject of how to create authentic relationship and spur spiritual growth will only become more pervasive as our culture becomes more diverse and as we become more reliant on technology which tends to isolate us. Caliguire’s book proposes a practical method to insure that Christians continue to work toward truly becoming the body of Christ and developing meaningful relationships in the context of authentic community.

Relationship Ready

photoRelationship Ready: Building Critical Partnerships Before Crisis

Jeff Jellets is the Territorial Disaster Coordinator for The Salvation Army’s Southern Territory.  In this article, he takes a look at the importance and value of building meaningful relationships before catastrophe occurs.

“It’s all about relationships. “

That’s a familiar adage within emergency management – a common sense way of saying that during a crisis, it is relationships between people, agencies, and communities that provide the resources and resilience needed to cope with a catastrophic event.   It’s perhaps a bit trite to say that “disaster response is clearly a team sport,” but that certainly doesn’t make it any less true.

Of course, as critical as relationships are, most emergency managers temper that first bit of advice with a second: “And the worst time to build a relationship is during a crisis.”

No disaster manager wants to be exchanging business cards for the first time on the day the raindrops of a major hurricane begin hammering the glass of the county’s emergency operations center or just after the last motes of dust are settling on the ground after a catastrophic earthquake.  If emergency management is a team of people and agencies, then their coach is the emergency manager.  No coach wants to learn who his players are on game day – the day the disaster strikes – at least, not if they expect to be successful.

So my admonition to all Salvation Army officers has been: “Meet your local emergency manager and build that relationship … long before any disasters are on the horizon.”

But what does that mean?  On the surface, it may appear that emergency managers and Salvation Army officers come from two different worlds — faith-based and government being one of the most easily identifiable differences.  How then to best build a relationship, particularly one that is solid enough to weather the stress and tension of a disaster event?

Let me suggest three fundamental points from which to start:

First, build understanding.  When I travel, it’s almost impossible for me not to come across someone with a Salvation Army story.   These stories are testimonies to the tremendous work The Salvation Army performs in improving people’s lives every day.  But I also find that very few people know the ‘full’ story of The Salvation Army and are aware of all that we have to offer.  Most emergency managers fall into this category.

We need to tell our story.  Not for promotion, but to help our partners understand what resources we can bring to the table, how they work, and just as importantly, our limitations.  Build on an honest understanding of each other’s capabilities so that, in a crisis, you can give all you have, but not be expected to give more than you can do.

Second, promote accountability.  One wry person said to me, “If I wanted to, I could go to an emergency management meeting every day, but I just can’t … I have other things I need to do.”  This individual is absolutely right.  As Salvationists, we are pulled in countless directions across a number of amazing programs.  Each and every one of these programs deserves (and needs) our attention.  We just can’t seem to do it all.

Nor should we.  What is important is that we set aside ‘specific’ time to focus on the development of key relationships, such as the one with the emergency manager. Even if that time is limited, the intentionality of the commitment sends a clear message that this relationship is not only important, but valued.  Just as critically, when you do make a commitment, it must be fulfilled.   It takes dozens of kept promises to offset one that has been broken.

Finally, build trust.  Even as Christians, it can be hard for us to trust a total stranger – particularly in a time of stress or crisis.  Think of yourself as an emergency manager, dealing with a disaster.  Lives are at stake, an entire community is at risk, and the personal and professional pressure is intense.  Under those conditions, leaders want to surround themselves with people they can trust, people they can count on to deliver on what needs to be done.   Trust, at least in the context of an emergency operation, represents a rock solid confidence that these partners will be there with you when needed.

For The Salvation Army, it means that an emergency manager can depend on our resources being mobilized during an event and that we will work in coordination with the overall disaster response operation.  Again, it may be a bit cliché, but emergency managers want to know if you really ‘have their back’ and that they can count on you when things are at their worst.

Of course, even with the fundamentals of a strong relationship in place, ultimately it is the execution of those efforts that counts.  As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is a success.”  Emergency management may begin with the formulation of relationships, but it culminates in putting those relationships to work.  Looking beyond disaster services, consider the relationships that you are building today or, to go back to our earlier analogy, who are you inviting onto your team?  More importantly, what is your plan to make those relationships work for you, The Salvation Army, and to the advancement of God’s kingdom?


November 2014 Director’s Desk

In the 4th century St. Augustine said that “the church consists in the state of communion of the whole world” (Ecclesiam in totius orbis communione consistere).Wherever we are connected, in right relationship, you might say “in love,” there is the Christ, the Body of God, and there is the church.

The theme for this month’s Mission Mover is relationships.  Relationship is foundational to life. It is connectedness:  person to person, people to creation, institution to individual, family member to family member, and friend to friend.  We are intertwined.  The church as witness and reflection of the Trinity is to love inclusively.  Indeed, that is one of the tenets of our mission statement.
“Salvationists of the USA Southern Territory are answering God’s call to make radical followers of Jesus Christ who love inclusively, serve helpfully and disciple effectively in the communities where they live.

Martin Luther King said:  “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Jeff Jellets, Director of Disaster Services, has witnessed mutuality in service as many across the southland have been the victims of nature’s force(s) or man’s violence.  Jeff excels in training and strategizing toward effective interventions as a result of the devastation others endure.  We are pleased to include his article.

Major Rick Mikles is featured in a discussion of leaders and relationships.  The video conversation captures what experiences have shaped his own theology and practice of pastoral relationships.

There are many helpful books on the subject of relationships, some riveting.  STIR is one of those books you must sit with and digest slowly in order to allow the concepts to become a part of your “relationship worldview” out of which your own changes in relating will come.

There are other helpful leadership tools in this month.  See the leadership series for this month and download as a resource for your own small groups.

This is the season of Thanksgiving.  Be intentional to thank those in your life who walk this journey with you!  “Give thanks with a grateful heart!”  Please know how thankful to God we are to be able to walk with you in the development of your leaders.

Blessings to all!