By Major Joanne Holz
In this season of Lent we are reminded that the King of the Universe CAME DOWN in order to fully reconcile man and God. He did not just begin this process when He sent His Son as a baby. The entire witness of Scripture is that God has continually “come down” to man, inviting man to enjoy Him, to participate with Him and to reflect Him.
Coming down is not just geography! It was an unselfish act of love. Jesus did not find it necessary to grasp fame or fans. He effected “leadership through a balance of mercy, grace and justice” (Charry, 1999). “He emptied Himself—self-gift, self-donation, taking on the form of a bond-servant, spending Himself on behalf of others in self-emptying love and service” (Cummings, 2004; Keating, 2006). And Robbins notes: “by His actions, Jesus models and represents ‘the holy person par excellence’” (1996).
This season reminds of us of the humility of Jesus. It also gives us a model for leadership. Juxtaposed against His coming down is our pride. Lent reminds us of the God-ordained idea of work as service to others (worship). We often worship the work and count on it to ‘make something of ourselves.’ However, leadership is a loving act of service to the body of Christ.
We are called as leaders to walk into personal excellence as Jesus did. When we do not pursue Christian excellence we often lead from a posture of personal exaltation. God exalted Jesus. God infills and raises leaders.
God often ‘comes down’ to man today through other believers. The Holy Spirit moves through people. For believers who aspire to lead, Philippians 2 is a wonderful model of authentic leadership where pursuit of excellence replaces personal exaltation. The Body of Christ is increasingly healthier when led in this way.
(This article based on an article Sharon Norris wrote and published on Inner Resources for Leaders)
By the SLD Staff
Upon entry into The Salvation Army International Corps in Atlanta you cannot help but notice the rack packed full of information in seven languages. The myriad of posters and signs were also reflective of the diversity that is found among these corps members and partners in ministry.
A recent demographic shift in the community surrounding the corps has brought greater diversity and increased numbers in the corps membership. However, the change in demographics also brought new challenges. The Salvation Army found itself at a very different crossroad that was not geographical in nature. Meeting needs began to include helping to get work permits, finding translators to go with immigrants to court appointments and doctor visits, as well as helping new people find affordable childcare or enrolling children in local schools. The meaning of social services and ministry had taken on new meaning.
However, taking on a new meaning for the Army did not mean changing its mission. “The Salvation Army is an international movement that is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” (Mission Statement) It did, however, cause the Army to, “examine in depth the relationship of culture to leading, to following, and to building effective ministry teams,” as Sherwood G. Lingenfelter stated in his book Leading Cross-Culturally.
In an ever-changing society with “hot-button” issues fueled by media sensationalism, the question becomes “How do we minister effectively?” The answer is the cross. The way of the cross leads home and the corps is still home base, despite the generational and cultural barriers they are facing. When facing tough issues the officers at the International Corps reason that the work completed at Calvary was for the “whosoever” that comes. That is the message and it still has meaning. We are all called to be an extension of Christ so that “whosoever” with “whatsoever” issue can find truth and love in the grace of the cross. Each week at this Salvation Army International Corps, that message is given out at different times, in different languages, during different services to help highlight the common thread in our differences.
As one of the world’s premier art museums and home to such famed cultural icons as “Mona Lisa,” the Louvre in Paris ought to have nailed the answer to the simple question, “What is a masterpiece?” But no. When the museum posed that query to a bunch of its curators a few years ago, they were stymied. It wasn’t that they had no answer, but that they had too many. Superlative craftsmanship, extraordinary design, great antiquity, rich materials, purity of form, artistic genius, originality, and influence on other artists. All those qualities, and more, bubbled into the discussion. “It became evident that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to articulate a definition of masterpiece that could be accepted universally.”
Masterpiece has a broader audience than paintings. Not a few of you are captive to the Masterpiece Theater broadcasts. This company has aired excellent TV series since 1971. Their motto is “commitment to bring the best in drama to American public television audiences.” Pixar has been hailed as producing a masterpiece in its recent release of Inside. Others would consider the works of authors like Chaucer, Keating, or Shakespeare as masterpieces.
The quality of the workmanship, no matter the medium, produces a product that transcends normal standards such that the product takes on a life of its own. The authors or artists are an afterthought. For example, step into the timeless oil painting entitled The Return of the Prodigal Son. You lose yourself in the story. You become mesmerized by the color or the lack thereof as you visually contrast the robes of the figures. Who are those characters in the darker corners of the painting? Who is that figure with garments inconsistent with the era? The story the painting conveys takes over and you no longer think about Rembrandt, the artist, or his techniques used in the painting.
The theme for this month is “God’s Masterpiece.” Ironically, the beauty of the human being has had the same effect as The Return of the Prodigal Son. There is the continual and unfolding human drama with the darker figures, the ragged figures, the self-righteous, noble figures, and the father who strains to see a loved one return home. We find ourselves trying to locate our place in the masterpiece as did Rembrandt when he painted himself into the scene. We are mesmerized by flashy colors, rich colors, and the depleted colors of life. We, the figures in the unfolding drama, are God’s masterpieces: His most excellent creation.
Were it not for Rembrandt, there would not be this standard for a masterpiece of art. Were it not for our Master Creator, there would be no possibility for us to be deemed a masterpiece. While it is true that Rembrandt’s painting(s) take on a life of their own, holding us spellbound, those paintings cannot reproduce themselves. Humanity is given the opportunity to reproduce in a masterful way or in ‘masterpiece style’ the kind and quality of life that represents the original Creator. Every day we are afforded the opportunity to both represent our Master and create qualities of beauty in our lives and for the lives of others. The quality of Rembrandt’s painting may take your breath away but cannot give breath to anything else. The quality of life we receive from Creator God gives breath to us and allows us to participate in the life of those outside us.
We are God’s Masterpiece Theater. The drama connects heaven to earth: His life, His values, His beauty in us and then through us. “The artist speaks to that part of you which yearns for beauty and creativity. Your inner artist invites you to participate in the great work of healing the world by lifting out of your senses creative images, words, and actions that inspire others to live lives of wonder and surprise.”
Surrender to the ways of the Eternal Artist and build a masterpiece out of each day: superlative craftsmanship, extraordinary design, great antiquity, rich materials, purity of form, artistic genius, originality, and influence on other artists. This invitation is extended to all of those the Master has created to continue fashioning the world in which we live. May our lives inspire wonder and surprise, beauty and joy, and be a signpost to our Master and Creator to whom our worship and praise rightful belongs.
 Christine Valters Paintner. The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom (Kindle Locations 53-55). Kindle Edition