September 2012 Leader Spotlight An Interview with Captain Gary Wilson

An Interview with Captain Gary Wilson

Administrator, Suncoast Adult Rehabilitation Center,     St. Petersburg, FL

SLD:  You became a Salvation Army officer after many years in the military.  How did this come about?

Gary:  In early 1998 I came to understand that God was calling me to enter full-time ministry. I surrendered to that call in the spring of 1998 and retired from the military that fall to enter ministry. That decision was preceded by an eight year period wherein God allowed me several opportunities to serve in church youth work including three separate stints as a youth director/youth pastor in three different churches.  Once the decision to surrender to God’s prompting was made, I began to distribute resumes to churches in Texas. Our specific tie to The Salvation Army came through a longstanding relationship with Lt-Colonel Dick Norris, the ARC Commander in 1998. When he heard what we were doing he asked us to provide a resume’ to him, which we did. The Norris’s and then Captains Don and Marianne Faulkner had been a great support as friends and pastors in those years in Northern Virginia and I valued his review of what I was sending out.  Through these connections I was offered a combined chaplaincy and counselor position in the Fort Lauderdale ARC.  My Master’s degree in counseling, earned while in the military well prepared me for the counseling facet. The youth work of earlier years and the help of officers like Majors Tom and Ann Louie and Majors Ken and Dawn Luyk  were the foundational pieces of my chaplaincy. As I was comfortable working with the soldiers I had known in years past Liz and I found ourselves immediately comfortable with the men of the ARC.  While serving at the Fort Lauderdale Center Liz and I became Salvation Army soldiers, Sergeants and finally Auxiliary Captains.  My place in the ARC proved to be God’s direction for me – to learn Salvation Army leadership through the ministry of the ARC.

SLD:  How did your previous life experience and training contribute to your ministry as an officer?

Gary:  After my training at West Point and 20+ years active duty as a United States Army officer I was comfortable with leadership.  Mid-way through my military career I switched specialties from Infantry to spend my last ten years working in logistics- managing supplies, overseeing maintenance operations on fleets, and resolving transportation issues.  This has been very valuable to my work in the ARC where there are so many logistical issues related to the effective operation of thrift stores, warehouses, residences and other aspects of this work.  My master’s degree in counseling was used in the military as a practitioner and teacher.  I loved psychology and counseling and how they lent to helping those who worked around you. I believe God was preparing me through the military for my future ministry.  I grew up in the church and understood the realities of having a heart divided into the two worlds of a secular lifestyle and an authentic Christian life.  I finally came to a place of full commitment to what God wanted for my life.

SLD:  What role has mentors played in your maturing as a leader?

Gary:  I had good pastors as a young person.  In the 1990’s a met a gifted pastor/teacher/mentor in Texas and through him the bible came to life.  In our reassignment from Texas to Massachusetts God placed another pastor who was an excellent teacher and peer mentor in my life.  God used them to bring authentic change to my life.  Great military leaders taught me how to run an organization.  When I joined The Salvation Army I learned much from ARC Commanders about leading an ARC.  Also, my peers have been good mentors to me.

SLD:  How do you resource continued growth in leadership?

Gary:  I love to read.  My favorite book on leadership is The Training of the Twelve by A.B. Bruce.   I have re-read this book and tried to apply what I have learned.  I like John Maxwell’s common sense approach, I have studied Robert Greenleaf and others on servant leadership, and most recently have begun to use works by Boa, Drucker, Collins, Kolbe and Lencioni to build up our staff in St. Petersburg, FL .  In my reading I look for things I can actually put into practice in my own life and leadership-online articles from various sources like Leadership Excellence; Mutiny on the Bounty, a Case Study; and Building Church also lend to our development as individual and staff leaders. I get energized when I am mentoring and caring for people and connecting with them about having values that will help them.  One of my values is to work hard and to do well; realizing I must model the standards I ask others to rise to meet and exceed.  Others are counting on me.  My father was a good role model of a responsible male; I learned being a good example from my father and applied it extensively in the military and in the ARC. My passion for learning also keeps me going.  My present doctoral studies are forcing me to be clear and focused on a particular discipline – and all this in the context of working with people.  I have several years of ministry to give and I want to have resources to give back through my leading, mentoring and teaching.  I want to keep generating, and not grow stagnant.  I want to think, work and speak analytically, yet be understood so others might apply what we discuss.  While my appointments may change over time, I want to be a resource to others making my maximum contribution, just as others have pushed me forward and mentored me.

SLD:  How do you stay focused spiritually?

Gary:  I recharge emotionally and spiritually through personal daily devotion time, preparation for sermons, and opportunities to interact with the guys in bible studies.  I get energized in the exchange as the men ask deep questions that I often can’t answer right away. My spiritual hero, besides Jesus Himself, is Jimmy Towers, a basketball-coach-turned-pastor in Texas.  I related well to him and learned a great deal from his bible teaching which directly impacted my personal development and style of preaching. My wife and I have adopted a life verse from I Thessalonians 2:8 (…we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well).  It is vital for us to have a heart for the men we serve and lead.  This is a family affair – to show love to those we lead so that they will have hope that comes from knowing the love of God.  Today I am reminded to fight on daily by I Thessalonians 3:13…don’t grow tired of doing what is right.

December 2012 Leader Spotlight An Interview with Captains Bobby and Anne Westmoreland

LEADER SPOTLIGHT, December, 2012

An interview with Major Bobby and Captain Anne Westmoreland, Divisional Commander, Kiev, Ukraine

Note:  We connected with the Westmorelands via Skype as they concluded a trip to the United States.  Following is a transcript of the conversation.

SLD:  We are delighted to have you with us as guests on Leader Spotlight.  Tell us about your Thanksgiving celebrations here in the US.

ANNE & BOBBY:  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with Bobby’s mom and the whole family, including cousins.  It was a very special meeting that we will cherish for a long time.

SLD:  I have known you both for about seven years, and have learned that you are very warm, relational people.  This quality has surely not come by accident.  How has this developed in you over the years?

BOBBY:  I grew up a very shy person, afraid of people.  But I have very relational parents who came from a poor family.  My mom relates well to anyone and everyone.  She is so accepting of everyone, no matter their economic level or color.  She is very accepting.  I learned a lot from my mom when I was growing up – not to be afraid of people but to talk with people.  From high school to college I felt the Holy Spirit working in my life telling me to be available to people, and not be afraid but to reach out.   This helped me to be more risk-taking.  So having family, the Holy Spirit shaping me, the influence of The Salvation Army and my corps officers; all played a part.  Also, Divisional & Territorial youth leaders who knew my name and made me feel significant, took the time to invest in me, listen to me – that had a significant impact on me and helped me in my call to officership.  God has used all these things together in my life.

SLD:  Isn’t it great to have a family who impresses these values on our lives.  Anne, do you have something further to add?

ANNE:  In some ways it’s a similar story for me.  There are people who took an interest in me.  I grew up in TSA and lived in Denmark up to young adult years and everywhere I’ve been the Lord has sent me someone who has taken interest in me and been a mentor and role model to me.  God has given me a love for people – I find people interesting.  It brings joy to life that God has created all of us different and I enjoy interacting with people and sharing life with others.  This brings me joy in life.

SLD:  Is there one experience in life that was a learning moment that convinced you of the priority of relationships?

ANNE:  It’s hard to pinpoint one experience.  I am very stretched where I am.  I am learning.  As an officer, different appointments stretch me. I have been in several settings where language has been a challenge.  That can be a barrier.  But more than language, there are other non-verbal things that are even more important.  If I am not genuine in body language, eye contact; that is not good.  So God is teaching me that communication is important.  Often as leaders we focus on verbal skills and our speaking, but there is something more than that, the language of love.


SLD:  Bobby, can you fill us in on your new ministry in Kiev and share how this challenge has highlighted the need for good relational skills in this exciting but previously unknown setting.

BOBBY:  Ukraine has 48.5 million people.  We have many projects we’re working on.  It’s a very complex operation, and while it should be simple, it’s not.  Every time you think you know the rules, they change – it’s a moving target.  We have good advice on the work of the Army and have to keep working on our right to exist and to establish our place among the people.  We have some amazing people working with us, especially our own officers and soldiers.

ANNE:  We are in a context where the concept of leadership is very defined.  Relational leadership can be seen as a foreign concept here, even perceived as a weakness.  I have found that I have been more challenged than affirmed in my leadership style.  I am having to adjust, yet still be true to myself. In some ways I am being tough as a leader.  But it’s important to be relational as well.

SLD:  One of the fundamental aspects of leadership is your relationship with the Lord.  How does that work out in the new context of Ukraine?  Has your relationship with God changed?

ANNE:  The Lord is a constant blessing in my life.  I have a very practical relationship with God all through the day.  I get into His word every day.  I know that the prayers of family and friends sustain us.  Without that, things would be very different.  Bobby and I are sustained by that, and nothing can take the joy of the Lord away.

SLD:  Have you seen some ways in which your leadership approach has been affirmed in the people and results where you are?

ANNE:  I think individual cases have affirmed us as we meet our officers and soldiers. The Lord has given Bobby and me opportunities to venture closer to others and see them develop.

SLD:  Can you both share with us a personal and ministry prayer request that we can all pray about?

BOBBY:  First, you could pray for my mom’s healing; and second, for God’s Holy Spirit to protect us and that His holiness would be seen in us and our officers and soldiers.

ANNE:  Pray that God would use us as a couple and leaders. That we would be the best we can be for the Lord.  Pray that God would protect our officers, cadets and soldiers and keep them on fire for Him.

February 2014 Leader Spotlight Lt. Colonel. Allan Hofer – For The Sake of Others

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.

March 2014 Leader Spotlight Tom Walker – “The Life I Was Meant to Live”

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.