Thinking out loud about leadership (1) A confession

I want to start back here at Army Renewal in confession mode. I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership. More specificially leadership I’ve given and leadership that is the current ‘flavour’ in the Army at the moment. I’m going to spend a few blogs exploring leadership, because it is key for our movement in these times. I have a conviction, which may be slightly controversial to some, about how the future of leadership will need to look for the Army. I also have a conviction that our current modes of leadership…ie, what it has turned into, is currently moving counter to where we need to go.

What I want to do, however, after this brief confession (which will follow shortly) is rather than focus on the negative I see in the current leadership modes and structures, I want to paint what I believe it should be in order to paint a different image. I will then contrast that with what sometimes happen and leave you good folks to make the conclusion.

The confession: although I may have made some good leadership decisions and seen some good things come out of my leadership, I acknowedge and confess that as a whole my leadership has been poor so far in my officership. To be brutally honest, in many senses I feel it should disqualify me from being a leader at all. Am I being overly hard on myself? Perhaps, however I recognise that there are many times where I could have led much much better and hurt much fewer people in the process.

What have I been doing? Well, I write this here not to make excuses for myself, but to put out one of the main reasons I’ve discoved I’ve been leading poorly. I recognised that I have become an institutionalised leader. For so long, the perpetuation of the ministry of The Salvation Army has taken priority over being a catalyst in the Kingdom. I will bring out those contrasts in posts to come. But please hear my confession as brother and sisters.

I have allowed my dependance on The Salvation Army for my living (they house me, clothe me, feed me, transport me, pay me) to shape my identity (and therefore my security and significance as a person) instead of being who I am in Christ. In many circumstances, I’ve put the Army before Jesus. I’ve fallen into the trap of perpetuating the Army, bolstering and promoting officership and even officership covenant as a means of ensuring denominational survival in order that my ‘profession’ is safe and that there is a future rather than for what they can be under God’s Kingdom economy.

I have confessed before the Lord the many times that I’ve put the institution before Him. I’ve begged that he would forgive my idolatry for allowing something to take his place, and I’ve asked him to lead me forward. Friends, I don’t yet know what that ‘forward’ looks like. However, here I am seeking to learn from my mistakes. In fact, mistakes only remain mistakes when we don’t learn from them.

Institutionalised? You may or may not know that I spend a bit of time in prison as a chaplain. There, as I’ve been ‘ministering’ to the men, I’ve learned something very important. I’ve learned from observation, conversation and a good few books that seem to refer to the film, The Shawshank Redemption, that the walls of a place can get inside your head. I meet men there so dependant on the prison walls that within an hour or so of being out of prison, they are already planning how to get back in. Its where their identity, security and significance is found. Life is too scary outside the walls.

Inside the Army I may have my own sense of importance, my rank, my role, my position, how people see me. Take me outside the Army, if all I’m relying on is that, I’m literally nothing. I’m unemployable (I have little skills other than constructing a three point sermon) and a bit of a social mis-fit because I have few friends who aren’t my friends because I work with them in some capacity. Contrast this institutionalisation with what we have in Jesus. He says that if we know the truth, the truth will set us free. If our identity, significance and security is in Him, we do indeed live a full life which sets us free from the constructs and limitations of the boxes we end up finding ourselves in.

A couple of days ago, I posted the message translation of Paul writing to the Galations about his own institutional law-bound days. Thing is, there is every liklihood that Paul went on to keep the law as a Jew (many of them did) but in Christ he would have seen the true value in it but yet there he is very careful to point out that to go back to slavery, to miss the point, is almost unthinkable.

For me, my key task in these days is to reinstate Jesus back at the Lordship of my life. That process actually invovles laying down a few things. It also involves a shift in priorities and focus. it involves all of me coming in line with all of Him.

Friends, I want my lesson to be something which maybe you can learn from. Its why I’ve felt so strongly that I should ‘come out of hiding’ and share it. Maybe you have found yourself making the same mistakes, whether you are an officer or not. Explore the walls in your life. Look at your heart, ‘test yourself and see if you are in the faith’ said Paul to the Corinthians (2 Cor 13:5). Take the road to reJesusing your life…putting him back on the throne to the extent that there is no doubt in your own mind whose you are. As you do that, you’ll recognise that to follow Jesus actually means leaving behind everything. Luke reports Jesus saying “26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27). Sounds a bit tough..wife, children, brothers, sisters, mother father? Hate them? Salvation Army? Hate it?

Our love for Jesus and our abandonment to him, in other words, should our love of those other things seem like hatred because he is the Lord. It means he is the point. It also means that everything else takes its place in line behind Jesus and his Lordship.

God help us.

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