Is Change a What or a Who?

imagesHow often do you demand, expect, or desire organizational change?

Consider the following:

What does the national government need to “get it right”?

What are the top changes the church should make?

What are the major changes you want to see at your workplace or grocery store or in the healthcare, education, or public aid systems?

It’s easier for us to demand organizational change than to accept personal change. We can identify issues that need to be addressed and resolved. We’re great armchair quarterbacks. But how do we respond when God announces,

“I interrupt this game you’re dreaming about to bring you back to reality. You’re trying to play everyone else’s game, and you’re missing out on your own. You need to be willing to change instead of just talking about change.”

Ouch.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” I think God would tweak it a bit: “You must be the change God wants to see in the world.” In essence, you need to listen and respond to God and the way he’s changing you. You’re not the only one on his radar; he’s able to be everywhere all the time. He’s got the details covered. That means he can change the world. He could change organizations. But God’s way of changing works through people. He’s passionate about people he creates and wants an intimate relationship with them. If you desire change, he wants you to experience change.

Change is an investment. It can be a foolish investment or a wise investment. God wants to show you what wise investment is. He wants you to engage in investments that yield significant growth. The growth and change isn’t always what you define as the best or most preferred growth and change, but if it’s God’s way, it’s the best way.

Are you going to get stuck in the quagmire of expecting change outside you in order to meet you where you are, or are you willing to let God examine where you are and take you to another place, impacting not only your own life but those you connect with along the way?

“I am the true vine; my Father is the gardener.He cuts off every branch of mine that does not produce fruit. And he trims and cleans every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.You are already clean because of the words I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce much fruit. But without me they can do nothing. If any do not remain in me, they are like a branch that is thrown away and then dies. People pick up dead branches, throw them into the fire, and burn them. If you remain in me and follow my teachings, you can ask anything you want, and it will be given to you. You should produce much fruit and show that you are my followers, which brings glory to my Father. I loved you as the Father loved me. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:1-9)

Repentance

images (1)Repentance.

It’s a word we either don’t like to hear, don’t understand, or simply ignore. Repentance requires acknowledge of something being amiss, and we don’t necessarily like to admit we’re wrong. It seems to indicates weakness, and weakness is…well, a weakness!

But it’s not.

When we repent, we admit where we are, not to get stuck, settle into a place of defeat, or give up. We repent, because we’re willing to move beyond where we are. We acknowledgement where we are isn’t where we should be. It doesn’t mean everything in our lives is bad. In fact, as we grow in faith and let God consume our lives more completely, we realize he challenges us to repent of even the slightest details of our attitudes and intentions, pruning the tiny weeds before they grow into trees.

There are no limits on repentance. It includes the big and tiny, the ongoing and momentary, the obvious and well-disguised.

We often respond in faith forgetting the importance of repentance. We ask for blessings, we praise God, we expect God’s promises…but we haven’t done a heart-check first. We need to ask ourselves if there’s anything between us and God as we approach him, and since we work toward developing an ongoing connection with him, we need to be adamant about consistently asking him to identify anything that’s creating any amount of distance between us. That also means we have to be willing to listen as he reveals the distance. We need to be willing to respond.

A lack of repentance impacts personal faith, and it also impacts community. Each person is responsible for his/her own repentance. Each person is also able to ask for repentance for the community. It must be done with a pure heart. We don’t ask for repentance because “that person” did something wrong. We ask for repentance because we did something wrong whether we personally offended or not. Going to God in repentance for our community assumes our association among that community. (See Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1:1.)

Repentance isn’t a pit of guilt. It makes a way out of the pit of guilt. Get familiar with repentance. It’s a grace-filled gift from God.

God, be merciful to me because you are loving.
Because you are always ready to be merciful, wipe out all my wrongs.
Wash away all my guilt and make me clean again.

I know about my wrongs, and I can’t forget my sin.
You are the only one I have sinned against; I have done what you say is wrong.
You are right when you speak and fair when you judge.
I was brought into this world in sin. In sin my mother gave birth to me.

You want me to be completely truthful, so teach me wisdom.
Take away my sin, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;let the bones you crushed be happy again.
Turn your face from my sins and wipe out all my guilt.

Create in me a pure heart, God, and make my spirit right again.
Do not send me away from you or take your Holy Spirit away from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation. Keep me strong by giving me a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:1-12)

The Change and Action of Leadership

UntitledAfterward, Joash took it to heart to renovate the Lord’s temple. So he gathered the priests and Levites and said, “Go out to the cities of Judah and collect money from all Israel to repair the temple of your God as needed year by year, and do it quickly.” (2 Chronicles 24:4-5)

Joash does three things in these two verses, and those simple actions are an encouragement and challenge for us as we lead well.

  1. Take to heart.
  2. Unite others.
  3. Take action.

Often, we are good at, at least, one of those things. But sometimes we ignore other essentials. We’re considerate and compassionate, yet we don’t respond with action. Or we respond with action, but we take control and try to do things ourselves or work around people, especially those who seem to be in our way, instead of uniting people. After all, unity takes time, effort, and sacrifice. Sometimes we take action, but we don’t take heart ahead of time.

Good leadership takes all three, entwined together from beginning through the end of a process, including everything in between. Refuse to isolate one apart from the others.

 

Receiving the Baton

post-12Elisha picked up the mantle that had fallen off Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle Elijah had dropped and struck the waters. “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” he asked. He struck the waters himself, and they parted to the right and the left, and Elisha crossed over. (2 Kings 2:13-14)

We actively receive. We participate in the passing of the baton. Sometimes, we might just want or expect to receive, but grasping what someone offers takes willing participation and preparation. We might stubbornly refuse because the passing of the baton isn’t done the way we want or in the timing we want. We may get too much or not enough recognition in the process. We might feel underprepared. We might not have much respect for the person we follow, or we might have so much respect for him or her that we are overwhelmed with the responsibility. But none of that cancels our responsibility to receive. We have to be ready and willing to do what it takes to pick up and put on what God intends in His timing.

What is He asking you to pick up (and put down) today? He’s prepared you. Trust Him through the process. Respond in faith.

Following Well

They answered Joshua, “Everything you have commanded us we will do, and everywhere you send us we will go.” (Joshua 1:16BeStrong_iphone_640x960)

When or for whom are we willing to go this far, claiming “everything” and “everywhere” for someone? The next verse reminds us of Joshua’s reliable authority because of his faithful obedience to God as he led. But Joshua was still human. And no matter how much we want to claim godliness in a leader we follow, we need to think about what we’re doing and where we’re going. We ultimately need to trust God the most, and sometimes that will involve following people He’s placed in leadership in our lives. Sometimes that will mean boldly and respectfully disagreeing.

We need to be careful of whom we declare as our fearless leader “no matter what.” We can easily find examples in our current political elections. We may choose to follow a candidate because of an issue or precedent, to fight for an underdog, to prove a point, or to jump on a bandwagon. None of those reasons are sufficient. When you find yourself trying to justify a stance, take a step back. You might be on shakier ground than you care to admit. You might claim allegiance (or rejection, which is still a type of allegiance) for the wrong reasons and with the wrong attitude.

It all takes discernment. Each step we take as we follow, lead, speak, listen, persuade, consider, and change.

When Struck By a Fleet of SUVs

parking-lot-full-of-durangosLet’s first clarify what an SUV is. Sure, it’s a sport utility vehicle. But it can also be spontaneous untrained volunteers.

Now, can you relate by being struck by an SUV? Have you ever been surrounded by people who want to help, but they don’t know where to start. Maybe you’ve been among them. We’re ready and willing, but no one is taking charge and equipping you to make an impact.

It can be frustrating, but as a leader in a ministry, community, or organization, you’ll find yourself in an SUV challenge from time to time. Have a plan. You may not know the specific situation ahead of time, because SUVs often come together in response to a unforeseen crisis or need. You can be prepared in general ways even when you don’t know the specifics.

  • Plan to communicate well. You’ll often communicate well in a crisis when you communicate well in everyday relationships. Practice listening skills but know when your voice is needed. Taking charge isn’t about being bossy but being willing to bold and responsible.
  • Plan room for emotions and personalities. If you make decisions based only on tasks, you might get some things done, but you won’t establish a broad investment. People will get frustrated and burn out more quickly. You can’t get to know everyone well, and you  will have to trust what some of them say they can do, but try to put people in the right roles.
  • Plan to equip more than you force. Give encouragement, suggestions, and feedback. If you give direction without details (or focus so much on details no one can actually accomplish anything), you’ll end up with rogue, disgruntled, confused volunteers. Meeting needs aren’t just completed tasks. They involve real people working alongside real people to meet the needs of real people. Respect them for who they are.

The Fence of Pride, Arrogance, and Ignorance

You might be the one to…step into the role, accept the position, complete the task. Yet you might not be the one.

Why do you say yes or no to something?

We build fences that keep us from walking the very ground God intends us to cover, because we’re too proud, arrogant, or ignorant to consider, acknowledge, and accept where God wants us to go. We tear down fences that are intended to keep us from walking the ground God doesn’t intend for us to cover, because we’re too proud, arrogant, or ignorant to consider, acknowledge, and accept where God wants us to remain.

It’s God’s job to build and tear down fences, not ours. Anytime we do the building or tearing down, we should be cautioned to attend to where we are and where we should be.

wood-slip-boardWe think we should be able to decide where God wants or doesn’t want us to be. We even try to convince others we know where they should or shouldn’t be. If there’s a gap in what needs to get done, we think we know who should step up, because (1) someone has to step up or else it won’t get done, or (2) we see how the person and the task would perfectly fit together. Even if what we assume is consistent with God’s direction, we need to ask for his instruction first. Jumping in to provide a quick fix might seem to fix the problem, but if it’s not the way God wanted it to be fixed, another problem will soon follow. What seems to fit to us isn’t always God’s best fit. We can have God’s confirmation in less than a blink-of-an-eye…and when it doesn’t come that quickly, we’re wise to patiently wait.

On the other hand, we can excuse ourselves from responding by saying we’re waiting on God’s instruction when we’re not fully committed to hearing God’s instruction. We’re fairly certain we’re not supposed to respond, but we’ll wait it out in case God says differently. But are we actively waiting or passively waiting? There’s a difference. We always need to be active in our relationship with God, no matter where and at what pace he has us.

What fences are you building or tearing down on your own, apart from God’s instruction?

Whether you think you’re too good or not good enough to do something or whether you simply don’t recognize something that’s supposed to be on your radar, be cautious. Be sensitive to God’s leading. He wants you to walk every step of the territory he has purposed for you. Don’t explore where you shouldn’t be or place limits on where you should go.

After Lot left, the Lord said to Abram, “Look all around you—to the north and south and east and west. All this land that you see I will give to you and your descendants forever.I will make your descendants as many as the dust of the earth. If anyone could count the dust on the earth, he could count your people. Get up! Walk through all this land because I am now giving it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)