Friday, March 17, 2017

5 Principles for a Successful Red Shield Appeal

Around this time of year Salvation Army Officers all over Australia are either engaging or avoiding the mammoth task of organising the annual Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal Doorknock in their local community, which is held at the end of May each year.  While the Red Shield Appeal is still widely supported by very generous Australians it tends to evoke a love/hate relationship from those tasked with the responsibility to recruit and mobilise an army of volunteer collectors. This is largely due to competing demands on the Officer's time, complacency by a growing number of Salvationists and community fatigue from a continuous stream of fundraising events by other worthy charities.

Still, the necessity of the Red Shield Appeal to funding the mission of The Salvation Army is inescapable and deserves the very best effort from ALL who consider themselves as "Salvos".

As somebody who shadowed my parents from my earliest memory as a collector, who graduated to an area captain at age 14 and as a colleague who has coordinated the Red Shield Appeal as a Corps Officer for the past 20 years in four very different communities, I offer these five principles to recalibrate our collective attitude and approach to the Red Shield Appeal...
  1. The Red Shield Appeal is EVERYBODY'S responsibility.
    Irrespective of rank, appointment or position in The Salvation Army we all have a vital part to play. Even if you do not have a direct role in organising the appeal you need to ask yourself, "Am I a servant or steward of the mission of The Salvation Army?"  A servant of the mission will do their bit to participate in a good cause but a steward of the mission will take ownership of the same cause. The difference between the two is the degree of resolve you have to do whatever it takes for the mission to succeed!  As a servant, the overall success of the appeal is not my responsibility, but as a steward I am a stakeholder in its success.

  2. The Red Shield Appeal is an OPPORTUNITY not a distraction.
    I don't know of any Salvation Army Officer who doesn't want to engage their community to advance the kingdom of God through their respective appointments. The Red Shield Appeal provides a powerful platform for this type of engagement with community groups, local businesses and other organisations. Despite recent challenges for The Salvation Army we are still blessed with a high level of community acceptance that provides an open door to build relationships and invite the public to participate in our mission.  Once people step through that door, we have an opportunity to cast a 'grander vision' of the 'why' behind the 'what', which can provide life changing pathways for further dialogue and volunteerism beyond the Red Shield Appeal.

  3. The Red Shield Appeal begins BEFORE it starts!
    I cannot overstate the importance of networking and nurturing community relationships ALL year round. Waiting until these relationships are needed diminishes the level of engagement that comes from more reciprocal relationships formed before they are necessary. Also, there is a significant difference between approaching warm contacts for assistance than cold canvassing strangers. The energy you invest in this space before the Red Shield Appeal will pay dividends during and after the appeal.  You indeed 'reap what you sow' when it comes to building community relationships.

  4. The Red Shield Appeal MOBILISES an army.
    There is no other time of year when large numbers of Salvationists and supporters are united around a common cause and mobilised to saturate the community of a local Corps, with the backing of a PR driven media campaign.  Even though the goal of the Red Shield Appeal is to collect money the motivation is to resource mission; and our mission is ultimately to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.  The Red Shield Appeal gets us out of our Corps buildings and into the community with an extraordinary message of hope that is manifested through our social programs that serve the most vulnerable people in Australia.  Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?!

  5. The Red Shield Appeal rises and falls on YOU.
    Leadership expert John Maxwell is often quoted as saying, "Everything rises and falls on leadership."  A brief overview of biblical and church history, corporate successes and failures, and social and political revolutions, prove this statement to be true! The uncomfortable truth is your attitude towards the Red Shield Appeal will set the tone for the engagement of others. While there is much about the Red Shield Appeal you cannot control, your attitude is on you. It is a choice.  It's a choice that will influence the participation of your congregation and community.

I get the tiredness that comes from coordinating such a large fundraising campaign and I understand the frustration of not having enough collectors. But I cannot help to remain optimistic about the possibilities! It is my genuine hope that these five principles will serve as a challenge and motivator to harness all the opportunities that come with organising and participating in the Red Shield Appeal. 


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Culture of Dishonour

In the wake of two significant election campaigns in both Australia and the United States I am becoming increasingly disturbed by an emerging culture of dishonour towards people who carry a mantle of leadership. More than ever before, leaders from all sectors of society are confronted with complex issues and diverse worldviews that significantly raise the stakes of leadership and increases hostility towards those who dare to lead.  

I hear some of you retort, "We have a responsibility to speak out against bad leadership!" To which I reply, "Yes, but..."

Ideological conflict over critical issues is essential in any healthy functioning society.  However, when that conflict descends into personality bashing or character assassination, we destroy any foundation of trust that is absolutely necessary to dealing with the issues at the heart of our conflict.

In recent days I have read so much dishonouring name calling and have seen too many demeaning "memes" on social media by leaders toward other leaders that is far from constructive and does little to address very real issues.  Irrespective of which side of politics you align with or what religious views you adhere to, effective leadership demands a level of honour that transcends opposing points of view to engage in respectful and robust dialogue with those in authority who view the world very differently to yourself.  

I am not talking about blindly following a leader into darkness.  Nor am I suggesting a mediocre tolerance of all policies or ideologies.  Neither do I think leaders should never be challenged.  In fact, “I want to argue that the solution to ideological discord is not “tolerance” in the post-modern form we frequently find it, the bland affirmation of all viewpoints as equally true and valid but an ability to profoundly disagree with others and deeply honour them at the same time” (John Dickson, "Humilitas").  This is not simply agreeing to disagree under a facade of political correctness but a depth of character that demonstrates humility and honour in the face of fierce disagreement.

I appeal to leaders from all walks of life...

Let us rise above the petty politics that attack the person instead of addressing the issues.
Let us see through the media biases that manipulate the truth to promote a hidden agenda.
Let us resist demonising conflicting worldviews and create safe environments to debate those views.
Let us commit to nurturing a posture of influence rather than perpetuating a pattern of insolence.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Facing Your Fears

Fear reveals the true character of a leader and heightens a leaders senses to right size their fears so they can effectively engage that which challenges them.  Read more...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Common Denominators

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES:  Common Denominators
Whether I am speaking with a colleague in Indonesia or a business leader in my local community, we share a mutual understanding of leadership that transcends the different contexts in which we lead.  Read more...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What Breaks God's Heart?

One of the most quoted phrases from contemporary worship in recent times would have to be "Break my heart for what breaks Yours" from Brooke Fraser's well loved song 'Hosanna'.  Every time I sing these words I immediately think of all that is broken in our world through a lens of social justice - war, poverty, slavery, human trafficking, drug and alcohol abuse, family violence...and sadly, this barely scratches the surface! Interpreting these words in this way is consistent with the message of the prophets - "And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8) - and is in alignment with the mission of Jesus Christ - "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners  and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour" (Luke 4:18-9).  God is clearly concerned about human suffering and flourishing and is grieved by anything that diminishes His image in humankind.  But could there be more than a social justice lens to understand the meaning of these provocative words?  What else breaks God's heart?

Again, I look to God's message and mission as revealed in Scripture and discover that He is as concerned about holiness as He is about justice...

"This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.  I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes." (Ezekiel 36:22-23)

So when I sing, "Break my heart for what breaks Yours," my thinking needs to extend beyond that which offends my humanity to that which offends God's divinity.  While the two are not mutually exclusive, as God's holiness and justice are inseparable; it seems the former has a declining impact on the hearts of many Christ followers than the latter. In fact, when Christians raise their voices against a violation of justice it evokes a somewhat different response from others than when Christians raise their voices against a violation of holiness. This is an interesting paradox when you consider that the first and greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).  The depth of this love calls for complete devotion that synchronises two hearts as one, so that the pursuit of holiness reframes what breaks the hearts of those who say they love God. 

Consider these expressions of such love towards a holy God by key leaders in Scripture...


King David, who was described as being "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14), offered a prayer of repentance for his sin against a holy God, whom he loved:  "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge." (Psalm 51:3-4)

The prophet Isaiah saw his sinfulness in the presence of the holiness of God and cried, "Woe to me!  I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." (Isaiah 6:5)

The disciple Simon Peter, humbled by the authority of Jesus, "fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"" (Luke 5:8)

The apostle Paul, fully aware of his own wretchedness and the power of the Spirit, chose not to "live according to the flesh" nor to have his "mind set on what the flesh desires; [but to] live in accordance with the Spirit [with his] mind set on what the Spirit desires." (Rom 8:5)

 
In each case their brokenness led to repentance and their repentance led to holiness and their holiness positioned them for mission.  God says, "Be holy because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16).  Why?  Only when our hearts are fully aligned with God's heart can our hearts be truly broken by what breaks His.  Only from this posture can we truly identify what is broken in this world.  Only then can we bring a message of hope and engage in a ministry of healing.  Only then will God's kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

God's mission demands a posture of humility before a holy God, otherwise...

How can we preach a mandate of HOLINESS when we continue to justify what is right in our own eyes?

How can we participate in a ministry of HEALING when we cannot recognise the brokenness of our fallen humanity?

How can we promote a message of HOPE when we are seduced by the values of this world?

What breaks God's heart is when the church misinterprets the full counsel of Scripture and misrepresents the character of God by setting holiness and justice against each other, thereby robbing people from experiencing the fullness of life that Jesus came to give all humankind!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Have We Forgotten?

Like many Australians, every year I attend and participate in two culturally significant community events - ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day.  Both days are a time to honour the memory of those who lost their lives on the battlefield and are a sober reminder of the lasting scars that war leaves on our humanity.  Each year at these services the solemn sound of the Last Post played by the bugler is either preceded or followed by the recitation of the "Ode of Remembrance" which ends with the phrase "Lest We Forget".  

While it is right and proper that we remember the fallen, have we forgotten what they fell for?  Has history taught us nothing?  Have we not shed enough blood?  And in the words of songwriter Bob Dylan, "How many times must the cannon balls fly, before they're forever banned?"

The ongoing threat of terrorism, the war on ISIS, conflicts in the Middle East and parts of Africa, tensions with Russia and North Korea, all would suggest to me we have forgotten that war never has and never will bring true peace and freedom for humankind!  

The relative peace that follows when the guns are silenced leaves those who are wounded or displaced by war suffering relentless physical and mental conflict.  The freedom celebrated by some becomes bondage to others and remains elusive for most after a ceasefire is declared.  The human cost of armed conflict only really serves to perpetuate the brokenness of our humanity instead of purchasing the peace and freedom all humankind ultimately craves.

When we say "Lest We Forget" it must not just be a lament about the past but a resolution for the future!  Every time we say "Lest We Forget" it must move us beyond reflective commemoration towards a robust commitment to find a better way!  Therefore, "Lest We Forget" that ALL human beings are made in the image of God and have been created to live in shalom with our Creator, each other and the world we share.

Monday, October 31, 2016

A Shocking Story!

I was shocked to hear about the actions of the emergency services who responded to the evacuation of a public school during a recent fire emergency and appalled by the follow-up actions of the Education Department!  

The fire was started by arsonists in the library and it quickly spread throughout the entire administration block and surrounding classrooms putting half the school community at risk of serious injury. 

As soon as the fire alarm was activated the school evacuation plan was immediately initiated with the students in relatively unaffected buildings being evacuated orderly through designated exits to the emergency assembly area.  Most of the staff in the administration block were able to exit through the main entrance.  However, a dozen teachers who were overcome by smoke inhalation had to smash a window in the staff room to escape from the thick blanket of smoke. Unfortunately, this window led into a closed in courtyard and the teachers were forced to climb over the timber privacy screens to get out.  

The class studying in the library were completely trapped with no way to safely exit by following the school's well rehearsed evacuation plan. Both emergency exits were blocked by flames and debris from the fire and panic caused the students to become disorientated with fear.  The librarian ushered some of the students to the back of the library and used a chair to break through a dividing partition into the classroom next door to find another way out.  The students on the mezzanine level with their class teacher climbed up the wall mounted book shelf and helped each other through a small overhead window onto the roof of the library.  Once on the roof they ran across the metal cladding towards the fire brigade frantically waving and yelling to get their attention.

As expected, the students who followed the school evacuation procedures were immediately attended to by the designated fire wardens to ensure they were accounted for and were assessed by first aiders for any injuries.  But to my surprise the staff who broke through the window and climbed over the timber screens were reprimanded by the police for not following correct procedures before being treated by the paramedics for smoke inhalation.  What I found most outrageous was how those trapped in the library were treated by the emergency services after their ordeal of escaping from the worst effected area of the school.  The librarian and students who broke through the partition wall were refused medical treatment by the ambos!  And those who climbed onto the roof were told by the fire brigade to go back the way the came and exit the building the right way!!

If this wasn't bad enough, an internal investigation of the incident by the Education Department found the teachers who had helped the students escape the 'wrong way' were in breach of department policy. The teachers lost their jobs and the students involved in damaging property were expelled from the school! Just when you thought this story couldn't get any more bizarre, the Minister for Education pursued legal action against the school principal to deter other schools from breaching emergency procedures in the future.

Sounds outrageous?  Absolutely, because it's not a true story!  If this fictional story was true, it would justifiably evoke the condemnation of every reasonably minded person associated with this made up school scenario. 

However, it does serve as a confronting allegory of the outrageous policies of the Australian government for handling traumatised people pursuing any means of escape possible from the dangers they face; irrespective of whether or not it complies with what is considered to be acceptable. In the face of imminent danger, real or perceived, there is no such thing as a 'right' or 'wrong' way to seek asylum. When you are in danger your survival instincts don't stop and ask if your safety is logical or even legal. When your family is at risk you don't stop and ask permission to make them safe.  If we are brutally honest and put our fears and prejudices aside, there is very little that any one of us wouldn't do if we genuinely felt our safety was threatened.  

Any parent who has ever said, "I would do anything to protect my family," needs to rethink condemning a mother or father who has acted on that statement.  Any government that has ever sent troops to war needs to reconsider policies that inhibit victims of war from escaping a conflict zone. Any society that values peace and freedom needs to reassess who is entitled to that same value.  

Finally, if you felt any level of outrage at the treatment of the students and teachers in this imaginary story then next time you hear a real story of people seeking asylum use your indignation to advocate for their universal right to life, liberty and security of person.

Friday, October 21, 2016

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Paralysed By Failure

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES:  Paralysed By Failure
You can choose to allow failure to paralyse you or propel you towards new discoveries. Don’t allow a moment of failure become a lifetime of disability.  Read more...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I'm Offended!!

I'm offended that as a new father I was unable to use a public 'parents room' to change my babies nappies without feeling I was intruding on a mother's only space.
I'm offended that when I was a father of five year old twins I couldn't take either of them into a change room at Kmart without being looked upon as a deviate.
I'm offended that today as a father of a sixteen year old daughter I am subjected to suspicious glances when I take her out to a cafe on a daddy/daughter date.
I'm offended that the designation of leadership roles in our home and ministry between my wife and I, based on our shared values and individual gifts and abilities, are judged by some as chauvinistic.

I'm also offended that men in general are singled out in social and political commentary as child abusers, perpetrators of domestic violence and instigators of sexist behaviour.




BUT...




I am more OFFENDED by the men in our society who do abuse their position of trust and violate the innocence of children.
I am more OFFENDED by the men in our society who do use their physical strength to inflict unthinkable violence against women as a means of exerting control.
I am more OFFENDED by the men in our society who still think that unwanted sexual advances, sexist jokes and sexualisation of women is just 'boys being boys'.
I am more OFFENDED that the inappropriate behaviour of a few men in our society can leave lasting physical, emotional and mental scars for a disproportionate number of women and children whose only vulnerability is that which is imposed upon them by the distorted use of power.

If singling out the role of men in the abuse of power is what it takes to restore a right image of self in the lives of women and children, then I can live with being offended.  My offence pales into insignificance compared to the greater OFFENCES being perpetrated by men who need real manhood role modelled to them by the men in our society who treat their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and female friends with dignity and respect.

History has proven that the pendulum needs to swing in the opposite direction for a season to correct the imbalance of power in society.  So guys, if you feel offended like I do, don't allow your offence to become self pity but turn your offence into influence so that we can change the attitudes and behaviours of those men who cause the real OFFENCE, which is what really makes us feel OFFENDED in the first place!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Loyal To A Fault

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES:  Loyal To A Fault
While loyalty to a leader or a team is a highly valued virtue in any organisation, there are times when blind loyalty can distort our view of reality and become a liability.  Read more...