Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kingdom Citizenship

"The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:34)

Amidst the political and social debate about asylum seekers in Australia stands this biblical mandate about how to treat foreigners.  But before you write it off as Old Testament law, this mandate is echoed through the words and actions of Jesus Christ, who was the fulfillment of Old Testament law and prophecy. 

“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 favor...Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:18,21)

This prophetic mission of Jesus was preached in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), illustrated in His story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), evaluated in His separation of the Sheep & Goats (Matthew 25) and commanded in His Great Commission (Matthew 28). 

A political worldview determines the treatment of foreigners according to political advantage.  

A humanistic worldview determines the treatment of foreigners according to social interests.

However, a kingdom worldview determines the treatment of foreigners according to biblical values as personified in the person of Jesus Christ.

I am getting a little tired of seeing asylum seekers and refugees being used as a political football or social punching bag by people who are so consumed by preserving a way of life that they have forgotten the true value of life.  Labels and judgements only serve to depersonalize the stories of human beings whose humanity has been violated and exploited by a self-serving world.  We need to stop justifying actions that perpetuate the vulnerability of people who have been created in the same image of God as you and I.  We need to embrace this biblical mandate that a "foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born" by valuing our kingdom citizenship above our national identity.  Paul puts our national identity into perspective in his letter to the Ephesians by reminding us that, in Christ, we "are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household."

We have a divinely appointed responsibility to challenge any government policy, social attitude or racial prejudice that denies, distorts or devalues the image of God in any human being!  As kingdom citizens, may the life of Jesus Christ define the way we interact with the lives of foreigners and recreate a world where God's image is restored in His creation.

Published in 7th February 2014 edition of the WARCRY and Blog Winner of the Creative Arts 2014 Competition

Monday, May 27, 2013

Red Shield Appeal Leadership Lessons

At the end of a very busy Red Shield Appeal weekend, I find myself reflecting on the success of this significant fundraising event from a number of angles beyond the obvious emphasis on raising money.  I can't help but to see the Red Shield Appeal through a leadership lens as an opportunity to evaluate and develop leadership potential and involvement.  Willow Creek Community Church Senior Pastor Bill Hybels provides a useful leadership assessment tool that, when applied to the Red Shield Appeal, can reveal a lot about Corps and community leaders.

Passing the Leadership Test by Bill Hybels presents five tests for leaders which he developed around the calling of the first disciples by Jesus in Luke 5:1-11 (read the story for context).  Since hearing Bill present this tool at a Leadership Summit in 2003, I have used it in a variety of leadership contexts and have found it provides a useful insight into the involvement of leaders in the Red Shield Appeal.

1. "Bias Towards Action" Test:  Anybody who has ever participated in the Red Shield Appeal knows that it doesn't organise itself, nor does the money collect itself.  There is a lot of planning, recruiting, scheduling, mapping, connecting, before you even think about knocking on a door or rattling a tin! As an Area Captain, District Chairman and Corps Officer I've observed four types of responses to the Red Shield Appeal - those who avoid it at all costs; those who participate begrudgingly; those who give their obligatory two hours on Red Shield Sunday out of a sense of duty; and those who will do whatever it takes to ensure the event is a success because they own the vision.  

2. "Can You Follow Directions" Test:  One of the challenges of coordinating a large scale event involving literally hundreds of volunteers, that is dependent upon the good will of the public and subject to legislative and organisational requirements, is getting people to cooperate with the process.  Initiative and enthusiasm that cannot follow direction becomes a liability that can risk the integrity of the event.  This is especially true for the Red Shield Appeal, which has earned the trust and respect of the wider community.

3. "Who Deserves The Credit" Test:  We all love to celebrate the success of our own efforts, but the success of the Red Shield Appeal is an interdependent relationship between God's favour, public generosity and volunteer participation.  The moment we devalue any one of these relationships by an inflated ego, we dishonour the others. 

4. "The Grander Vision" Test:  The Red Shield Appeal invites participation with the broader mission and ministry of The Salvation Army.  It draws us out of the familiarity of our churches by challenging us with a vision of human need that extends beyond our community.  Salvationists need to expand their vision broader than their local Corps to fully embrace the opportunities of the Red Shield Appeal.

5. "Will You Leave It" Test:  Fulfillment of any mission of value requires a willingness to step out of your comfort zone and engage in activities that may not necessarily align with your gifts or personality.  I have met too many leaders who have robbed themselves and the mission of extraordinary experiences by playing it way too safe.  This is often manifested by an aversion to doorknocking in the Red Shield Appeal.

My application of these five leadership tests to the Red Shield Appeal is not to make a judgement against the involvement of leaders, but to provide insight for areas of coaching and development.  For the past few years now I have embraced the Red Shield Appeal as a practical platform to develop existing leaders and to identify and recruit potential leaders.  Using the leadership lens to evaluate the Red Shield Appeal is another positive way of making the most of a very time demanding event in the life of a Corps Officer.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Making A Difference!

Dr. Frank Napier: "The truth is that for all your talking, all your 'Crazy Joe' routine, what have you ever done? Nothing. You're nothing but an insignificant man. It's like you were never born. Your life hasn't made one bit of difference, and neither has mine. Wanna take that to the grave?"

The above quote is taken from an exchange between the city's school superintendent Dr Frank Napier and a school principal Joe Clark in the 1989 movie Lean On Me.  Dr. Napier challenges Joe Clark to accept a job as principal at a failing high school to help turn their test scores around before the state takes over the school.  This is an inspiring film about what can happen when a person dares to believe they really can make a difference.

I wonder how others will evaluate my life when I go to the grave?  What difference will my life have made?  When I accepted God's call upon my life to become a Salvation Army Officer I pursued a life of significance and dared to believe that by God's help I really could make a difference.  I refused to settle for a life of mediocrity and just accept the world as it is.  I took Jesus commission to "go into the world and make disiples of all nations" seriously and had the audacity to believe that what happened at Pentecost could actually happen today!  

While not everybody is called to full time ministry in The Salvation Army, I do believe that everybody is called to a life of significance.  I do believe that everybody can make a difference when they commit their lives to God's purposes.  I do believe that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in His name.  You and I have the power to write our epitaph today by the life we choose to live so that our lives may be remembered for the difference they have made in the lives of others.  What ever you choose to do with your life, don't settle for a life of a lesser purpose!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Featured Blog - Lt. Pete Brookshaw

Pete Brookshaw:  Salvation Army - The Rain Is Coming!

The Paradox Of Change

One of the dynamics of leadership and ministry that continues to perplex me is the paradox of change.  People and organisations come to a place of dissatisfaction with where they are, express a vision for where they want to be, yet remain unwilling to embrace the change necessary to experience their preferred reality.  In my role as a church leader I see this paradox manifested personally, corporately and spiritually all the time.  While I am no psychologist, it almost seems there is a greater sense of security in the dysfunction than the uncertainty of the necessary change, resulting in a frustrating cycle of blame, denial and resistance.

As a strategically minded and practically oriented person I find a real conflict between this paradox and my personality.  I understand resistance to change when the need for change is not recognised and that there is a journey that needs to be travelled in order to get to a place where the present reality becomes indefensible.  What I don't understand is when a shared journey of discovery has led to a place of mutual recognition that change is needed, yet the agreed process for change is resisted every step of the way!  This is especially perplexing when those you are leading are the ones who initiate the change process.

Sue Mallory, author of "The Equipping Church," provides some helpful insight into this paradox:  “I can’t emphasize enough how pointless it is to change a system and not address its underlying culture...Healthy and wise change rarely happens apart from deep cultural understanding."  In other words, change that does not address the underlying culture or values will only attract a superficial commitment.  Effective change begins with the realisation that there is a lack of alignment between personal values or organisational culture and an individual's or organisation's desired reality.  

So, while the need for change may be intellectually acknowledged, if it is not intrinsically motivated, it is unlikely to be fully embraced.  Maybe the resistance that I struggle to understand is actually an outward expression of the inward tension felt by a person or organisation wrestling with the same paradox? 

As a leader I am coming to realise that the journey involved in motivating cultural and value based change is as important as the change itself.  The process, while at times frustrating, is essential to moving beyond the paradox towards a new paradigm of change that will cultivate a positive environment for personal and corporate transformation.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Leaders have a responsibility to lead up as well as leading down and to appropriately challenge anything that gets in the way of accomplishing something of significance.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Interfaith Conversations

Listen to what I shared with our congregation about the conversation I had with a Muslim man during the "Celebrating the Vision" segment in our morning service to celebrate the way Holy Spirit is opening opportunities for us to engage in interfaith conversations.


The question is not if what I do will cause a chain reaction, but whether the impact of the chain reaction will be productive or destructive?

Monday, May 6, 2013

I Am A Muslim

Recently, I was invited into a relationship with a Pakistani Muslim man who asked me to discuss Christianity with him.  After our initial conversation an invitation was extended to me to continue this journey of discovery with him in his home, where we were joined by one of his Muslim friends.  Together, Tahir, Mubashar and I discussed the commonalities between our faith perspectives and they inquired about what is attractive to me about my faith experience through The Salvation Army.  As I described to them what it means to belong to The Salvation Army, including a summary of our articles of faith and our covenant relationship with God, Mubashar enthusiastically grabbed my hand and exclaimed, "You are a Muslim!"

Before anybody thinks I have run off and converted, what transpired in this conversation between three men of faith was an acknowledgment of what we share in common, rather than an argument about what divides us.  Too often when we discuss Christianity with people with different faith perspectives, we use our differences as a platform for our proclamation and call it evangelism.  The irony of this approach is that our evangelism devalues relationship, contradicting the foundation of the message we are trying to share.

While there are indeed many differences in our faith perspectives and world views, when we choose a foundation of relationship that celebrates what we do share in common, we create an environment of trust that allows us to explore our differences, without giving false testimony to a relational God.

My conviction that Jesus Christ is "the way and the truth and the life" and that "no-one comes to the Father except through" Him is solid.  However, my commitment to genuine relationship is strong enough to allow me to explore a partial revelation of God with people on a faith journey so that I may have the opportunity to share a complete revelation of God through Jesus Christ! 

It is my earnest prayer and passion that all Christ followers will be mature enough in their faith to engage in a conversation that has already begun by Holy Spirit in the lives of those who are on a faith journey and seek common ground to develop a relationship where Jesus can be revealed.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Passion With Power & Purpose

I seem to be writing a lot about passion lately - A Passionate Life, Zealous For The Lord, A Passionate Resolution, Balanced People Don't Change The World.  One only has to look at the structure of my blog to see that I am a passionate person with a passion for my life to reflect the character of Christ and make a difference in the lives of others.

Tonight, I was blessed by the ministry of respected leaders and friends Majors Len and Marney Turner, two of the most passionate, Spirit-filled leaders I know.  They were the guest leaders at a new event we have commenced in our church called EQUIP, which is all about "Unleashing a Passion for the LORD, the LOST, LIFE and LEADERSHIP" in the lives of the leaders of our church.

Marney captured this theme well when she said,  "If ever there is a need for godly passionate men and women of God to lead, it is now!"

While we indeed need leaders with passion, passion alone is like a flame without fuel and passion astray is like a flame without direction.  History is full of leaders who have either lost or misdirected their passion.  However, leaders who are grounded in Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit have passion with power and purpose! 

Erwin McManus writes in his book Uprising, "Our quest is to have God’s character formed in us that His passions might burn in us.”  Lord, raise up a generation of leaders who have the character of Jesus Christ and a Holy Spirit passion burning deep within their souls!