Monday, April 25, 2016

What the Church can learn from Willy Wonka.


This is not going to be a post about chocolate. I just put that out there, for those that may be disappointed.

Charlie Bucket had found a golden ticket. Grandpa Joe offered to come and visit Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory with him. There was only one glaringly obvious problem: Grandpa Joe couldn't get out of bed! Bed-ridden for years, the ole' bones weren't working!

God is giving the church of today a spiritual ticket to a great future. By the power of the Holy Spirit, dead bones are coming alive and God is breathing afresh upon the church. Though, it's difficult to get up, when the old bones haven't been working for some time.

See, when I spend a day or two at home, and I lounge around the house, I become lazy. My body gets used to inactivity. I find it easier to sit on the couch, have a coffee and watch the news.

I have this picture of the Lord Jesus handing the church a new future. I see him saying to us, 'Here it is. Embrace it. It's new, get ready for it. It's going to impact many lives, get ready.' The problem is we are used to what we are used to. God wants to do a new thing, but we hold on to what we know.

So, anyway, I'm at home and relaxing, and my wife says, 'Let's go to the shops.' Of course, I'm now relaxed at home, and I couldn't think of anything further from my mind, than shopping. I've become content in sitting on the couch. And anything that disturbs that almost becomes quite frustrating to me.

Now, I have simply learned to enjoy sitting on the couch. I have enjoyed taking a siesta at home. Though, I am in danger of missing a new opportunity, because of my new learned behaviour.

In the spiritual realm, this is the thing: 'If you want to change the world, you have to get off the couch.'   

So, Pete, get to the point.

I believe the church has two options moving forward. We either mobilize or we crystallize.

William Booth once said, 'I consider that the chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.'

I agree.

Though I would add this: We are in danger of being a Christian church that sleeps through the next move of God. A body of believers that misses what God intends to do, because we're busy justifying our own deeply held theological positions, sketching out our own futures, consumed by the perilous amounts of trash permeating the airwaves and in love with the sound of our own iniquity.

The challenge lies in what our response will be to what God is saying in this season. I can hear it loud and clear. 'I'm doing that new thing now, embrace it. Let go of your old life, follow me.'

Though just like you can't receive a new job until you let go of the old job, so it is with God. If the Lord is to work his power within the church, we must lay our lives down again before him, give up our old lives and allow him to do a work within us.

If we allow that, we become mobilized. We become an army on earth, that brings joy, hope and salvation to the masses. If we stifle it, then we crystallize and become irrelevant to the world around us, and become like pillars of salt in a world that is dynamic and rapidly changing.

Recently I spoke at a forum for Bloggers, Editors and Social Media gurus. I spoke about being dynamic and embracing creativity. While I was there, I was taken aback by the stories of a declining denomination, that is stuck trying to continually reaffirm its past, in order to validate its future, but in the process fails to allow anything new and great to happen in the present. The denomination is crystallizing, and until some bold leaders declare that its time to let go and embrace a new thing, mobilization will not occur.  

Though, on the flip side...

I am filled with great optimism! I see and hear communities of faith right around the globe who are becoming mobilized. They are joining together as one army of believers, sold out to restoring broken humanity with its Creator. We must reach the tipping point. We must call more people to join us, to come on the journey with us and to lay down their lives for the cause of Christ.

As I write this on a day in Australia's calendar, where we recognise and honour the sacrifice of military personnel who have protected both Australia and New Zealand, I cannot help but think... Sacrifice is key; Laying down your old life and embracing the newness of what God is intending to do through you.

Choose to be mobilized, not stagnant. Choose to rally people together to serve the Lord. Choose to celebrate together. Choose to be a little bit bold and creative. Choose to keep Jesus front and centre, and don't allow the frivolous distractions of the enemy stop you from the destiny before you.

Mobilize. Either that, or crystallize.

I know which one I want.

By the way, Grandpa Joe did get up out of the bed and go to Willy Wonka's factory. It's like God breathed some life into those dead and tired bones and gave him energy and excitement for a new adventure.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Why are we so Risk Averse? Crucial Challenges The Salvation Army and other Organisations face.


My hands are trembling and my fingers are shaking. I'm nervous even writing this, either that or I've already drank too much coffee this morning. I'll be honest with you, it could be either one.

Let me preface what I'm about to say with this: Change can be painful. Change can be unsettling. Change can even hurt. Though change is necessary for any organisation that seeks to stay relevant and engaged with the world around it. It has been said, that the only thing that doesn't change, is the fact that things change. Actually, the rate at which change happens today is changing. Without spelling out the obvious, change is happening at a more rapid rate than ever before. How do we possibly cope?

In the interest of organisational stability, we attempt to not rock the boat. We do it with great intentions; we want to see great organisations continue to thrive, and not fall apart in the midst of shifting societal values and rapid technological change.

Here is the challenge: The organisation that thrived in its beginnings, generally thrived within a culture of boldness, innovation, a mild disrespect of existing bureaucracy, a little bit of arrogance and risk-taking ingenuity. The organisation some years later tries to hold itself up using fundamentally different ideals, that of, organisational structure, clear administrative processes, authoritative lines of decision-making, risk aversion, workplace health and safety and the list goes on.

The latter list is not wrong, far from it, but it is miles apart from the culture that caused the organisation to thrive in its inception.

So we are seeking to be part of a thriving, growing movement, that has a new learned behaviour of rewarding the fulfilment of the status quo. We then question why the organisation is not thriving to the degree we have in our heart, but fail to recognise we implicitly support an organisation fundamentally different to the one that used to thrive.

The Salvation Army faces that challenge. Right now we are on the precipice of change. We have a decision to make. Who will be in the drivers seat of organisational life? Risk Aversion or Faith-filled visionary ideas?

Let me spell it out. We need good goverance; of course we do. We need to ensure children are safe in our care. We need to ensure the finances are managed well. We need to ensure thrift shops are safe. Absolutely. Though because these things take up so much of our time, they end up being in the drivers seat. Visionary ideas are pushed to the background. Innovation and risk taking are seemingly frowned upon, or atleast perceived to be from leaders who seek to 'do something new.' This happens without a flinch from people upholding good governance, because they seek passionately to keep the organisation stable and productive.

Where do organisations like The Salvation Army move from here?

  • We need to communicate VISION more than COMPLIANCE.
  • We need to reward INNOVATION more than ORGANISATIONAL Box-Ticking.
  • We need to release APOSTLES to be apostolic and allow ADMINISTRATORS to be great administrators that help facilitate apostolic work.
  • We must focus on PEOPLE more than TASKS. Tasks are means to an end. The end is surely to ultimately support the transformation of people.
  • We must not forget the ministry of JESUS that worked to lighten the load of religious expectation upon the people.
What can YOU do to support the edgy, risk-taking, out of the boat kind of people that God is calling us to be?

I have a few thoughts:

  • Remind people to fix their eyes upon Jesus (Remember Peter walked on water when he fixed his eyes/heart/faith upon Jesus)
  • Encourage new ideas. Don't let your first position be, 'No.' Let it be, 'Tell me more...'
  • Get the right people on the right seats on the bus. Allow the prophetic organisational leaders be free to be who they were created to be. Have the people gifted in administration in roles of administration. People need to be working in their gifting.
  • Strongly encourage people to pray with great faith. To believe for the impossible. To believe God for a miracle. To pray with fervour and expectation.
  • Remind people of the history of the organisation - Remind them of the faith-filled stories of days gone by. Reignite in people a belief for greater things!
  • We need to legitimize innovation.

Organisations that succeed find the right balance between risk aversion and innovation. They place vision in the drivers seat and governance in the back seat. (Don't worry, governance will be a good back-seat driver and yell out occasionally when you need to be reminded).

Let me finish with this: Change can be painful. Innovation can be risky.

If we learn to empower dynamic, faith-filled, risk-taking, bold leaders who seek to establish God's kingdom in a broken world, we honour the past, provoke the present and forge a tremendous future!

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