"Love each other as I have loved you."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Graduation, Teamwork, and Love

I recently spent the last six weeks in a military school known as "Airman Leadership School". This is a school that Air Force members are required to attend and graduate from prior to becoming a Staff Sergeant; a Non-Comissioned Officer for you non-military folks. The purpose of the school is to teach Airmen who are becoming Non-Comissioned Officers how to supervise other Airmen, take care of them, mentor them, and grow them as professionals and individuals.

Thankfully, by the grace of God, and the attentiveness of my wife during long hours, I graduated. But it wasn't easy.

I found that many things the USAF wants it's supervisors to be like are very similar to what Jesus Christ calls His disciples to be like in spirit and in actions. Without compromising any of the official material I learned while in class, here are some of the similar AF/Biblical principles that I picked up on, in no particular order:

  1. The Air Force wants us to have open two-way interpersonal communication with one another. Like between peers, and between supervisor and subordinates. Jesus wants us to have open communication lines with each other as well, like when a brother sins against you, tell them personally (Matt. 18:15), or that we're to teach, admonish, and build one another up in the Lord (Col. 3:16; Eph. 4: 15-6, 29), or that we must be patient and bear with one another in love (Eccl. 7: 8-9; Gal. 5: 22-23; 2 Tim 4:2; Eph. 4:2-3), and ultimately that we teach those who are ours (our brothers and sisters who need training and discipleship in this case; or in the AF's case, those who we supervise as NCOs) everything that Jesus has taught us to do (Matt. 28: 20). It's in following these principles as a Air Force supervisor, and more importantly as a Christian who must train others up in the Lord, that you can have wonderful and fulfilling personal communication with others. Communication where both people speak openly, discuss wrongs and rights that have happened, admonition to greater heights, bear with each other patiently with humbleness and compassion, and teach them to follow the things that you have had passed on to you.

  2. Jesus told Christians to make disciples, to train our "replacement" as it were, and that every student when fully trained will be like his teacher (Matt. 28:18-20, Luke 6:40). The Air Force would have it this way too, where a supervisor shows his/her subordinate the ropes, teaches them what he/she knows, trains the subordinate to be like the themself, and then when the supervisor leaves, the Airman is fully trained and modeled like his/her supervisor. Paul said to his disciple and spiritual son Timothy:
    "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops." 2 Timothy 2:1-6.
    By Timothy teaching what he learned from Paul to other reliable people, it would ensure that the information that needed to be learned and adhered to would be disseminated reliably and properly. Paul had trained his replacement, so he could move on and be used elsewhere, and was instructing Timothy to do likewise with other reliable people. This is the constant ongoing process that allowed the Church to grow so rapidly early on, and it's the same process that if used properly in the AF would allow for well adjusted and prepared Airmen to do the job when it's their turn to supervise and lead. If we're following Jesus, and training, instructing, and teaching another Christian to be like us, then who are they following ultimately? Jesus. When that individual is fully trained, who should he look like? You. And ultimately the person that you were taught by. And so on and so on, all the way back to Jesus.

  3. Teamwork. Teamwork is defined as a "cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause. " Everything revolves around teams and teamwork in life. The Air Force itself is one giant team effort, broken down in to smaller team efforts in Groups, Wings, Squadrons, and offices. That goes for the other military services as well, who all happen to work together as a team to form the fighting unit known as the United States Armed Forces. Everyday at work, civillian or military, we work in teams in order to accomplish common goals. Without the French Fry cooker at McDonald's, little Suzie doesn't get her happy meal, because you don't give out happy meals without french fries. He's an intregal part of the team, without which the team does not function as well and accomplish it's goals. Wars are won and lost based on how well people work in a team together. Diseases are cured, people are saved (physically and spiritually), new things are discovered about our world, all most often because of teamwork. Do you think working as a team is important yet? You should, because the very internet you're using right now for leisure time, or study time, is predicated upon a series of servers around the world working in unison, supported by technicians who are working as a team to keep the internet from completely crashing to the ground. Maybe if we lost a few of those technicians, a few of those servers, the effect wouldn't be so terrible. But, could you imagine if everyone out there was a soloist, and everyone had their own internet? If no one spoke to each other, coordinated with each other, or had a common goal? The internet certainly wouldn't be as popular as it is today. Without teamwork the Air Force's mission doesn't happen, and without teamwork, the Church's mission is a faliure. I think this Scripture sums it up for both the military (metaphorically speaking) and for Christians:
    "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
    Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has
    arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
    If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many
    parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
    Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." 1 Cor. 12: 12-27.
    Teamwork is like a body, and each body has different parts for a different purpose. Sometimes the parts (jobs, etc) that we think are the least honorable, the weakest, or least important, are more honorable, stronger, and important than we assumed. Without all of the body working in unison, it might die, it will probably fail at the task at hand, and it most certainly will not be as effective as it could have been with all the parts working together. Teamwork is essential to any mission, and without it, the Church will be ineffective in sharing the Good News of Jesus with the world. If we're always at each others throats, then we've already maimed the Body we're a part of. This brings me to my next point...

  4. Jesus Christ said "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." He also said "Love your neighbor as yourself..." and "Do to others as you would want them to do to you.". Jesus also made it a point to have us understand that as Christians the summation of our entire existence was love. When asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus replied " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' We must love God, and love others as if they were us, our very own selves. No one wants to truly mistreat themselves, slander themself, hate themself, hurt and break themself. No human truly wants to be cut down, stolen from, hated on, cursed, or lied about by others. If this is so, then why do we treat others in such a way as this? We must put others before ourselves. We must consider others' well being before our own, look out for their interests before our own interests, and we must look out for the team and it's goals before our own selfish desires. By learning what service before self means, we learn what it means to be part of the Kingdom of God. Not like the world who "...lord their authority over their subordinates", crushing people under the foot of their power. Instead we must be like Jesus "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!" Philippians 2: 6-8. What an example of servant leadership! Though He was God and could have done anything He wanted, He chose to put on humanity and came in to this world to serve us and not force us to serve Him, but showing us service by His example, so that we would want to be like Him. And being humble and meek, and ultimately though it was the worst imaginable thing that could happen to God, He went to a Roman cross to die for our sins. And that my friends, is love. Unimaginable, frightening, all-powerful love. And it's because "He first loved us, that we now may love" that we can know the depth of love, and what it means to have compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and service to others before ourselves, because of Jesus' example, and Jesus' sacrifice. If we're always cutting each other down with our words, even with God's own Words, how is that helpful to teamwork, to teaching, or to good communication? How is that love, if we treat others the opposite of how we KNOW we want to be treated? If you cannot put others before yourself, you cannot lead. Period. Hit the showers, call it a day, go home and learn what Jesus meant when he said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as [Me] the Son of Man [Jesus] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matt.20: 25-28.

These principles and more are what I learned about the Air Force at Airman Leadership School, how they want us to be as supervisors, as leaders. Jesus wants us to walk as He did, and wants us to live in Him, in these traits, following His example. It is no surprise to me that the good leadership qualities the Air Force has determined for us to follow are congruent with what Jesus Christ has commanded all Christians everywhere to do. It's no surprise that the Air Force, the greatest example of military Air Power and teamwork in the world, would take a page from the Master Himself on leadership, and service. It's no surprise to me that Truth, no matter who it comes from, ultimately finds it's source from the God of all Truth who told it to the world first.

God, thank you for what You've taught me, thank you for Jesus' example; for showing me what service really means, and what unconditional love really looks like. For showing me how to communicate well, teach well, work with others as a team, in harmony, and love others as I want to be loved; like how You loved me first. Thank You for putting me in a job that expects me to do all these things, and that allows me to shine Your Light in to a sometimes dark place. Thank you for the responsibilities you've allowed me to have, in the Church, and in the Air Force. Please help me to serve others, as you have served us. Let me be like you; let me be a Son of the Most High God, let me be like You who brings the sun upon the good and the evil, who loves unconditionally, always and forever. Amen.

Grace and Peace,


1 comment:

Michelle said...

God never ceases to amaze me with His perfect planning. I'm so grateful for the ways in which He's intertwined our lives and continues to do so. Reading this helped me further understand your intense dedication to ALS, and although I did my best to support and encourage you, you know I was very discouraged myself. Now I'm able to reflect and realize that these past six weeks have really been an incredible growing experience for both of us.

Just thought I'd let you know that. I love you! Now stop playing Mass Effect and pay attention to me :)