Monday, October 31, 2011

What Turns You On? - Doctrine

"Convalescence." Courtesy of diegophotographed
If you [as a Christian] are doing anything but promoting God's doctrine, you are an air conditioner trying to be a TV.
-- Reggie Thayil

I work in a customer service call center for Florida International University’s Division of Information Technology. As such, my job description is to assist Faculty, Staff, Students and Alumni should they have trouble logging into certain systems. My job description also includes light troubleshooting of malfunctioning programs and seamless transition of issues to specialists for more in-depth analysis and resolution.

Given my job description, when a student calls asking me to help them enroll in classes, I always shout at them and tell them that they are stupid and called the wrong place. I do the same for faculty who need help uploading their syllabus to the online learning system and staff who do not know how to enter a function in excel. They can take a hike and figure out who they should contact for that type of issue.

Obviously, should I actually deal this way with my patrons, I would find myself disciplined multiple times and ultimately terminated due to my poor customer service skills. The customers may then have the opportunity to share their displeasure with me directly while taking their hikes as I fly my kite--unemployed.

But what did I do wrong? It is not my job to cover for all the other departments in the University. How could I possibly know how to use every single system on campus? There is a reason why there are specialists in other departments. Should I be punished for this? Yes, because I am a customer service representative who should always be helpful and not hurtful. Customer service is an attitude, not an aptitude. As a customer service representative for the Division of IT, my diction and inflection reflect on my own division even more so than my actual ability to resolve people’s issues. That is part of who I am as an employee.

I’ve worked with people who did not understand this part of the job. I have worked with people whose patrons have regularly asked to be transferred to the supervisor. I have worked with people who have spelled out their own name to patrons before transferring because they wanted to complain that badly. Those kinds of employees are Air Conditioners trying to be TVs. They just do not understand how they are supposed to conduct themselves in order to efficiently promote the division. Perhaps their strengths were not being utilized properly. Maybe they are better suited in a different role within the organization. But the fact remains, they are terrible customer service technicians.

Have you ever stared at a window unit? It’s not very pleasant. You crank that baby up and it freezes your face, dries your eyes and causes your nose to drip. But try as you may, you will never catch the game on it. You’ll hear the motor running, but no commercials. It’s simply not happening.

I’m sure that while reading this you thought of a co-worker who is simply not pulling their weight in the office. That other person who you currently consider a world-class bum, have you considered that they might not be all bad? Perhaps they are in a situation that they do not excel in. But how about the Church? Are there people in the Church who are Air Conditioners who are trying with all their might to be TVs, Toasters or Washing Machines? They want so bad to promote God’s teaching, so they dive into this ministry or that one and are simply making a wreck of it because they are not a very good fit for that job? Maybe you are in that place.

The Bible describes this phenomenon using a different metaphor. There weren’t very many household appliances in Paul’s day, so he used a body to describe the Church. Christ is the head of the Church, he tells us (or teaches us, read: doctrine) what to do. As the brains of the outfit, he has everything planned out and we are to respond to his wishes. We then work together using our strengths in different ways to get that outcome.

For instance, if the brain realizes that the body is getting dehydrated it send the message to get water into the stomach. So the eyes see where we need to go, the feet and legs plod over to the fridge, the hands and arms work together to fill a cup and pour water into our lips, the mouth and throat catch the water and funnel it into the stomach where the stomach processes and distributes the water. Collectively, the body has obeyed the directive given by the brain. And yes, individually, each body part received direct communication from the head with specific orders that were different. Thus, the goal is reached.

One of the reasons Paul wrote to Titus was to ensure that the teaching (doctrine) of Christ could and would influence the Church as a whole. Consider Titus 1:1-9:

Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Notice: Paul recognizes that he is a radio that broadcasts a preaching channel. He knows what God has called him to do, and he is doing it. Next, he tells Titus what he is to do: set everything in order. Titus is an administrator. He is the one who finds out which appliance each believer is and puts them in the right room so they can use their gifts properly. Order and structure is always the first step. Without it, nothing else can be done efficiently. Note the qualifier in that statement: efficiently. Things can be done, God’s work needs no human facilitator, but people will have to work much harder when there is no order.

Burnout is a major problem in Churches, Offices, Marriages, Volunteer Work and any other place where people try to come together to accomplish something. It is a psychological term for feelings of exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy. A person becomes disengaged with their job and stops doing it to the best of their ability, but they still do something out of a sense of duty.

What is interesting about burnout is the cure. The cure for burnout relies mostly on the employer and not the employee. The people organizing the process must recognize the problem and come up with a plan to excite and re-energize the workers. That is a huge task for the elders of an assembly. It is precisely what Paul is telling Titus to do. He says, Organize the Church(es) and put them in a position to succeed.

It is then, and only then that the Church can use doctrine to exhort and convince. Not a moment before. Structure is crucial to Church mobilization and effectiveness. And the better job the administration is doing, the more efficient this process becomes.

There are many problems with this model, and all of them have to do with human nature. One problem is the fact that people do not know where they fit. Or, worse yet, they do not care where they fit. Or, worst of all, they know where they fit but refuse to make the necessary adjustments to fulfill that role.

Another problem has to do with the social network that is the Church. I was in that situation recently with Youth Group. I was constantly clashing with the other leaders of In His Sight towards the end of 2009. I felt that things needed to be changed and the other leaders disagreed with me. I felt this burden for months and ended up getting frustrated and upset. Erin (my lovely wife) and I talked over the situation and knew what we had to do.

By continuing to take part in the leadership for selfish reasons we were working against what was obviously a united front on the part of the other leaders. We were in the wrong and needed to stop hindering the ministry. We decided to bow out and let the others implement their vision for the Youth Group.

It was an incredibly difficult decision. I love Youth Group. I want desperately for Youth Group to flourish. I believe that Youth Group is a ministry that accomplishes several doctrines of Christ such as evangelism and discipleship. I wanted to be a part of it and help it grow. But I was a Nail File trying to be a Bathtub. I was the wrong piece in the wrong place doing nothing well. And it showed plainly. I was burning out. I needed to step out of IHS and into something else more suited for my strengths.

And God worked it out. As it so happens, the High School boys’ Sunday School teacher was looking to pass his class to another man, and I was there to step into that spot. Had I not (finally) listened to the moving of the Holy Spirit, I would never have considered teaching Sunday School. I am excited about the things we cover in class and look forward to teaching every Sunday morning. I stepped out of a poor situation and stepped right back into a better one.

Paul continues to speak about doctrine in the next chapter. But instead of starting with the practical and then moving on to the vocal, his argument travels in the opposite direction in Titus 2:1-12:

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

Paul, in essence, creates a circle. He begins in chapter one with the practical (administration) flowing into verbal (exhortation), now in Chapter 2:1 it’s the verbal (speak) which are backed up by the practical in the verses that follow (lifestyle). The climax is verse 8, where words and actions reinforce one another. And the culmination comes at the end of this section, where we adorn God’s doctrine because we are living products of His grace.

And that is what it’s all about. By being honest with God we can find who we are and where we belong. By submitting to those God has entrusted His Flock to, we can be placed in a position to serve. And by serving we glorify the God who loves us and has fashioned us for a purpose.

If we are Air Conditioners, let’s be the coolest Air Conditioners in the house and not worry about the TV.

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Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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