Posted: 4/13/18 at 10:00am. Column by Ed Jordan.
I recently read about one of the challenges facing those in pastoral leadership today. The illustration used by Tod Bolsinger was about cooking a meal in a crockpot. However, the principle is true in the process of cooking something in a pan on the stove as well. There has to be a way to regulate and monitor the amount of heat in the pot. If the pot gets too hot, the food will burn. If the heat is set too low, the food won’t cook properly.
The premise of applying and maintaining just the right amount of heat in cooking a meal is not a new idea, but applying this premise to the maintenance of organizational health is rather novel and insightful. Furthermore, the concept is important in the life of an individual as well as in the family, the workplace, or in just about any organization or system in which humans are involved.
Humans who are motivated and committed to accomplishing something can accomplish amazing things. Humans who are lackadaisical and complacent will accomplish very little that is positive and can thwart much that could have been accomplished via their energetic involvement.
The reality is that it is impossible to motivate someone to do something that they do not want to do. However, we can try to create a climate or environment in which people choose to get motivated and choose to take part in accomplishing with others something greater than themselves. This is the concept of being a thermostat for the organization. The thermostat allows more electricity—or energy—into the process, and that helps facilitate cooking, or change.
Heat facilitates change in organic materials. Carrots soften in hot water, but raw carrots cooked quickly over a hot grill can become dehydrated and hard as a rock. If there is not enough heat the carrots remain raw, but too much direct heat ruins the process.
Heat can be an ally that helps accomplish the delivery of a wonderful, succulent dinner; or if unchecked, such heat can destroy all the ingredients of the dinner in the pot and eliminate the possibility of a wonderful dinner.
Let’s think of this process as it applies to systems or organizations made up of people. The interaction between the participants in the system influences the effectiveness—or lack thereof—in the organization. There are always things that influence the system which are beyond the control of the organization—be they the attitudes of people or forces from within or without the system, which either mitigate against the smooth operation of a system or benefit it.
It is wise to realize that one of the leader’s roles is to attempt to lead the organization or system to move together in accomplishing the objectives and each fulfill their part in the system’s effective functioning. So while a leader can attempt to influence the system to function well, there are always forces beyond the system and leader’s purview which must be overcome.
Related to this, it takes a lot more energy to move a car if the engine doesn’t work than if its motor can be jump started. A car is easier to move further along if it already has some momentum. It is easier to push a car downhill than it is to push it uphill. Thus, the whole system needs to be functioning with all the parts working, and in conjunction with other forces, in order to accomplish amazing things and reach the organism’s potential.
As humans, we sometimes need to become uncomfortable as life turns up the heat. We need some motivation to decide if we are willing to commit ourselves to a different level of involvement. Parents know that teens sometimes need a proverbial fire built under them to move to a higher level of functioning, yet they also sometimes need time to be relieved of stress and to experience nurture and encouragement.
We all need heat in our lives, and we all need a wise person with their hand on the thermostat. Sometimes the hand is ours, sometimes someone else’s, and sometimes it is God’s.
Fortunately we Christians find ourselves under the divine guidance of God, who always knows exactly what we need and when we need it. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT) states: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”
Are you an active, collaborative, functioning member of the system to which God has called you to be involved? What are things that God uses in your life to turn up the heat to move you to be more productive? What skills and abilities does God want you to contribute to facilitate a better functioning church?