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Staying at our Post

In preparation to teach a class on Spiritual Leadership, I am reviewing J. Oswald Sanders’ book, Spiritual Leadership.  This morning I reread the chapter, Insights on Leadership from Paul and his look at characteristics of a leader as described in 1 Timothy 3:2-7.  He includes a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that says,

It is the mark of a grown-up man, as compared with a callow youth, that he finds his center of gravity wherever he happens to be at the moment, and however much he longs for the object of his desire, it cannot prevent him from staying at his post and doing his duty. (p. 45)

This quote struck me because I have been guilty of the very thing Bonhoeffer advises against.  How many of you have been in a position but did not give it your best because you felt you should be in a different position.  Perhaps you thought you were qualified for the next position up the chain.  I know I have been there, and done that. 

I remember a specific instance while serving in the U.S. Army.  I was stationed in Europe and assigned to Howitzer Battery of the First Squadron, 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment as the unit supply sergeant.  I was the junior supply sergeant in the Squadron, but nonetheless, about two years into my three-year tour, I was given the opportunity to assume a position with Squadron Headquarters.  The S-4 Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) had rotated back to the states, and the Army had not assigned a replacement.  I was asked to assume his position until the replacement arrived.  My First Sergeant advised against it because as soon as I left, a replacement would take my job with Howitzer Battery, and then if the replacement for the S-4 NCOIC showed up, I would be left without a job.  Well, in my eagerness to move up to the chain, I went against my First Sergeant’s advice and accepted the offer to assume the S-4 NCOIC position.  Sure enough, about two months into the job, a replacement showed up who outranked me and bumped me out of the position.  I ended up with another unit within the Squadron.  It was a good move, but I ended up working for someone that made my life miserable (as opposed to my former First Sergeant who was a great leader). 

Years later, looking back on this, I know my eagerness to move into a job prior to my being ready resulted in my working in a situation that held up my next promotion at least a year (but that’s a story for another time).  If I had heeded my First Sergeant’s advice, and stayed in the position I was in, chances are I would have received my next promotion a year sooner.  I wish I could say I learned my lesson and did not fall into the same temptation again, but I could name at least two other instances that occurred in my civilian career as well.

Paul’s advice to Timothy as expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one that we should all heed.  God places us in situations and leadership positions for a reason, and it is up to us to live a life of faith and obedience in serving Him to the best of our ability.  May we all strive to follow Paul’s guidance when he wrote, “[An overseer] must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6, ESV).

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  1. December 30, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Well said. It is only through followership that one qualifies for leadership. It is impossible to be grounded as a lasting leader unless one has first followed.

    • December 30, 2009 at 7:29 pm

      Thanks, Herman. Speaking of following, have you read the book Courageous Follower by Ira Chaleff? It is a very good book that talks about being both a follower and a leader.

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