Monday, October 20, 2014

Set Yourself on Fire

In an organization or in your personal life you come to times when you have to make a choice. Sometimes it feels like you are in a cold, dark cave. You know that you need to do something, but you are too tired, too cold, and really do not know what to do. St John of the Cross called it the Dark Night of the Soul. Organizations such as businesses and churches can also have a "Dark Night  of the Soul"

What you do next with your situation will determine your future. Your choices are: 1) You can curse your circumstances and give up, believing there is no escape; 2) You can wrap yourself in a blanket, get comfortable, and wait to be rescued; or 3) You can light a fire, make a torch, explore the cave, and find your way out.

Both individuals and organizations can find themselves in difficult circumstances that feel cold and dark with no apparent way to escape. Your business may floundering, you service organizations may have lost its way, or your church continues with rituals but is without the manifest presence of God.

We have witnessed many who made their choice; they curse the darkness and give up, they wait for someone to come and rescue them, or they light the fire. There is no "Book" answer that guarantees escape. But, to me there is only one reasonable response to the dilemma we face in the dark, “Light the fire.”  
Light the Fire

Fire is dangerous, just look at the wildfires in the West during the dry season. Fires in homes and businesses destroy lives and careers. But in the time of darkness and cold, a warm fire is a place of peace and joy.In the Boy Scouts we learned start a fire with simple things. All we needed was tinder, kindling, fuel, and a means to ignite the tinder.

Find the tinder

The first step to lighting your fire is to find some tinder. The Boy Scout will use, dry pine needles, pine cones or dried grass, all items which are easy to light.

The first thing you must do is find the most flammable issues in your life or your organization. What is your passion? These very sensitive places and things evoke the most discussion and emotions. Many of us are fearful of opening old wounds lest they destroy the organization. But when old wounds are not opened they cannot be cleaned and cauterized so healing can occur. Unopened wounds will just fester and hurt causing division and discontent.

Tinder also includes unmet dreams and desires, and unused or underused gifts. We need to find out where we have fallen short of our personal or corporate goals and dreams. These unmet dreams make for the tinder needed to start the fire.

John Wesley the 18th Century reformer was asked how he attracted such crowds to hear him preach. Wesley responded, "I just set myself on fire and people come to see me burn."

By setting ourselves on fire, others will not only watch, they will be drawn in to follow.

We have Ignition

Since tinder is easily ignited it doesn't take a lot of fire to get it going. As a Boy Scout we learned to ignite the tinder by rubbing two sticks together – friction causes heat. The easiest way to create friction is to begin to do something that has not been done before. Any time you have movement the friction between two objects results in heat. You must do something to cause friction resulting in heat.

Again, managers are afraid of heat because it disrupts the process, but our purpose is to escape the dark, cold cave, by lighting the fire. The leader is not afraid to start a fire to transform the organization.

Another trick I learned as a Boy Scout was to use a magnifying glass to focus the light of the sun on a dried leaf and watch it burst into flame. Solar plants have used mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on a target to generate electricity. We can easily ignite the tinder by focusing attention on a particular tinder, bringing it under the light of inspection. With much scrutiny, the tinder will ignite.

Feed the Flame
Most tinder ignitions fail because there is insufficient fuel to sustain the fire. Even before ignition we must gather enough fuel to keep the fire going. An organizational fire must be fuelled by increasing the number of people who care that the fire needs to continue and grow. Some however will yell, “Fire” and run for the extinguishers. Unfortunately there are many who feel they are firemen and their responsibility is to put the fire out.

As the fire begins to burn, more and more fuel is required to take it over the top.

Bill Johnson

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