Recently General Linda Bond shocked The Salvation Army world when she decided to end her time as General short of her full appointment and retire. International Headquarters released a note stating that she had retired after a period of reflection and prayer. No doubt this decision was not made lightly, and after serving so well I am sure many people are sad to see General Linda Bond retire.
This situation reminds me of Pope Benedict who in a very gutsy decision became the first Pope in 700 years to retire! Pope Benedict said his decision had great importance for the church, and went on to say that his failing health and strength made it too hard to do the task at hand well.
We don’t know why General Linda Bond decided to retire, except that she said it was after much prayer and reflection. I believe that these two shock retirements can actually teach us a few things about God and His Mission…
- These retirements show that the Great Commission of Making Disciples is more important than tradition. Both these Leaders defied traditional practice in favor of something they believed to be more important – the will of God. The Pope wanted the Catholics to keep advancing and felt he didn’t have the health or strength to lead them that way. We too must make sure Making Disciples is our priority.
- These retirements show that Organizational Loyalty must be subject to the will of God. Both leaders epitomized their respective denominations yet this meant nothing to them once they sensed God calling them to the next phase of their life. We too must make sure we are obedient to God above the organization.
- These retirements show that the times are changing. The Catholic Church has been around for close to 2,000 years and The Salvation Army for around 150 years. As the world changes it is inevitable that Leadership and Church structures must change too. We must be pro-active in embracing change.
- These retirements show that humility is essential in leadership. Can you imagine what the colleagues of these two leaders would be thinking? Imagine those steeped in tradition? These decisions were certainly tough and costly. To make such a decision requires enough humility to get past the naysayers. We must respect these leaders for their humble positions.
- These retirements show that God is bigger than any box we can put Him in. Both the Catholic and Salvationist tradition believes that God chooses their leader. Therefore when a leader seems to leave prematurely we can be fooled into believing they finished too early. However, we must see that Gods ways are not our ways and He can do what He wants!
So Why did General Linda Bond and Pope Benedict retire? I believe it was because the Great Commission is bigger than our traditions, that Christian loyalty is to God above Organisation, that the times are changing, because they are humble, and because God is bigger than any box we can put Him in.