The military goes to great lengths to develop effective strategies for battlefield engagement. They research, study, evaluate and re-evaluate all plans. They do not go into battle unprepared. They do all they can to insure the enemy will be effectively engaged, quickly dispatched and the troops carrying out the plan will be as safe as possible. Yet, with all this, I understand that their underlying motto is: When the first shot is fired all strategies change.
I met a gentleman not too long ago who had an extensive military background. I asked him if it was true that war strategist believed that when the first shot was fired all things changed. He affirmed this was absolutely true. And then he said, “That is why all those going into battle has an understanding of the Commander’s Intent.”
This phrase fascinated me, so I asked him to elaborate. He went on to explain that even though everything changes in battle the Commander’s Intent does not. Bullets may be flying, soldiers may be adjusting to the circumstances but everything accommodates the Commander’s Intent. If there is a hill to be taken, regardless of the strategy they went into battle using, they never forget the hill. Everything on the battlefield flows toward the fulfillment of the Commander’s Intent. The goal is not to implement a preconceived strategy; the purpose is to achieve the Commander’s Intent!
We must embrace this concept. It can be applied wonderfully to our mission as movements, local churches and Christ-followers. We tend to neglect the Commander’s Intent. We get caught up in strategy, protectionism of methods, honoring of our created structures and how we want things to be. We forget that we are in a battle! We downplay changing climate. We strive to keep things as they have been. We want the church of yesterday in the world of today.
The shots have been fired, all things have changed and we make feeble attempts of re-implementing the strategies we have developed. What we need is to understand our Commander’s Intent and let that dictate actions, strategies, structure and methodology. Our purpose is to relentlessly pursue our Commander’s Intent, not save our way of doing and being the Church.
What is our Commander’s Intent? It is to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES! This is the hill he wants us to take. Things have changed, but his intent has not. How do we, as leaders, keep the Commander’s Intent in our ministry field?
Keep the intent front and center: When the chaos of battle happens, when crisis begins to nibble at our focus remind those you lead of the intent. Why you exist? What is the ultimate purpose?
The intent must be the filter: All information that flows in, the changing climate of a community, the updating of strategy, all things and everything must be run through the filter of achieving the Commander’s Intent.
Flexibility in implementation: The Commander’s Intent is the guiding principle for carrying out the purpose. There needs to be tremendous latitude in implementation. If a means of fulfilling the Commander’s Intent is discovered and it does not fit neatly into an existing structure than the structure must be discarded or rearranged.
Front line freedom: Once the Commander’s Intent is understood decision making must be given to those closes to the front lines. Those in the trenches (local churches) are the most leveraged to understand the battle and they must be empowered to make choices in implementation.
We live in challenging, yet opportune times. Let’s hold firmly to our Commander’s Intent and allow that to dictate the parameters of the battle.