by Major Steve Merritt
The theme of this year’s National Advisory Organizations Conference (NAOC) was Expect Change. It seems to me challenging words for an Army that has been in business for more than 150 years. Well, they’re challenging words for our culture, period. Who likes change, much less expects it?
I landed in the dry desert heat of Phoenix, Ariz., with this theme resonating in my mind. What does this change look like? How do we engage to greater capacity the relationships of professionals, including young adults like Echelon, in our communities?
More than 2,500 delegates—officers, employees and advisory board/council and auxiliary members from across the nation—gathered with great expectations to share and learn from one another and experts on how better to bring change to our communities.
Delegates were challenged to expect change from the start by keynote speaker football legend Emmitt J. Smith. Other inspiring speakers included Dr. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Joel K. Manby, chief executive of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Charlotte Jones Anderson, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president, and General André Cox who gave a stirring closing message to which many responded at the altar.
Breakout sessions on a vast variety of topics from social media to fundraising to advisory board development were of great value as we listened to presenters and also to one another discussing change. I heard from board members and officers who were discussing changes that would be put in place when they returned home.
In all of this, it’s important to remember true change is found in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the warming of the human heart to His change. As The Salvation Army, we are a people who expect change to occur on a daily basis, not necessarily on some grand scale but one life at time. The Apostle Peter said to expect change and to stimulate wholesome thinking toward changing the world. Maybe this is the change that’s truly needed: a renewing of the mind, how we approach one another and “Others” through this wonderful Salvation Army.
We do expect change. I expect change in my life and my ministry.
One thing I don’t expect to change is the commonality we have as we walk through a sea of uniformed Salvationists and friends. The likeminded, passionate dedication to God and the Army is needed more than ever in our communities. We should expect change every time we give out a bag of food, visit a nursing home or ask for financial support. God is leading us, and we can do nothing less than expect change in the lives of those He’s entrusted us to care for, to shepherd and to befriend. So, I’ve returned home expecting change!