Obeying Our “Commander’s Intent”


Have you read the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die?  Great read.  As you can infer, the authors describe the characteristics of ideas that last and make an impact.  One of those characteristics is simplicity.

To illustrate this they describe a predicament in which the U.S. Army regularly found themselves: investing enormous amounts of energy in detailed planning for the next objective, only to have those plans become useless once contact with the enemy was made or an unexpected weather pattern emerged or something else unpredictable occurred.  So in the 1980s they implemented a crisp, plain-talk statement at the top of every order called the Commander’s Intent (CI).

The CI doesn’t say how, doesn’t bother with unnecessary detail.  It just states the end result: hold this bridge, take this hill, etc.  The remaining planning is left to those fulfilling the orders in their context.  As the authors put it, “The CI never specifies so much detail that it risks being rendered obsolete by unpredictable events…Commander’s Intent manages to align the behavior of soldiers at all levels without requiring play-by-play instructions from their leaders.” (p26-27)

The parallels to our mission as Jesus-followers are clear.

I often refer to and have heard the Great Commission referred to as our Commanding Officer’s last standing orders.  Certainly it also qualifies as our Commander’s Intent.  Jesus describes the desired outcome, assigns the task, and then leaves it to us in our place on the globe and in our era of history to execute the order in the power of His Spirit and the wisdom of His Word.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
(Matthew 28:19-20)

That’s an idea that’s made to stick.  How are you obeying your Commander’s Intent this week?

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