I have been a volunteer management consultant for over ten years with a nonprofit organization that matches retired executives with administrators and boards of nonprofits that need help with planning, board development, fundraising, and executive coaching. Last year I was asked to lead a small team to help the board of a prominent public agency. Early in our first meeting the executive director mentioned that the board was ineffective because one board member was aggressive, opinionated, and out of step with other members. The executive director was very discouraged and said that my team was being brought in to deal with an impossible situation. We said we would interview all board members and use our findings to develop plans for a daylong board meeting.
During our interview, the “problem” board member confirmed the executive director’s predictions by taking positions opposite to those of the other members. This member had a very negative attitude about the board, the effectiveness of the organization, and the executive director. The picture we gathered from our interviews was one of an intractable situation—it seemed there was little promise of achieving consensus on anything.
When we met with the board chairperson to share our findings and recommendations, she focused on her conflicts with this problem board member. Her main concern was how we were going to structure and conduct the meeting to reduce the likelihood that the board member would “hijack” it.
At that point, it was clear to me that I needed to reverse all the negative information I was receiving about this board member and consider how God knew this person. I began praying with the definition of man in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, which begins: “Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God” (p. 475). As I read Science and Health and the Bible, whenever I came across the term man, meaning the likeness of God, I reminded myself that everyone involved—my colleagues, all the board members, the executive director, and I—was created by God and reflects only His good qualities. I did the same when the term man appeared in the weekly Christian Science Bible Lessons. Whenever concerns about the board’s effectiveness came to thought, I focused on “the translation of man and the universe back into Spirit,” as Mrs. Eddy advises in Science and Health (p. 209).
Through a Web search, I learned that the board member in question had been active in the community and had a successful public service career. This helped me appreciate and cherish this board member, but I was still concerned that, no matter how well the meeting was planned and conducted, there was a strong possibility that this individual might disrupt it. As the date for the meeting drew near and my worry increased, I spent more time in study and prayer, and asked a Christian Science practitioner to support me with her prayers.
I heard this message: “How many times do I have to prove Myself to you? I have always been with you.”
While praying one night, I reached out to God and asked what more I needed to know to gain peace about this issue. I worked hard to shut out the clamor of fear regarding the many things that could go wrong, and listened quietly for what seemed a long time. Then I heard this message: “How many times do I have to prove Myself to you? I have always been with you and I am with you now. I have chosen you for this assignment, I have prepared you for it, and I will be with you through its successful conclusion. So relax, and witness how I am going to do this.”
It was not what I expected—but the message was clear. It was a rebuke and an encouragement at the same time. The next morning, a series of steps came to mind on how to reduce the uncertainties of the meeting. I was beginning to feel more confident.
Then, a week before the meeting, the executive director and our team had a conference call with the keynote speaker, a national leader in the field in which the organization worked. She was to provide context for the day’s meeting, set the tone for a productive discussion, and offer some important topics for consideration. But about 15 minutes into the conversation, the speaker and the executive director became involved in a disagreement, and the speaker threatened not to attend the meeting. She also challenged the plans for the meeting. We managed to get the conversation back on track, but this disagreement showed me the need for more steadfast prayer.
That week’s Bible Lesson included the story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. Of particular significance was this exchange recounted in Exodus: “And Moses said unto the Lord, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. … And he said, My presence shall go with thee” (33:12, 14). For the second time I was assured that God was with me. Surely I could trust that promise because God had kept His word so many times before.
The meeting could not have been better. The individuals providing the context and background for the discussion carried out their responsibilities perfectly. The chairperson’s remarks were ideal and the main speaker was outstanding. All board members were focused and contributed toward making the meeting productive. It was as if the “problem” board member had sent someone in disguise: the board member’s attitude could not have been more gentle, reasonable, and constructive. At the end of the day, the executive director, chairperson, and board members said the board had never had such a productive discussion, and they felt confident they had achieved the unity to become an effective board. It was a heartening and almost miraculous conclusion to the weeks spent holding to man’s true nature.
I am deeply grateful for the divine guidance that enabled all of us to witness man made in God’s image and likeness: harmonious, cooperative, and peaceful. I am also thankful for Christ Jesus’ and Mary Baker Eddy’s examples in performing this work, and for the weekly Bible Lessons and Christian Science periodicals that give us tools and inspiration to handle the challenges that come our way.
Charles Lindahl lives in Fullerton, California.
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