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Mental Graphs

It is important for us to understand how our momentary activities fit into a bigger picture, if we want to be fully human and fully alive; and yet I see signs that people in our community are happy to turn off their minds and operate as unthinking drones. Because we as a community have developed so many different ways of measuring progress, it is relatively easy for a good leader to spot when someone has turned off spiritually and mentally. They simply fail to use the measuring devices which surround them.

Ten minutes after a mile run has finished, many participants cannot tell you what their finish time was, much less what place they finished in, whether it was an improvement over the previous week, a 90% effort or a PB, or whether their pacing was consistent from lap to lap. Why? Because throughout the run, their mind was turned off. They were mentally (and perhaps spiritually) dead... going through robotic motions for the sake of the Jesus Christians system, but with little or no interest in their own personal progress.

Some members distribute tracts in much the same way. They have little interest in how many they are getting out, how long they have been out there doing it, or how much they have received in donations. Why? Same reason. They are brain-dead (and perhaps spiritually dead) to what they are doing. What matters is that they mark time until they can return to the base for a meal, a shower, a sleep, or whatever, and then start the same cycle all over again the next day. Progress doesn't have much to do with it.

Halfway through the week, if you were to ask the average member of a team how they are doing in the lit comp for that week, they probably wouldn't be able to tell you. Once again, all our efforts to establish a system for measuring progress have been wasted, because they are not really interested in making progress. What matters is only that they get by... that they "look busy" and stay out of trouble from day to day.

The purpose of all of our graphs, charts, budgets, schedules, and job lists is so that you can "get the vision" quickly, by being able to picture your progress in terms of charts, graphs or statistics, whether in your mind or graphically displayed on a wall. And once you succeed in getting this mental picture, it should help to spur you on. It becomes a kind of dynamic system of personal accountability. You will push yourself a bit harder if you sense that you are falling behind, because you do not want to fall behind. And you will push yourself in a different way, through the enthusiasm that comes when you know you are ahead of schedule.

It may be understandable that some people never have bothered to learn the scoring system or other rules for games like '500', which we have played almost daily for many years (and so they ask someone else, "Who bids first?" or "How much is misere worth again?"). After all, it's only a game.

And it may be understandable that some people never know from week to week what their handicap is on the chess chart (even though we have expressly taught that chess is a means to developing greater mental discipline). But sadly, the people who are indifferent in such little things are usually the same ones who are indifferent in bigger things. They fail to grow spiritually because they have not learned to think deeply enough to even memorise how much a bid of seven hearts is worth in '500'.

Statistics, graphs and game rules are a complete waste of time unless someone can interpret, visualise, or memorise them and carry that information around with them in their brain. It should not always need to be the same two or three people who answer the question: "Is seven clubs worth more than seven diamonds?" or "How fast did I run?" We have all been around long enough that we should, for example, be able to visualise the little graph that tells you the value of each bid in 500. And we should all know instantly what lap average we would need in order to equal our PB in a two-mile run. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that there are some of us who don't even know how many laps there are in a two mile run!

But these are trivial things... obviously. How much more important it must be for us to know how we are going when distributing tracts, i.e. how far ahead of (or behind) the quota we are for the day or for the week, and whether our spending (and income) is on target for the week's budget. (How many of us even know how much it takes to cover the normal expenditure for your team in one week?) And then there are spiritual issues on each of our empowerment charts too.

Rols and Sue have stayed motivated over the years through many such charts and graphs, including one that shows the population of every town in England, and how many tracts they would need to get out in each town in order to cover 2% of that town's population. That's a perfect example of how all of these charts should work in the day to day grind.

Living by faith does not mean turning your mind off and becoming a zombie. In fact, it means just the opposite. It means learning to discipline every moment of our lives, in order to suck the marrow out of life. Living life to the full means living each day with a mental graph of how short life is, and a mental job list about all that we hope to accomplish with our life before it is finished. I read somewhere that "Life only begins when we become aware of how soon it could end." Very true!

These mental graphs I have been talking about (whether on a trivial level or on an eternal level) all go into making us uniquely human. No animals apart from humans can do it, i.e. no other animal can picture their progress in their minds. But if we don't use this God-given ability, we may as well be slugs sliding across the footpath on our unthinking journey to death.

We have given people a rough outline of what they can do through empowerment charts. But we have left you to make it work. It won't work if you use it like people have used so many other group disciplines that we have provided for you to use to measure your progress. If you merely tally up points periodically because that is what you are supposed to be doing, the chart itself will be a waste of your time. It is nothing more than a thermometer stuck into a dead (or dying) corpse once a day to record its temperature, and even then the temperature will be meaningless if you don't compare it with the previous day's temperature, interpret those comparisons, and make some decisions which will affect the next day's temperature.

It's like someone confessing week after week, "I can see my problem. I am double-minded. I really need to do something about it." That becomes their report for the week. No decision. No change. Just a printout this week that pretty much matches the printout they gave last week. And even the printouts come only because it is kind of a group ritual to confess our faults and then (apparently) go back to doing the same things all over again. Such people are like the walking dead.

One form of insanity is to count pages in books or to count tissues in rolls of toilet paper. Such people are counting... there is no denying that. And "counting" is the root word in accountability. But accountability means nothing if you are not capable of analysing the statistics and taking clear and decisive action based on what you see. We become no better than the churches with their perverted grace doctrines if we simply report our sinfulness week after week without taking steps to stop sinning.

That's about it for this article. I hope some of you will be motivated to make more effort to picture (mentally) what it is that you are doing, and what progress you are making from day to day and week to week. If you keep job lists, budgets, empowerment charts, or any other forms of graphs or charts, work at adjusting them to make them meaningful and useful to you in terms of interpreting your progress.

Hopefully, when we all get this lesson down, then we will need to start devising a chart to measure our success in organising all of the new disciples we will win, because God has realised that we actually want to grow.

(See also imagination, Learning to See, part 1.)

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