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Monthly Archives: March 2010

“Christian” Militia

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The New York Times carried an article today about the arrest of nine members of a so-called Christian militia in Clayton, Michigan. They are charged with plotting murder and sedition. The Times uncritically labels them “Christian” apparently because that was how they described themselves. Calling themselves the Hutaree, they “saw the local police as ‘foot soldiers’ for the federal government, which the group viewed as its enemy, along with other participants in what the group’s members deemed to be a ‘New World Order’ working on behalf of the Antichrist.”

To the secular world, religion or every kind is without meaningful content, so it should come as no surprise that a group espousing murder and hatred should be able to call itself Christian. To those who follow Jesus Christ, however, it is an offense. Jesus laid down his own life and taught his followers to lay down theirs. Search the New Testament for any passage that justifies murder, sedition, or even forming a citizen militia, and you will search in vain. Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus to arm themselves for battle but makes it clear that the struggle is against spiritual, not physical, enemies. Likewise, he tells believers in Corinth that the gospel has powerful arguments capable of demolishing strongholds, but it is minds and hearts he wants to capture, not people. Even the apocalyptic passages depict a ruler making war on the saints, not saints making war on anyone.

Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies, do good to them, and pray for them. Those who claim to follow him must at least try to do what he said. But anyone who claims to follow him and continues to do evil is a liar. Such a person does not deserve to be called a Christian. If the charges against this militia in Michigan are true, then they are not Christian; they are domestic terrorists masquerading as Christians.

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Customer Service

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I happened upon this account of a customer service fiasco today, one of the best I have ever read. The author directs his anger at the customer service representatives, but the truth is that company’s management is to blame. They have trained their customer service representatives in how to be polite and courteous and how to use their internal systems, but they have not trained them in how to provide service to their customers. They have made the mistake of believing that a system could render service for them. Systems cannot provide service. To the extent that they can, the customer can self-service. When self-service fails, then customers need real service. Real service occurs when a customer service representative cares about the customer’s issue and is empowered to resolve it.

These representatives were concerned only with closing tickets, not with delivering results. Management, no doubt, measures their performance based in part on the number of tickets closed. That might seem like a good idea, but it depends a lot on what conditions need to be met to close a ticket. Having worked in customer service myself, I know how easy it is for employees to work the system to close a ticket instead of working the issue to resolution. Here are my suggestions for how to do customer service:

  1. The rep who takes the call owns the issue. That service rep becomes the point of contact for that issue no matter who calls or how many times. The ticket opened by the rep can only be closed by that rep or a supervisor.
  2. Empower the service reps to get things done. Let reps use their native intelligence. They will make mistakes and learn from them. Get rid of the ones who don’t learn; keep the ones who do. Trust your people to make decisions in line with company policy. If you don’t trust them, why hire them?
  3. Make sure everyone who touches an issue moves it forward. Anything else is a waste of time. If the repair department cannot move the issue forward, then it needs to go back to the service rep to communicate with the customer. The service rep who owns the issue must be the company’s face to the customer and the customer’s advocate to the company.
  4. Learn from your mistakes. I can’t believe that this was the first time the company had received a phone in a box with a different serial number on it from the phone inside. They should have already had a policy in place to scan the serial number off the phone itself, not off the box it was shipped in.

Always keep in mind that your company is people. People relate to people. They do not relate to systems. If your systems hinder customers from reaching service representatives, then you need to change your systems. For example, I never call for support if I can find what I need on the web. So when I call I want to speak to a representative. I’ve already tried all the self-help options suggested by the auto attendant. So there had better be an option to speak to a representative before I get to deep into the menu because the deeper I go without being able to talk to someone, the more irritated I get. If I’ve pressed 2 for the third time and entered my account number more than once, I already have a bad impression of your service.

Anyone else have suggestions for how to do customer service? How about service fiasco stories of your own?

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The Discipline of Grace

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The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges is one of the best books I have ever read on how to live life as a believer. One of the persistent difficulties in the church is the idea that God’s approval must somehow be earned, that when a believer sins, God becomes angry and punishes him but that when he does what is right, then God is pleased and blesses him. Yet this misconception is directly contrary to the good news of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Somehow in going from salvation to sanctification, the extraordinary message of the gospel becomes forgotten, and believers turn to performance and good works in an effort to win favor with God (or, less charitably, to put God in their debt). So Bridges writes a prescription that serves as a refrain throughout the rest of the book: “Preach the gospel to yourself every day.”

In order to make sure his readers understand what he means, he then provides an excellent summary of the gospel, and the most salient feature of that gospel is God’s grace, his undeserved love and favor toward people. It is this grace that enables believers to pursue a life of holiness. By insisting on and holding together both grace and discipline, Bridges avoids two errors. The first focuses too much on grace and denies that believers have a role in their own perfecting. The second goes the other way and treats as grudging duty what should be joyful privilege.

The final chapters detail five disciplines necessary for pursuing holiness. These are not the religious disciplines one might expect: prayer, fasting, meditation, service, and so on. No, they are spiritual disciplines that deal much more with attitude than with action.

Throughout the book, the author draws liberally on Puritan theologians, often paraphrasing their prose for today’s audience. Nevertheless, the book is not for the casual or fainthearted reader. It requires but also amply repays patiently intent reading. Bridges is never glib; his writing cannot be skimmed. He deals with concepts that are inherently complex, even seemingly paradoxical, so his prose is likewise careful and precise. My only complaint is that at times his tone becomes somewhat scolding; at times he seems to assume that his readers are reluctant to follow him and in need of reminders of their duty. But this is a niggling objection to an otherwise excellent book.

This book is for any believer serious about becoming more like Jesus in his or her daily life. It is not a book of stuffy rules but of vivid principles. Those who read it with understanding will be changed by it as they put its principles into practice. Highly recommended.

I reviewed this book as part of the NavPress blogger review program, which provides free books in exchange for reviews. I did not receive any other payment for this review.

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