When the church of God realizes that for it to function as per the intention of its author, who is Christ Jesus, then all the members of the church have to be equipped with the frontline maintenance skills in order to tackle the day-to-day spiritual maintenance problems. It necessarily begins the process of self-renewal.
It is equally imperative for the Christians to monitor themselves so that no slack in the system ever builds up, and also to constantly lubricate systems with the Holy Spirit for efficient and optimal functioning. In as much as machine systems and equipment have to be firmly grounded in concrete or whatever base used, Christians must also be firmly grounded in the love of Christ, which manifested at Calvary.
The Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) tenets of organizations, tidiness, cleaning, discipline and training are equally relevant to a Christian who has to discharge duties in an environment which is dynamic (constantly changing), vibrant (posing new challenges) but which can also be refreshing, if tackled with the help of the Spirit of God. It is of great help also if the Christian is in constant fellowship with Body of Christ.
Industrial Maintenance Management has a direct bearing on the performance of a company in as much as spiritual maintenance has a direct relevance on the growth of a Christian. In Maintenance Engineering and Management, a system such as Total Productive Maintenance whereby the people who use and operate the production machines are also the ones who carry out “frontline” maintenance, has deep spiritual significance.
The reference to war parlance is obvious, and the implication to spiritual well being deductible. A soldier at the frontline has to react and maneuver, equip and replenish himself at the frontline using whatever systems and means are available to him.
The operator of a machine usually has to contend with the eighty percent of those maintenance or process failures, which if not dealt with will ultimately cause major breakdowns. Although these eighty percent of the failures may not singly contribute much to the failure costs, they may significantly affect the total costs (ABC Pareto principle). If not dealt with they may cause significant damage.
When the operator has been imbued with the basics, and with time, the significant maintenance skills, skills are learned to address the problems before they cause machine failure. Such maintenance skills include lubrication, inspection, checking holding down bolts for tightness, milk rounds wherein the operator moves around generally in his domain looking around and maybe “talking” with his machines.
Christians deployed in the various ministries also need equipment in order to tackle the challenges they encounter at the frontline. Oil is usually used to lubricate the machines and in the Scriptures this usually refers to as the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew word for anointing connotes the sense of being completely rubbed with God. This will assist the Christian to reduce the frictional forces encountered as a result of the battles that are fought in their assigned ministries.
Another purpose of lubrication is to wash away swarf or dirt. The spiritual dirt is washed away by the circulation of the Holy, Spiritual lubricant. The thermal properties of the lubricant are also such that if metal-to-metal contact were to happen, the temperatures obtained could be unbearable. Although the child of God may not realize it because of the anointing he or she is wearing, the significant spiritual heat of the conflict is absorbed by the Holy Spirit and what the saint gets is that which is enough to warm him up in order to run at optimal engine temperature. Anything less than that is retrogressive to the extent that more fuel is burnt than is necessary.
Constant inspection will tell the machine operator whether slack has build up in his machine systems. This is usually the case with drive belts, which transmit power, say from a driver e.g. a motor or engine to the driven say the gearbox. A certain level of tautness is necessary for the v-belts, if the transmission system is to be efficient. If the belts are slack, then energy is wasted in the belts themselves and not all of it goes to the intended subject.
The apostle Paul did a good job in Ephesians 6, but one may say that he could only use images that were available to him then. If the belt of truth is tied six, seven or so holes larger, the trousers of whatever is tied will unacceptably fall and maybe with catastrophic consequences. In modern machine systems, these belts are supposed to hold the same systems together and at the same time, transit such serious power, which has to be managed properly and if any of the drives of the gearboxes were to “fall” or fail because of an unduly slack belt, the consequence would be disastrous.
Slack usually builds up incipiently and if not checked, a small habit given just a small opening may develop giving rise to an out of control situation. This analogy is not only applicable to saints in the spiritual field but all the Christian soldiers; and many a saint can fall or fail because of slack.
Proverbs says a man backslides when he allows those old habits (his own way) to creep in, resulting finally in catastrophe. A point of departure at this juncture is necessary. An unduly tight belt in an industrial set-up is usually retrogressive. It runs the risk of snapping, again causing catastrophic consequences. The situation is different in the Christian arena in that this belt of truth is firmly fixed in the Spirit of God.
To the extent that the widow of Zerapath (2 Kings 4:6), was limited by the number of vessels that she borrowed, the Christian is also limited by the readiness with which he or she quickly snaps out a truth without hesitancy or reluctance because all truth (2 Timothy 3: 16) is profitable and inspired. Here we see transcendence from the physical into the spiritual realm, all because God gives not His Spirit by measure to those who have been sent and speak the Word of God (John 3:34).
To that extent that the Christian child is prepared to run with and in the Spirit, God avails an unbreakable high tension, special material elastic belt. As the load increases, the belt also adjusts its section and properties to take up the load and the result is that the load is transmitted safely.
Another purpose of inspection is embodied in the milk rounds. Here the operator wants to ensure that there is no dust or dirt arisings. He, according to Nakajima (1988), will do the following:
First he will seek to establish orderliness, in Japanese this is referred to as Seiri (organization). Next, he will do the following:
Seiso (clean up the work area)
Seiton (maintain tidiness)
Seiketesu (ensure discipline)
Shitsuke (embark on a continued training program)
These facets of Total Productive Maintenance are foundational and paramount. The child of God will have to come to a realization and acceptance of the need to take an orderly state of affairs and then sweep out all dirt and dust from the sanctuary.
The third step, seiton, emphasis the point of arresting the dust arisings at the source. Questions such as: “What is causing the oil spill? “Where is the dust coming from?” are asked and addressed. There is no point of having an engine continually running with large oil spills and having to top up oil which is then immediately lost. One can cover the short and few local distances, but when big jobs and long distances are required this status quo becomes inadequate. The leak has to be stopped.
So many Christians are happy to supp at the Lord’s table knowing full well that whatever they have consumed will be lost, usually to the enemy, who could be one’s self; and are content to be serviced when the next maintenance service is due, which is usually on Sunday mornings.
When the leaks and dust arisings have been arrested and stopped, it is necessary to ensure that the systems are working as per the desired specifications and that the “order” so established in “seiton” as defined above is maintained. It is here that most Christian soldiers fail. When it is a great difficulty to wake-up early to read the Word of God, when it is great difficulty to give or forego just one meal of the day to God i.e., “a fast,” (if medically possible to do so), when men have to come up with all such excuses when God says wake-up and sing a midnight song (Acts 16:25) like Paul and Silas, it becomes difficult to know which report one has believed, which commander does one bow down his head to.
Discipline is about obeying someone or something. This could be self, rules, regulations or whatever you have believed in. And if it is God that one has believed in, then when He calls, the child of God must answer as the boy Samuel answered (1 Sam 3:10). God never disappoints those who hearken to His Word. The element of continuous training is crucial. The machine operator who basks in the skills that he picked fifteen years ago and does not attend refresher courses will soon find himself out of a job or redundant even while he is still in the job.
Churches that do not organize refresher courses for all the church members soon become irrelevant to the scriptural needs of a modern day society. Pastors who rely on tricks picked up a quarter of century ago at seminary also fall into the same pit. The Bible reassures believers that “of the increase of his government there shall be no end” (Isaiah 9: 7).
The Word of God is inexhaustible. No matter how many degrees one earns or how many verses of the Bible one commits to memory, it is not possible to deplete God. Every time we make a new discovery, it only serves to highlight the multi-faceted and many-sided nature of God’s wisdom.
It is only when one competes with the Word of God that one falls short. But when one perceives the Word as being inspired, and necessary for reproof, correction and training (2 Timothy 3:16) then one is adequately equipped to address current, recurrent, perceived and future maintenance failures. It is always a great comfort to sing:
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Safe and secure whilst the billows roar
Grounded safely in the Savior’s love.
The concept of the holding down (HD) bolts, which are amongst the toughest in most industrial applications, is unique and equally applicable to the seaman’s anchor. The HD bolt is in a shroud, which opens out as it tightens and forces the concrete to give way so that it is firmly grounded in.
In shipping history it has always been a great source shame if a ship was to lose anchor and started to drift because the anchor has failed. The anchor is supported to do exactly what its name connotes. If the Christian’s faith is tossed about to and fro by every wind and wave that comes, and starts to drift to the wide sea, then the foundations of the same Christian become questionable.
All things on earth one way or the other attest to the mercy of God and to the wonders of creation, i.e., the spoken Word of God. And that this article has attempted to bring out this parallel of truth in the industrial world of maintenance systems and the spiritual world of God’s Total Spiritual Maintenance Systems (TSM) in equipping His church which may very well be considered another act of mercy.
Nakajima 1998, TPM – Introduction to Total Productive Maintenance, Seiichi Nakajima. Productivity Press, Portland Oregon, ISBN 0 –9152999-23-2
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