Honor and Shame, Blog, Patronage

The Change Agent

The Change Agent.

Over the last few years I have been fascinated by the 1st Century Model of Patronage. Learning about how Adonai is the One True Patron/Benefactor , Yeshua is the Broker of the Covenant and we(Israel/Mankind) are the Clients.

I have recently discovered that there is an additional important element to this social concept and it is attached to we the believers being sent out to teach and make disciples. It is that of the Change Agent.

Through out my life, my favorite type of movies has always been spy, espionage, secret agent movies. If you don't watch movies, don't get offended that I do, I guess I am not as holy as some..haha. But I enjoy these types of stories and now I can relate to these stories a little more closer now that we are also agents sent out to effect change in the world by the agency in which has sent us out. Whether we choose to accept the mission or not is on us. That mission is not impossible either. And yes that was a movie reference.

You see, this idea we have come to establish as the "Great Commission", going out and "making disciples" can now have a much needed context to it by presenting it from a bit of 1st Century Context. Remember, you and I are called to Imitators of Elohim and Messiah. It doesn't make us "them" , it makes us an agent or now a broker to those around us who need to hear what Adonai our Patron, and Yeshua our Messiah have done. Once those around us , whether you are a teacher, leader of a congregation, a father or mother leading the home, one who is in management at your job, it is up to you to be "The Change Agent" for the Kingdom of Yahweh and working as a fellow Broker to implement the change in individuals, and then guiding them thru that development in order to be able to then have them be fellow Change Agents for the Kingdom.

Does this make sense?

I think the issue often in the Messianic lifestyle is that we tend to think that the degree of the Change Agent role we have at its basic and onset level is not sufficient enough for us and we seek to rise to a higher rank when that may not necessarily be what Abba has called for some to do. The reality is though, is that all believers are called to be Imitators of the Father and the Son. And if we act in that role, eventually opportunities will arise to be a Change Agent/Broker.In the wise words of my precious bride Melanie, "What if you are the only Bible people read?"

Here is an excerpt from the book Social Science Commentary on the Book of Acts on the topic of Change Agents. I definitely will be emphasizing this topic more. Shalom.

Change Agent

"The persons featured in the narrative of Acts are persons who communicate information about an innovation wrought by the God of Israel to the designated receiving group, the people of Israel, on behalf of an agency behind the change, specifically the God of Israel. Such persons (communicators) are called change agents. Such change agents attempt to influence an innovation decision in a direction deemed desirable by the change agency. Thus the change agent functions as a communication link between two or more social entities, the change agency responsible for the innovation and those to and for whom the innovation is directed. Change agents are usually professionals in that the task of diffusing the innovation in question constitutes a master status and is a full-time occupation.

In the Gospel documents, apostles were persons sent with a commission by some commissioning agency. The commission is to proclaim the forthcoming kingdom of God (= theocracy), based on Jesus’ being commissioned by the God of Israel to make such a proclamation. In Acts, the characteristic feature of the change agent role of apostle is that it entails being commissioned by the God of Israel through the mediation of the resurrected Jesus. In the letters of Paul, the earliest documents of the New Testament, Paul insists on having been commissioned by the God of Israel in his revelation experience of the resurrected Jesus (an ASC; Gal 1:1, 10–12). In third- and fourth-generation Jesus group documents, we find mention of such authorization given to the Twelve through the resurrected Jesus (ASC experiences; Matt 28:18–20; Acts 1:8).

There are seven tasks that a change agent must undertake. The book of Acts describes several of these tasks in its high-context presentation, although all of them will have been present. The first and last tasks take place in that sequence; the other five take place variously and may be repeated. A change agent (1) develops need for change; (2) establishes an information exchange relation; (3) diagnoses problems; (4) creates intent to change; (5) translates intent into action; (6) stabilizes and prevents discontinuance; and (7) terminates relationship with the clients.

1. Develops need for change. A change agent is often initially required to bring awareness or knowledge to persons in some social grouping by pointing out alternatives to existing problems, by dramatizing these problems, and by convincing would-be clients that they are capable of confronting these problems. In collectivistic settings, a change agent attempts to influence opinion leaders by emphasizing a broader, forthcoming horizon (hence emphasis on the coming Israelite theocracy and the age to come), a higher contentment motivation (hence theme of reversal and righteousness through faith), a lower fatalism (hence theme of need for change and responsibility), and higher aspirations (in terms of the newly introduced symbol system focused on the presence of the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus). The change agent not only assesses the would-be clients’ needs at this stage but also helps to create these needs in a consultive and persuasive manner.

2. Establishes an information exchange relationship. In collectivistic societies, would-be clients must accept the change agent before they will accept the innovations the agent promotes (hence the effectiveness of Paul’s insistence that he is “all things to all men,” or the significance of Peter’s willingness to eat with Cornelius [Acts 10] in collectivistic Hellenistic society). While initial contact with prospective clients must leave an impression of credibility, trustworthiness, and empathy with their needs and problems, the change agent must maintain an information exchange relationship with those clients to maintain and develop social identity based on the proclaimed innovation. In Acts, Paul’s return visits to various Jesus groups marks this feature (Acts 15:36). Interestingly, Luke makes no mention of Paul’s letters, a prime example of an information exchange relationship.

3. Diagnoses the problems. The change agent is responsible for analyzing his clients’ problems to point up why existing alternatives do not meet their needs. In arriving at his diagnostic conclusions, the change agent must view the situation empathetically, from his clients’ perspective and not his own. (Such empathy is the ability of an individual to project oneself into the role of another; sympathy is the ability of an individual to project another into one’s own role.) Change agent empathy is positively related with success in implementing an innovation (provided the change agent is not so empathetic that he completely takes the role of his clients and does not wish to change them in the direction desired by the change agency. Such over-empathy would have Peter (Acts 15:10) and later Paul (Acts 21:21) acquiesce in the acceptance of Israelite Torah obligations insisted upon by Judaizers and practiced by “the weak.”

4. Creates intent to change in the client. Here the change agent’s role is to motivate intent to change. Just like the innovation that the change agent makes known, so too the motives should be client-centered in order to be effective. Hence the repeated insistence on what God has done “for us” (Acts. 13:33), or that Jesus died “for us,” and descriptions of what the forthcoming theocracy holds “for us.” Of course, change agent—centered motivation (for example, Paul in the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla) and change agency—centered motivation (for the sake of the survival of “the church,” or the Jesus group) are equally possible, but in the long run ineffective.

5. Translates intent into action. The change agent is after action or behavioral change, not simply intellectual agreement. In essence, the agent works to promote compliance with the program he advocates, but compliance rooted in attitudinal change as well. Paul’s exhortation in terms of virtues that would develop Jesus group character are instances of emphasis on activity. As a good change agent, Paul presents both “how-to” knowledge (the theme of imitating Paul: 1 Thess 1:6; 2:14; 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1; Phil 3:17) and “why” knowledge (principles). Here a sort of learning by doing (orthopraxy) precedes orthodoxy. Emphasis on orthodoxy alone prior to the actual innovation decision to adopt the change leads to “temporizing”—hence to no change at all (this is faith without Jesus group works). On the other hand, emphasis on orthodoxy after orthopraxy, after actual adoption, serves a confirmation function and leads to self-reliance and self-renewal in client behavior (this is Jesus group works coupled with faith).

6. Stabilizes change and prevents discontinuances. Here the change agents seek to stabilize the new behavior, especially by directing reinforcing messages to those who have adopted the change. At this stage, “why” knowledge (orthodoxy or faith) and exhortation deriving from “why” knowledge serve to allay the dissonance that is bound up with adoption of the new and rejection of the old. Much of what Paul writes to his churches is of this sort, helping to “freeze” new behavior in the face of dissonance as well as in the face of other change agents.

7. Terminates the relationship. Paul’s goal is to establish local Jesus groups with members who behave according to their new social identity as they await the coming of the Lord Jesus and the Israelite theocracy. This is fully in line with the goal of all change agents. The end goal for any change agent is development of self-renewing behavior on the part of his or her clients. Change agents should seek to put themselves out of business by developing their clients’ ability to be their own change agents. In other words, the change agent must seek to shift the clients from a position of reliance on the change agent to reliance on themselves. This, indeed, is the situation of Jesus, whose clients, the Twelve, end up with their own leader, Peter (Acts 1–2), as well as the situation of the Jerusalem Jesus group with James, the brother of the Lord, in charge (Acts 15), and of the Pauline group at Ephesus, whose leadership comes to hear Paul for the last time (Acts 20:18–36)."

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