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Seeing Your World in 3-D: Dentistry, Disciples & Discipline

By Steve Cartin, MDiv | April 18, 2017

by Steve Cartin, MDiv

“Steve, how do I correct a team leader who is underperforming and holding our practice back?”

I have been asked this question more times than I can count. Let’s begin by defining the key terms that create your 3-D world:

  • Dentistry – The practice of oral healthcare as a business that provides exceptional care to patients and meaningful, gainful employment for the team.
  • Discipleship – The life of one whose goal it is to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
  • Discipline – Efforts to call forth the best in others and myself to live and work in harmony with the moral, spiritual, relational and fiscal values upon which I as an owner/partner believe God has led me to build my practice.

This last definition can help to resolve some of the struggles Christian practice owners face. It is not easy to address situations of unacceptable performance. And too often punishment becomes a synonym for discipline. But a glimpse into a situation with Jesus and His disciples teaches us a better way.

In Matthew 20, the mother of James and John senses that this whole thing about the kingdom will soon be a reality. Not wanting her sons to miss out on their places in the new order, she asks Jesus to grant them seats at His right and left hand in the kingdom. Jesus explains this is given only by the Father in heaven. A quarrel arose with the other disciples when they heard about it. No doubt they had accession plans of their own. Jesus faced personnel problems of His own, problems that would short-circuit His kingdom vision if left unchecked.

He began by stating how things were in the non-believing world, namely that those in authority exercise lordship over their followers. Then He explained that in His kingdom those who want to be first must be last and those who want to be masters over all must become the slaves of all. Finally, He summed up His words by saying, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, NLT).

Jesus’ pattern for dealing with problems on the team can be summed up like this:

  • Confront - State the problem (we don’t do thing like the Gentiles do them).
  • Correct - Create a new understanding (You get to be first by being last, to have authority by demonstrating service).
  • Compel – Inspire by example (I will lay down my life as a ransom for many).

The culture of a practice cannot be defined by the Christian owner’s goals and behavior alone. Jesus wanted to establish a culture of servanthood in His kingdom. He defined what it was not. He taught what it was. And He lived it out in the ultimate way just a few days later on Calvary.

As the Christ-following steward of a dental practice, it is this process of developing your team which creates the culture you desire. Yes, there are times when changes must be made. But too often the pattern is reflective of a similarly disturbing trend in the church.

It is all too common for ministry leaders and mentors to give up on new believers who struggle with appropriate lifestyle changes. Rather than helping them grow toward mature discipleship, we give up and they often fall by the wayside. We then go out looking for more “new disciples” and start the entire process over again. In the dental practice, rather than helping staff grow into mature team members, we give up on them and team members are often lost, by their decision or ours. We then go out looking for new team members and start the entire process over again.

We don’t know if it crossed Jesus’ mind to go out looking for new disciples when they disappointed Him. But He didn’t. He confronted them. He corrected them. And He compelled them by His own life to the very end.

If there is a position in your practice that seems to be the one new people rotate into only to be soon lost, prayerfully seek to understand whether healthy training protocols are in place for that position and what might needed for improvement.

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