Shaping tomorrow, starting today…

(Sorry for nicking the title for this blog from this years ‘Commitment Sunday’ material in the UKT!)

A couple of posts ago I started asking myself some questions about what it is to be Salvation Army, and how we live that out from day today. Last time up I got down onto paper (well…you know what I mean!) what our DNA looks like…from my perspective, of course…

I thought I’d try to think now about my second question…how we use this DNA to define who we are today. It seems to me that this provides us with a much more effective tool in measuring ‘salvation army’ church than anything from the books of church growth or NCD. By this, I mean we can identify perhaps what an Army centre should look like, and compare what our centre looks like, and how we seek to become more like the model. I’m not talking about a church that becomes in any way exclusive or setting ourselves up as a ‘better than the rest entity’, but actually really seek to make a difference in our communities in a way that reflects what we were called to be. By any tool of measurement British society is in as bad a state now (despite National Health Service and Welfare State) as at anytime in its history. Church is an alien concept to society – and many churches would seem not to know what to do with ‘an outsider’ were they to walk through the door.

My vision for an Army community of faith would be one that exhibits the Army DNA, but not necessarily one that needs to use the tools of the past (uniform, music, the military metaphor) to reach the world for Christ. One which hasn’t got hang-ups about engaging in social action (however we choose to label this) for no other reason that it’s the right thing to do. We can’t use social action as a bartering tool to pressurise our communities into faith. We serve because that’s what Jesus did – no strings attached.

We become once more a church that campaigns to improve not only our local communities but the whole of society, national, international…steps towards this in recent days about human trafficking and in the UK anti-gambling legislation is a healthy thing. I truly believe that God raised us to be a ‘thorn in the flesh’ of the establishment – not letting issues slip by because we worry about our public image. I know public and governmental money is vital to our current services, but surely God would provide if these disappeared? And, as many before have pointed out, if we actually put our own hands in our pockets (me included!) we might not be so dependent on outside help.

Our soldiers are trained to be exactly that – combatants in a war against sin and evil – many of my generation have been lost because no-one ever seemed to grasp the importance of teaching holiness in a way that kids could understand – talking about real issues, but not using quaint Victorian expressions to describe a way out! When we lose ourselves in arguments about ‘visibility’ (uniform), we seem to forget that real visibility is about how we live our lives every day as Christians and Salvationists as an act of worship, as opposed to what we wear on a Sunday.

Finally, although there’s so much more to say, I long to see an organisation that’s governed by the needs of the lost and the frontline, rather than the institution. An organisation that is bold and takes God envisioned risks with people and resources. An organisation that believes that faithful is not enough, that God intends his vines to be fruitful. Systems are necessary, as is administration, but not to an extent that mission is choked. The UK territory almost nailed this with the ‘Strategic Framework’, but that seems to have disappeared from the radar in recent times. Perhaps a key requisite for senior leadership is not about how long they’ve served, or where their previous appointments have been, but about their passion and vision for mission and their willingness to listen to God and take risks!! But then that’s a completely different blog topic…!

Ok – these are just some thoughts again – and the challenge to me as a young divisional headquarters officer is to figure out how I can help to do something about this all from my remote perch…

What do you think?


2 thoughts on “Shaping tomorrow, starting today…

  1. You said, “I long to see an organization that’s governed by the needs of the lost and the frontline, rather than the institution.” AMEN!

    “How can I help to do something about this all this from my remote perch?” I believe your doing it (from the way you write). Keep talking. Keep influencing those around you. Keep challenging the status Quo.

    This kind of talk generally offends many who (whether they realize it or not) still have a very institutional approach to ministry and don’t understand our “non-institutional” or “missional” approach to ministry. If the mission is the mission then the mission is all that really matters.

    In “Slightly off Center” Terry Camsey tells a story about a young man who inherited the family drill-making business. At the first board meeting he attended he said, “Gentlemen, we are not in the business of making drills. . .we are in the business of making holes!”

    I think we are still bound by the idea that there is only one way to make a whole. . . “our way!” What really matters is that we discover the best possible and most productive way to make a hole. While we begin to apply the best possible approach, we continue to scan the horizon to discover new trends, new developments, and allow ourselves to continue to grow and adapt with the culture’s needs and trends.

    Although we are moving (too slowly for me) in that direction, we are still running business as though we are making drills.



  2. As usual I agree with a lot of what you are saying here. The Army has a very specific purpose in this world, and in order to remain successful in this world we need to really make sure we are spending our time and money on the things that matter. As far as the social institutions (at least in Canada): sometimes I fear that we have sacrificed quality for quantity, and effectiveness for efficiency. By that I mean, perhaps today we can boast that we have more homeless shelter and more people in our other facilities, but how much of a real impact are we having on the people we are serving, beyond the physical?
    How connected is our church to our work? I think that is at the corps of where our change needs to come from. Our DNA, as you call it, has to do with being a serving church in the world. I believe that until our church reconnects itself with the people outside the door of our church, we are going to be missing opportunities God has put before us. As far as your comments on staying true to our DNA, and not necessarily some of the traditions we have picked up over time. You are so right.
    People often equate being true to the Army as being somehow culturally old-fashioned. I would prefer to see being true to the Old Army as being aware of our fundamental mission, as well as, like in the old days, being prepared to win the world for Christ with any cultural means possible.


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