“Christians, and dare I say Salvationists, run the danger of putting up barriers today in order to ‘protect’ themselves from the world ‘out there’. God, by contrast, wants to meet with people...”
-General Andre’ Cox. (The Officer, p 4-5, July-August 2014)
What are your deepest fears? Everyone has them. We all struggle with them from time to time, not always but every once in a while they loom large and foreboding before us and we must either confront them or run away from them. Fears are real both the individual fear of one and the collective fears of many. I do not wish to reside within our fears, nor do I wish that we thrive upon our fears, but rather that we confront them for what they are.
The Fears For Our Future:
The Disappearance of Youth and Young Adults:
Every church struggles with young adult losses. It happens when some leave “the nest” and head off to college and begin to live life on their own. How can we, as an army, stave off these losses within our ranks? The army is home to many. No matter where a soldier goes in most of the world, they can walk into a corps hall and feel like they are welcomed and home. Where are our young adults going? Are we intentional in making them feel at home in our corps? Are we ministering to their demographic through relevant, active, interpersonal ministry? Do we really get them? (I don’t want to insinuate that there is an ‘us and them’ here) Do we have the time to do so? Could it be that we MUST employ active and loving youth workers/pastors within all of our corps to help connect with these young adults?
Young adults don’t need bible studies thrown at them or printed materials from Sunday school books, they need godly relationships, pastoral shepherding, people who are investing their time and energy and homes in them. They need a place to crash, a place to do their laundry (college is expensive)…and maybe an open kitchen to eat food from.
I fear we are losing so many of our young adults as they branch out and explore the world around them. Can we break our old molds of “ministry”? Are we willing to risk much to reach our young people? Perhaps we must start rethinking how we minister to this demographic in our army…because presently, by and large, it isn’t working.
Decaying Moral Standards:
I struggle with articulating this one because I don’t wish to imply that I am in anyway perfect – far from it! I understand we as an army are triage to the sick and hurting. We must diligently to be an extension of God’s compassionate grace, and yet within our ranks of soldiers and officers we must also strive to keep the standards high! We cannot allow immoral behavior to destroy lives and to disrupt our mission to the lost. We must be brave enough to lovingly confront it when it rises up, we cannot allow it to take root within our army. We stand so close to the front-lines that at times in attempting to ‘be all things to all people‘ (1 Corinthians 9:22) we run the risk of slipping back down into the depths of our ‘old lives’…we must be strong enough in our faith for the battle we wage as soldiers of this army! We must exercise accountability with our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, and we need to beware of the slippery slopes of the front-lines.
In contrast, we must continue to be salt and light to the flavorless and darkness. We as soldiers should recognize that we cannot look so much like the world that we are indistinguishable from it. There is a fine line between relevancy in evangelism and becoming re-grafted into the world…walk carefully these necessary roads on the front-lines, and do not walk it alone, take His holy presence with you!
Anchored To The Sinking Past
I do not wish to imply that our rich heritage is sinking, nor do I mean that our army’s efforts in the past were in vain. What I do wish to imply though is that we cannot be ever looking back, ever insulating heritage, ever trying to recreate it with the same methods. Certain methods in William and Catherine Booth’s era were geared specifically for that era and for that specific demographic in that period in history. Our Founders were revolutionary because they were willing to try new methods that were almost unheard of in churches of that day. They took to the streets and employed these risky methods to the common people who probably never darkened the doors of a church.
I do not want you to take this to mean that we ought to scrap the brass bands, or do away with our doctrines, by no means am I saying this. But have we taken our outward evangelistic methods into our corps and refused to leave the walls of our buildings? Are we afraid to fail? What if simply remaining in our buildings instead of going out IS FAILING? What are we risking today? Are we willing to employ modern methods to reach the culture and people of today? There is certainly risk involved, but we cannot afford to continue employing old methods from eras gone by and expect them to still work like they once did. It isn’t that God’s Word isn’t relevant because it will always be, but rather how we convey that message to an ever changing culture.
Recommendation: Take risks. Get outside. Use modern-relate-able methods. Do not be afraid to fail. Do something!!! Unlock the anchor to our past and look to the present and future! Our rich heritage will always be there, we don’t need to protect it. The founders were progressive and forward thinkers…THAT is the kind of heritage we must protect!
Confronting These Fears:
We can hide away in our corps and headquarters and pretend these fears aren’t real. (I’m not sure anyone is truly willing to do that!) We can pretend that things will get better if we simply ‘stay the course’…or we can take action and confront these fears head on. I for one did not sign up to be included in the ranks of outdated antiques. I signed up to fight this fight and to be the best soldier that I can be. This includes being revolutionary and utilizing new techniques. If we are to continue being a viable fighting force for the Lord we must be willing to adapt to the enemy’s changing battle tactics and most importantly listen to the Lord’s leading. Break the mold, and fight on!
Something more for our Army to ponder today!
Nice post. I’ve often thought we should conceptualize our traditions as creativity and innovation, over anything locked to a time period. Your focus on fear is good as well: is the Army fear-motivated or faith-motivated?
What can we do? “Transfer” students who have moved to a new city / town; give them the details of the nearest Corps, send their info to the Corps and hopefully their will be a meeting over coffee. In this way we will keep some who are al ready connected. We must teach and exemplify holiness, which many are afraid to do as it is, today, somehow associated to arrogance. Holiness is what the Sprit of Christ does in us and we need to claim it and proclaim it. As was said, we can learn from the past and take risks – do anything and everything (biblical, ethical and legal things only) to bring people to Christ.
A good article. ..maybe we have forgotten that people of all ages are looking for examples where soldiers and officers live what they believe. ..too often the young folk see us shooting our own in the foot. We are good at seeking the lost from the streets, but those wounded at home are left to become crippled . We need to practice what we preach
I remained convinced that church growth is not difficult. Rather it requires tough, intentional decisions. It requires re-focus and commitment to be relevant today. It requires from Salvationists a willingness to move and be as God leads. And I truly believe that He is still leading the way today and we, His church, need to be willing to move and be as He leads.
An article tied to genuine concerns for the church or which the Army is a part. WE must move beyond the traditions of church to rediscover the basic fundamentals that motivated the body of Christ to reach out to the unsaved
We have not failed in anything that we DO or ARE, but we have failed to identify Satan and his guises appropriately for our day. We guard our faith and church as always but we let Satan demonize us without riposte because we don’t recognize his attacks. For example who will stand and say the Catholic church is a good christian church these days? (I am not condoning either its doctrines or the sins of its members). In Christ’s day Satan attacked from Jupiter and Venus, from Isis Osiris, Astarte, Diana and Mars, and from Cesar or Pharoh. Where is he today? We ourselves have accepted Christianity as implicitly equal to other current religions and so we have let Satan say in effect “I am equal to God”. Where is our reply written outside our walls? Some of the guises are obvious but some, especially those in his vanguard are not. Who among us recognizes in Christianity Marxism, Humanism and (yes even and especially) Atheism as current religions? These are His vanguard in much of the world but we willingly give them authority in our communities. We give his vanguard not just physical authority but moral authority as well. Who forbids us to preach in public and who controls our education system, the very hearts and minds of our children? The vanguard of Satan have this domain and so we have let Satan say in effect “I am superior to God”. How then do we wonder why our faith and works seem of no avail? How then do we wonder that our churches are shrinking?
*** I have corrected some errors in my post***
We have not failed in anything that we DO or ARE, but we have failed to identify Satan and his guises appropriately for our day. We guard our faith and church as always but we let Satan demonize us without riposte because we don’t recognize his attacks. For example who will stand and say the Catholic church is a good christian church these days? (I am not condoning either its doctrines or the sins of its members). In Christ’s day Satan attacked from Jupiter and Venus, from Isis Osiris, Astarte, Diana and Mars, and from Cesar or Pharoh. Where is he today and in what form does he come? We ourselves have accepted Christianity as implicitly equal to other current religions and so we have let Satan say in effect “I am equal to God”. Where is our reply written outside our walls (or even inside)? Some of the guises in which he appears are obvious but some, especially those in his vanguard are not. Who among us in Christianity recognizes Marxism, Humanism and (yes even and especially) Atheism as current religions? These are Satan’s vanguard in much of the world but we willingly give them authority in our communities. We give his vanguard not just physical authority but moral authority as well. Who forbids us to preach in public and who controls our education system, the very hearts and minds of our children? The vanguard of Satan have this domain and so we have let Satan say in effect “I am superior to God”. How then do we wonder why our faith and works seem of no avail? How then do we wonder that our churches are shrinking?