I enter into this fray of conversation only to politely ask some relevant questions. I honestly have trouble getting caught up in defining what we are when there is work to be done for the Kingdom. As a matter of fact, this particular debate isn’t one of those topics that keeps me up at night.
Questions to ponder:
* Are we a Church or are we a movement?
* Does it matter what we define ourselves to be?
* Are we simply splitting hairs in such a definition?
* Does the outside world really care how we label ourselves or is this only an inward debate?
* Does this organizational identification help to refine our mission?
A Movement Born Out Of Necessity:
It would be easy to concede the fact that the foundation of our Army was created out of necessity. No one was there to “do something” for the poor, the wretched and the outcast in Victorian England. It swiftly became a world-wide movement which now includes 126 countries globally. The movement of The Salvation Army is, in a sense, universally recognized. We help feed and clothe the poor. We identify with the outcast. We bring comfort to the distressed regardless of who they are and where they come from (in principle). This by definition is a movement. Something that transcends mere Church. It is born of something more with a far deeper social outreach than most denominations. Please don’t misinterpret that last statement. It isn’t mean to puff us up or to make us sound any better than other denominations. We are all one body of Christ which performs many different tasks for the Kingdom of God.
When Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded the Apple company from their garage in 1976, it certainly had room to grow. Once things began to take shape and become marketable a new place to conduct business needed be found. Relocation of assets and the dynamic changed from a homegrown garage business to a global computer tech company. They were out to change the world but as they grew so did their strategy to change it.
In the same way for-profit organizations like Apple must change in business to stay viable, so it is with non-profit organizations like The Salvation Army. From an organizational standpoint we couldn’t maintain that singular movement solely within darkest England. That movement needed to shared and so the dynamic and strategic shift of the Army had to be modified. Doctrines were introduced, policies and procedures, conformity within the Army brand had to be emphasized…in a sense, these organizational structures began to resemble Church. The movement of The Salvation Army still exists, but is it more than just a movement? Are we exclusively labeling ourselves when internally and structurally we have taken a Church foundational structure?
I am unsure of the answer here…this is why I pose the question.
-For some out there who are tired of hearing this question, I apologize.
-For others who have never really considered or even cared about this identity…carry on.
-For those who really get bogged down in this debate, I would ask you this:
Does it really matter?
If we are still called by the Holy Spirit to serve suffering humanity by employing social and spiritual tools does it really make much of a difference if we call ourselves a Church or a Movement?
It is not my intention to get anyone riled up today, but I would like to hear what you think. What are your thoughts on this conversation? As I have said at the opening of this post, I am not one who is caught up in the definition of what we are but instead more importantly Whose we are and if we are Serving Him through all that we do and say.
Questions for you to respond to:
-What are we? Movement, Church, Both, Other?
-What rationale can you give for your response?
-Why is this definition so important to you?
Something more for our Army world to ponder today!
To God be the glory!