Jesus had more than 12 disciples…yet many left Him. (John 6:66)
Did Jesus call each one of these “AWOL” disciples? No.
Some joined the band later during the rise of Jesus’ popularity. But Jesus wasn’t looking for popularity. He hadn’t come to be lauded and complemented. He hadn’t come to start a Roman incursion. He came for so much more. He taught that purpose to His disciples, those with whom He confided in and hand-picked for such an important calling.
Dear Salvation Army, why is it that we feel it necessary at times to place quantity of soldiers and officers above quality? I don’t think anyone intentionally does this. I do not think we rush out and pick people off the street and throw uniforms on them just so we have “numbers” the next time the General or anyone else important in our Army comes to town. But we do see success within our Army as something of a quantitative thing don’t we?
Have we been going about this all wrong?
Could it be that instead of sheer numbers and all of these “Corps growth” initiatives we must first focus on the ones we already have in our pews who are undiscipled and unequipped for the battle? We serve many individuals who are marginalized and wounded by life. Some might be incapable of ever achieving the standards of “Christianity” that other churches expect of their parishioners. I have heard it said that the church is an emergency room for the sinner. It should be a place of triage and shelter for the broken and the imperfect. We serve many in our Army who not only need the spiritual emergency room but also long-term spiritual care! Some may never walk upright within the spiritual realms of leadership. Some may only crawl towards incremental spiritual achievements in their lives because they have been crippled by sin, shame and/or other spiritual, emotional and physical wounds in their lives. Can we accept them for who they are, where they are and mark these limited steps of growth? Are we patient enough to develop these wounded soldiers with grace, love and at times looooooooooooong-suffering? Or are we so focused on getting “others” more “capable”, desirable people into our corps buildings? We, unintentionally, stick up our noses at the uneducated, spiritually inept and broken cases already before us.
I don’t mean to make this an indictment because I too would wear a crown of guilt in this witch-hunt of pointing fingers. I too have walked the fine line of measurable growth and statistically accomplishments while unintentionally leaving the spiritually crippled of the corps in my dust. Shame on me. Forgive me.
What I’m Not Saying:
I’m not saying don’t seek out others to bring into your corps.
I am not saying don’t work to improve the spiritual conditions of your corps.
I am not saying don’t preach holiness and hold the standards high for all who come to the corps.
What I am Saying:
-Don’t forget those that God has already placed in your corps and on your ministry pathways.
-Don’t lose the emphasis on teaching and discipling your vital few who come week in and week out.
-Don’t lose heart when you look at statistical sheets and only see the same numbers associated with the same faces.
-Love your corps members even if they are incapable of loving you back (as hard as that may be).
-Be the very best representation of Christ to your corps, in your leadership and in your living examples.
-Don’t wait for more educated, better looking and polished people to come through your doors. Focus on the ones that God has placed within your ministry right now to love and to lead.
Why Quality is Better Than Quantity?
When we become satisfied and confident with loving and serving the few we take off the burden of false success driven ministry concepts. It’s not about packing your corps building to the brim every Sunday morning. It’s not about attempting another evangelistic ploy to rope the unchurched into your doors.
When we begin to love and to focus our attention upon those we already have within our corps (the “quality“, no matter how far from quality we may view our corps members) we will begin to truly love them, appreciate them, long to better disciple them, and serve them as Christ would the Church. When we focus our attention on the “few” and feed them spiritually, the love and “curb” appeal of our corps will become all the more evident in our communities.
We get it all wrong some times in our attempt to become like other churches. We look over the ministerial fences and long to be like “that” church that boasts 400 or more members on a Sunday. But the truth is we aren’t THAT church…we were never called to be THAT church. Our ministry and mission as the Army is very, very unique. Our mission will contain more elements of serving wounded soldiers day in and day out and maybe, just maybe we will see incremental or phenomenal life improvements both physically and spiritually. I am not discounting the work of the Holy Spirit here, He can and will perform miracles, and we must be diligent and faithful to His calling. Yet in other occasions we must also not give up on soldiers and corps members who never seem to move from their one position of initial conversion.
We know there is more to be had within the realms of spiritual growth and holiness for our corps members…but sometimes it may take a lifetime for that corps member to achieve this understanding as well. DON’T GIVE UP ON THEM! DON’T QUIT OR LOSE HOPE!
**Yes, fight for the weak, the hurting, the lost.
**Yes, keep up the evangelistic methods within your communities.
-But don’t forget to employ quality love, support and leadership to the few as well!
Just something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!