Dear Soldiers and Officers, this is not the end all or be all of Corps Growth or the “How to” guide for all things Corps…but this is a start, a primer of sorts.
I want to delve into this topic of building a healthy corps today because I feel it vital to consider the basic elements that make up a healthy, vibrant corps. All too often we can simply settle, maintain the status quo but never truly experience the thriving pulse of vibrancy. Dear Soldiers and Officers, let’s not settle for mediocrity in our corps. Let’s not plod onward thinking we can’t improve or grow more deeply spiritually as a corporate body.
Here are four basic elements for us to consider today. These are tools to help us experience and create a healthy, vibrant corps. ***(Disclaimer, we are not striving solely for a number increase, nor should we look over the fence at another larger corps and church and exclaim “let’s become them”…embrace your corps’ identity in your community)***
4 Basic Elements To Building a Healthy Corps:
1. Prayer & Prayer Meetings
It seems like some sort of over-simplistic Sunday school answer. “You have a problem? Then pray about it.” But here is reality; those who pray together, weep together, laugh together, strive together, fellowship together will become strong…TOGETHER. Long ago our corps would meet for prayer meetings and they would gather together, sometimes holding hands and pray for the needs of their congregation and community. Some still meet like this…many have ceased to meet in such a way. Soldiers and Officers – THERE IS GREAT POWER IN PRAYER! Both corporately and privately. I don’t mean to sound callous, but somewhere along the way a majority of us stopped meeting like this. I am not sure if we truly believed God would hear us in our prayers or if we just simply got tired of meeting together.
Prayer is a vital spiritual discipline both corporately and privately. It takes concerted effort to pray for each other and for everyone to ACTUALLY SHOW UP to these meetings of prayer. If we want to experience a healthy corps, then we need to pave the way with fervent, meaningful times of prayer upon our knees. The vital signs of our corps may not improve drastically overnight, they may not improve in a month or two…but over time the Lord will grant us a softened heart and a yearning to bring the needs of our corps into focused concentrated prayer. When this happens, true love will spill over us for each other; true fellowship can occur; a sincerely desire to see God transform lives within the corps will also happen within us.
2. Intentional Discipleship
I don’t mean just some printed materials we use in a six week course. I don’t mean just another program to count on a stats sheet…I mean Christian brothers holding other Christian brothers accountable, Christian sisters holding other Christian sisters accountable. Intentional studying of God’s word together, elder Christians guiding a patiently loving younger Christians. Can it begin with a simple bible study tool? Of course, but it has to become something more than just filling out answers and memorizing scripture. Trust is sometimes an issue. Divulging ones personal struggles with another “Christian” brother or sister can be extremely difficult and even embarrassing. One might feel that they are too vulnerable if trust is not first established and coveted in confidentiality. But when we disciple one another…when we yearn to grow together (because let’s be honest, sometimes we just don’t trust others in our corps and we don’t think that they have our best interests in mind) When we can learn this spiritual discipline of discipleship, we can finally grow into the identity the Holy Spirit has been preparing us for since the moment of initial sanctification.
3. Intentional Joy & Fellowship
Not only should we be meeting for pray and discipleship but we ought to be joyously seeking fellowship together outside of the walls of our corps building. I understand we do not all have the same interests and personalities and this might make fellowship difficult at times, but do we make a concerted effort to go to each other’s homes? Are we seeking out times to share a meal together, go to a movie together, maybe take up a hobby together…or even bowl? There can be joy found in laughter and the sharing of life moments together. Are we willing to put ourselves out there? I think that sometimes we are afraid of asking people over or taking a chance to share a meal with another member of our corps because we’re afraid we might not have anything in common or find total rejection. If we are to become a healthier corps, we have to be willing to take a risk and to find intentional fellowship with other soldiers and friends.
Out of these intentional moments, a sweet aroma of love and joy can be expressed, so much so that others might be drawn to our fellowship. People will see this kind of interaction of corps members and long to be a part of something like that. Individual crave acceptance and love. People want to “fit in”…when we make that concerted effort to fellowship with others, we can begin to emit that sweet aroma of joy and fellowship to those around us, and by proxy, we are unknowingly creating a visual type of appealing evangelism.
4. Listen To Needs
I don’t merely say “Listen” to imply that we offer canned advice and suggestions, but rather when we actively listen to the needs of those around us we become more inclined to physically bridge that gap for others. When we stop talking about our wants and needs, we can begin to listen to the needs of others. “Others” can be those within our fellowship already as well as those who are on the fringes or living within our community. Don’t draw a line in the sand that separates “Our People” from “Community People”…In God’s eyes ALL people are His, some just don’t know it yet. Make sure that we allow this intoxicating joy to spill out and over not only those WITHIN but also those who are on the outside of the corps walls. When we begin to actively listen to the needs of others, we can begin to hear the pulse of organic evangelism that is created from an Ideas book or another promotional “EVENT”, but rather is done simplistically and genuinely. I am not saying that these other evangelistic ideas can’t be genuine, but from experience, listening to the needs of others silences the groans of prideful, often deaf, arrogant self and refocuses the heart onto true love and service to others.
These are just four ways to build a healthier corps together with you and me…and that neighbor down the street who has never been asked or invited to share in this intoxicating joy of fellowship. Remember, we are saved to save and in the process we can sharpen each other and grow together through holy living.
Just something more for our Army world to ponder today!
To God be the glory!