“We church people sometimes get so ‘respectable’ that hurting people can’t stand to be around us.” (Anderson, “They Smell Like Sheep” p.42)
Could it be so in our Army?
Are there times when we, as corps-bodies of believers- have difficulty accepting new comers into our midst? Don’t be too quick to dismiss this assertion. Don’t rush to say, “well we are always friend”…those kinds of generalities do not always paint an accurate picture. It is true, even in the The Salvation Army, that change is not always easy to embrace. Change can be big stresses like moving corps buildings, but it can also be lesser stresses, yet still considered “change” such as inviting new members into you fold.
Does this quote ring true within our corps?
I’m afraid that it can if we are not cognizant of it.
Even though we fight the label of “Church” (and rightly so), we still offer worship and devotion to God and spiritual development for those we serve. So in essence what we provide to the seeker is an invitation to become a part of the body of Christ – a.k.a the Church…but it is more than that isn’t it? What we do in The Salvation Army isn’t exactly just church services and bible studies during the week. Service is a large part of who we are. But in becoming fully dedicated to service (obviously placing Christ first) are there moments when our acts of service can become viewed as despised by hurting people?
I’m Better Than You!
One of the dangers of wearing the uniform and serving the corps can be “power”. We might not do this consciously but perceived power while in uniform can bring us from humble to prideful in a heartbeat. It is very easy to complain that the dirty, disheveled person coming into our Holiness meeting is just looking for a box of food and anything we will give them. We then hold the power, we then, whether we see it or not can assume a place of superiority of that “wretch” in need. Even the disciples had moments of superiority – sometimes attempting to run of children who wanted to hang out with Jesus because they didn’t want to disturb their teacher. We can fall into this “I’m better than them” mentality if we are not careful. One of the chief dangers in becoming a close knit family in our corps is that if new people come, they are outsider and not truly welcome. Special concerted effort must be given to avoid this trap.
Our goal should be to feed the body and the soul as an Army, regardless of the grime and presumed “sin” associated with the individual seeking help. It was never our job to judge and condemn. It has always been our job to love, accept and include the individual into the body of Christ – our Corps Family.
The transitional process in each corps can be swift while at other corps it can be laborious. If you find that your corps does not handle new comers with love and kindness, then perhaps it’s time to set the record straight with your soldiers and adherents. Our corps halls must never become an exclusive social club that limits or prevents perceived “outsiders” from coming and joining this great family.
Questions to Ponder today:
How does my Corps handle visitors?
Do we welcome them with open arms?
Is there follow-up during the week after their visit?
Do we make every effort to make visitors welcome and feel accepted?
Are there certain Soldiers or Adherents (including myself) that struggles with adapting to new comers?
How can we educate our soldiers and adherents in being more inviting?
The last thing our corps should ever become is a stumbling block to those who are seeking an encounter with Jesus. We are not “Holier than Thou”, we are not “Pharisees” in uniform, we are not an exclusive William Booth Fan club either. Beware of the trappings of belonging to the Army…recapture the heart of Christ in your services to your community! We are an Army of authentic believers accepting anyone who is seeking and searching for Christ and for a family of God to belong to.
Something more for our Army to ponder today!
God Bless you!