The primary purpose for our founders in creating The Salvation Army was to be a Lighthouse, a beacon to the lost. We were founded to help the lost, the drowning the marginalized in society…those who were not welcome in Church. We are a holiness movement, and our origin story is all about gap ministry. We go to places that the Church has forgotten or, in some cases, refused to go.
Why then do we make it such a focus to emulate or replicate the Church?
I do not wish to disparage any church but as a practice, many times Church (big C) gets it wrong. The Salvation Army was created to be a “door-opener” – a ministry in which people felt comfortable with, where lives were being touched because the physical needs were met first. But over time, I feel that we started looking around at the explosive growth of churches and mega churches and longed to be like them…when our mission and vision is nothing like them. It’s like this: We are all a member of the Body of Christ, some are the hands, some are the feet…but what happens when the hands look over and see the feet and they begin to try and act like feet? What happens is we have a polarizing body that is not functioning as it was intended to function. This is what I believe has become our downfall as an Army. We were called to be the hands of Christ to the unchurched, to the depraved, to the marginalized of society…but we are trying to act and look like another ministry.
Getting Rid of “Church”…
1. Stop labeling “Worship” only what we do with music…
We need to rid ourselves of the Church of the worship of music!
Worship is so much more than music on Sunday mornings. Worship is not just your praise band or your brass band and special music. Worship IS holistic and it encompasses every aspect of who we are as Soldiers of this Army, just as Holiness is our aim in every facet of life! Worship is the response to God’s wondrous love for us. We worship in the van as we pick up people for Holiness meeting. We worship as we go to midweek bible study or other such programs. We worship as we clean the corps bathrooms (this might sound funny, but we once had a blind janitor who could be heard singing hymns of praise while he clean the toilets and washed walls – he taught me a lot about worship).
2. Stop thinking Church as only what we do on Sunday…
This notion of “Church” really should be eliminated so that we can get on with going for souls and going for the worst! Church is NOT what we do on Sundays! We worship the Lord on our Sunday Sabbath day. We collectively get together on this day and sing, pray, encourage one another and hear a message…but Church is not only a Sunday thing. We we have this mindset that Sunday is separate from the rest of the week, and that “Church” should only occur on Sunday then we have lost our mission as an Army. Getting rid of this notion of “Church” will open up the possibilities that our Soup Kitchen days, and our Food Pantry days, and our youth program days…IS ALL MINISTRY!! Every facet of these vital “soup, soap, salvation” elements is another opportunity to share Christ, disciple lives and encourage the downtrodden. This is what Church should’ve been…and what we ought to strive to BE. Your congregation is NOT Sunday, but everyday – everyone who comes to your corps, who receives services, who asks for help, They are your congregation!
3. Create Community Not Programs!
We as an Army are so good at creating programs.
We have programs for everything – we even have programs for programs.
It is not the Army’s mission to create more programs, it is our mission to create community and save souls in Jesus’ name! When we aren’t engaging our community with the elements we are using, perhaps it’s time to rid ourselves of the Church of Programs!!
Programs can become our Church and we are so caught up in our program bubbles that we cannot see what families and individuals are truly in need of. We think, we’ll just start a new program to reach them, when in reality what every person craves is a place to belong and to find encouragement and feel that they are a member of the community.
4. Create an Environment of Ownership!
Lieutenants, Captains, Majors & perhaps a few Colonels & Commissioners – We must stop trying to run everything ourselves. Stop micromanaging. The Army, at times, worships at the Church of the Micromanagers and we must rid ourselves of this Church!! What we do by micromanaging is create a corps of dependency. By this I mean is the attitude or belief becomes “since the Officer runs everything, we can sit back and watch since they don’t need me anyway.” If you have doers in your corps, they will quickly become frustrated and perhaps seek somewhere else that they will be used. Stop micromanaging and start delegating leadership and other duties to others in your corps! Begin to create the environment of ownership.
Do you remember what Jesus did when they were facing a mass feeding problem of about 5,000+ people? He didn’t immediately take charge, instead he went to his disciples and said, “feed these people”. Of course the disciples were in shock and did not know how to proceed, the cost was too high and they only had five loaves and two fish. But do you remember what Jesus did with their effort? He multiplied it.
In a very real sense, the Holy Spirit will do that in our corps too when there is an investment and ownership by others. We as officers and leaders have to relinquish our drive for perfection and our grip on authority and allow others to be discipled and in turn they will own their shared portions of responsibility.
I know there is much more to cover on this topic.
What other Churches do we worship at that we should rid ourselves of?
We are a gap ministry, a safe harbor for hurting people to come and find a home.
The Salvation Army needs to rid itself of Church so that it can fully embrace its Holiness as a Movement of Christ.
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
What do you think? Tell us by commenting, offering your thoughts and opinions.
*Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions expressed here are the thoughts and opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of The Salvation Army. Reader discretion is advised.*