The Death Of The Sacred

I have a confession to make.
Well, it’s really not much of a confession, more of a revealing of my nature.
Here goes, I love technology.
I love how it makes things convenient for me. My schedules are synced to my computer and my phone, I can create presentations from most of my mobile devices (of which I have multiple devices), and I can take striking photos and create beautiful banners that look like art…all because of technology.

The Dangers
Despite the fact that I love technology, I have become more and more aware that I can become too dependent upon it for everything. My car even tells me where to go these days, so rarely do I acknowledge or recognize the direction in which I am going – my mobile GPS does it all…well, except drive (but I can’t wait until it can!…Okay, I digress).

Despite all of these technological advances in our age, I truly feel like we run the risk of losing the ancient and the sacred. What do I mean by this?
Our attention spans have grown shorter since the introduction of cellular devices. You don’t believe me? Can you go an entire hour without looking at your phone, either to check for new status updates on social media or to see if that special someone has texted you? It is becoming increasingly difficult even for me to divorce myself from the tech all around me and I fear I am losing the sacred even in my own life.

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How about you?

Can you put your phone down?
Can you close your laptop, tablet, other devices without feeling the ‘itch” to check it again?

What do I mean by ‘Sacred’?
If you were to study the spiritual disciplines, these things that I consider ‘sacred’ would be:
Meditation
Prayer
Fasting

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Solitude and Practicing Presence

Study
Simplicity
Solitude
Submission
Service
Confession
Worship
Guidance
Celebration (In God’s Presence)
(Source: Renovare )

It is very difficult to do any of these sacred things when our attention spans have grown short and shorter. For some of you reading this right now, you might even get hung up on the word ‘sacred’, because some of you perhaps have an issue with the practice of anything liturgical or what some might consider “high Church”…needless to say we can become so distracted that the sacred has died in our age, or is in its death throws as we speak.

Perhaps the next question should be:
How do we revive the sacred in our lives“?
Here are my suggestions to help you with this process, but as a caveat to this, each person is different, and if you find that something works better than something else, do what helps you to revive the sacred in your life.

1) Make a list
Make a list of all the distractions in your life.
This will help you recognize the things that prevent you from entering into those sacred moments. Remember, that the elements are not the desired goal, but rather the fellowship with our Father in Heaven should be our desire. It is in the moments of the sacred that we encounter the Divine.

2) De-clutter a space.
After you have acknowledge and listed the things that distract, find a specific space to de-clutter and prepare. No space is holy, it is our attitudes and focus that allows us to tune into the presence of God. So, if a closet is the space you choose, the so be it. God’s presence isn’t fixed in specific locations, because the Holy Spirit resides in His people. The space we de-clutter is for us, that we might focus and prepared to receive and listen.

3) Sit in Silence (Try not to fall asleep)
I saw this partly in jest, because I have, at times, placed myself in silence and have struggled with slumber. Other times, your body is telling you to get more sleep, and perhaps we need to listen to that. A time of silence can help us enter into the sacred, although I openly acknowledge (as an extrovert) that this practice is much hard for me. Perhaps you will find it easier…if you do, please enlighten me by commenting below.

4) Converse with God.
You don’t need special words, or a litany of things to bring Him…have an honest conversation. After all, He knows you better than you know yourself – He made you, so He understands your intricacies and nuances. He is aware of your situations and the things you struggle with. Be honest, because you can’t fool God – He already knows. What this conversation does is opens our lives before Him as we acknowledge elements of it verbally.

5) Begin with one of the above mentioned disciplines…study, read and apply:
The last one will take patience.
This isn’t an instant gratification, fast food type of habit.
You must acclimate yourself.
This will take discipline and acknowledgment that it will not occur over night, but rather gradually as you apply yourself to this task.

The sacred is not dead…yet.
Don’t let it perish because of our distractions – at least in this generation.
Perhaps we have to eliminate the distractions in order for us to return to the sacred. Perhaps it is within our own busy minds that this war needs to be waged. Where ever the distractions lay, confront them and carve out those intentional moments in which we might encounter the Divine.

Something more to ponder today.


10 Ministry Tools for the Non-Musically Inclined Pastor.

YouNot all of us pastors have the luxury of having a full worship band, pianist and an ear for music. Let’s face it, some of us reading this article right now can’t carry a tune in a bucket…and that’s okay. We don’t all have to have the gift of music. Scripture even points out the various gifts that we are all given and appointed with (Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11), and just as the focus on speaking in tongues can become an issue, so too then use of music. Don’t get me wrong, music in worship can be most beneficial to the body of Christ, but it should be viewed as a conduit to deeper worship, not the desired end result.

Today, let us focus on this element of worship with the non-musical pastors in mind. If you fit this mold, then take note. My wife is very, very talented in other areas of ministry, but she will openly admit that music is not one of those talents.

There are many, many pastors in small churches or corps that do not have a musical bone in their bodies, and that’s okay. I want to help you find some tools to use within worship that will assist you and your congregation within and even around the conduit of music on Sunday.

1) YouTube Videos/YouTube Video Downloaders.
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If you are not musical at all, you might utilize a plethora of Christian worship music on YouTube. There are even Youtube downloaders that you can use to have the videos accessible in places of worship where WiFi and the internet are sketchy or nonexistent. Using a video on YouTube could include modern top 40 Christian songs, a movie clip, or numerous other topics other than just music.

Don’t neglect the power of videos and or worship songs in your Sunday services. Feel free to be creative and intentional in the planning of your service theme too. Caution: This will take time, so don’t just throw everything together on Saturday night and expect amazing results…intentional planning takes time and hours. We are all busy people, but not taking the time to find the appropriate videos and/or music, is noticeable in our services (I’ve been guilty of this too).

2) iSing Worship (app)
This is a great app that does cost a little bit, but is a tremendous tool if you have a portable device like an iPad or iPhone. The app is free, but the songs will you about $3 a piece, which is only a dollar more than what you would pay for songs you currently buy on Google Music store or the apple iTunes Store. When you buy these songs, you then have the ability to include all of the elements of the song (i.e lead vocals, guitar, drums etc.). So, for instance, if you wanted to lead the song you could turn the vocals down and sing with the music like it was Christian Karaoke hour. Or iSing worship could become your worship band in a box by simply hitting play. Be sure, however that you plan the songs you are going to sing ahead of time and have the words either printed or displayed on the screen for the congregation to sing along.

Just some of the songs I have purchased and used in my services.The nice thing about iSing Worship is that once you select the songs you want to present on Sunday, it comes up on the display in front of you with the Lyrics as you lead the song.I highly recommend this app if you are willing to invest a little bit of money for the songs.  It adds an element of intentionality into your worship, even if you’re not musically inclined.
3) Recruit & Delegate
One of the challenges for many pastors, regardless if they are musically inclined or not is the use of other people in worship services.   Do not be afraid to ask other people to help out, or lead elements of the service.   In fact, a shared worship experience with other people leads to a better all around worship service.  If you’re at all like me, perhaps you are a control freak and you want to ensure everything goes according to plan, perhaps we have to come to the conclusion that we must trust the Holy Spirit as well as other people.
When we share the worship experience with other people, we share ownership.  Be picky when you select, recruit and delegate people to these tasks, make sure you are selective and intentional.  Find people who have potential as future leaders or already established leaders.  It’s okay to fail or have rough worship experiences with these individuals, that’s a part of the learning & discipling challenge!
4) Utilize your Youth
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The apostle Paul told Timothy not to allow others to look down on him because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12)…the same can be said about young people in our churches and in the worship setting.  Use your young people, don’t discount their willingness and abilities to lead.  Teach them, disciple them as the future leaders by investing in them now within your worship services.  Have them help by reading a prayer, or scripture verse, a skit, or even by leading a song.  Some of your young people might be more musically gifted than you are – so cultivate that gift and use it in your worship service!Also, don’t let older people in your congregation overly criticize your young people.  We do not want to discourage their growth as future leaders, we want to encourage them.  Unfortunately most churches have the old grouches who grumble at anything new – even young people.  Don’t tolerate that behavior from any member of your congregation.  We need to disciple our youth, and this is a great way to begin to do that!5) Set the Stage (don’t neglect this!)


Regardless if you are musically inclined or not, we can become more creative in our church decor.  Don’t neglect the aesthetics of your worship space!  Take into account the seasons, the topics you are preaching on and use your worship space to reach all of the senses of the worshipper.  Use smells (plug ins, or spices, candles – but don’t let it become over-powering.  Use sites – place artwork up, or banners, build sets out of styrofoam and paint it…there are many links of Pinterest and other websites to explore and tap into our creative sides.
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Use worship songs at the beginning of the service through cd/mp3/computer…set the stage with song (even if you aren’t musical).
When we actually plan the scenes of worship within our worship spaces we introduce our congregations to a living and moving God.  The stages and worship places are concerts or performances, but there is something to be said about being intentional with the sights and sounds (and smells) or our spaces for the purpose of ushering our congregants into the very throne room of God.6) Worship Band in Hand (app) 80F2AEDA-13F8-4F91-9073-5EC1C971B0E4
This app also costs some money in terms of purchasing the songs that you want yo use, but it comes with a lot of features and abilities.  You get one free song included upon installation of the app, it gives you the opportunity to try in it out and see if you like it.7) Auto Pad(app) DB7C4580-E865-4E70-90EB-D6A043897404
This app will cost you $2.99, but there are many features that this ambient sound pad contains that could set your worship onto a new plain.  Perhaps you use this during your sermon and the use of tone and ambient sounds can deepen the worship experience.   Using such a tool might require you to include/recruit others to help you operate the app while you preach or read scripture.  Give this app a try and experiment with its use in your worship service!8) Lead a Messy Church instead!  messy church 2
Do you want to break up the monitany of the worship experience?  Do something different.  Some have begun to do dinner church, while others have started to incorporate Messy church into the worship experience.  Messy church can be a great way to reduce your music phobia by utilizing stations through this very practical, teachable methods.here is a link to a few that we have done over the years – https://pastorsponderings.org/category/messy-church/9) Conduct A Quaker Service7256EF73-FB9D-41F8-A2CB-50ABA8C4E724
A Quaker service generally is not focused on music, but instead the recitation of poetry, prayers, and the element of silence.   This type of service might be a stretch to many of your congregants, even more so than Messy Church because of the use of silence.  Despite the drawbacks, using this type of worship setting, but be just the thing your church or corps needs in order to have everyone dig a little more deeply into their hearts and minds.

Here is a link for more information on the Quaker service

10) Prayer Stations/Artistic Approach
20A21EF5-8630-4240-9045-86461F35EDE7Conduct a prayer service with stations.
If you want to get creative, you can go onto Pinterest and explore the many ideas expressed there when it comes to Prayer Stations.  This approach takes the focus off of the use of music and onto a hands-on prayer service.  You could quietly play worship music in the background through your sound system and encourage everyone to spend the next 45 minutes at the many prayer stations that you have intentionally set up in your sanctuary.  Here are some links to help guide you in this:
Prayer Loom
Thy Kingdom Come
Scrabble Pieces
More Pinterest Ideas

These are just 10 suggestions to help the non-musical and musical pastor a like, for the purpose of creating a deeper, more meaningful worship service.  These are not exclusively ‘it’ for worship ideas, but just a primer for more exploration and worship developement in your corps & churches.

Please tell us what you use in your churches that help to make your worship experiences more meaningful and helpful to you and your congregation?  Post your commends below, we want to hear from you.

Something more for all of us to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

What Are YOU Waiting For?

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” Acts 9:8-9

We probably know the story.
Saul was a Pharisee, who lived out his religious convictions by punishing members of “The Way”.  He was a devout Jew, and was very popular amongst his peers.  He did what he thought was right…he did what he perceived to be God’s will.  But he was wrong.  On his to Damascus, God intervened.  His truth was the light that blinded Saul but it also seared his heart.  A divine course correction took place, and the person known as Saul died on that road.  No, he didn’t die physically, but the road marked out the conclusion of that identity, that mission, that chapter.  To many of his devout followers, he would be dead in their eyes for he was set on a new path by God, that of which they could neither follow or believe in.

Those with whom Saul traveled with led this now blind man into the city of Damascus where we waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Whole sermons and sermon series’ have been preached on with this story – mostly focused on that road and God’s intervention and even Ananias when he arrives…but what about the waiting period between the two chapters?  What happened within the span of those three days?  I believe the soul searching that took place with this blind man once named Saul is just as important and has a lot to teach us.  This is not necessarily reading between the lines of the text, this is merely speculating, extrapolating and mulling over this human metamorphosis.  A blind man named Saul – Christian persecutor and sometimes executor went into Damascus, a transformed man on a mission named Paul exited that city with divine purpose, intent and a new found passion in life.

BUT…
What happened in those 3 days between blindness and commission?
What changes transpired there?
Is there something teachable in this narrative for you and for me?
I believe there is, so please allow me to share this with you now.
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“METAMORPHOSIS” 
3 Lessons from 3 Days of Blindness

1st Lesson:  Sometimes Spiritual Correction Hurts and We Must Do Some Deep Soul Searching
Saul thought he was doing what God wanted him to do.
He was fighting for and defending his faith…but he was, in fact, persecuting Christ.  He had passionately taken up his cause with vim and vigor and knew he was in the right…then God turned his whole world upside down.  He was confronted with his own failures…he was confronted with his own mistakes, and it must have hurt.  Saul spends three days of blindness not eating and drinking.  It is a sobering response to the Theophany he had just experienced.  Within the words of Jesus, there was a course correction and for three days Saul had to have replayed that scene over and over in his head.  He must have prayed and fasted.  He must have explored every action that had led him to this place, like a movie playing in his head for three long days.

I find it interesting that 3 days pass.
3 Days that seem like a real death and a real resurrection.
3 days of emotional and philosophical death until God’s messenger arrives to offer new life again.  In a very real sense, Saul is in his chrysalis transforming and arriving at a new physical place.

Do we have chapters like this in our lives?
Has there ever been spiritual correction in your life that has hurt?
God doesn’t enjoy hurting us, it is more for our benefit and growth that these corrections take place.  There’s an old phrase – “no pain, no gain” and I think it applies here.  If we don’t experience some discomfort in life from time to time we might remain stagnant and planted in incorrect spiritual patterns.  God doesn’t want us to remain there, He sees in us the potential for something better, greater and far more substantive that what we have settled for now.  He wishes to adjust our paths, and help us grow into maturity within our faith.  But we have to be willing to accept these corrections which, hurt, but are meant to help us grow…and sometimes set us on a new, more holy path than what we have settled on.

2nd Lesson:  There is Growth that Takes Place that Only Happens in Our Waiting on The Lord
waiting4Abraham was an old man before God’s promise of being the father to many nations was actually fulfilled, and certainly Abraham tried to speed up the process with his wife’s handmaiden Hagar.  But the waiting was necessary.

David was anointed as king and successor to king Saul, but he did not become king right away, he had to endure hurts, the loss of his best friend when he had ran for his life.  But he did not stop being faithful to God – he persisted and eventually the waiting produced the crown in God’s appointed time.

Waiting on the Lord can be tiring and frustrating, and we may sometimes question if God will really show up in our lives and our situations, but in those moments of waiting we grow.  These times of waiting produces in us perseverance, endurance and fortitude.  You might not believe that you can wait on the Lord.  You may question your own strength, but rest assured you are not alone – the Holy Spirit is with you giving you the strength that you need.  When we wait, we must recognize our finite while we wait for the Infinite to enter our stories.  Saul waited for the appointed time.  He wasn’t told how long it would be.  He wasn’t told who would show up as God’s ambassador…he just simply waited.

Are you waiting right now for God to show up?
Are you growing frustrated with the “waiting game”?
Maybe we will someday declare as David did in Psalm 40:
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him…”

Maybe we can declare this today!

3rd LessonThere is a New Chapter in the Future to Embrace, but First We must Embrace the Present. waitinghospital
Have you ever visited a doctor’s office?
I am sure that you have.
Most of the time there are two places that you find yourself waiting.  First, you have to wait to be seen by the nurse on duty at the front desk as they take your insurance card and all of your vital information.  Sometimes they even take your blood pressure.  Then they call your name and the nurse takes you through the waiting room door into a hallway which leads to another, more intimate waiting room.  Sometimes the nurse asks you to take off your clothes and put on a gown…and then wait.  This is sometimes the longest wait that you may have at the doctor’s office.  That uncomfortable time dressed only in a thin paper gown, sitting on an examination table while some elevator music is droning on and on in the background.  But we cannot speed up that time.  We have to simply wait, even when it’s not comfortable or the most desirable thing to do – we still wait.  Finally the doctor in a white coat comes in and then we get down to business and the present can then be moved into the future.

If we believe that God sent Jesus to die for us, that Jesus resurrected and went to prepare a place for us, then we already understand what it means to wait.  We aren’t in some doctor’s waiting room or anything but we must acknowledge that Jesus promised to return one day – and so His people anxiously wait for his return
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But what about the little things of life?
What about the prayers we utter in the hope that God will answer them?
What happens in the in between time of God encounter and fulfillment?
We wait.
Sometimes we wait and wait.
Saul didn’t eat or drink for 3 days.
This parched, blind man waited for God’s fulfillment.
He didn’t know when it would happen, but it WAS going to happen.
He didn’t know WHO God was sending, but in the present moment he waited.

Many times we might feel stuck in the present while we wait for God.
We might grow frustrated and even weary in our waiting, but let me encourage you today:  The present waiting room of your life IS where God meets us.
We might not yet know it yet, but He is already present and with you right here and now.  We do not need to pine for the future in a “some day” mindset when we understand that God is sitting with us in our present waiting rooms.

Saul met God, then we he had to wait, then when God’s appointed ambassador arrived the commission was given and a much transformed Paul emerged to do the will of God.

Are you waiting right now for God?
Remember this while you wait:
-Sometimes Spiritual Correction Hurts and We Must Do Some Deep Soul Searching.
-There is Growth that Takes Place that Only Happens in Our Waiting on The Lord.
-There is a New Chapter in the Future to Embrace, but First We must Embrace the Present.
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Something more to ponder today.
God Bless you!  

Walking at Midnight on the path of restlessness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I have another confession to make – I am restless…like pit of my stomach-aching restlessness.  Some days I can put my finger on it, while other days it is as elusive as an honest thief.  I am usually successful at pushing it back down, repacking that box that it lives in and stowing it away in that shadowy corner that I seldom travel to.  Still, I know it’s there…and it weighs on me as if an elephant had decided to perch its rotund bottom on my chest.

I wonder if you feel this way sometimes?
Do you have to push it back down as well?
Do you have to re-tape that worn-out box and pretend that dark corner doesn’t even exist?  Does it keep you up at night – blinking at the ceiling fan, counting the rotation of its blades as shadows dance off reflections of streetlights lit only for 3rd shift workers and insomniacs out for a stroll?  I repress the urge to join them, to open the front door and walk barefooted down the now cooled, uneven sidewalks as I imagine myself trying to avoid the spiny round pods that fall haphazardly from the large gum tree in our front yard.   I have stepped on these awful spiky seeds a time or two while walking barefoot down our path and even in the cool darkness of the night thoughts of the surprise pain causes me to recoil my feet from the lower spaces of my bed.

I wonder if David ever felt this way?  The pre-murder and adulterous David…the one that tended sheep and slew predators to the flock.  I wonder if he ever felt restless in his heart?  I am sure he did when, later he was being pursued by jealous King Saul and his men.  As David hid from cave to cave and village to village, I imagine him laying down on an uncomfortable uneven floor hoping to rest his weary head.  I can picture his deep sadness as he yearned for his best friend Jonathan.  Yet David trusted in God…but I would venture a guess that there were moments in which he was restless and he too had to push it back down and re-tape his box.

It is said that there is a season for everything…and yet Jesus told the people of his day not to worry about anything, yet I can’t help but find myself in the season of worry from time to time.  Doe that mean that I am not heeding His words?  That, despite my best efforts, I am not trusting in Him?  Perhaps you have thought this also> I worry, but Jesus said not to, and here I am still worrying.<  What do we do with these seasons?  How do we find the glimmers and glints of hope in the mess of our minds?  Sometimes we do believe the lie.  What lie you ask?  The lie that Jesus wasn’t really talking to us when He said those things, that it was just for the disciples and people around Him right then and there… The lie that we are broken people beyond fixing, and that the restlessness that we feel in the pits of our stomachs and the weight of our hearts is what we deserve for being fallen, sinful people.

Don’t live there.
Don’t wallow in that muck and believe that damning lie.
The son who turned his back on his father and spent his entire inheritance on partying, prostitutes and comfort found himself feeding muddy, fetid pigs.  Day in and day out he was covered in mud and pig excrement.  He definitely smelled as bad as they did.  He had lost everything – squandered a small fortune on foolish, regrettable things, and the stink of his life went much deeper than clothes and skin.  He lived there.  He wallowed there.  That pen of stench became his home for a period of time, until he came to senses.  As Jesus told this story of prodigal son, I imagine some who were listening felt that he was telling their story.  The prodigal son came to his senses, got up and devised a plan to return to his father.  He formulated a plan in his mind, he believed he would be unwelcome to return as a son, but maybe, just maybe his father would let him return as a servant.  Can you imagine that restless journey home; The endless loop of things he would finally say to his father in order to stave off the reprisals and chastisements?  As each dusty step led him closer and closer to the home he once knew, thoughts of doubt and fear must have crept in.  “Master, just let me work for you.” (For surely he would never be worthy to call him father after what he did).

And when this beaten-by-life man, who had squandered everything and had hit absolute rock-bottom crested that last hill, and his home was in view…he saw someone running towards him.  Perhaps it was a servant instructed to chase him off.  Perhaps it was a warning not to come any closer…he would have deserved such a welcome.  Instead, it wasn’t any of those things…it was his father that he had wished were dead, running to embrace the son he thought he had lost.

Don’t live in the home of restlessness.
Don’t believe the lie of shame and guilt.
Be forgiven, let your Father embrace you and welcome you home…and when you are finally hope, re-tape that box and then throw it away.

The prodigal son is me.
The prodigal son is you.
But once we have been embraced,
once we have witness our Father running to us,
Once we have been forgiven and returned to our home (where we belong)
don’t even entertain the lie or the box any longer.

But sometimes…we still walk at midnight, say hello, I’ll be waving.

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, Why We Should Get Rid of “Church”…

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.
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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…
worshipWe 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).  brass

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!
programsWe 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!own
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 keyeverything, 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.

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*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.* 

4 Reasons The Salvation Army Is Losing Millennials

 

I’ve been doing some research on Millennials…I happen to have two living in my home.
More and more I see young people reaching a certain age in our corps, perhaps around 16 – 18 and then they simply vanish from our doors.  They might reappear from time to time, but they never stay.  It saddens me to see The Salvation Army (and most North American denominations) experience this.  I felt led to explore this topic, not with any agenda other than trying to understand why we are losing such an important generation…a generation that will one day run our Army.  What I found was alarming, and I simply want to transplant some of these findings on The Salvation Army in the hopes that we can recognize and perhaps help stave the exodus of an entire generation.  I also want to firmly acknowledge that not every Millennial falls into these category, but a majority of those who leave our corps and its ministries perhaps might have the following reasons for doing so, (whether true or assumed truth by the one doing the leaving).  hello

4 Reasons The Salvation Army Is Losing Millennials: 

  1.  “God Can Be Found Elsewhere”
    GodIn a 2015 Barna study, nearly 39% of Millennials believed that God could be found elsewhere and one did not have to attend church in order to find Him.  This is troubling in that our Corps ought to be a place where God is very real and present.  Is He in your corps?  How can we impress upon our young people that God might not be tied specifically to our corps halls but to sacrificial living?  Perhaps it has to begin by living that belief out.  I wish to applaud those in my life who became that example for me.  Many wonderful officers and soldiers displayed their holy living through their kindness, grace and love.  Perhaps we need less rhetoric and cliche mottos and more evidence of belief in those mottos being poured out into our lives and spilling itself out into our communities.  No, God can certainly be found elsewhere, but is He evident in us?
  2. Millennials Can Spot Fakes fake
    We’ve all seen the televangelist on TV with the gleaming porcelin teeth and the empty messages of prosperity and joy without ever mentioning godly principles, character and sin.  There is a deep longing amongst millennials for the return of the sacred to our churches and corps.  The message of wearing a uniform as our only testimony to an inward change is not enough, we must enact that change and live it out.  This is of course true for every generation, and the necessity for Holiness in our movement is vital for all.  Thus, when we talk a big game but nothing ever materializes or happens millennials will spot the phoniness and run for the exits.  We can dress the part, we can say all the “hallelujahs” and “fire a volleys” until we are blue in the face, but if none of it translates into Holy living, you can bet that sort of fakery will be seen and once seen very hard to recover from.

    What Millennials want in its officers and soldiers are people who are real, people who are genuine.  They want to see real people struggling with real stuff and not hiding or pretending everything is fine.  This is extremely vulnerable for both sides:  to admit that though we live out holiness we still encounter hardships, doubt and fear.  Soldiers, be real…don’t put on masks, don’t lie when things are not going well.  Live Holiness out even when the ugliness of life can be seen.

  3. Hypocrites In Uniforms
    hypoCoupled with spotting fakes, Millennials are repulsed by hypocrites who preach one thing but live another way.  The “do as I say, not as I do” motto needs to die not only in the Church but in our Army as well.  If it exists, stamp it out, address it, don’t let it fester and lead to the spiritual death of your corps body.  I have heard of corps (years ago) who had bandsmen who would dress up in their uniforms just to perform in the band and as soon as their part in the service was complete they would rush out the back door and leave – what kind of witness is that to our young people?  Millennials have also seen moral failures in society, and perhaps even in the Salvation Army.  Divorce rates have been on the rise and half of millennials will be coming from either one parent households or having split their time in two homes.  Some have witnessed the effects of moral failure first hand in family members and most deeply desire to change that narrative in their own lives.

    Other instances could involve Officers and soldiers forming intentional or unintentional private/exclusive groups in the corps, and fail to include others seeking fellowship.  Perhaps some have experienced mean people in the pews of our corps and wondered to themselves “is this what The Salvation Army is all about?”

    I will guarantee that #3 rubs many of us the wrong way – good, because it ought to.  We should never be perceived as hypocrites in uniform.  If we aren’t inclusive of people from all walks of life, then we really have no place being an army of Salvation.  All are welcome into our services in order to experience the love of God.

    Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”  Matthew 6:1-5

  4. Lack of Ownership passing the baton
    Millennials want to belong to something great.
    They believe in charity, giving and helping people in need.  There is a real passion to serve within causes that matter and make a difference.  When we emphasize world services – they want to contribute and help out in tangible ways.  When we do not allow them to participate because they are young, do “don’t know anything” we are essentially closing the doors to their future in the Army.  Millennials want to have an invested interest in the Army – but how can we empower them and raise they up to lead?  There needs to come a point, and perhaps in some places this is already happening , that we not only invest in the younger generations as an Army, but we allow them to take leadership positions in our corps and relinquish our grips on some roles of authority and allow them to help.  When we grant a genuine investment piece for our youth, they will have a sense of belonging and a deeper desire to serve and to be use – because they will be making  difference.

    These are just four reasons the Salvation Army is losing millennials.  I fully acknowledge that churches in other denominations are facing the same crisis.  But for just a moment, let me ask you – What is the Army doing to ensure the next generation doesn’t flee its ranks?  What can be done?   More importantly, what are YOU doing?  Because our Army is only as strong as its members are proactively engaged in its mission.

    We don’t need to spruce up our worship bands, or make sure we have attractive looking corps or programs, what Millennials (and non-millennials) are looking for is a warm, inviting place to belong – is YOUR Corps that place?

    Something more for our Army to ponder today.
    For more reading on this topic check out these links:
    2015 Barna Study:  “What Millennials Want When They Visit Church

    5 Things Millennials Wish Church Would Be

     

    4 Things Millennials Wish the Church Would Be

    How Does the Church Reach Millennials? Hint: It’s Not Flashing Lights or Rock Band Worship

    *Disclaimer:  The Views and Opinions of the writer of this blog are not necessarily the views and opinions of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.” 

Dear Salvation Army, Is It Time For A Uniform Update?

Dear Salvation Army,
I see an inconsistency and I’m wondering if you see it too.
I have been to some divisions and locations where uniform wear is enforced almost militantly and there has been a real lack of grace when someone falls out of line.  Flipping the coin, so to speak, I have also witnessed in other areas of the country and world where the uniform is stressed less, and I would imagine not “policed” like others clearly are.  I have even witnessed territorial and some divisional officers in other places being publicly photographed in “Army” polos and other “not full-uniform” wear, or in casual uniform wear.  uniform5

I am most certainly not criticizing this practice, nor am I railing against the uniform, but I wonder if a shift has begun in what the army deems as “appropriate uniform attire”?  It most certainly is not universal anymore, and I am rather happy to see women being able to “buck the trend” and wear suit pants instead of polyester skirts if they so choose.  Is this also a trend that will continue until suit pants are considered for full uniform for Women?   Some might consider the staunch supporters of the full uniform wear to be old fuddy-dutties or too stiff in a swiftly shifting organization.  I am not so sure about that either.  But I do wonder if we should consider a universal change given the fact the times have changed as have styles of most of the world’s militaries -from which we were modeled after.  I might sound a bit progressive here, but why haven’t we adapting and changed yet?  Is it that hard to do so?  Beyond the rationale “this is what it is” can we clearly articulate why it is so difficult to change it?
(names of subjects separated by commas)
Questions to Ponder:
Is full uniform still practical?
What purpose does it serve to the world around us?  Do they see and understand what it is we are wearing and why?  Do we simply wear it because it is what we do?
uniform2
Beyond these questions, and the practical applications of uniform wear, can or should the Army be pursuing modern updates or allotments?  Has this already begun?  Perhaps I serve is a moderately more conservative part of the Army world than you, and you are already seeing this trend…help us out and tell us about it!  Historically uniform wear was cost effective to many who could not afford certain “richer” clothing, but the uniform costs today have gotten more expensive, tunics ranging from $200 – 300…these uniforms are not cheap and that historic purpose, at least in my “neck of the woods” is now obsolete.

Someone will inevitably write me (and probably criticize me…again) and say, “But you’re missing the point, there are far more pressing matters to address”  to which I would say you are correct…but then why do we spend so much time on the emphasis of uniform?  Others might argue that it is our witness as those who are Saved to Save (or Serve, which ever you like) and is represented in our obedience to the uniform…quite right, but it goes deeper than that doesn’t it?  We aren’t necessarily obedient to the “Uniform” we are first and foremost obedient to God and then from Him all other forms of obedience flows.   One wonders if the uniform is a detractor or an attractor for others to join our ranks?  I am not saying that I hate this uniform, please do not take that from what I am saying here, I am merely wondering to what end does our uniform wearing take us?  Why do it?  Who are are impressing?  The General?  Our Leaders?  God?   Of course I am being facetious here, I know why we wear it…but is this a general consensus?  Or is it part and parcel to something deeper, more lasting within us?  Can you tell me its purpose?  And do YOU believe this purpose is lived out in your use of the uniform?

So  I guess this pondering is two-fold: skirt
1) Should the Army consider adapting and updating the uniform universally (understandibly there are certainly culture issues at play here as well)?
2) What is the spiritual benefit to the use of Uniform in our witness to ourselves (Ecclesia) and to the world around us?  To the last point, the uniform is certainly recognizable to some places of our world and to the poor and downtrodden.

What do you think?
Tell us your thoughts, concerns, gripes, Ideas, convictions…let’s hear it!
Ponder with me on this if you will!

Something more for the Army world to ponder today.

5 Ways To Combat Salvation Army Burnout…

With all of the news of mega church pastors leaving, taking sabbaticals and burning out, I thought it fitting to discuss helpful ways that The Salvationist can combat burnout as well.  Burnout is real, it is not something imagined or evidence of a weaker person simply giving up.  We all face exhaustion from time to time, and we also face critical, stressful situations that leave us looking for the exit sign…trust me, I’ve been there on numerous occasions.

But as an Officer and Salvationist, we have a mission to serve, but what if along the way we face difficulties, discouragements, and suffer depression and loss of passion?  What then?  I can assure you this is nothing new, and many have been to this point…many have also walked away because of it.  fire

I will also boldly say that The Salvation Army must recognize some of the lasting structural inconsistencies.  The quasi military approach that once thrived is not as appealing as it once was to a very individualistic thriving culture.  Sometimes old models of leadership need to be challenged in order for real change to take place and so that we can once again get back to mission instead of policy.  So, right off the bat, understand the Titanic turning of a large, global organization (movement) is daunting and sometimes frustrating to face.

Harvard Business Review had an article that identified six virtues of a dream company, which was compiled by hundreds of business executives.  For our purposes, imagine this “dream company” to be The Salvation Army…see if these virtues match:

1.  You can be yourself
2.  You’re told what’s really going on.
3.  Your strengths are magnified.
4.  The company stands for something meaningful.
5.  Your daily work is rewarding.
6. Stupid rules don’t exist.
(Source: HBR Article Link)

Apart from the organizational issues, what can individual salvationists do to combat burnout while serving within its ranks (soldier, officer, employee ect.)?  Here are just five ways to combat burnout in our Army.  Take them for what they are, a primer that allows us to face real life issues happening all around us.  This is just a “starter list”…there is much more that can be said within this topic.

5 Ways To Prevent Salvation Army Burnout: 

flame1. Have an Identity apart from the Army
Sometimes this goes against conformity doesn’t it?  We are told to dress alike, be of one army, one mind, yet we are also people who need to know who we are as God’s children who are called by Him.  We must find out who we are apart from the uniform, apart from the mission.  Sometimes this requires us to take a step back and reevaluate who we are and why we do the things we do.  Self identity is vital to combating burnout because without knowing who we are we can become washed away by the powerful tides of stress that are rampant in any organization.  When you go home, when you spend recreational time away – be yourself!

2. Find Hobbies To Enjoy smoke
Not everything is about mission sometimes (gasp!), in order to combat burnout is a fast paced thriving movement such as the Army, we must be able to relax from time to time.  Some are excellent wood workers and carpenters and they relax by doing what they love.  If you paint – then paint.  If you enjoy geocaching, then get out and do that!  Find things to enjoy, to look forward to on your next unscheduled day.  Plan for these hobbies.  Be intentional in taking the time to enjoy them.  This will enable you to disconnect from the everyday stress of “work”.

3. Leave Your Work At The Office!! work
Seriously, we have a lot of work-a-holics in our Army.  That’s not all bad.  Hard work is wonderful!  But when it jeopardizes your families, when they don’t know who you are anymore because you constantly work, there is something wrong with that!  I would even go out on a limb and tell you overworking yourself is a sin.  STOP IT!  When you can, leave the work at the office.  This will not always happen, I know that, but when you can leave it! Combating burnout requires us to take drastic steps, and for some of us, leaving unfinished work at the office is very, very drastic!

4. Switch Things Up!  change
We all get stuck in ruts sometimes.  So change up your schedule.  Go for a walk, spend more time talking to people instead of staring at your computer screen.  Flip your schedule so that some of your work gets done at the end of the day.  Do something different so that the ruts are broken, and in so doing, you might experience a little bit of perspective within your day.  When you do this, take time to breathe.  I own an apple watch and I laughed at first at the new update on it.  It’s a new app called “Breathe”…what it does is remind me to take a full minute and focus on my breathing.  It was dumb at first, but then I started doing it, I switched up my schedule in the process…but now I look forward to that moment where I just breathe and relax.  Combating burnout in your life takes an effort to switch some things up.  So don’t just talk about it…do it!!

5.  Take Your Sabbath Seriously!
restThis, I consider to be one of the biggest sins in our Army.
Far too few of us really take a Sabbath.  Yes, it’s our day off, but we’re still “catching up” on work.  If God rested on the seventh day, don’t you think we should too?  Or are we essentially saying, “I’m better than God” in our actions?  When you plan your Sabbath days – TAKE THEM!  Don’t bring work or ministry into your Sabbath!  This is the time that you need personally to recharge your “batteries”.  You need to plug yourself back into the Power source which is God Himself!  Whatever that reconnection looks like to you, don’t take it for granted!  Get alone with God, find the time, stop sinning in overwork and do it!  If we really want to combat burnout, we must begin to realize just how important that Sabbath is for us.  It’s not just another day off, it is a day (or a matter of hours) to recharge and rest.

I know that there are other ways that will help combat burnout, what are some tools that you have used in your ministry?  What has helped you?  Why not share them here and help all of us as we ponder this together!  As always, thanks for reading!  Something more for our Army to ponder today!

God Bless you!

Dear Salvationist, Does Nepotism Still Exist In Our Army?

nepotism
From the start, some of us might shirk at the idea that nepotism still exists in The boothSalvation Army.  But we must recognize that even the Booths promoted family to places of authority.  William Booth viewed his Generalship to be something he would pass along to his children, and perhaps his children’s children.  Could it be that this sort of family promoting still occurs in our Army today?  And if so, should it?  Are there checks and balances in place to prevent nepotism in our Army?

Growing up in the Army, I recall many times where my parents were extremely cautious with even the appearance of favoritism towards my sister and me.

Speaking of Favoritism…can this type of behavior come into play with promotions and appointments in our army?  Should it?  Another question to ask along this line of pondering is – if favoritism does occur in our army – aren’t we then shortchanging our movement of possible movers and shakers who could make a difference, but some have chosen to choose people who are familiar and even safe?   crown

The argument can be made that we in the Army ought to trust and leave this up to God to sort out and perhaps these appointments are “His will”.  Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about that.  I have sincere faith in a Mighty God that He can make something that was meant to harm into something beautiful.  I believe God makes all things new, and He provides in spite of our own efforts and human decisions.  But I don’t know if I really trust human authority as I do God’s authority (nor do I feel we should)…for that matter what defines “God’s Authority”?  I’m curious what your answer might be to that.  I’m not looking for a fight, I’m genuinely interested in how we define this!   I have to be honest, I have always been suspicious of human authority in the guise of being 100% God’s authority.  It’s not that I’m overly cynical of leaders and authority, I just question sometimes if our personal feelings do not play into many of the decisions that are made on the behalf of others – and thereby we sometimes or often show favoritism.
favor
Submission to Authority
Does this mean that I do not submit to authority?  Absolutely not!  We are told to submit to authority in numerous scripture verses.  For example:1 Peter 2:13-17 says;  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority:whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Does this mean that we aren’t allowed to query decisions and ask pertinent questions?  Of course not!  It does, however depend on our attitude and motivation!  I am certainly not proposing that we become rebellious by any means, please do not come away thinking that at all!  I will say that as a leader of sorts in my own right, I do recognize that I will never please everyone by the decisions that I have to make from time to time.  This is the heavy mantel of responsibility and leadership that is thrust upon us.  It does take a toll, and I would ask you to be in constant pray for your leaders, whether it be at the corps level, the divisional, territorial, national and international levels.

Back to the initial question:
Does Nepotism and Favoritism still exist in our Army?
My short answer is yes it does…
But I would also caution anyone from making rash judgments unless you have all of the information.

favor2Questions to Ponder:
Does Nepotism still happen in our Army?
Should it happen?
If so, what does this say to those who aren’t related or chosen for specific duties or tasks?
How can we sidestep issues like this?  Is it possible to sidestep them?
What about favoritism?
Could showing favoritism diminish the ranks our ranks and morale?
Can we submit to authority and still question?
How do we reconcile some experiences of flawed human authority with the expectations of God-led authority?
Am I praying fervently for my Corps Officer, Local Officer, Divisional, Territorial, Leader?

I look forward to your constructive conversation on this topic!
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
*Disclaimer: The thoughts and views of the writer are not necessarily the thoughts and view of The Salvation Army, reader discretion is advised.

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