Dear Salvationist -Watch Your Mouth!

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29

The Holiness Movement is far from dead.
We, as Salvationists, have within our veins more than the figurative colors of red, yellow, blue…we have the image of Christ within our hearts.  Not to say that other Christ-followers do not, or that we are better than anyone else, but this message, this pondering is primarily for Salvationists in our world today.

We face difficulties in our communities and in our culture which makes it hard to be truly set apart for God.  The lure of many things comes knocking at our doors and begs us to participate, to comprise, to ignore this calling.   Is it possible to look so much like the culture that our effectiveness in mission is compromised?  Is there a line that begs and pleads alluringly to be crossed?  What of our attitudes, our hearts, and our speech?  Do these go hand in hand with our lifestyles, with our mission?

There isn’t a time clock that we punch when we accept this holy mission of Christ’s.  We are either all in or not at all.  We don’t wear the uniform to the corps but once it’s off at home we become someone else, with a different set of life rules.    We are beckoned to “go into all the world…”  We are asked to “take up our crosses” and follow Christ.  If we are to imitate Him in every way (Ephesians 5:1), then this includes what we say.

Confession: blah
I can be cynical at times (That’s not a shock to some of you).
I always joke that I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm, but sometimes that sarcasm takes a very harmful turn.  My speech isn’t always as it should be.  Words can become barbs that are razor sharp that can cut to the heart of people faster than any blade could ever penetrate.  I know this of myself.  I make no excuse of this.  Does that mean I wish to continue to the live my life in a verbal rut?  Of course not!

Dear Salvationist
blood and fireDo you have the deep desire to continue to grow in Christ?
Is there, within your heart, the Spirit’s pleading to become more than you are right now?
Are we settling for the verbal ruts, the bad habits, the inexcusable behavior?  Do we make excuses and/or rationalize these away in order to make them more palatable and accepted? I can tell you truthfully that you will never really know peace within your heart as long as you continue to reside where the Holy Spirit does not want you to reside – in regards to ungodly habits and behaviors that are contrary to your covenant or promise to Him.

Like our tithe, like our commitments to God – if we continue to only give Him a portion, we will never be truly satisfied living within His will.  What is God’s will for us?  Read Micah 6:8 again “He has shown you, oh man what is good and what the Lord requires from you.  To live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”   Matthew 16:24 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Watch Your Mouth!mouth
Be mindful of your mission field.
Be aware of how ungodly speech corrupts your heart and those around you.
What kind of speech am I talking about?  Not just profanity and course language, but (and more importantly) unkind words towards others, Gossip of any kind, malicious-hate fueled speech.  Words that do not build up but instead destroy.  Soldiers of this Army; more importantly Soldiers of God do not act this way…should not act this way!  Watch your mouth…it can build souls and help them become more Christ-like, or it can burn the heart and fuel it into hatred towards God…that is how helpful or harmful your words can be.

Questions to Ponder Today:
How can I change my patterns of speech?
Do I recognize those moments when my words become barbs and are used as weapons?
What is the Holy Spirit instructing me to do within my actions and my use of speech?
What kinds of changes do I need to make right now?
Have I settled for where I am right now or am I willing to grow through the direction of the Holy Spirit?

Something more for our Army to ponder on today.
To God be the glory!

The Fake Church – And Why It Needs To Die!

churchI’m H.A.P.P.Y.  I feel like I can fly, I’m going to heaven, I’ll get there by and by…
or so an old Sunday School chorus goes, but is that really true ALL the time?

Are we supposed to be happy all the time?  And if we’re not happy all the time – is there something wrong with us?  If happiness is the measure of our Christian faith, then I’m afraid to say that we have all failed.   I am willing to venture a guess that we are NOT usually happy every moment of every day…that’s just not going to happen.

pretendI think we do ourselves a great disservice in the Church when we pretend everything is A-Okay all of the time.
We sometimes have this temptation to “play” church because we want to keep up appearances to the false-fact that we have it all together.  Leaders and Pastors of churches are especially good at this.  We’re supposed to be the shepherds of the flock that we’ve been entrusted with – how could we possibly reveal that we struggle…too?

We sometimes run scenarios in our heads that sort of go like this:  “I must show them that the joy of the Lord is my strength, but I can’t reveal to them I have issues at home too.”  Or;  “Let’s just get through this hour of worship and then I can go home and wallow in my pain – no one understands me in this church.”  Let’s face it, we all know that pastoring and leadership can be a lonely place sometimes.  pastorsWe have to make crucial decisions, not everyone in our churches will like those decisions or even like us.  We struggle sometimes making real friends because it is hard to be vulnerable to members of your own flock, especially when sometimes some members have hurt you or stabbed you in the back with gossip, back-biting and malicious silly struggles for power.

I’m not condemning anyone today, I just wonder if this is all we can become as the body of Christ (right now, in our seemingly stagnant ways and phony pretenses) – or if there is more in store for us?

One of the hindrances of real, tangible church growth is also a two-edged sword:  Trust.
Pastors, Leaders and Congregants struggle with truly trusting one another.
It’s hard on all sides.  Guards are often left up.  Church-goers are afraid to be open and honest with their pastors; pastors are afraid to show any weaknesses or doubts in front of their congregants.  The two-edged sword slices both ways, and in this regard, it keeps us from truly experiencing authentic koinonia fellowship.

The Opposite of Trust is?  
Yes, you guessed it – mistrust.
If we continue to worship in the Fake Church, we will continue to wear plastic smiles, but deep down we will be a hollowed out building made up of cold individuals trying to warm a pew on Sunday mornings – it’s just not going to work.  Some have been playing this game for years.  Some blame their trust issues on their upbringing or their personality type, or timing, or….but the reality is we weren’t called by God to be a church of fakers.  NO!  We are called to be united as one body; but what happens when the body doesn’t work together or trust one another?  We get a bunch of people doing a lot of hard things but never together!

knife“But I’ve Been Hurt Before”
I get that!  I have too.  I’ve experienced the sharpening of knives in a place where God calls us to holiness.  I’ve felt the scorn of supposed “loving” church members (it kind of felt more like hate at the time).  I have witnessed leaders, with whom I had trusted, break my trust, burn the bridges and they stood there to watch it burn. I’m not pretending that these painful things don’t happen in Church – they do.  Should they?  Absolutely not!  But does that mean we stop attempting to trust one another?  Does that mean we put on our “church clothes” each Sunday and continue to hold up the facade while inside we’re struggling?  Absolutely not!

We’ve both been hurt a time or two.  Most likely (and I hope not) we’ll be hurt again.  This shouldn’t hold us hostage as Christ-followers.

I Believe believe
-I believe God WILL work all things for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
-I believe despite ourselves, He is still prompting us to be holy!
-I believe in the transforming power of The Holy Spirit – do you?
-I believe that forgiveness is a game changer!
-I believe that the only way to transform our churches is to be authentic in our struggles and real with one another.
-I believe that God still has work to do in His Church!
-I believe that the time for fakery and phoniness (if there ever was a “time” for it) is over – unless we want to die a slow painful Church-death.

stopJUST STOP!
Pastors, Leaders, Church Members – Stop attending the fake church!
Put down the distractions.
-Stop playing on your phones, stop keeping to yourselves, stop sitting idle in the pews!
Stop pretending to care when you don’t.

This may sound harsh – but it’s true.
I’ve been there.
I too have played the game…and it goes nowhere!
This is why the Fake Church needs to die, and die fast!
In its place, I hope we find an authentic group of people who care for one another despite their faults, issues and struggles.  I might be naive, but I believe such a Church still exists, do you?

Something more to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army – “Leadership, The Art of Delegation”

uniform4
What you are doing is not good.  You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Exodus 18:17-18

mosesMoses was trying to lead as best he could.
The problem was THIS wasn’t “the best”.
He tried to take on the mantel of leadership all on his own.
I don’t think it was pride, I think it was determination to see this mission through.
Moses was trying, he really was…but he was trying too hard.
You know the phrase “think smarter not harder”?  This is where we find Moses.
He was doing a good thing, but he wasn’t doing the best thing.

How often do we get caught in this trap too?
How often do we take on the mantel of leadership and fail because we face burnout and discouragement?   If I were to venture a guess it is because we try too hard and we reap little by way of reward for our efforts.  Could it be that we have failed to include others within our mission?  Could it be that we have become so consumed by our work that we have made it all about us instead of God?  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t supposed to be this way, nor was it our intentioned to make it that way, but in our efforts we have lost focus and we are experiencing tunnel-vision.

Dear Salvation Army,
we call it micromanaging…but we just assume it only happens within leadership and with “those officers and people at DHQ or THQ or even IHQ”.   We assume wrong.  We too are often guilty of micromanaging and failing to include others into the mission by delegating responsibilities to others.  When we fail to delegate, we actually rob others of the opportunity to serve and to experience ministry.  Think about it for a second, when we step up on the platform on Sunday and lead everything – who is getting edified by leading? The answer is –just you.  Who could benefit from stepping up to lead?  Who would be available to help?

The Screening Process:
qualityIdentify others.
Pick people who can support you in leadership and who will strengthen your mission.
Don’t pick people to help and then never use them.
Help to equip them to lead.
Be mindful that not everyone will be “on the same page” as you when it comes to our mission.
This is why we need to be careful who we select to help us lead.
On the flipside of the coin, don’t be too stringent on your selection process to the point that no one qualifies.

Replace Yourself:disciple
Remember that the process of discipleship – true, authentic, real-tangible discipleship is all about leading others to replace you.  You cannot carry this mantel of leadership all on your own or indefinitely.  Don’t be so prideful to think that you can “hold on” forever.  This is especially true in The Salvation Army when Officers move around from appointment to appointment.  Are our corps set up to disciple people to pick up the mantel of leadership beyond just the Corps Officer?  Is there an intentional leadership plan to develop people and move them into active roles?  Are we preparing younger generations to model and become the leaders that we so desperately need?

Discipleship isn’t just about delegating roles we’d rather not do.  This is a deeply spiritual thing to do.  What happens when we allow discipleship to occur is that we allow that person access to us –we become vulnerable to that person.  We grant these would be disciples the keys to the door instead of just peering through the window of our lives.   In the process, the mantel of leadership is shared, the burden can be lightened, the joys, victories and sorrows equally experienced.

Dear Salvation Army,
We are sometimes guilty of monopolizing leadership opportunities…
-Sometimes it’s because we feel no one else is capable.
-Sometimes it’s because we’ve always done it THAT way.
-Sometimes it’s a matter of pride and even arrogance.
-Sometimes it’s because the pressure to succeed is so high.
-Sometimes it’s because replicating and delegating seems to takes so much time and effort.

Moses was carrying this mantle, this burden of leadership on his own.
He was worn out, burnt out and spent.  He needed someone like Jethro to remind him that he couldn’t “handle it alone”.

Dear Salvation Army, do you need this reminder today?
Are you burnt out, spent and worn?
Have you shirked discipleship and the gift of delegation because it requires more effort?
I’ve been there too…sometimes I’m still there.
Perhaps this is your wake up call.
Perhaps this is your reminder.

Perhaps today we should take these words to heart and do something about it –
What you are doing is not good.  You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Exodus 18:17-18

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, You’re Not Qualified!

Unqualified to qualified conceptional words on whiteboard


“I’m sorry, but you’re just not qualified for this position.”

This could be a devastating sentence to hear if you were applying for a job or ministry position.
One might ask themselves; What does “not qualified” mean?
Does it mean that I’m not good enough?
Does this mean that I have no worth? 
                                                  Am I useless? 
                                                  Am I wanted? 
                                                  What’s the point in even trying?

Not being qualified could have this effect on us.
Knowing that there are others out there in the world who are far more qualified than we are…this has a broad brush stroke within the context of The Salvation Army.  There are far better humanitarians out there.  There are numerous philanthropic organizations who have Phd’s and world wide recognition for their star studded supporters.

I don’t mean to drag The Salvation Army’s name through the mud, that is not my intention (be patient, I’m getting to my point) here with this topic of “qualifications”.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  -C.S Lewis

God-qualifies-the-unqualifiedJesus walked upon the shoreline looking for the unqualified; He was looking for the willing.
Not the know-it-alls, or the scholars, or the lawyers or the strongest and best…he was looking for the willing.
Is it no wonder that He begins his search among the most humblest of places?  He called to the first would-be disciples and they dropped their nets and followed Him.  They weren’t the most educated.  They weren’t the brightest of their classes.  They were simply willing to follow him.  Were they perfect when it came to following the Rabbi?  No.  Numerous times Jesus calls them “You of little faith“…He didn’t call the qualified, no, He qualified those He called.

Questions to Ponder: 
Do you consider yourself worthless or do you lack self-confidence?
Do you feel unqualified?
What would it take for you to feel worthy of God’s calling upon your life?

uniformCan I be honest with you?
Most days, when I put on this uniform, I feel undeserving, I feel unqualified, like I can’t truly do this work alone…
There have been many days when I have been reminded by the Holy Spirit that I indeed am unqualified and was never called to “know-it-all” or assume command.  I have been called to be faithful to Him.  There will be days that many of us feel largely unqualified for the tasks that are put before us…don’t panic, You will be alright!  God will provide you with His direction, peace and provision.  Can we JUST be faithful in the moments of being unqualified?  We may never “have it all together”.  We may never individually command world-wide respect, but if that’s why we’re Soldiers in this Army, I’m afraid we’ve mistaken the mission for something else.

Guess what?
You’re Not Qualified.
I’m Not Qualified…
But God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies those He calls.

I don’t believe this is a cliche, I truly believe that God’s provision will sustain those who are faithful.
Stand firm today, dear Soldiers.
Stand firm in His grace and love.
Don’t forget that you’re unqualified, but also don’t forget that He has called you and He will equipped you for the battles, for the journey, for the sea of overwhelming tasks that are placed before you.

This is something more for our Army world to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Leading Through Grace Or Fear?

Recently I wrote on the topic of being a leader or a manager
Click link here to read: Are You A Leader Or A Manager?

Today I wanted to expound on this topic. 
Just because we are modeled after the military doesn’t mean we are now equipped to bark orders.
If we look hard at our mission and the purpose for which we were created, we would recognize that our mission is about grace and love to those we can reach.  I wonder sometimes if we forget our purpose from time to time.  Sometimes when power and authority is given to a person it can taint that person, make them “too big for their britches” (as my Grandmother used to say).  Power and authority, if not handled correctly, can cause more harm than good.  An added measure of humility is needed, as well as the constant reminder that the Holy Spirit is really who is in charge…and drives us to do the mighty work that we do.

Let me dissect this issue this morning, and I’m not saying this happens all the time, but it does happen from time to time in our Army and we need to be aware of it!

Leading through Fear:  fear
When a leader (Local Officer, Corps Officer, Divisional Officer, Territorial Officer) leads through fear and intimidation a few things take place – sure, the “fear of God” is put into those they “Command”, but so does resentment, reluctance in making any further decisions, and innovative/creative thinking takes a back seat.  This goes back to being a manger instead of a leader.  A manager has the tendency to micromanage everything and does not allow those who work under them to claim part of the ownership within the mission.  When the micromanaging takes place the workers or those subordinate to the manager feel as if the manager is lurking over their shoulder all the time and will pull back from being proactive for fear of not adhering to the manager’s vision.  You see when leading through fear, generally it’s not about a shared vision, it is about perceived forced vision that only one can manage and the rest must fall in line.  This is not a consultative democracy by any means, rather this model represents a fearful authoritative model of management.

Leading through fear might garner results, but it also suffocates ingenuity, creative planning and incorporating others into the vision.  As an Army, many of us have witnessed this type of leadership whether at the corps level, at the divisional level or beyond.  Sure, perceived strength in that “leader” might occur, but a stronger model brings others along to accomplish the mission not by wrangling, forcing and demanding.

graceLeading through Grace:
I recall one such leader in my life.
He was giving me feedback on my performance, and in the midst of his honest and candid critique he actually wept when praying for my wife and me.  It was touching, it was genuine…it wasn’t business as usual, this leader actually cared for us and wanted us to become the best leaders we could possibly be.   Was this leader a “pushover”?  No way!  He could be firm when he needed to be, but many times his leadership exuded a godly example of grace and love for those he led.

Leading through grace doesn’t mean subordinates can do whatever they want and there is little to no accountability, rather this type of leadership (not management) provides kind and loving direction so that not only the mission can be completed but a shared vision can be cultivated.

It is weakness not strength that dictates to managers that they must exert their authority and “put the fear of God” into a subordinate.
It is weakness not strength that commands respect, when respect is earned by working alongside one another.
It is weakness not strength that requires telling people what to do over consulting them and finding the solution to issues together in order to accomplish the same holy mission.

Let me say something controversial here for a moment –
The Salvation Army needs fewer managers who lead through fear and intimidation and more leaders who will lead by example and lead through grace!  Perhaps that isn’t so controversial at all…perhaps this is already happening.  I believe that the time of fear mongering “leadership” within our Army is at an end.  I believe that if we are to better our Army, more grace must be exercised.  More love exuded.  More honesty and ownership of the mission.  We cannot rely on some of our failed models of leadership to usher us into the present and future.

Some might think this is completely and totally directed and executive leadership, but I beg to differ.  This is directed at anyone and everyone who might pick up a mantle of leadership from the local officer level all the way up to the office of General.  How we choose to lead makes a HUGE difference!
leadership
So what will it be?
Leadership built on Fear or Leadership built on Grace?
Grace still has accountability.
Grace still has difficult conversations.
Grace still commands respect (more so than fear ever did).

I hope we all aspire to be the kinds of leaders that exude grace and love…let’s put down the iron fist.
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Are You A Manager Or A Leader?

Dear Salvation Army, many of you have just come from the mountain top while at Boundless 2015.  God is moving in our army is He not?  He has also entrusted us with such a great responsibility within His kingdom here on earth!  I feel compelled to write on this topic today for all of us.  A lot of what I am about to write on today comes from my own struggles…but I’m willing to venture a guess that I am not alone.

So here goes…
Photo Jul 07, 9 01 46 AM
The Parable:

Do you remember the parable of of the talents (or minas)?   The Master was going away for a while on a journey and so He entrusted his three servants with parts of his wealth to take care of while he’s gone.  To one the master gave five talents, to another two, and the last servant was given one talent.  Then the master goes on his long journey and these servants, whom he entrusted with his valuables, are on their own to be good stewards.

If you know this parable, you will know that to the servant who was given five talents he went out and multiplied the five into ten, thereby doubling the master’s wealth.  The second servant took the two talents and doubled it to four.  But the last servant took the one talent and buried it for safe keeping…(Matthew 25:14-30)

Leaders / Managers:
This is a story about stewardship.
This is also a story about faithfulness and boldness.
Lastly, this is a story about Leaders and Managers.

I would like to tackle the third topic today here on Pastorsponderings.org.
Managers are those who “look after” things, but usually their intent is to preserve not increase.  It is not in the manager’s “makeup” to invest or risk or to explore any kind of future vision.   For a manager, the risk of failure is too great, and so investing in what has been entrusted to them is not possible.  A manager keeps the status quo and does not upset the “apple cart” when change needs to take place.

Leaders on the other hand, take calculated risks.  They cast the vision for others to follow.  Leaders are good stewards of the gospel, they recognize that this “investment/talent” is not static and was never meant to remain static.  They go out and produce fruit for the kingdom.  They invest in other people.  Leaders set the pace for real tangible results that equate to success for the kingdom.  It is more than just statistical “numbers” on Sundays.  It is more than preserving the Women’s Ministry or the Men’s Ministry or whatever ministry…it is about developing disciples who will in turn make other disciples.

The road to a Manager is relatively easy.  They watch over.  They order.  They take care of “what is theirs” to take care of…but it is predictably easier than the road of a leader.

The road of a leader is wrought with conflict.
Conflicts about fear.
Conflicts about stumbling blocks and those who would oppose them.
Conflicts about change (even the color of the carpet in the sanctuary…really?!)
Conflicts about the vision.
Conflicts about uncertainty and worry.

soldierDear Salvation Army, 
We were never called to be managers within this army of salvation!!
We were not appointed in this army to bury the talents and to simply “hold on”.
Sometimes this happens more often than not.
Sometimes we fall into the trap of “holding down the fort” while we wait for someone else will do the hard work.
We are not should not be managers of this Army.
There should not be managers within our ranks.
We cannot afford to simply preserve the accomplishments of yesterday while outside our walls in our communities people are still in need of food, of clothing and of the good news of Jesus Christ.

A Call For More Leaders:
This is a call to all the managers out there (including me from time to time)…STOP!
Stop burying the talent.
Stop “holding down the fort”.
Stop squandering the resources of your corps or offices.
Stop wasting time by just sitting in your offices.
Stop pawning your responsibilities off on someone else.
INSTEAD
Pray, pray, pray!
Invest in the lives of those around you.
Set the pace for a mighty moving of the Holy Spirit by ACTUALLY believing He will move in your corps!
Set the vision.
LEAD!
Don’t maintain.
Don’t preserve.
Get up and lead!

Leaders are not static.
This Salvation Army is not static.
I don’t want to be a manager…do you?

Something more for this Army to ponder on today.
To God be the glory!  uniform4

“Undoing Church” 4 Ways We Miss The Mark

Sometimes I wonder if Church, the way it is right now, is the way Christ intended it to be.  What I mean is, over time the early “Christians” met in houses and broke bread together, sang some songs of praise and prayed together…but soon the incorporation of “things” and “elements” within those worship settings were added.  These things and elements aren’t a bad thing, but what if those things and elements begin to shape our worship so much so that now we have actually lost some of what “Church” was supposed to be in the first place?  What if  Church has become so mainstream and so institutionalized that we have lost some of its initial significance and power?

Ear Phones, Tangles & Church
If you’re anything like me you probably have some of these:earlying around your home.
They are really pesky to keep straightened out.
They can become easily tangled by just putting them down on the kitchen counter or in the dreaded pocket of your jeans.  Undoing the tangles on these earbuds is a necessity in order to use them properly.  If we allow them to remain tangled or if we yank them apart in frustration we will most likely break them.

This simple illustration is kind of how I see the Church today.
We’re often times just a big, frustrating tangled mess.
We have allowed some elements and even the institutionalization of the Church to become so embroiled in complications, rituals and non-biblical traditions that these sacred cows have entangled us and restrained us from experiencing what true “Church” is all about.

We think that everything points to what we do on Sunday morning in our very rigid “bulletin” format.
We think that what we do in these elements is what matters most…but if nothing translates from ritual to spiritual disciplines and real life application in our lives, then it is all for naught.

So…perhaps instead of tightening our rigid formats in worship we need to undo them.
Perhaps part of the dwindling attendances on Sundays has less to do with “worship styles” and “cultural distractions” and more to do with our complicated worship practices and formats.

I am not saying that we toss the baby out with the bath water…but perhaps the bath water is tired, dirty and cold, if you know what I mean.  Why do we do what we do on Sundays?  Is it because that’s the way we’ve always done it?  Is it because this is what feels comfortable to us?  Is it because we’re mandated by the powers that be to conduct our services this way?  Are we so tangled up in complicated knots that we wouldn’t even want our families who don’t go to church to come to our services?
mark
4 Ways we miss the mark: 
1.  Beating the same, tired, broken drum.  drum
I won’t beat up on traditional music, there is still a place for it.
Music is vital, but it is not our focal point in worship.  It ought to lead the worshiper towards what God is saying…it should never be a performance to show off the talents of the few.  The drum we beat that is tired and old actually lies in our format of worship.  There is this sort of rigid format that we follow every Sunday where we always have the message at the end, and before that we sing a song, and before that we have the bible reading…and so on.  It’s a worn and beaten path.  It gets old.  It’s a tired and broken drum.  Sometimes I believe we lose the significance of our worship if we don’t change things up.  I believe that we can lose new comers, not because of the content of our service, but because of how we – the long timers – respond to it in our own hearts and expression.  If the drum is broken, if worship is mundane and uninteresting, if we just keep plodding along like a tired mule on a familiar path, then, perhaps it’s time to change.

We also miss the mark many times because –
change2.  We fear change so we lag behind
We don’t want to upset the apple cart.
We don’t want to “break with tradition” even when “tradition” has nothing to do with the true origins of Christian worship.  So, because of this fear of changing, we drag our feet for as long as possible.  This is just one more rung in the clumpy, tangled mess of the church.  Sometimes it’s not so much culture that is prodding us to change and adapt, but it is the Holy Spirit who is doing the prodding.  Even then, the steeped traditions and tired drums keep being played without so much as a cadence change.  Our fear of change as a body of believers might be the death of us.  I might receive some negative criticism for this, but I believe it doesn’t make it less true.  I have said it before and I will say it again that I despise the phrase “We have never done it that way before” …which sometimes translates as “We’re not about to try either!
Perhaps, in the undoing of church, we ought to be less fearful of change and more fearful of not changing and adapting as the Lord leads us.

3. We fear change in our church because of what denominational leaders might think leaders
Dare I say that “undoing the church” isn’t only about addressing the fear of change, but it is also about addressing this misguided notion about fear of what institutional and denominational leadership might think.  I am not advocating anarchy or rebellion against leadership, in fact, for the most part, God has placed leaders in those positions for specific tasks and they should be honored and respected…but…if we spend so much time pleasing our leaders and worrying about what THEY will think or say, I believe we will have lost our way and will have only added to the tangled mess that is the church today.   Yes, denominational leaders set the vision and motivation for the churches but we in those churches must meet the communities in which we live.  We must be innovators of the Word of God.  We must please God and fear Him above all else.  We must move when He asks us to move.  We must change when He prods us to adjust.

bubble4.  Our focus is inward instead of outward
Another way in which we miss the mark is the internal focus of our mission.
We, as a church, can become so internally focused that we lose the great commission unless it means the “lost” come to our doors.  I find this inward focus to be extremely entangling and detrimental to our mission as a church!  We must be welcoming of new comers to our worship services, while at the same time be community focused and attempting to serve the needs of others.   Sometimes, when our church has been a long-time established we can have this air about us…that we are “amazing” and think “why wouldn’t people want to come to us?“; or even ask condescendingly (God forbid we ever say this) “well those people really wouldn’t fit in here!”  Do cliques occur in church?  I wish I could say “no” but as sure as they exist in schools, they are in church as well!  Sometimes these cliques are inclusive of new members and many times (without saying so) they are not.  We miss the mark of true “Church” when we lose the love of the “outsiders” and instead insulate ourselves inside our own glass bubbles.

If we are to “undo” Church, we will need to adjust these issues, and untangle our hearts.
Perhaps we must revamp our worship services even though we fear change.
Perhaps we must question why we do the things we do and what real significance they actually play in leading others to Christ and into a deeper relationship with Him!  If we beat the same drum and refuse to undo church, we could face church extinction…I don’t say that as a threat, it’s just simply the truth…and sometimes the truth hurts.

Something more to ponder today!
God bless you!

Dear Salvation Army, Are You Equipped For Battle?

“…for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry…” Ephesians 4:12

If you are a Soldier of this Army, you have aligned yourself with helping the lost, fighting for tangible change in our world, and it is because of the cross that we “march on”.

Read Ephesians 4:12-16
“12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
crest
Questions To Ponder As A Soldier of our Army and a Soldier of God today: 

-How are we equipping saints? (v.12)  
This is more than just discipling…equipping is the next step that goes further. What sort of weapons of spiritual warfare do we still need?  What are lacking?

-What is our “work of ministry”?  (v. 12)
What is it that WE as an Army do?  Once we ARE Holy people of God, what is it that we are called to do in and out of uniform?  How is that “work” going?  What are your current pitfalls?  What are you struggling with?

-How do we actively “edify the Body of Christ” (v.12b)
What does it take to edify the body of Christ?
Who is included in “the Body”?
Are there exceptions to “the Body”?
How far will we go to edify each other?
Where have we failed as an Army to edify the body?
What lessons can we learn from these experiences?

-Is “Unity” truly our goal as The Salvation Army?  (V. 13)
How do we bring this global Army together with all of its differences both culturally and socially?
How does The Holy Spirit aide us in this?
Can there be unity without His help?
Have we become stubborn and deaf to His leading for Unity in the body?

Today, this is more of spiritual inventory.
This is personal inventory.
Are you called to equip others for battle?
Are you called to edify the body of Christ?
Are you prepared for what that truly means?
Are you prepared to make sacrifices for Him?

I ponder this today, because I feel the Holy Spirit has laid this upon my heart.
I write this because I, myself battle daily with full submission to Him.
I write this because I too struggle in life and understand that I am not “there” yet.
How about you, dear Soldier?  Is there still room for Jesus? Is there still room for personal growth?
Are you fully equipped for the spiritual struggles ahead?

These are many, many questions to ponder today, and I hope that we take these to heart.
I want to be the best Soldier for Christ that I can be…I’m not there yet, I have room to grow, and I’m hoping that I’m not the only one!

Something more for our Army to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, When Leadership Fails

 “The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)

The calling of Samuel is a tragic story.
It should not have happened this way.
When we think of Samuel we only remember him anointing David at God’s behest, but many times we don’t think of why Samuel was called in the first place.

The short version:
Eli (High Priest at the central sanctuary of Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept) and his sons had failed within their leadership responsibilities.  Eli had turned a blind eye to his sons wickedness.  In a way Eli allowed their activities to continue by not dealing with the situations.  A personal/painful note: dealing with situations and sin issues is hard enough, when it’s within the family it can be even harder.

Samuel is called by God, because Eli and his sons had failed.
It is actually a very tragic tale that could have been avoided, but this story should also serve as a lesson in leadership, integrity and accountability to all of us who are serving Christ within The Salvation Army.

No, I am not calling anyone out…but sometimes if the shoe fits…

Heart Attacks And Leadership…
When someone has a traumatic cardiac event (heart attack), there are usually warning signs before the actual event:  Extreme fatigue,  a feeling of suffocating, trouble catching ones breath, dizziness, profuse sweating, a sudden flu or cold days before, panic attacks, chest pains.
-These are just a few warning signs that could indicate someone ought to have their heart checked.
Becoming attentive to these warning signs could potentially save someone’s life.
Ignoring such signs, well, I’m sure you get the picture.

Just as there are warning signs with failing hearts, there are also warning signs with failing leaders as well.
To ignore such signs could become very tragic indeed.

3 Warning Signs The Indicates Leadership Failure:

1. When Leadership Becomes Lethargic and Stale: apathy
When I say “lethargic” I wish to convey the notion that apathy and laziness is a real killer to organizations!
We, as an Army, have no room for apathy and laziness.
We, as an Army, cannot afford to NOT care about the souls of the lost.
We, as an Army, cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of people…EVER, regardless of who they are, where they’re from and what they currently stand for.  We cannot ignore this warning sign if it is present within our ministries.  Lethargic leaders are dead leaders walking.  Organizations and Churches have seen far too many of these leaders, we cannot keep the mission while entertaining such a failed form of leadership.  Apathy will lead to God selecting others to replace us if we allow it to become our identity as leaders.  Such leaders are not godly.  Such leaders will be removed.  Such leaders will be held accountable to God.

shallow2.  When Leadership Becomes Anorexic: 
You know the devastating effects of anorexia on the body.  It is a sad disease that robs people of their dignity and ultimately their lives.  In the same way, there is such a thing as anorexic leadership.  It is the “spiritual” leader that has no spiritual depth.  It is the leader that lacks integrity.  It is the leader that says one thing but does another.  It is the leader who isn’t willing to do the hard work but expects the hard work done by other people.  It is the wasting away of the spiritual body that leads to the death of the spiritual body.  Anorexic leadership will kill an organization.  It can kill The Salvation Army.  If leaders are appointed, who have no spiritual depth, but instead are simply climbing the ladder and are in search for power and personal gain, it will kill an organization!  It will kill the mission!  Please, please, please, note this warning sign, dear Army.  Anorexic leadership is very real and, dare I say it even exists right now within our Army in various forms.  Don’t allow it to waste you away!  Don’t allow it to hollow us out.  Don’t entertain such folly.  It. will. kill. you!

3.  When Leadership Becomes Amaurotic: blind
Eli, the High Priest, turned a blind eye to the actions and activities of his sons.  He was guilty because he did nothing to intervene and to stop the sins taking place.  Let’s call sin for what it is.  Let’s not beat around the bush.  If we see a brother or sister stumbling or falling back into old sinful patterns WE MUST DO SOMETHING to save them!  Dare I say (and dare I will) that if we turn a blind eye to their activities, we too are just as guilty!  The word “Amaurotic” is related to a medical condition of the eyes.  It is what happens when damage takes place to the eyes that causes blindness of one kind or another.  Amaurotic leadership, is blind leadership.  It is leadership that is gutless.  It is a “do nothing” leadership that does not hold people accountable and does not keep the standards high within the body of Christ.  We are called to be set apart.  blind1We are called to be a city on a hill.  We are called to be salt and light.  But what happens when that light begins to dim?  What happens when that “set apartness” is all meshed back up with the old sinful ways so you can’t tell them apart anymore?  We need clear vision.  We need solid soldiers.  We need solid officers.  We need solid leaders who can see even into the difficult things and not turn a blind eye.  If we lose the vision, the body will fall apart.  If we fall apart, God will chose someone else.  God will appoint someone else to replace us.

The Warning Signs & Organizational Observations:
Organizations can sometimes overshadow the mission, it can become too big for its own good.  It can develop so much that the “developing” aspect eventually replaces the original mission and reason for being.  Eli and his sons, lost their way.  They became too important in their own minds.
Organizations can sometimes play politics instead of practicing prophecy.   mouth
I don’t mean “fore-knowledge” like predicting the future.  What I mean is that a prophet of God is to be the very mouth piece of God.  One who speaks for God.  One who leads others to God.  One who ushers souls and lives to be transformed by God.  A mouth piece of God practices holiness and lives holiness.  Sometimes, I fear, The Salvation Army is better at playing politics than practicing prophecy.  I don’t mean everyone, but sometimes we can lose our way.  Sometimes we can become lost in the mix of “business”, policy, “law keeping” instead of life changing, heart reconciliation, “Holy Spirit moving us once again to our knees” kind of  practicing.

Questions to ponder today: 
Have we become lethargic in our ministries?
Have we become anorexic with our spiritual depth?
Have we become amaurotic with our mission?
I don’t offer this pondering today to accuse or provide some sort of “guilt trip”, I merely wonder if it’s time once again to kneel before Father with a spiritual check-up and possibly become reconciled to Him again.

God replaced Eli and his sons, he could very well do the same with us if we are not living as we should!
May this be a sobering reminder to us all today.
Perhaps this is a wake up call.
Perhaps this is a warning to our hearts by the Holy Spirit to continually seek repentance and live out His calling upon our lives.

-Something more for this Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, The Voice of Dissonance?

Is there such a thing within our ranks as a dissonant voice?
Is this even something considered?
Sometimes I wonder if individuality can be present within a quasi-militant organizational model such as ours.
Is there ever a place for such a voice?
Can iron sharpen iron without healthy friction?
Is punishment instantly doled out to those with a conflicting voice?

By dissonant I don’t mean a voice of extreme dissent or open rebellion, I mean one who has constructive things to say to the organization as a whole…is this possible?  Does that voice really matter?  Does the Army still need dissonant voices?   Will those voices really make a difference?  Or does it sort of resemble this:

200255304-001

I do not wish to throw gasoline onto a fire.
I do not wish to lick an open wound (I know, gross euphemism…sorry).
But I do wonder what sort of place these dissonant voices have in an army that often times spurns abnormal or divergent (sorry book/movie series) soldiers?

audioWorst Case Scenario of Dissonance:
Divergent, dissonant voices are expelled, sometimes publicly, sometimes quietly with little to no fanfare.
They are driven further and further away from sources of influence and squeezed until they either capitulate or comply to the common “group think”.   Hence the “my way or the highway” leadership model.  Decisions made by leadership within this scenario do not handle constructive criticism of any kind, and will lash out and punish anyone who raises pertinent questions that challenge the present leadership and its decision.

Best Case Scenario of Dissonance: mic
Divergent/dissonant voices are listened to, constructive criticism is welcomed in order to make the Army better.  Leaders still lead and make the decisions but welcome other voices to help make the organization better.  One can still agree to disagree but without the fear of retribution of faulty, insecure leadership.  The best case scenario is not the easiest for the organization, but would preserve its constituency while providing ownership to the “group”.   BUT…Pick Your Battles!
pickDissonant voices can become just like traffic noise if not careful on what battles are waged through constructive criticism.  Traffic noise is loud and indicate when someone is coming, but if you constantly live with the noise, it will eventually become tuned out and ignored.  If one constantly challenges authority and argues with every voice of reason and “unreason” that voice will eventually lose all power and credibility.   If you must challenge authority and leadership…pick your battles and make sure you look for traffic!

Organizational Questions to consider:
Are there times when the voice of dissonance is needed in our Army?
What can one do to ensure dissonant voices of concern are listened to?
How can we tell when we have become the one in need of listening instead of speaking?
Does this army have room to grow and to become better defined and equipped?
How does one know which battles to pick?
When does pride become our blinder and prohibit us from seeing the “big picture” or the “other side”?


Photo Mar 23, 5 21 28 PM
The Resonating Dissonance…

In the grand scheme of things, The Salvation Army was born from such a voice.
William and Catherine Booth began this mission because it seemed that no one else would.
They moved from the “accepted” group think into something new, and the transitional go between was this voice of dissonance.  Jesus was a dissonant voice in His day.  He, at times, upset the “group think”.  He challenged the “law”.  His way was obviously divine, life saving, deeply personal and yet salvation for the whole wide world.  How can we become a resonating voice of dissonance in our world?  How can we bring into the focus the need to become better aligned with Christ?  How can we align our harmony with the orchestra of God?  Can this army thrive within THAT voice again?  I believe that we can.  I believe that it isn’t too late for that.  May we strive to be an ever forward moving army!  May we guide the wounded hearts to Christ.  May we never stand in the way of His Holy Presence and His moving in this body of Christ!  May we use our voices both as individuals as well as an Army to make the name of Christ resound, so that hope is given, love is shared and joy, unspeakable joy is forever dispersed among His people.

Something more for this Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

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