Dear Salvation Army, How Accountable Are We Really?

Last year (2016), General Cox set forth an initiative called Journey of Renewal.
This initiative has been created to encourage, grow, and tackle many of the struggles our Army faces today.  In some countries in recent years there have been horrific criminal events that have taken place, and in some regards this is the Army’s response as a preventative measure for the present and future.

I am greatly encouraged by this initiative, and see the possibilities of being truly transparent…but please afford me a small measure of cynicism too.  I am hopeful, yet I am unsure if this can, or will actually work.  (I really, really hope it does!)

I want transparency and accountability for all leadership. salvation army
I believe that this is not only biblical, it is also ethical.
Yet, I am unsure how this will be done from every level, when the accountability of all leadership is not currently in place yet.  Sure, there are the yearly reviews and the audits and so on, but how does one thoroughly weigh the performance of Army personnel from afar?

We must tread carefully as we throw the word accountability around, because, as this initiative states, we must have proof with facts and not just rumors.  Accusations and rumors can destroy leaders from every level if wrongfully accused, this we must be mindful of.  On the same token, our accountability of leadership MUST encompass every level of authority from the top down.  We cannot have true accountability until every rank, position and appointment are held to the same level.  We cannot sweep things under the rug for one and enforce disciplinary measures for another.

We also should recognize that every level of leadership is fallible and is sometimes subject to making mistakes.  A level of grace must be given while these measures of accountability are kept.  Without grace, all of us fall short of the glory of God!

Please allow me to quote a portion of this initiative from General Cox:  
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Being open and transparent.
The Accountability Movement encourages people to be more open and transparent. Leaders should not ask ‘why do they need to know?’ but rather enable an open, transparent culture of ‘why shouldn’t people be told?’

Salvation Army leaders at all levels should encourage people to think, discuss and debate how the Army can be more effective, efficient and faithful in doing God’s will in our communities.

Mutual respect and truth.
There must be a culture of mutual respect and truth-telling between Army leaders and those under their command. Developing this culture means that if leaders or followers behave badly there must be consequences. The General has made it clear that everyone needs to be held to account – but fairly.

The practice of complaining secretly or writing anonymous letters has to end. A new accountability culture will require effective processes to address the concerns of whistle-blowers – but allegations must be backed up with facts, not rumours.” http://accountability.salvationarmy.org/

I must tell you the portion that I am most wary of: “complaining of secretly  or writing anonymous letters has to end…”  I understand that there have been many forms of accusation in various places around the Army world, some legitimate while others slanderous and maliciously false.  One of the causes of such a practice in our army (letter writing and secretly complaining) is that there is a very real fear of reprisals or punishment for those who would cry foul, and the fear is this punishment will be handed out by leaders in authority.  Perhaps an officer has complained about leadership, and so without any investigation, that officer is either directly dealt with or sent to a punishment appointment in the hopes that they will then resign and then the “problem” officer is gone.    Our Army is very good at holding our cards tightly to our chest.  We are not very good at transparency, although at times we talk a good game…much improvement needs to take place in order to actually be transparent, and I think General Cox is right in talking about this and starting this initiative.

With that being said though, if transparency is to be fully realized there must be a level playing field for all Officers and soldiers (which I really hope this initiative produces). Some people in our Army do not have any way in which they can safely respond to improper use of authority and maltreatment.  Where does a soldier go to report the misuse of authority by their Corps Officer?  Where does a Corps Officer go to report the misuse of authority by their Divisional Officer?  The list goes on.  Who will really listen to them and actually take them seriously and look into it?  And if something is found, will anything really be done unless it becomes a legal issue?
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Please do not misunderstand me, I am not advocating any kind of witch-hunt in our Army by any means, all I am inferring is that everyone who holds a shred of authority from the General on down to the local officer in a corps should be held accountable in the same way.  Yes, the level of responsibility is different, but everyone should be striving for the same goal:  Christ-likeness and Kingdom building.  If another ambition or goal has been improperly submitted, then hold that person accountable and measure the fruit that each produces.

new accountability culture will require effective processes to address the concerns of whistle-blowers

I am very curious to know what “effective processes” actually means?
Dear Salvation Army, if you want to be truly transparent, then these effective processes will be explained in greater detail in the near future.  I am encouraged by this initiative “Journey of Renewal”!  I see great things taking place if this is followed through with.  If we want to see real change and renewal in our Army, we must make the hard decisions; we must confront sin issues and deal with them, but we must also do it with grace and love.  We have to take responsibility for our actions from the top down and the bottom up!  No one is more important than the next, and if we are leaders, we must be servants first.

Please pray for your leaders, the greater the responsibility of leadership one assumes the more temptation there is, and they face a lot more pressure as well.

May we hold each other accountable for no other purpose than to see lives transformed by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit and to witness the lost being found by a mighty, mighty God!

Something more for the Army world to ponder today!
Tell us what you think!  Do you think this new initiative will work?  How can we make it work in our community/ministry?  How are you already doing “accountability” in your appointment, corps, ministry?
Leave your comments, questions and thoughts below.
Thanks!

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Disclaimer:  “The thoughts and opinions written here are the writer’s and not necessarily that of The Salvation Army’s, reader discretion is advised.”

Dear Salvation Army, Why The Holiness Movement is Dead…

As with many of these articles, hear me out before you tell me how outraged you are that I would say such a thing.
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Let me start by asking you four questions: 
1.  What is your Sunday service called?  Is it called a Holiness Meeting or “Worship Service” (or perhaps even Church Service)?
2.  Is Holiness lived and taught in your corps?
3.  Is Holiness a focal point of your corps and it’s ministries?
4.  What is the thrust of your local mission in your corps/appointment?  Is Holiness a portion of this?
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If you can’t honestly say “Yes” to these questions, then perhaps we ought to see where the grave of holiness is located in your building.  The Salvation Army was a large part of the Holiness Movement.  I do not believe that our numeric and spiritual growth stemmed from obedient officers or because we had a “tighter” core group of leaders in our Army world, instead I believe we as an Army, recognized and believed in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives.  I think the crux of our present age is that fewer and fewer soldiers have this realization any longer.  Dare I say this is true for Officer and Soldiers in the corps.  I am not questioning our salvation, for I think this remains intact, but I am questioning whether or not we believe in an Almighty God who still performs miracles in the worst of sinners?
Mercy
Brother and Sisters in Christ, we cannot live and die by our seeker’s registry.  This is a tremendous indication of changed lives, but it MUST not stop there.  We ought not to simply celebrate the statistical measure of our seekers at the mercy seat.  We ought to be discipling those newly saved souls.  This is where I believe the Army has fallen short and is in dire need of changing.  There has to be more than just converting people to Christ…once they get up from the mercy seat what do we do with them?  Do we have measures of accountability?  Do we have saints who can mentor and disciple them?  Salvation at the altar is only the beginning!!

(Let me also interject for a moment that statistics can become a poor surrogate for a disengaged style of leadership.  What I mean by this is, statistics by themselves can be a helpful tool when used correctly, but a harmful tool when context is not considered).

I digress…

The Holiness Movement is dead because we have worshiped at the church of numbers and figures instead of at the altar of transformation and grace.  We have lost our movement and exchanged it for a growing organization dependent upon successful programming and business operations.   Some of this cannot be helped.  A growing Army requires more guidelines and policies to govern its structure, but at the same time I fear we have sacrificed our very soul in an effort to remain our country’s top charity or top nonprofit…but perhaps we have lost something much more vital within our DNA as an Army of Salvation.

The Holiness Movement is dead because we have exchanged The Holy Spirit’s leading at times for ambition, power and dollar signs.  Many of our sacred spaces have been relegated to tiny chapels with no vision for growing souls and more vision for feeding stomachs.  Please don’t misunderstand me, we do indeed reach lives for Christ by first feeding and clothing people, but what if we have become so focused on the feeding and clothing people that we have neglected the salvation?  What if we have, in essence, told Jesus to wait in the vacant chapel while we filled the box of food for families?  What if we have forgotten our hearts to God while we have been reaching out to man?

A Resurrection? resurrect
I pray that we can bring the dead back to life!
I pray that we would wake up and recognize the deep need of a Holiness Army once more. I pray that we would wake up and recognize that in all of our strength and power and might we are nothing apart from the Holy Spirit’s leading.   In my American slang, perhaps we have “grown too big for our britches” and in our pride and even arrogance we have begun to lead ourselves instead of allow the Holy Spirit to lead us.
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Make no mistake, the enemy, The Father of lies is perfectly content in watching us self-destruct in our polarizing visions and missions and efforts.  Satan would celebrate in our death as a movement in exchange for another social service organization or social club.  But with God all things are possible!  With His power we can come to life again in the places of dormant holiness and floundering mission.  We do not need more meetings to do this.  We do not need more programs to institute this.  What we need are soldiers willing to commit to prayer and discipleship.  We need soldiers committed to living lives of holiness, which is very contrary to the society around us today!  We need an Army mobilizing on Holiness and not just a march in uniforms.  There has to be an inward change before we can externally represent His presence in the streets!!

Lord resurrect our Army!
Resurrect this passion in me!
I want to be Your reflection
Resurrect your presence in me!

Something more for our Army world to ponder today!
Now, tell us what YOU think, leave your comments, questions and snide remarks below.

**Disclaimer:  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are that of the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.**

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 Officers, How To Find The Time For Ministry In 4 Steps

Dear Officer,
what does your normal day look like?
Are there reports to submit, bills to sign, checks to deposit, phone calls to be made, budgets to be crafted (or re-crafted for the 10th time), personnel fires to put out….?  Does that sound about right?  I probably forgot to add, routine maintenance to schedule, board meeting details, corps council action steps to follow through on, people in visit in the hospital, statistics to enter, important community meetings to attend and perhaps a club meeting to participate in…and THAT sometimes is just the tip of the iceberg.

Commissioner George Scott Railton once said, “God requires the duty. If its performance brings no return, that is God’s affair not yours. The soldier who has obeyed every order comes back from defeat, as from victory, with honour.”

I often mistake business for duty, don’t you?
It seems we as Officers and even Soldiers are so good at busy-work that perhaps at times we miss the ministry altogether.  We are very good at being soldiers and obeying orders yet miss the mark on pastoral ministries…and each one of us are pastors and ministry ought to be at the forefront of what we do in and out of uniform.  If we work hard and climb whatever ladder we aspire to, yet lose the “Salvation” in our Army, then we will have lost everything and all of our hard work (duty) will be for naught.

Here are 4 steps to help each of us find the time for ministry again.
I hope and pray this will be beneficial to you as you read these.  Most will seem quite obvious, yet actually following through on them intentionally will certainly be harder.
I also acknowledge that these suggested steps could include many more, yet for the sake of time a succinct list has been compiled here for us to consider.  Also note that it is quite difficult to quantify these and wrap them up in a nice red bow, so as you read, perhaps you will discover other steps that I would ask you to share with us if you would be so kind.

HOW TO FIND THE TIME FOR MINISTRY IN 4 Steps:

  1.  Recognize Everything As Ministry
    ministryAs someone once pointed out everything is spiritual, there should be no compartmentalizing of our various tasks and that of holistic ministry.  I know a financial planner in our community who makes a point of praying for every client that comes to visit him.  He has even prayed with me there in his office.  These prayers that he offers are not pithy cliche prayers either, but one can feel the presence of God while he prays for you and the present circumstances that you are facing.  He considers his office not only the place he draws his paycheck from, but a chapel in which he ministers.  Perhaps we have not made our officers our chapels of ministry.  Perhaps we get so bogged down by what is required of us that we forget to include God in those spaces in order to make them sacred.  Everything we do from the most mundane of things to the most important things ought to be considered ministry – not some laborious task to get accomplished.

    Martin Luther King Jr is quoted as saying, ““If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

    Consider each task ministry – from the least to the most important!

  2. Intentionally Pray And Plan
    We undoubtedly do our ministry a great disservice when we do not first intently pray for it and for those we will meet along its path.  Prayer should never be the last resort, but the first weapon in our spiritual arsenal.  If we aren’t burdened for the needs of others through prayer on our knees then we ought reach deeper into ourselves and explore our hearts and motivation. pray When we pray for each segment of our officership and appointment, we will find that our hearts are attuned to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  If everything we do is spiritual, then why do not pray in such a way?  When we intentionally pray and make this a spiritual discipline we will be better equipped to make the necessary plans that our ministries so desperately need. plan Don’t stumble into your day or week having now idea what you wish to accomplish.  Don’t wait until the last minute to pray for our congregation and those you minister to.  Keep them in the forefront of what you are doing, after all, the paperwork and reports are all because they are vitally important to you and to God.  Do not make haphazard plans at the last minute, throwing things together and hoping they all pan out…do yourself a favor and your soldiers a favor and make intentional, prayerful plans that will form and shape lives for Christ.
  3. Intentionally Show Up – Practice Presence
    cellI catch myself doing this, and I recognize my own conviction here:
    Put down the cell phones, put away the distractions…close the laptop and look your people in the eye.  Show up to your appointment ready to serve the Lord and those He has placed on your path.  Practice the presence of availability.  It almost seems contradictory, but forget those reports and the paperwork and spend time talking to your staff, your volunteers, your corps members…they are all members of your flock.  They will know if you are not actually available to them just by your presentemphasis on the “important stuff” that consumes all of your time.  I would imagine nearly 99% of us officers are guilty of this at one time or another.  Show up and be present.  Ask God to give you His eyes to see the needs around you.  Spend time drinking coffee (or tea or water) with those who frequent your soup kitchen.  Invest yourselves in the lives of people and do not stop with those who wear our uniform and within whom we already know.  Step out of your comfort zone and be available to listen, serve and love.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5AkNqLuVgY

  4. Focus On Lives Not Numbers!
    statsThis step goes hand in hand with #3.
    Be mindful that our “end game” is not filling the statistics with numerical growth.
    If our sole focus is on building our Sunday stats with attendees then all that we will be focused on in church invitations and getting people through the doors of “Sunday Church”….have you stopped to consider that EVERYTHING we do is Church?  Have you considered that perhaps your biggest ministry isn’t on Sunday morning but during the week when you encounter broken people earnestly seeking help?  These are members of your flock that often get taken for granted.  They may never ever darken the doors of a traditional church, but 9 times out of 10 they call The Salvation Army their church home because we feed them on a regular basis and there are people who care for them.  Focus on individual lives of people, how to reach them, pray for them and with them.  Care about them…forget numbers, numbers will take care of itself if we are loving people and earnestly placing their needs at the foot of Christ.

    Evangeline Booth once said, “It is not how many years we live, but what we do with them.”  Allow me to adjust this quote to fit you the Officer today, and I do not think this loses any emphasis in doing so:    “It is not how many years of service you have, but what you do with them.”
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    Something more for our Army and our Officers to consider today.
    Blessings!

    Please tell us what you think and offer additional steps you might offer in addition to these.  Thank you!

    *Disclaimer:  The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are the writer’s thoughts and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and thoughts of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.*

Dear Salvation Army Officers: 4 Reasons Not To Leave Officership

**This blog entry is Officer specific, but this can be applied to soldiers as well! **

Dear Salvation Army Officer who is on the verge of resigning…this is for you.
Stop and consider these words before you make that phone call or write that email or letter.  I know that officership is hard.  Ministry in general is hard.  We sometimes face pressures from many different places – the corps, headquarters, a disgruntled employee or volunteer, a public figure who you don’t see eye to eye with.  It seems as if almost every area of ministry we find opposition.  There are certainly joys in ministry as well, but for a few minutes let me highlight 4 reason NOT to leave officership!  First of all, if you were called into this ministry by God these next four reasons I list below should be reasons that you stay and fight for not only This army, but for your purpose as an officer!

  1. boss Bullies
    Bullies come in all shapes and sizes.  Bullies in the community that push around people who come to your corps.  There might be bullies IN your corps.  You might encounter bullies at your headquarters by way of department heads or even the occasional leader.  Unfortunately, bullies do not discriminate, and if you are making waves for Christ in what you do, then you will most likely encounter these bullies.  Never leave the Army because you encountered a bully.  The Army isn’t just compromised of people – we don’t stay because we necessarily always like each other either, and we might not always agree with each other.   No, instead we stay because we believe in this movement as an Army despite people sometimes….even other officers or leaders who have hurt you or done things that were ungodly to you.  Do not leave these ranks because of bullies within them or in your appointment.  Stand up, unite with other like minded officers and soldiers and find your strength to fight on.I cannot stand a bully, especially a bully with any ounce of power.  Most bullies are weak minded, power hungry, insecure individuals.  I feel, even in this army we tolerate this kind of person more than we should instead of dealing with them directly.  Many an officer has either considered leaving or has left because of how a bully has treated them.  I also say this to any officer who would take up a mantel of leadership:  fight for the little guy, remember what corps were like, understand how each soldier feels when they come to you for help…don’t lose sight of the army’s mission as a mighty movement known as The Salvation Army!
  2. Politics:
    Do not leave these ranks because of church politics.  politicsEvery church has these political decisions that we may not always agree with.  At the end of the day our Army is still run by people who are imperfect.  I would say that most are here for the right reasons and that decisions made from the corps level on up to IHQ have been made with much prayer and careful thought.  Have there been instances of personal kingdom making in the army through politicing?  YES of course, but do not allow these small instances to disillusion you and make you resign your commission as an officer!  Also keep in mind that what we might perceive as bad politics, might be something that is aimed at a long range vision for our mission.  Pray for your corps.  Pray for your leaders.  Pray for those instances when church politics does not have your best interest in mind.  Ask God to help you to not only be a holy force for change in the Army, but that you might show mercy and grace in the process.  You can be a change agent in the Army if you remain and fight…so fight on!
  3. Favoritism: favoritism
    Just as politics happens in all organizations and churches, so does favoritism.  It is sometimes ugly, painful, and wrong…but it can happen.  I’m not saying that it always does happen, but when it does don’t allow this to be the deciding factor in your exit strategy as an officer!  It happened in the early church and it still happens in all levels of the Army.  There are many godly men and women who fight against this and are principled in stopping these kinds of things, but know that it may still occur from time to time.  Be aware of favoritism when it happens, but don’t be bothered by it.  Move on, remember your calling isn’t first to leadership or even the Army, it is to God…so be faithful to that, be consistent to that and do your very best for the Lord.  His favor will always shine on the faithful!  Keep on keeping on!
  4. Perceptions:
    perceptionDespite how others might “perceive” you or use the term “perception”, do not allow it to discourage you or cause you to quit.  If you are a kingdom builder, then you will face the occasional criticism or erroneous perception of you.  Use a discernment filter in your mind to filter out what is truth and what is perceived truth – these words are not mutually exclusive or even the same.   If a perception is true then perhaps the Holy Spirit is working on you through others, if the perception is not true, then do not allow it to consume you with discouragement which could lead to your early exit via a letter of resignation.
    perceptUse two measures of truth:

    Titus 1:7 – “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,”

    Micah 6:8 – “He has told you, O man, what is good;
        and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
        and to walk humbly with your God?”

    If we apply these two passages of truth in our lives then other people’s opinions and perceptions of us (even those within the leadership spectrum) will either be true or untrue.  If we are above reproach, if we are humble and a lover of mercy, then we will take perceptions of us with a grain of salt, and allow the untruths to roll off of our backs like water on a duck.

    Stand firm, dear Officer.  
    You are vitally important to this movement!  You have not signed your allegiance to any one person in the army, nor will you be moved by any one poor example listed above!  Know that we as an army will sometimes become more concerned with our inner struggles that we will lose sight of our mission and vision for the World.  So look up, keep your focus on the outcomes of the good that you are doing.  Work hard.  Take your days of respite and self-care.  Pray for your appointments, the people in them, those you encounter in our community, pray also for your leaders and the leadership of this global army.  We do not need more officers walking out frustrated, worn out and feeling crushed…no, we need more weathered officers who will stand firm, fight hard and not giving up or caving to the trappings of an ever growing and progressing army!

    Something more for our Army to ponder today.
    May God continue to bless you, dear Officer!

    *Disclaimer:  The opinions and thoughts expressed here are not necessarily the opinions and thoughts of The Salvation Army, but rather the opinions and thoughts of this writer.  Reader discretion is advised.*

Dear Salvation Army, 5 Practical Ways To Engage The UnChurched?

Dear Salvation Army,
are we playing church when we should be engaging our community?  Is there a difference?  We understand that our ministry and movement is not strictly “Church”, it is really Gap ministry and the front lines of reaching the unchurched.  There are plenty of churches that minister to Christians, but how many movements are there that do 90% outreach to a majority of the unchurched in our culture today?

There is the temptation to want to peer over the fence at growing churches and mega churches that boast hundreds or thousands of members and wish we could become them…but is that really what we as The Salvation Army was created to be?  Is it all about numbers and/or attendance?  Why do we continue to buy into the erroneous notion that we have to look and appear like other churches from other denominations?

The truth of the matter is if we are striving to look like other Churches who predominantly minister to middle to upper class Christian people, we will surely fail – because that was never our vision or mission as an Army.

Questions:  
So WHO are we?
How do we maintain this Movement?
Are there times where we must realign our mission?
5 Practical Ways to Engage The Unchurched: 

1) It’s about Relationship and Trust! 
You cannot actively engage the unchurched if you only see them as statistics on your attendance sheet.  Would be new comers can sense a scheme or disingenuous’friendliness’ a mile away.    If you as an Army are to reach unchurched people, you have to be sincere, honest, genuine and make a concerted effort to meet people at where they are at.  You cannot expect people to change overnight if they have never been in a church ever in their lives!  Love them.  Display Christ to them in your actions…but true engagement comes when you first go to them and build a relationship and level of trust.

2) Study your community and fill a need! 
Are there a lot of single mothers in your neighborhood?  Perhaps build on that need and fill it in some way – offer support and helps!  Is there an influx of teenagers in your neighborhood?  Cater your ministry to meet these unchurched youth.  Become a student of your neighborhood.  Learn what that neighborhood or community truly needs.  Pray about it.  Ask God to show you, and then stay in tune so that when He does show you – you will be prepared to act.  Without learning about your community, you will not be able to actively engage it or truly reach the unchurched.  This can be dirty work – by that I don’t mean to insinuate that unchurched people are dirty, not at all, what I mean is you have to meet individuals – talk to them, and yes, you will meet a lot of people who come from hard-living lifestyles.  So roll up your sleeves and get to work!

3) Break the mold of what Sunday “church” looks like!
We as an Army have even developed what Sunday “Church” should look like.
We have a set format for it.
We have developed habits and sometimes ruts in our services.
It becomes the HOW of our identity… but is this the most effective way of reaching the unchurched?  I would dare you as Soldiers and Officers to move beyond what we think “Church” should feel and look like.  Get beyond the chapel from time to time.  Stop printing a bulletin one Sunday and see who gets bent out of shape by it = this is further evidence that we are stuck in the “church” rut of looking like other churches when we are not them.

Consider doing Messy Church one Sunday a month.
Maybe meet in a different place in your corps (if it’s big enough), or meet at the quarters on Sunday evenings for a fellowship.  Reshape how you do “Church”, because if we truly believe that we are NOT a Church, then why are we continually attempting to look like a church?  What matters more: we do all the right elements of church or we engage with real-life issues in intensive spiritually focused fellowship, discussion and discovery?

4) Create a buy-in and celebrate the small steps!


When we engage the non-Christian or unchurched – there has to be a buy-in.
Why do you want them to become a part of your Corps?  It sounds selfish, but what’s in it for them?  Why would you want to go to your corps?  What holds it all together?  When you can answer those questions you will begin to grasp the true buy-in for a new comer to become actively engaged.  Also know that there is no full-proof method and success rate.  We will fail at times in engaging people for Christ.  This will happen because of free will and choice.  You can’t force someone to attend your corps, but you can make attending your corps inviting, friendly and accepting if you create an intentional environment of welcome for all who come to your doors!

The second component to this is setting goals and celebrating successes.
Set goals and steps for your corps to meet.
Challenge each member to make connections.
Be realistic and authentic…and don’t emphasize the Forrest for the trees.
Set smaller steps so that every member can become engaged and celebrate when those steps are accomplished!

5) Talk About Real Issues And Be Honest!
Don’t hide from controversial topics or taboo topics in your corps.
The real issues facing people outside your walls need to be discussed and talked about inside your corps.  Don’t create a bubble that pretends everything is peachy-keen when outside people are dying from drug abuse and alcoholism.  Speak about these issues.  Hold a neighborhood meeting.  Be a mover and changer in your community!  Don’t shy away from the tough topics, but be available to provide a safe harbor to those who are caught up in lifestyles that troubling and hurting others.  When we talk about the problems and issues…when we engage in them- people in your community who are unchurched will see a buy-in and will want to help.  When you add them to your forces you are creating a space in which you can actively engage Christ to them through relationship and common purpose.

These are just practical ways to engage in the unchurched.
I would like to note that I do not use the term “unchurched” in any derogatory way.  I know it can create a label, and I would caution us not to call anyone “unchurched” but rather identify them as would-be disciples of Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Dear Salvation Army – Letters From Prison

Life in The Salvation Army is always unique and eventful.  There is something new each day, and these “somethings” can be good, and they can also be not so good.  This ministry and mission that we engage in here in our Army is truly frontlines and gap ministries.  It is with this “gap” ministry in mind that I tell you this story:

I had been feeling very discouraged in serving in The Salvation Army recently.
The busyness of this appointment had begun to frustrate me – far too many reports to complete, too much desk work and not enough human contact in mission.  I had been fighting with policy, rules, regulations…all of the tedious hoops we all have to jump through as Officers in a very far-reaching Army.  Have you ever been there?  Feeling bogged down by stuff and instead of pursuing mission you find yourself pushing paperwork?  That’s where I was when something connected and resonated in me through our soup kitchen and social services…

Our soup kitchen is a thoroughfare to many who are in need, some by choice, others by crisis – all are looking to fill their bellies while sipping on cups of hot coffee and sharing in conversation.  This is a safe haven to a large number who are either living on the street, crisis poverty or habitual poverty.  All are welcomed here, and in a very practical sense, the gap is tended by stalwart soldiers and friends of this army.

I recently received a letter in the mail that was not an ordinary letter.  On the front of the envelop, in bright crimson stamped lettering it read: “Inmate Mail”.  I was intrigued, what could it be about?  So I carefully tore the envelop open and inside I found a hand-written note on a blue lined page.  This individual, now inmate, wrote her letter addressed to: prisonDear Salvation Army” (How fitting I thought).   First she expressed deep gratitude for us being there for her even when she was hurting herself with the abuse of alcohol and drugs.  She was a meth addict and because of her addiction she committed some crimes and ended up being incarcerated.  She continued to describe her dire situation of homelessness and utter hopelessness.  She was more imprisoned outside on her own then she is now.  Her letter ended with these words:  “Because of your soup kitchen, food pantry and your clothing donations, I was able to survive.  Your church gave me life everyday – Thank you for showing me, loving me, and sharing with me the love of Jesus Christ.
hope2
My Dear Salvation Army, this is what our existence is about!  This is who we are!  We must mind the gap!  We must tend the very gates of Hell in order to pull hopeless people like this one from total self-destruction.  We cannot sit by and watch when no one else will help.  Action must be taken daily!  Sometimes we might even feel as if what we do has no effect in our community, and then letters like this appear at our doorsteps.  If I can be honest with you, I have felt defeated many times in my attempts to reach people for Christ.  I have felt the sting of rejection as the gospel has been presented.  I have heard the laughs and the words of mockery.  Perhaps, like me, you needed some reassurances that what we do still matters…IT DOES!
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ONWARD:
Let me, for what it’s worth, offer these words of encouragement and direction:
-Keep Fighting the good fight!
-Do not give up on doing these good works for those you serve!
-This movement and mission IS making a difference!
-Even though you may not always see it, God sees your faithfulness and you must find your reward first in HIM.
-Do everything without grumbling and complaining (Philippians 2:14a) – (I am preaching to myself first and foremost)
-Every effort for service should be done with love, kindness and grace – you never know whose life you will reach, so be consistent and faithful to God in your service!
hope3
The Salvation Army doesn’t exist for the purpose of maintain status quo and pushing paperwork – it exists so that people like this inmate who wrote this letter might find Christ.  This Salvation Army exists to be a lighthouse to a turbulent sea full of lost people struggling to get to shore.  This Army exists so that homeless people and pariahs in society might also have a chance to meet their Savior.  The words of General John Gowens still ring in my head when he said,  “Mind the Gap!”   We must still call others to mind this gap…and we must be vigilant in our mission as the Lighthouse shining out into the waters of desperation, depression, addictions, abject poverty and all the other ‘gaps’ that exist that would claim all who fall into them.

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

*Disclaimer: The opinions and thoughts expressed here are the opinions of the writer of pastorsponderings and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and thoughts of the Salvation Army, reader discretion is advised.*

Dear Salvation Army – 5 Truths About Sacrificial Living…

We are an army that is non-sacramental – I  believe this, but we must actually embrace and preach/teach the necessity for real, authentic sacrificial living its soldiership.  Without this crucial component of sacrificial living, we will have not only rejected ritual observations of the Church by way of communion and other such practices, we will have neglected the true essence of Christ himself (who was without sin, yet suffered and died for us).  If we are to be Holy as He is Holy, we must become like Him in every way – which includes sacrificial living. The season of Lent is upon us, and although we do not practice much of the traditional Church practices within Lent, we would be remiss if we did not explore this extremely important topic of Sacrificial Living.

But First let us clarify what Sacrificial Living is not:
It is NOT:  
-A great display and sanctimonious actions for others to see you and know your piousness and holiness.
-A ploy for promotion or power play for position or status.
-A means to compete with other soldiers and prove who is “holiest”
-A means to fool the world – but you can’t fool God.

If any of the above mentioned motives for Sacrificial living exist within us, we must eliminate them from our hearts and reconsecrate ourselves before God!
lamb
5 Truths About Sacrificial Living:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

  1. Sacrificial Living Requires Consistency 
    But Samuel replied: ‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” 1 Samuel 15:22

    consistencyWe cannot simply declare that everything we do in the corps will be the place of my sacrificial living – NO!  It is all or nothing.  God doesn’t want our sacrifices in one area while other areas of our lives are still not surrendered.  That’s like saying to your spouse, “I will be faithful to you in this city, but I can’t promise anything when I leave this city.”  How can we love the Lord with all of our hearts when we compartmentalize our relationship to Him?  If we are to be soldiers of the faith who are daily living sacrificial lives, we have to subject ALL of our lives under the sovereign, perfect rule of Christ.   Consistency is not easy, and there will be constant struggles to bring these areas of our lives under control.  But rest assured we have One who is with us – The Holy Spirit!

  2. Sacrificial Living Takes Work
    “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” –Romans 12:1.

    If we are to be consistent in our declaration of sacrificial living – we have to meansleeves2 what we declare – and this takes work!  We have to roll up our sleeves, so to speak, and intentionally, moment by moment surrender our wants and desires to God.  We have to declare Thy Will be done, instead of my will.  The work done on our knees in prayer before the Almighty will set the momentum going forward.  If we neglect this spiritual discipline of prayer, we will jeopardize our entire sacrificial existence.  This is a merging of our identities with that of Christ’s.  When we do this, we are essentially saying “I want to be Imago Dei” I am not just imitating Him, I want to be Him in every way.  There will be moments of stumbling.  We will experience great stress in temptation, because surely the Father of Lies will begin to see how dangerous His people will become to his devious plans on earth.  We will experience adversity, days of defeat, weakness – but these are only symptoms of us dying to our old-self.

  3. Sacrificial Living Is An Outpouring of Holiness

    “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” 
    -Acts 2:44-45

    When we declare our desire to be like Christ in every way, our crosses will be carried, and our path will be set.  It sounds paradoxical, but while we experience great sacrifice and discomfort, we will at the same time experience great peace too.  Sacrificial living is not the end result, no this is the outpouring of our longing for holiness in all that we are as Children of God.  This is more than just words uttered.  This is something on a molecular level – changing us from the inside out.  I believe something metaphysical happens when we make it our goal to be Christ in our holyhearts, minds and soul.   You know that when you have been married for a long time – you and your partner take on the mannerisms of each other…sometimes you even begin to resemble one another.  Holiness lived-out with the greatest of intentions and devotion will produce men and women of God who deeply resemble Christ in every way.  -This is what Sacrificial Living looks like and is the evidence of a commitment to Holiness on the deepest of levels.  Dare I say, but we as an Army have yet to even scratch the surface of real, tangible Holiness amongst its ranks.  We talk a good game, but I fear we are no where near it yet.

  4. Sacrificial Living Has No Room For Ego
    ego
    “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.”
    -Acts 4:32

    There’s an old phrase that perhaps you know, it goes like this: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”…even in the Army there is a hunger for power, whether it be in our corps and local officer positions or the Corps Officer, Divisional Officer, Territorial Officer…and so on.  Power is a dangerous vice.  Authority is necessary in any Church, Movement or Mission, but the hunger for power and man’s authority can corrupt all of the above.  In fact, this is what Satan hopes will happen to any adversary of his: that they become bogged down by their own egos and blinded by their own ambitions and thirst for imagined power.  You might say, “but we are The Salvation Army – we have no power.” – every organization, movement or Church has many places of authority and assumed places of power.  What we do with those roles, how we conduct ourselves if we become stewards of such positions determines not only the course of our Army, but the depth of our sacrificial living.  There is no room for ego in sacrificial living!   “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” -Psalm 51:17.

  5. Sacrificial Living Must Be Evidenced In Our Soldiers & Officers!

    More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” -Philippians 3:8
    thumb
    If we are truly a Holiness movement – then we must act like it!  We must eliminate every element of back-biting, gossip, slander, ego, power-plays, Church politics that elevates one over another, personal vendettas and all other kinds of selfishness!  Somewhere along the way we left the call for holiness in a pulpit sermon and lost our way.  We will not move or correct any kind of mission drift that is egocentric if we are not really actively engaged in sacrificial living.  Let’s stop talking a big game, and putting on a big show as we tout our Holiness Movement member’s cards (I’m being facetious)…let’s drop the pretenses.  If we want to see an Army on the move and if we long to save souls, then we first have to start with our own.  I am not questioning our salvation, I am questioning our depth of Holiness and Sacrificial Living.  Let’s practice what we preach…and perhaps for some of us, we need to fall in love with God all over again in reconsecration.  I love this army, but without soldiers, officers and adherents who are living sacrificially, and committed to the great commission of saving souls and making disciples, we could face extinction a generation from now.

    Something more for our Army world to Ponder today.

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    *Disclaimer:  the thoughts and opinions expressed here are the writer’s thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.*

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