This past week we attended Commissioning for the Central Territory USA. I have attended for years…and it’s true, you can tell that you’re getting old(er) when you compare every Commissioning to the Star Plaza. But we were in Milwaukee, and I have to be honest with you, I used to dread the Sunday morning service, because to me it was SO boring!! When I was younger, I viewed this meeting as overly somber and definitely snooze worthy.
I entered the service with that predetermined mindset but something ineffable happened – the Holy Spirit had to deal with my heart. That still small voice whispered into my heart and mind – “listen and pay attention”…and so I did. The ordination of Salvation Army Officers is, in my opinion quite traditional and has at times been more pomp than circumstance…but this time it was different. I listened. Isn’t it funny what happens when you obey the Spirit of God?
As each individual officer received their ordination, silent witnesses were asked to stand and, as the name suggests, they were called to bear witness to those receiving their Pastorship. Many stood to bear witness as each new officer’s name was called. Around the auditorium, like hope springing up from the heart, individuals who had prayed for, supported financially, consoled with words of encouragement during difficult days, all stood in recognition of their friend, companion, mentee, fellow soldier of Christ. They stood to boldly declare that the person receiving their ordination was not alone on the battlefield, nor would they ever be alone.
Something struck me in that moment. We all need Silent Witnesses to bear witness of our faith journey. More than bear witness, we need people who have our backs – peers who bath us in prayer, give us a word or scripture of encouragement, prophesy to our hearts during the dark times, and lift our heads to see the resurrected Christ when sometimes we can only see the death on the cross and the effects of sin in our world. Silent (and sometimes not so silent) witnesses are vital to our continuance of this faith journey. We travel along, sometimes side by side, sometimes single-file, other times from a distance as our calling takes us to the four corners of the world.
So let me ask you: Who are your Silent Witnesses? Who can you call up and ask for prayer, or encouragement, or even financial help? When we have had silent witnesses, we too are compelled to share that experience with others who are just beginning and there by we become the Silent witness to someone else. Something more to Ponder today.
YouNot all of us pastors have the luxury of having a full worship band, pianist and an ear for music. Let’s face it, some of us reading this article right now can’t carry a tune in a bucket…and that’s okay. We don’t all have to have the gift of music. Scripture even points out the various gifts that we are all given and appointed with (Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11), and just as the focus on speaking in tongues can become an issue, so too then use of music. Don’t get me wrong, music in worship can be most beneficial to the body of Christ, but it should be viewed as a conduit to deeper worship, not the desired end result.
Today, let us focus on this element of worship with the non-musical pastors in mind. If you fit this mold, then take note. My wife is very, very talented in other areas of ministry, but she will openly admit that music is not one of those talents.
There are many, many pastors in small churches or corps that do not have a musical bone in their bodies, and that’s okay. I want to help you find some tools to use within worship that will assist you and your congregation within and even around the conduit of music on Sunday.
1) YouTube Videos/YouTube Video Downloaders.
If you are not musical at all, you might utilize a plethora of Christian worship music on YouTube. There are even Youtube downloaders that you can use to have the videos accessible in places of worship where WiFi and the internet are sketchy or nonexistent. Using a video on YouTube could include modern top 40 Christian songs, a movie clip, or numerous other topics other than just music.
Don’t neglect the power of videos and or worship songs in your Sunday services. Feel free to be creative and intentional in the planning of your service theme too. Caution: This will take time, so don’t just throw everything together on Saturday night and expect amazing results…intentional planning takes time and hours. We are all busy people, but not taking the time to find the appropriate videos and/or music, is noticeable in our services (I’ve been guilty of this too).
2) iSing Worship (app)
This is a great app that does cost a little bit, but is a tremendous tool if you have a portable device like an iPad or iPhone. The app is free, but the songs will you about $3 a piece, which is only a dollar more than what you would pay for songs you currently buy on Google Music store or the apple iTunes Store. When you buy these songs, you then have the ability to include all of the elements of the song (i.e lead vocals, guitar, drums etc.). So, for instance, if you wanted to lead the song you could turn the vocals down and sing with the music like it was Christian Karaoke hour. Or iSing worship could become your worship band in a box by simply hitting play. Be sure, however that you plan the songs you are going to sing ahead of time and have the words either printed or displayed on the screen for the congregation to sing along.
Dear Salvation Army, are we fooling ourselves?
Are we seeing one thing within our ivory towers while the reality looks quite different?
Please don’t take offense.
I mean no disrespect.
I just wonder if there are times that we are disconnected from how things truly are as opposed to how we perceive them to be.
It’s like the notion of missing the mark of evangelism & missions…It is like aiming for the lost with a harpoon when what you needed was a loving hug and a warm cup of coffee. Or perhaps, there is this grandiose idea of what success will look like (we envision a mega church with people all neatly lined up trying to get in) when in reality it is meeting with that single mother and ensuring she has enough to feed her family and she takes the leap of coming to church on a Sunday morning.
Do we miss the mark because our notion of successful mission has been aligned with a faulty or unrealistic sense of who we are serving and what they need? It can become that illustration of insanity, ever endeavoring to do the same thing over and over again, only to realize that it hasn’t worked in thirty years.
Perhaps we need to wake up.
I fear we have become too insulated in our own fishbowls, be it the corps, divisional headquarters, territorial headquarters or beyond. We cannot sit in our offices and expect the people to come to us. Yes, our branding is recognizable, but that doesn’t mean that we become lazy in our planning and in the reaching for the lost, hurting and oppressed. We cannot afford to sit in our fishbowls. We cannot become complacent, overly busy with interior paperwork, when outside in our communities families and individuals need to see the hope that the Holy Spirit is prodding us to give because we serve more than just an Army, we serve the Lord first and foremost.
Dear Salvation Army,
I am fearful that we have lost our way, because of mission drift.
I am fearful that leaders from every rank have forgotten what it means to have a heart to God and a hand to man. This is a broad brushstroke, not aimed at offending, but perhaps prodding those who need it. There are many, many saints in our Army. I wish to recognize that as fact, may we ever endeavor to emulate their great faith!
Lastly, we cannot program our army to death.
We cannot course correct without first dispelling the faulty realities that have gotten us to this point.
Questions to Ponder:
What fishbowls do we need to get out of today?
Do we truly know the communities and people that we have been commissioned to minister to?
Have we prayed about our mission and vision for the lost in our areas of influence? (Not all of these places will look the same, or require the same kinds of ministry tools to reach the lost and disciple the faithful).
How can we (I) encourage 1 person today (maybe more, but start with just one)?
Can we pray that God would reveal to us the hindrances and hang ups in our lives right now that prevent us from having a greater impact on the Kingdom in His name?
As I sit here and write this, I admittedly have first considered the fishbowls that I have placed myself in. No, this has nothing to do with appointments or rank, but as a follower of Christ there are walls that I have constructed that have not been ordained by Him. Constructs that insulate my selfish heart and profit nothing for the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps you can relate, dear Soldier. I believe that if we do not first dispel these walls and climb out of our fishbowls, so too will our impact for the Kingdom be limited.
Can we identify these fishbowls?
Are we prepared to climb out of them?
Something more for our Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!
So we did a weekend of Messy Church recently, that consisted of 2 hour segments on the topic of the “I Am’s” of Jesus. I would recommend along with leaders at the stations, you have a time keeper to keep the stations and children moving. These Messy Church plans can be adapted and adjusted to meet your church’s needs and the demographics of your congregation. I will also add that you invite your older members and adults to participate and perhaps even become a child in a way to help the children stay engaged. (This can be a challenge, but it is very effective when done correctly)
Theme: “I am the vine”
Scripture Verse – John 15:1-11
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
The Fruit of the Spirit Song 5 Minutes
Instruct Kids and Teachers
1) Bobbing for apples 20 minutes Items Needed: 1 Large basin or feeding trough
4-10 bags of apples depending on the size.
Lots of water
This station is pretty self-explanatory, tell the kids this is a timed activity.
Kids are to put their hands behind their backs and, using only their teeth, pick an apple out of the basin. Use your phone/stop watch to time the kids to determine who has the fastest time in retrieving an apple. Have the kids try this a few times (of course replace “used” or gross apples with new ones), make sure everyone gets a chance to try this activity.
After everyone has taken a turn ask these questions:
What was the object of this game?
Did you think bobbing for apples was hard or easy?
Who here likes apples?
What kind of apple is your favorite? (types of apples include: Granny Smiths, Gala, Fuji, Honey Crisp, McIntosh, Golden Delicious…just to name a few)
Say: Apples are an amazing fruit that grows on trees.
Each apple grows from a tiny seed that can be found inside of these apples.
Apple trees grow from these seeds and can take up to 3 years to grow and produce new apples.
Apple Trees needs pruning from time to time in order for better fruit to develop.
Ask: What would happen on an apple farm if an apple tree didn’t produce apples?
(answer: it would be cut down and a new tree would be planted in its place)
Matthew 15 verse 4 says, “. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
God wants us to love Him and always keep His word in our hearts. If we do this, we will be able to witness to others through the way that we live our lives. And this is what it means to bear fruit!
Ask: What are ways that we can show God’s love towards others?
-At this time send the kids to the next station-
2) Vine Bracelet Craft 20 Minutes
the trick is using something called a braiding disc, or braiding loom. It’s just a round piece of cardboard with some slots in it, but it makes bracelet-weaving a lot easier compared to the bracelet-making method described in most books .
Ready? First up, you’ll need to gather your materials.
Friendship Bracelet (The whole kits are available at Michaels and other craft stores)
All you need is:
7 strands of yarn, each 2 feet long
1 piece of cardboard, e.g. breakfast cereal box
pair of scissors
Step 2: Make the Starting Knot
Line up the ends of your 7 strands of yarn, then tie a simple overhand knot like this. Make it so that there’s about 1″ (2cm) of loose ends poking out of the knot.
Step 3: Put the Yarn on the Braiding Disc
Poke the knotted end of the yarn bundle through the hole in the center of the braiding disc, like this:
Then clip one piece of yarn into each slot, except the top slot. Your braiding disc should look like this:
Step 4: Braid Your Friendship Bracelet
Braiding your bracelet with the disc is really easy. There are just two steps to learn and repeat.
Hold the disc so that the empty slot is at the top. Un-clip whichever yarn is in the bottom-right slot and clip it in to the top slot, like this:
Now the bottom right slot will be empty. So, rotate the whole disc so that the empty slot is at the top again, like this:
Now, just keep repeating Step A, Step B, Step A, Step B etc, and your bracelet will grow. It seems a bit like magic the first time but it really works!
As you continue, you’ll see your bracelet growing down through the hole in the center of your braiding disc, like this:
Step 5: Un-clip from Braiding Disc
Once the bracelet is long enough to go around your wrist, in-clip it from the braiding disc. It should look something like this:
(I used a bit too much yarn on this one, so the loose ends are quite long.)
Step 6: Tie Finishing Knots
Tie an overhand knot (just like in step 2) right at the point where the braiding ends. Then tie another overhand knot about 2/3″ (1.5cm) away. Trim the loose ends. The end of your bracelet should now look like this:
After the craft, or during SAY:
What would happen if one of these threads were taken out?
What would happen if one of these threads wasn’t included in the braid?
Would you notice? (Of course you would!)
Each thread is just as important as the next, without each piece doing its part in this bracelet, it cannot become what we want it to be.
Think about how God sees us.
He loves each and every one of us.
We are all different, with many different gifts and abilities.
A part from one another, we are all unique and beautiful…but what happens when we put all of us together like these threads? What happens when we all agree, and we have this thing called “Unity”? Is that a good thing?
Say: Just like these threads, when put together, we are so much stronger than when we are a part. Today in our scripture verse, God tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches. This means that with God all things are possible, and when we are connected to Him, we are so much stronger! He wants for us to be connected to Him.
Ask: How can we stay connected with God?
(Praying, Reading the Bible, going to Church, hanging out with other Christians…)
So today, as a reminder of how we are to be connected with God, think about this every time you look at this bracelet or as you wear it. Remember that God loves you and has connect us together in an amazing way!
3) Vine Stomping Painting: 20 Minutes
Items Needed: Large Basin – enough for 1 or 2 kids to stand in.
Large Bottles of Paint – Purple, Green, Blue…etc
1 -2 large water basins for washing feet afterwards
Long roll of butcher block paper or construction sheet paper
Instructions: *this will get messy!**
One or two at a time (depending on the size of the basins of paint) have the kids take off their shoes and socks and place them to the side neat and tidy so they don’t lose them afterwards.
Roll out the butcher block paper ahead of time onto the floor – long enough so that every child can get their feet onto the long paper. Once the kids get into the paint basin, have them stomp down (but not so hard that they splatter paint out the basin, just enough for them to feel the paint between their toes). Once their feet are adequately covered in paint, have the kids carefully (CAREFULLY!!) Step out of the basin and right onto the Butcher block paper. Have them create grapes on the vine by only using their feet as the paint brush.
Ensure every child gets a chance to do this creative activity, once they have completed the painting, have each child wash their feet off in the other water basin and dry them with paper towels, perhaps have an extra adult help them in and out of the basins (both the paint and water basins)…to avoid anyone from slipping and falling.
Following the painting activity, have the kids sit down for just a few moments and ask these questions:
Ask: So what was your favorite part of this painting activity?
What was your least favorite part?
Who likes getting messy here?
Who can’t stand getting messy?
Say: So let me ask you about grapes, does anyone like to eat grapes or drink grape juice?
Did you know that a long time ago in order to make grape juice and wine people had to get into large basins like these and stomp the grapes with their feet until they made the grape juice? It must have been a sticky job, but in Jesus’ day grapes were used a lot.
The bible verse that we are learning about today is all about the vine and grapes…Jesus used this idea with those he spoke to in order for them to understand how important a life with God should be. Jesus said “I am the vine and you are the branches”
Ask: does that sound like they are connected?
How are the grapes connected to the vine?
(Branches from the vine connect the grapes, without these branches there will not be any fruit)
How do we stay connected to Jesus?
What do we do to stay close to Him?
4) Outdoor activity20 Minutes
Outdoor or Indoor. This game is a normal game of tag with an added twist. When “it” tags someone, the person becomes part of “it.” Then the two of them must run hand in hand and catch their next victim who will join them. Last one caught by the “Blob” is the winner! The purpose of this game is to get everyone connected. We are the branches and Jesus is the Vine. If we stay in Him, we’ll bear much fruit! Even though the winner is the last one standing, the intentions behind this game is to show that God wants us to be connected to His son always.
5) Devotional & Music 5-10 Minutes
(If time permits) Song: Fruit of the Spirit Video Item Needed: Lamp and extension cord
Ask: So what did you learn tonight?
Who is the Vine?
Who is the Branches?
What was your favorite Messy Church activity tonight?
I am sure that you all know the song, “This Little Light of Mine.” I want you to help me sing that song this evening. While we sing it, I’m going to hold this light up and let it shine all around. (Start to sing the song, but stop when you notice that the light isn’t shining.) I wonder what is wrong, my light isn’t shining. (Someone will probably notice that it isn’t plugged in.) Oh, here’s the problem, my light isn’t plugged in.
Now that we are plugged in, let’s try it again. (Sing) Oh, that was much better. The lamp was shining brightly, wasn’t it? It’s pretty hard for a light to shine when it isn’t connected to the power source, isn’t it? Well, actually, it isn’t just hard — it’s impossible!
In our Messy Church lesson today, Jesus told his disciples a story to teach them the importance of staying connected to him. Of course Jesus didn’t use a lamp to tell his story, because electricity hadn’t even been invented yet. Instead, Jesus used an example that his disciples would understand. He used the example of a vine. You know what a vine is, don’t you? It is a plant with a lot of branches growing out from it. The branches have fruit on them. If it is a grapevine, the branches should have grapes on them.
Have you ever seen a branch that has been broken off of a tree or a vine? What happens to it? That’s right, it withers up and dies. Can it ever have any fruit on it again? No, it isn’t any good for anything — except fire wood.
Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me, you will have much fruit, but apart from me, you can do nothing.” Jesus wants us to produce a lot of fruit. Good fruit like being kind, generous, and faithful. Most of all, he wants us to love others as he has loved us.
Can we do that on our own? No way. Just as the lamp must be plugged in before its light can shine, and just as the branches must be connected to the vine before they can produce fruit, you and I must stay connected to Jesus to produce the good fruit that God expects of us.
Close in Prayer
Theme: “I am the Good Shepherd”
Scripture Verse – John 10:7-11
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Introduction and Instruction:5minutes
Read the scripture with the children. Say: Today we are going to learn about Jesus the Good Shepherd and how we are to be His sheep who listen to Him and follow Him.
Dismiss to the first station together:
1) Sheep Collage craft20 minutes
Lead the kids through this simple of craft of creating sheep.
Help kids to cut out the sheep body outline, place cotton balls on the body, attach popsickle sticks to legs for support, and ensure all of the kids complete this project.
As you are creating the craft (or after)
Say: What kind of sound does a sheep make?
What kind of food do sheep eat?
Are sheep very smart animals? (The answer is no, they will often eat grass and wander around and often get lost if they aren’t watched closely).
What sort of things do sheep produce? (Wool – clothing, coats, socks…, and meat).
Say: Our scripture today tells us that the sheep hear Jesus’ voice and they will follow him, but they will not listen to the thief or the robber…why do you think that is?
Jesus can be trusted to lead us, because he loves us…just like the shepherd loves his sheep, to the point that he will lay down his life for them…Jesus did just that for us didn’t he? He died on the cross to save us from sin. As we go to the next station, I want you to think about Jesus who is the good shepherd who leads us.
2) Sheep cookies to frost & decorate20minutes Bring kids to the cookie table but encourage them not to eat or grab anything yet.
In this station we ended up using squares of graham crackers, cookie frosting, edible fondant eyes, and marshmallows to complete the ‘Sheep’ cookie creations. The other option is to make sugar cookies and create their designs with frosting, icing and other food decorating items.
Say: We just finished creating our own sheep by putting wool on it and you talked about Jesus being the good shepherd. What makes Jesus the good shepherd and not just the “okayist” shepherd? (He loves us, he died for us, He’s God’s one and only Son)…
Ask: What is your favorite flavored cookie? (Chocolate Chip, Sugar cookie, Gingerbread, shortbread, oatmeal raisin etc.)
What makes that cookie flavor your favorite?
Read:2 Corinthians 2:15 says; “For we are to God a sweet smell of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish…”
This world needs more of the sweetness of Christ! Ask: Do you know who can share this sweetness of Christ with others? Answer: You can! We all can! Say: When we share our things with others – the sweetness of Christ. When we tell others about Jesus – it is the sweetness of Christ. When we love other people even if they don’t love us back – that is the sweetness of Christ.
So as a reminder of how we are to be this sweetness of Christ for other people, we are going to decorate these sheep cookies with frosting and sprinkles…let’s get messy and creative!
3) Pin the wool tail on the sheep game20Minutes
Directions: Just like pin the tail on the donkey, we are going to pin the wool on the sheep.
Say: We need help to put the wool on the sheep, but of course, we have to do it blindfolded.
This can be a tricky game to play, but let’s give it a shot. (make sure you blindfold the kids tight enough so they cannot see, then spin them around a few times before allowing them to seek out the sheep with the wool in hand.
4) Outdoor activity
Barbarian Capture the flag:25 Minutes
Teams of 4 are competing against each other to get the other teams’ gold and to capture other team’s’ players, and put them in your jail.
Using two ropes, or red surveyor’s tape, divide the field into 4 sections. Each section has one prison area, which is marked off with either ducttape or surveyor’s tape. Each section also has a “gold depot” which is marked using hula-hoops or tape. Each team has their own color, which is a flag strip tucked into the front of each player’s pants. Every team gets an equal amount of “gold” to start the game, which is white socks, gold socks, and 1 gray work sock.
Start of Game:
When whistle blows, teams begin the attack. Another team can only catch you if you are in their section; likewise, you can only catch others in your own section (if you are “green” and you run into the “red” section, then you run across to the “yellow section, red can no longer capture you, but yellow now can). When you capture another team member, take their flag and report to the middle of the field to the scorekeeper, then return flag to the person in your prison.
In addition to capturing opposing team players, you are also trying to get their “gold”, without getting caught. You can only take 1 gold piece at a time, and if you are caught inside an opposition section, you must return gold to that team (no throwing gold into your own section).
What Happens When Caught:
Having your flag removed by another team player inside their section gets you caught. When this happens, you report to their prison area and can only get out of prison if a teammate tags you out, without getting caught themselves. If your teammate gets caught trying to free you, they must join you in the jail area. Once you successfully get tagged out, you and your teammate get a free passage back to your section. NOTE (the game coordinator may call “jailbreak” and free everyone in jail in all the sections at any given time, usually when there is a lop-sided number of players in prison).
How the Game is Won:
The game is won by accumulating points for every prisoner your teammates catch, and for each piece of “gold” left at the end of the game. You can run out of gold during the course of the game, but still get points by capturing prisoners and trying to grab other gold from enemy sections. The team with the most accumulated total points at the end is the winner.
White Socks- 3000 points each
Gold Socks- 5000 points each
Gray Socks- 10,000 points each
Prisoners- 1000 each player
Large, open playing area
2 Ropes (100+ feet each is ideal)
4 different colored flags, one for each section
White, yellow, gray socks
Bean bag fill for each sock
Scorers pad and pen
Duct tape and/or hula-hoops
Red surveyors or caution tape
The purpose of this game is to reveal the intentions behind the thief’s motives – all he wants is to steal what belongs to God. This is a great way to show that. I think the youth will enjoy this a lot.
5) Build a sheep pen10 Minutes Minute to win it block game – build the tallest “sheep pen” as quickly as possible within the 60 second time constraint. The person with the fastest time and tallest sheep pen wins a prize.
6) Devotional / Music10-15 Minutes
Ask: So what did we learn today?
Who is the good shepherd?
Who are the sheep?
Why is it important to listen to Jesus and follow Him?
BIBLE VERSE: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11 NIV
Talk about shepherds and sheep. Explain to the children how sheep are not very bright, and they need a shepherd to take care of them, to bring them to green grass and pure water to drink. A good shepherd makes sure the sheep are happy and safe.
1. What will a good shepherd do for his or her sheep?
Jesus tells us that He is our Good Shepherd. What does this mean to you?
Today our Bible story is from the book of John. Jesus is talking about Heaven with the Pharisees and how He is the only way to get to Heaven. Jesus decided to use an example to help them understand. He compared Himself to a good shepherd and all of us to sheep. However, the Pharisees probably still didn’t understand. Let’s read the story, and find out what Jesus is saying to us.
Read John 10:11-15 (The Good Shepherd and His Sheep)
What does a shepherd take care of? (Sheep.)
Does a good shepherd lay down (or give) his life for the sheep? (Yes.)
What do you think this means? (The good shepherd would risk his or her own life to protect the sheep.)
What does a hired hand do when he or she sees the wolf coming? (Runs the other way leaving the sheep behind.)
What happens to a flock of sheep if there is no shepherd? (They may be attacked by a wolf and get scattered.)
In our Bible story, does the good shepherd know his sheep? (Yes.)
Do the sheep know the good shepherd? (Yes.)
How are we like sheep? (Allow for answers.)
Do we have a good shepherd? (Yes.) Who is our Good Shepherd? (Jesus.)Close in a song (optional) and a word of prayer.
If we end early, a video will be put on for the kids to enjoy, or we will play the above outdoor game again.
Saturday Evening PM
Theme: “I Am the Light of the world”
Scripture Verse – John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Introduction & Instruction time: 5 Min
Reiterate the weekend theme again, ask what the children have learned by recapping the sessions.
Then introduce today’s theme and sing a song or two (optional).
1) Stained glass mosaic craft 20 Min
Using a card stock frame, kids are to layer the bright tissue paper across the middle of the frame using glue or tape in order to make the faux stained glass. Encourage the children to use as many colors as possible or if there are some really creative/artistic students, have them design a dove, cross or other symbol within their stained glass frame.
As the craft is taking place engage the students in this conversation piece: Ask: What is your favorite color in this stained glass craft and why?
Which would you rather experience, complete darkness or a sunny day?
Is anyone scared of the dark?
What scares you about the darkness?
Why does having a night light or flashlight help?
(See where you are going, safety at night…)
Say: When stained glass was first put into churches, it was during a time when most people couldn’t read and only rich people owned books because they were very expensive. So people would come to church and look up at these amazing stained glass windows, and it wasn’t only that they were beautiful to look at, but each window told a story. There were shapes and colors that made up the image of Jesus on the cross…and then next to it would be another window with Jesus standing at the open tomb…and all of these windows could be seen because the light was shining through them.
In our scripture verse today, Jesus tells the listeners, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus was telling the listener and even us today that the true light of Heaven comes only through Him…when we choose to follow Jesus, and when we choose to let His light shine in our lives, we have His eternal light in us that will never be extinguished. His light will guide us each step of the way. So as you look at your stained glass creation, may it remind you of the Light of Jesus, and may it help you to walk in His light!
2) Star creation craft 20 Min
Kids will glue/tape popsicle sticks together to make a star:
After securely gluing or taping the sticks into a star shape, kids will paint, bedazzle and design their stars. Glow in the dark tape will also be available, but use this sparingly. Ask the kids to name different stars and constellations.
(Star example: Northern Star, Sirius, Vega… Constellation Names: Milky Way, Andromeda, Aries, Aquarius…etc.)
Ask: Can somebody tell me how many stars are in the sky? Answer: In the Milky Way alone there are over 250 Billion Stars… Say: That’s like saying how many grains of sand is on a sandy beach or on the ocean floor. That is a really, really HUGE number!
It is amazing to think that God created the Heavens and the Earth and He created all of the stars including the 250 Billion Stars just in the Milky Way Galaxy!! And even with so many amazing things in our universe, God shines His light on us because we are extremely special to Him! Out in space there are places that are very, very dark, but we are in a place in the Universe that is just right for creation and for all kinds of life. We have a great big fire ball in the sky called what? (Answer: the Sun) that is out in the day time, and a moon at night.
Also the stars in the sky have been used for thousands of years to give travelers and explorers direction on this earth. Isn’t this an amazing thing that God has created? May this star that you just created remind you of the light of God and the fact that He guides us with His light. Also may we recognize just how big our universe is and how much God comes to our tiny corner of the world and shines for us. Because He loves us!
3) Game: The Light of the World 25 Min
Scripture : Matthew 5:14
YOU WILL NEED: A bag with slips of paper that tell something to do. Samples are on the last
Choose a volunteer—This volunteer will reach in the bag and pull out a slip of paper. The slip of
paper will instruct the student what to do. This student will be the “Light,” showing everyone else what to do. The “Light” may not speak (unless the instructions say so) but should lead everyone in accomplishing what is written. Once you, as the station leader, sees that the instructions have been followed, tell everyone to give him a hand, then point to someone else and say, “Be the Light.” They’ll come forward and thus the game continues. If a student doesn’t want to lead, don’t make them, but let everyone who wants to go have that opportunity.
After the game: Ask:
What was hard about being the Light?
What was fun about being the Light?
Did anyone feel embarrassed about being the Light?
Was anyone concerned about looking silly or foolish?
Read Matthew 5:14 – “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
How does this verse remind you of our game? (Both of them talk about the light; everyone
can see a city on a mountain, and everyone could see us doing the instructions.)
What does Jesus mean when He says, “You are the light”? (That we should live in such a
way that our lives are like a light that guides other people to God; and shine, or show them, His
life and love.
When you’re at school, why is it sometimes hard to be a light? (I don’t always want to do the
right thing; some people think you’re weird if you’re a Christian; I might be embarrassed? I’m
afraid I would look silly; my friends want to do wrong things.)
SAY: It can be hard to be a light. But when we shine Jesus’ love to our friends, we’re doing the
best thing we can, which is showing someone about Jesus. By being a light Jesus isn’t asking
you to do silly things, like what we did in our game. Jesus wants you to bring hope, courage,
and joy to people. He wants you to follow God’s Word and tell everyone that Jesus saves us. SAY: It’s both easy and fun to tell other people about Jesus. It’s as simple as saying, “Jesus
loves you,” or “Jesus will take care of you.” You can shine Jesus’ light to anyone you know
by your words and by how you live.
How can you shine your light so others can see Jesus in you?
What do you think would be some things people do on a playground or in sports
that show they are following the light? What are things people might do when
they are living in darkness?
What would happen if you stood up for someone being picked on in the
playground? How would that person feel? How would the bully feel? How would
you feel? How would Jesus feel?
What would stop you from telling a friend, “Jesus will take care of you,” the next
time they are afraid or upset? How do you think they might respond?
When you see someone at school get hurt, do you ever think about praying for
them? When you hear someone at school say a cuss word, do you ever think
about asking them not to use that kind of language around you?
Is there anything in your life that you do that Jesus wouldn’t like? Does that feel
like darkness? Who can tell more about how it feels when you feel guilty for
something? How can Jesus’ light that guides you help?
5) Camp Fire and S’Mores time. 15 – 25 Min
6) Devotional/ Music 10 -15 Min
Around the camp fire have the kids sit around the pavilion tables. Ask: What was your favorite part of the tonight’s Messy Church?
Theme: Reflecting the light of Christ
Song: This little light of mine..
Object: A mirror and a flashlight
Read Scripture: There was a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light: he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. John 1: 6-9 (NIV)
Say: Have you ever sat outside on a bright sunny day and used a mirror to reflect the sun’s light? If one of you will take this flashlight and shine it on me I will show you what I mean. You see, as the light shines on me, I hold up my mirror and I can reflect the light to shine on you. I am not the light, I am just letting my mirror reflect the light to shine on you.
Say: If I am going to reflect the light on you, there are a couple of things that are very important: I must keep my mirror facing toward the light. If I turn away from the light, I cannot reflect the light. I must make sure that nothing comes between the light and me. If that happens, I cannot reflect the light. The Bible tells us that “There was a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light: he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” Who do you think the true light is that the Bible said was coming into the world? That is right! It was Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world. In our focus verse today, Jesus even declared to the listeners “I am the Light of the world…”
So, if we accept Jesus as our light then you and I need to be like John. The Bible says that we are to let our light shine, but we need to remember that “Our Light” is Jesus. We are not the light, we are just mirrors that reflect His light. If we are going to reflect the light of Jesus, we must remember a couple of things:
We must keep our faces turned toward Jesus.
We must not let anything come between us and Jesus.
When we remember those two things, we will reflect His light to the entire world.
Pray: (something to this effect) Dear Jesus, we want to reflect your light in the world. Help us to keep our faces turned toward you and help us to keep anything from coming between us and you. Amen.
Theme: “I Am the way”
Scripture Verse – John 14:6
Intro to today’s Messy Church (DYS or Assigned Officers will lead this) 5 Min
Today we are going to begin our Messy Church with a scripture verse of John 14:6
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Suggested Themed Music Videos you could play at the beginning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueMQV2Ax-MM
So in just a few minutes we are going to begin by heading to our first station, but first I want us to say our scripture verse together out loud, let’s read it together:
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Are you ready for Messy Church today?
Let’s open with a word of prayer and then we will go off to our first station.
Pray and Dismiss
Pitcher of Water
Directions: Pour the water into the bowl.
Then rub the needle on the magnet about 10 -15 times
Place the small cork piece into the water, then place the needle on top of the floating cork.
As you do this, explain to the children that the needle, having picked up some of the magnetic attraction from the magnet is now starting to face magnetic north. So it spins until it points north and south. Tell the kids: Now, the Bible is a lot like this in our lives too. When we read about Jesus and what He did while on earth we begin to know more about God, and when we begin to know more about God, we begin to live for Him and we start to point others toward Him through our Godly examples.
Ask: What does it looks to live for God?
(get some of the kids to answer).
Why does it matter if we live for God or we don’t live for God?
Read: Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? (Matthew 16:24-26 Message Version)
Jesus wants us to point others to God while we follow Him.
If we don’t listen and we don’t care about other people, they may not see God through our lives. So today, I pray that God will give you a love for others in your heart. Let God lead you, and may your words and your actions point others to God.
Let the kids take turns in re-trying this experiment while comparing it to the compass to make sure it is pointing to magnetic North.
2)outdoor game 25 Min
Blind fold obstacle course:
Create an obstacle course (a playground works GREAT) and get your students or leaders to go in pairs. One from each pair is blindfolded, and the other will lead him or her through the obstacle course by using only their voice.
The purpose of this game is to help the person who’s blindfolded navigate the course by only hearing the voice that’s directing them
We’ll need two large trash cans, two long tables, and four chairs at the field near Ramsdale
Circle up the kids and ask them about the game – Ask:
How did you feel when you were blindfolded?
Did you trust the person who was leading you through the obstacle course?
How many things did you run into?
Does it help to have someone there who is looking out for you and helping you?
How confident are you that you could have made it through the obstacle course on your own?
Sometimes life is a lot like this obstacle course.
We often do not know how things are going to go in the future, or even in the next hour. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing. Trusting God can seem like a scary thing at times, especially when we have some big decisions to make in life. But do you know what? God promises to never leave us or forsake us. So sometimes, during this obstacle course we may have doubted the person who was leading us, and maybe we even tripped or ran into something because they didn’t lead us very well…But God isn’t like that. He loves us very much and He will lead us through the good and the bad times. So as we think about Jesus being the way, truth and life today, remember the God leads us and wants what is best for our lives.
3) Devotional / Music (20 Minutes) 20 Min
What was your favorite station today?
Which station did you not like and why?
Can anyone tell me what our theme for today has been?
Recap Scripture Verse (or if time allows, have one or a few of the kids stand and read it for the group)
John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(Suggested Text or can be adapted)
A map and a portable GPS (Even a phone with a map app on the screen)
There was a time when a person going on a trip wouldn’t think of beginning their journey without a road map. (Hold up the map for the children to see.) The map was very helpful to the traveler in finding the way to where they were going. Today we seldom ever use a road map. Do you know why? Most of us who own a car also have a GPS in our car. (Hold up the GPS.) How does the GPS work? When you are ready to go somewhere, you type in the address where you want to go and the GPS connects to a satellite up above the earth and computes the path to your destination. As soon as you start driving, a map appears on the screen and a voice from the GPS gives you turn by turn directions. “Turn right on Main Street in one mile, turn right in one half mile, turn right in 150 feet, turn right.” What happens if you miss your turn? The GPS says, “Recalculating” and immediately computes a new route to get you back on the right path to your destination.
When we are trying to follow Jesus in our daily life, it would be nice to have a GPS to lead us in the right direction, wouldn’t it? It would be nice to have something to keep us on the right path and keep us from getting lost…something that would help us get back on the right track when we made a wrong decision.
That is the way Jesus’ disciples must have felt when Jesus told them that he was going to leave them. Jesus said to them, “I am going to prepare a place for you and when everything is ready, I will come and get you so that you will always be with me. You know the way to where I am going.”
One of the disciples whose name was Thomas answered Jesus, “No, we don’t, Lord. We don’t even know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
Another disciple named Philip joined in, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”
“Philip,” Jesus answered, “Have you been with me all this time and you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show you the Father? Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Anyone who believes in me will do the same things I have done.”
That was all the disciples needed to know to get them on the right path to the Father.
So, how do you and I find our way to the place where Jesus has gone to be with the Father? We have not seen Jesus as Thomas and Philip had, but we can follow the teachings that he has given to us in the Bible — God’s Holy Word. That is our GPS and it will keep us on the right path!
Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son to provide the way to eternal life. Thank you for your Holy Word which will keep us on the right path in our journey through life. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
First let me insist that failing to plan is a plan to fail…I am sure you have heard that before. But it’s true. Everyone of us has potential to risk big for the Kingdom of God, but if we fail to plan for that kingdom building exercise, we plan to fail.
Dear Salvation Army, I want to share with you a simple but profound thought. Are you ready for it? Okay, here goes…It’s okay to fail!
There I’ve said it.
Without failing from time to time, we will never know how to properly prepare and improve our ministries. I fear that we have become so insulated in the development of ‘the Army empire’ that we set ourselves up for this erroneous notion that to fail would mean that we have failed the kingdom, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Do you remember the parable Jesus told about the talents?
Do you recall which servant was eventually chastised and kicked out?
-It was the one who buried their talent.
-It was the one who feared the master’s reproach if that talent was not returned.
-It was the one who was afraid to fail to the point of immobility.
Dear Salvation Army…
Are there places in our movement that we have become so afraid to fail that we are essentially immobile in our mission?
Is there a difference between that servant and us (if we are immobile and paralyzed with fear of failing?)
Let’s explore why failing is healthy, and failure should be an option.
Let me assure you that our main goal has never changed.
We are not changing missions in exchanges for failure.
I said failure should be an option…but never the desired outcome.
3 Reasons Why Failure IS An Option:
1) Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained…
The early Army was a mobile, flexible army.
If the mission was not working in one neighborhood, it was closed and reopened somewhere else. The key in this is the word “ventured”…it means to go, or dare to do something.
My fear is that we are doing the same thing over and over again and it’s just not working. I don’t mean the truth of the gospel, I mean the method of delivery. Our approach to the same task of reaching people in HIS name. If we are bogged down by the delivery system so much and we stop paying attention to its effectiveness, then we have lost perspective and we are no longer innovators and venturers.
How far are we sticking our necks out there?
Do we fear failure or do we take risks?
Are we more afraid of receiving reproach from our leaders than we are from the Holy Spirit as He leads us?
2) Faith Requires Leaving The Known…
God called him and Sarai out of the known and into the unknown.
He told Abram that he would be the father of many, many people.
That first step must have been hard.
That second, third, fourth, fifth…equally as hard…but they left the known.
God led them.
Let me ask you a question: Do you still believe that God leads His people?
Are we a part of that “His people”?
And if so, are we willing to step out of the known and into what is unknown?
We do not believe in a stagnant God.
We know Him to be moving and active in our world…so too ought our mission be mobile and ever moving. If we are more afraid of failing than we are of letting God lead us into the unknown then we have our priorities backwards and a spiritual alignment must take place before we actually fail.
3) Rejection WILL Happen…
Jesus was not always successful in reaching the lost, poor, hurting.
There were some who never accepted Him.
There were still others who completely rejected Him.
When we pick up our crosses and follow Him, we have to recognize that with that laborious effort of cross-carrying there will be rejection – we will face scorn, hurt, loss, pain and people will bounce us from their lives.
The Great Commission is risky business!
We will not only risk a lot, but we will face rejection frequently.
(I’m not really selling this very well am I?)
I’m just being honest – the decision to Follow Jesus and to serve Him means we walk His path and place others before us, and love the unlovable and yes, turn the other cheek when people reject Him through our faith in action.
Questions for you to Ponder:
Is there room for failure in my ministry right now, or do I feel that I can’t afford to fail?
Am I afraid of what my leaders will think if I am not successful through this current method of ministry? (Perhaps if so, that method of delivery needs to change in order to include risk)
Am I too hard on myself when I mess up and don’t live up to the expectations I have set for my own ministry goals? (What is the Lord saying to you about this?)
How much latitude have I given myself to fall flat on my face?
What areas of my ministry needs more risk taking?
What is stopping me from taking those risks?
Who are the people that I am afraid of being rejected by?
(List them and pray for those specific people and situations)
Dear Soldiers of this Army,
It’s okay to fail from time to time.
This holistic ministry of holiness has to allow for missteps, correction and realignment.
Don’t be afraid to risk, especially if those risks have been prodded and placed on your heart by the Holy Spirit…but really investigate, dig deep and ensure that He is leading you and it is not from your own desire or ambition.
Failure IS an Option…but it’s never our desired destination, after all, we know in Whom our Victory is assured. To God be the glory!
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
Hey fellow ponderers, please allow me this moment to be a little selfish…actually I want to specifically think of my children, and other officer kids out there on the cusp of moving (perhaps once again). I know that this blog post will not speak to everyone, and not everyone will relate, but please recognize that I have a heart for the kids that these moves effect…because I was once one of them. I know the hurt of moving, and hopefully, in some small way, I desire to help other Officer kids out there going through another move…
Dear Officer’s Kids:
I remember vividly the day my parents broke the news to my sister and me that we were being fare-welled. It struck my heart, my friends, my school, my corps family…everything was about to be uprooted, dislodged and, in my adolescent mind, ruined. Life as I had known it sucked! That’s what I thought. That’s how I felt…and, in some small way, I was angry about it.
My family had spent eight years of our life overseas as missionaries to three separate locations in Southern Africa. Then when we moved back to America, I had this thought that perhaps we would stay in our “American” appointment for a whole lot longer…but that was not to be, and at that time, I was very sad about the prospects of moving once again.
So we packed up our things, and began the long goodbye that is the farewell process in The Salvation Army.
Let’s face it, moving is never easy. Your parents can get stressed out, frazzled and downright difficult to live with during this time; But how we view these kinds of transitions can make all the difference in how we face the next place we live.
Here are 5 Survival Tips For Officers Kids Who Are Moving: (Perhaps, if you can practice these tips, it will be less survival and more thriving in a new opportunity!)
Talk To Your Parents/Parents Talk To Your Child!
Ask as many questions as you can about where your parents are being sent. Start to be inquisitive, and ask about your new school, corps, summer camp? When we actually talk about the new appointment, or place you’re moving to, it becomes less of an unknown, scary thing, and more of an absolute, tangible ‘new home’. Keep in mind that talking won’t always be easy. There will be times when your parents will be stressed or upset too about the move, but keep in mind that families need to stick together and talk about the transition. Parents: this is SO vital! As soon as you can, tell your children. Get them ready for the move. Also please remember that how you view this move will positively or negatively impact how your child will view this move. Discuss the pros and cons of moving…don’t neglect that both adults and children will feel a sense of loss, especially if the the current appointment is a place that you’ve been in for a long time! Talk about what you’re going to miss and also talk about what you’re not going to miss – be honest and sensitive to what your child/children are saying.
View Moving As An Adventure & Use What’s Familiar!
My parents helped my sister and me in this important topic by showing us the adventure that awaited us. Now I know that there are some who are reading this and may be thinking to yourself, ‘It’s not always so joyful when we move’, and you’re right; but the more we can begin to view moving as an adventure, the more we can begin (and help our children begin) to adjust to a semi-transitory lifestyle.I recall knowing people who have lived in one place for their entire life, and I can’t even begin to understand that, but I don’t envy it either. As I look back at the ‘Army’ life that I have lived, both growing up and now as an adult, I see all of the life lessons that I’ve had the opportunity to learn. I also have experienced a broader world view than if my family had just stayed in one location for my whole life. This adventure has taken me to live in different cultural places, I have learned different local customs of many regions, and because of it I feel like my life is more rounded.O the places you will go…and the places you will see as an Officer’s Kid!
To Parents and Kids: Start talking about the adventure…then live the adventure! It can be easy to always look back and miss where you once lived, but if you look back the whole time, you will miss the adventure that you’re about to step through in the next appointment. Find the fun in life. View the new place that you’re about to live with a sense of fun and adventure. Coupled with the new adventure, set up your rooms and homes with the familiar so that where ever you go, Home looks and feels the same – this is the ‘safe ground’, the sanctuary, the ‘fortress of solitude’ and the family first environment! Bring your familiar blankets, pillows, posters, decorations…etc.
Research, Explore & Google Places To See In Your New Home Town
We all have smart phones, computers and tablets, so use them to not only check out your new home, but all of the fun places around your new home. Check out apps like Google,TripAdvisor, ZomatoYelp…etc to find new and exciting places to eat, explore and visit when you arrive at your new appointment. Make plans to check out those places – and then do it!It can be fun to use your google maps to literally view the street your house is on and then go for an interactive ‘drive’ down the street through that app. As you do this, you will start to envision yourself there. It will never take the place of where you are living right now, or the places you’ve been, but it will certainly add to your life’s adventure! Think of it as the next chapter, but you will never, ever replace the last chapter…it just becomes a wonderful part of your life’s book!
Find Activities To Get Involved In Right Away In Your New School!
When you move to your new home, (and here’s the BIG, frightening step of faith you should take:) find activities that you are interested at your new school and/or community that you can become involved in. Don’t wait for a year to jump into it, do it right away…trust me on this!I know some of you might be introverts at heart and you’ll want to stick close to home and ‘play it safe’, but try to push yourself to get out get involved!
When I was a kid, I loved sports, and so when we moved I joined the soccer team and the track team. By the time school actually started, I already knew people at my new school because they were friends from soccer. I made it a point to get involved. It wasn’t easy…and there were days that my stomach just churned with anxiety about being the ‘new guy’, but I pushed myself, and my parents gently pushed me too.
That’s the key too parents: your kids are stronger that we sometimes think they are. They will thrive if we get them out there and involved in activities. I’m not saying don’t allow them their down time at home, but don’t let them settle into unhealthy – isolating cocoons either! Help them find activities that they are interested in within your new appointment and plug them into those activities. When we can help our children find these healthy sources, they will develop friendships and become invested in this new adventure!
I’m not going to lie to you. There will be days when you will sorely miss the place that you just came from. There will be days that you will be tempted to withdraw from your new place and quit…don’t. Families need to stick together during this ‘mourning’ phase of moving. Emphasize the positives…look for the bright side and the opportunities.They say that life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to things – so attitude is VERY important in these transitions!If your new school stinks, then perhaps you can find one friend to enjoy the stink with at that school.
If your corps is not the best place to be, then perhaps you can find a small corner of it to make it your own despite the circumstances.
Officers Kids and Parents: How we act towards one another matters. Be an encourager to each other. Don’t go negative and only focus on what you hate about this new place. Sure, talk about those things, but don’t stay there – find the silver lining and when you do, you will find hope and joy despite the ups and downs of these transitory circumstances.
Kids: You got this!
You are resilient, smart, amazing people! Help your parents, and remember we aren’t alone in this! Officers kids are band of brothers and sisters and we can do anything we set our minds to! Let’s stick together!
Parents: Keep speaking truth, love and joy into your kids. Be patient with them…and at times go easy on them! Encourage them to be active, and show them what it means to live this Officer life…live the adventure with them!
Something more for This Army world to ponder!
May God richly bless on your move!
Dear fellow Ponderers…
I have been dragging my feet in writing this for some time.
Not because I didn’t want to write this edition to Pastorsponderings, but rather because I want to be careful in how I broach this conversation. I do not wish to offend and upset you – the reader. Some will no doubt become offended anyway, and I have come to terms with the fact that I will not always make everyone happy – that’s a fool’s errand anyway.
Perhaps in light of this Holy Week that we are all entering into we might also reflect on the Passover feast that Jesus participated in with His disciples…what we now call “The Last Supper”.
Thus, I write this with the utmost sensitivity and respect.
Is Communion Considered Taboo in our Army?
Within The Salvation Army, even the conversation of the Lord’s Table/Supper/Communion has become a taboo topic. It is almost as if we are forbidden to talk about it, let alone partake in this ceremony. Some have postulated that despite not participating in this ceremony, we have created our own sacred ceremonies in place of it, thus making the argument that we are non-sacramental in practice null and void.
I fear that failure to discuss such topics within our Army can lead to a polarization of our theological perspective, and variants of our doctrine might splinter and break off (as in some locations, it already has).
Some within our Army would treat the topic of communion with deep disdain to the point that the practice of it is almost treated as an organizational sin. It is my estimation that too much focus on such a topic in this light is a waste of time and not conducive to unity within our Army. There should be more open dialogue on this topic as I believe there should be on the topic of baptism. -Someone will inevitably lambaste me for that, but that would just prove my point that we treat such innocent conversations on the topic as complete taboo and even sinful to even mention, which is ludicrous.
Is Communion Misunderstood In The Universal Church?
In Luke 22 it is recorded the celebration of Passover that Jesus and His disciples were partaking of. This has now been dubbed “the Last Supper”, where Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to fulfill the final act of Salvation in His false trial, torture, and death by crucifixion. Thus, Jesus reclines with His disciples and takes in these final private moments with those He is closest with:
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you.18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:14-19)
Could it be that over the centuries the emphasis (or fixation) upon the bread and wine have been misplaced? Didn’t Jesus preach in parable and often teach as Rabbis of His day taught? With questions and metaphor? When Jesus spoke of doing “this” in remembrance of me, is it not possible that it wasn’t just the bread and wine He was talking about, but rather the entire dinner together, the fellowship and unity of disciples? Is it possible that instead of coming together just to contemplate the bread and the wine, the whole ceremony of remembrance is just as vital? Coupled with the remembrance, the unifying love of Christ that binds it all together is the common denominator. So much so, that when the disciples gathered in another upper room together in perfect unity, they encountered the second blessing an the day of Pentecost? (Acts 2:1-31)
Perhaps, it is in the very practice of gathering in unity and prayer that we find the proper practice of Communion to be viable and appropriate – even commanded by Christ Himself. After all, didn’t Jesus also pray for unity of the believers when we said, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
Dear Salvation Army,
Let me ask you a question: When are our Soldiers unified with the love of Christ?
When is it that we remember Jesus as our Savior and source of resurrection power?
Would you suggest that it is when we gather in times of confession, of worship, of fellowship? When does the mission of Christ within our Army become the most galvanized and evident in the body of believers?
Is there a time for ceremony and formal recognition? Of course!
What do those intentionally consecrated moments look like?
Could it be that Communion has been vilified in our Army? (Perhaps that is too strong a word)…
Is it possible that what Communion truly is – is the coming together of His disciples in fellowship and unity instead of mere ceremony? Can we do this over a meal together?
Perhaps instead on the over emphasis of the elements we have lost sight of the One who broke the bread and poured the wine?
What do YOU think?
Post your comments below and let’s continue this pondering together.
*Disclaimer: The views expressed here are of the author’s views and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Salvation Army. Reader desecration is advised. *
Where did the human race come from? Did we evolve out of space dust and starlight? Or were we designed for a specific purpose? That is the ultimate question. But even if we were to say evolution is true, which is a stretch, where did the material for the universe come from? A big bang can’t explode from nothing. That doesn’t make sense. So it’s logical to believe then, that the best explanation for our universe, our planet, and ourselves, is that an intelligent creative eternal being made the universe, and made us.
Therefore, God does exist. But who is God? I believe God has revealed himself through something we call, “The Bible.” The Bible has been criticized a great deal, many say it’s just a book full of stories, it’s just myths, it has contradictions, all of these attacks are levied, and Christians are criticized, and are said to be bigoted and hypocritical.
But is this really true? I believe that we can trust the Bible. In fact the biblical documents we have today have been trusted by billions of people through history that believed God really came to Earth, as the person of Jesus Christ. Thousands of archaeological discoveries have been made by using the Bible. And the Bible matches with history, we see countries like Syria, Babylon, and the Roman empire, real civilizations interacting with biblical history. The truth is we can trust the Bible.
And if we’ve been hurt by Christians who have not lived up to the standard of Christ, we should remember, that we are not called to follow other Christians, we’re called to follow Jesus Christ alone. I’d encourage you today, as you eat your meal, think about these things. Think about how everything in the universe fits together so well, that the food on your plates is designed just right to nourish your body. And remember that the hands that serve this food say without a doubt that they do so because Jesus has saved them, and they feel called to serve others.
Jesus Christ, the God-man come to Earth, came on a rescue mission to save all of us from sin. Sin are those things in our lives that separate us from God: things that cause us pain, that hurt our relationships, things we’ve done wrong, things like selfishness, self-seeking, and pride. Jesus came to save us from all of that.
And he saved me from all of that. At one point in my life I had lost all hope. I was addicted to drugs for years, and my family had given up on me. My soul had turned grey, and everything seemed dark, and hopeless in my life. I had given up on ever having a better life, on ever being ok again. Can you relate? But then someone told me about one name, the name, Jesus Christ. There is power in that name. And I went on my knees and cried out, “Jesus help me, Jesus save me.” And He swept into my life, changed me internally into a new person, and put me to work for his kingdom.
Seek Him in your life. Fall on your knees and cry out to Him. Now is the time of salvation. Keep this in your mind: When you are at the bottom, cry out to Jesus: Cry out Jesus save me! Jesus help me! He will answer. Trust in Him. Reaffirm your trust in Him. Make certain He is the center of your life. He is our real, living Savior.
-Justin Steckbauer is a first year Cadet in the Central Territory USA.
As we enter into the Lenten season, let us remember that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. On the third day He was raised from the dead, defeating the dark forces of sin and death. As we contemplate the sacrifice of Christ, we should also ponder our willingness to sacrifice for Him. God calls us out of the world and into the life He has planned for us, knowing our daily struggles. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, we hear Jesus state to Paul concerning a personal struggle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” As believers our joy is not grounded in our circumstances. We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ has won the victory and our earthly home is not our forever home, but at times it seems impossible for us to sacrifice everything in order for us to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. These are the times we need to remember that it is not by anything that we have done that we are saved, but by God’s grace and mercy. Each day we should count it a blessing that we have been called apart from the rest of the world to be a living sacrifice for Jesus Christ. The act of submitting to the will of God, just as Jesus submitted to the will of His Father, is the reason we were created. God desires a relationship with us, giving strength to face each obstacles in God’s power.
Today, take time to listen to the Holy Spirit’s calling on your life. Is there something in which you need to relinquish control? Ask God to grant you His power to sacrifice the things in your life which do not lead to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. In the end, you may find that giving up the things which you so greedily hold on to, was the easiest thing you’ve ever done in light of Christ’s sacrifice for His children.
Cadet Aaron Johnson is a second year Cadet in the Central Territory USA.