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.”
    flag
    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, 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
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    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.*

Messy Church: Lent & Light

Theme:  I am the Light of the world
KEY VERSE:  John 8:12 –  “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Other verses for the stations:
Genesis 1:3 “Let there be light”
Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking around in darkness have seen a great light”
Acts 9:1-6
Psalm 119:105
1 Samuel 17:45-47
1 John 1:5-7
Matthew 5:16

Welcome (Chapel):  Introduction of Lent & Light…  5 Minutes.
Introduction and Welcome to Church today!
Today we are going to explore the Light of God through a “Messy Church” experience.
Some of you might not be all that comfortable with the notion of not being in this chapel for the entire service today, but let me reassure you that this will be an entire family teaching time today.  Grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles, you will all be working side by side with your children and grandchildren and adopted children of this corps to learn more about Christ and His light.  This week also begins what the Church call the Lenten season.  This season is all about reflecting and preparing Christians around the world for what Jesus did at the cross and at the tomb in resurrection.  So, with that thought in mind today, we are going to explore the very important topic of light in our messy church service today .  For those of you who are extremely worried about getting messy, don’t worry – you won’t have to, but I would ask that you all participate in some way as we go from station to station today.
Table #1 Light Bulb Cards:  (5 Mins)
Need:  Pencils/Crayons/Scissors
Make Lightbulb shaped cardstock papers by drawing a light bulb, coloring it and then cutting it out.
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Read:  “The people walking around in darkness have seen a great light”…Isaiah 9:2

Discuss: Talk about different kinds of light and light sources…make a list of them.
-Which kind of light is your favorite?  Why?
-Have you ever had a time when you had to walk in the dark?  Talk about that experience.
Say:  Lightbulbs and electricity help us in our homes to see at night.  Before lightbulbs they used candles and oil-filled lanterns.

Ask:  Have you ever experienced a time when the power went out and everything went dark?
What do you do when something like that happens?  What kinds of tools do you use?
How did you feel when the power was restored and you have light again?

Close by saying:
God’s great light can shine into the darkest of places in our world.   He can light up the darkest night.  Tonight, when you go to bed, thank God for his great light that shines in our hearts because he loves us!

Table #2 Stained Glass Windows (5 Mins)
Card Stock Rectangles Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and table
Pre-cut moons, stars, crosses, fish, candles
multi -Colored tissue paper
Create stained glass by gluing two shapes then placing tissue paper behind the shapes.
Blend colors using multi-colored strips of tissue paper.
(show a picture of a stained glass window)

Talk about the way Light transforms stained glass.
What colors are visible in the stained glass?
Look at this picture of the stained glass, can you see different shapes and symbols in it?
What do you see?
Stained glass like this are used to tell stories.  It is much more than just decorations in a church.
These windows convey to use bible stories that we know and help to remind us of God’s light shining down upon us.

Read:  Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.[a] So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  Acts 9: 1-6

Ask:  How did Jesus get Saul’s attention?
(God’s light shone from heaven).
Saul was blinded for a short time because of this light from heaven, but after this experience, he changed his name to Paul and began to preach and teach about Jesus to everyone he met.  God’s light shines upon all of us just like this stained glass.  He wants us to live for him and to reflect that light in all that we say and do.

Ask as you close:  How can we shine for Him this week?

Table #3 A Lamp Unto My Feet (5mins)
Card stock pages with slices in themImage may contain: 1 person, indoor
a Scripture passage on a strip of paper
A Paper handle strip

Read:  “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light unto my path.”  Psalm 119:105

Talk about:  God’s word will direct our lives if we are willing to listen to Him.
He wants to help us make wise decisions in life.
Ask:  Have you ever walked around the darkness and tripped over things?  How did that experience make you feel?  Were you afraid?  Did you hurt yourself?
What happens when you turn the light on in a dark room?  You can see right?
What once was dark is now light.
Ask: Why do you think parents have rules for kids when they are growing up?
What happens when those kids break the rules?
What happens when adults break the law?
There are consequences to breaking the law or the rules right?
But those laws or rules are there to protect us right?
In the same way, God’s word is there to protect us and to keep us safe.
He wants us to follow it so that we don’t wander around in the darkness.

Hold Up Your lamps:  And read the scripture passage on the handle together:
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light unto my path.”

Table #4 Make Paper Hats (5 mins)

Need:  Card Stock & Glitter, Makers, Crayons, Tape.
We are going to make party hats.
We all know the Story of David and Goliath, but did you know David had the light of God inside him?  He was brave and he had faith that God would help him defeat this giant!  The Giant had huge weapons and a was very fearsome and frightening to all of the Israelite soldiers including the king.  But David had faith in God and he said to Goliath:

Read:  …“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47

Ask:  How did David win the battle?
Did he do it with his own strength?
How important is it to trust in God?

Do you know people who seem to have God’s light inside of them?
Do they seem to be bright and cheery people who have peace even when they face their own giant problems?  How can we become like David and have courage and the light of God in us?
Put on your party hats…each one looks amazing and colorful…and bright!  You can shine for God in your life too if you have faith and know that He is with you in every situation especially those that involve giant problems and worries.

Table #5 Star Cookies (5 mins)
Need:  Yellow Frosting, Sprinkles,
Families will frost their cookies and sprinkle them.
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Talk
about how stars give off light in the night sky.
How far away are stars?  Hint: millions of miles.
Our nearest star is 4.24 light years away.

Read:  Genesis 1:2-4
God gave us light in the darkness:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

God spoke creation into being, and he gave us light so that we can see.
Light also gives us life.
Ask:  Can plants grow without sun light?
Talk About:
The Sun in our galaxy is a giant star.  It is a great big ball of fire made up of gas.
If you even go near it we would not live for very long, but God placed this star and our planet at just right location in order for all of us to live.  If the sun had been placed any further away, our planet would freeze.  If the sun was too close Earth would be way too hot to live on.  God knew exactly how to create light and darkness ( and the rest of creation for that matter) in order that we might live and love Him.

Table #6  Walking In Light or Darkness?  (5 mins)
Need:  Little water bottles , plastic cups, baby oil, washable markers (for color) sparkles. Image may contain: drink and indoor
Pour the water into the plastic cup.
Grab a washable marker and dab it into the water until the water changes color. (only 1 per cup)
Pour water back into the bottle about half way, then fill the rest with a little bit of baby oil.
Close the lid and then shake it up.

Read:  “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
1 John 1:5-7

Talk:  Before Christ came to the earth, the people in ancient times have to make lots of sacrifices so that they could remove the darkness of sin from their lives.  When Jesus came, he died on the cross for our sins and become the ultimate sacrifice so that sacrifices were no longer needed – Christ’s was enough for everyone in the whole wide world!  Think about that: God’s one and only son, bringing his perfect light into a dark world.  Look at the dark section of your bottles –  When we choose to follow Jesus, we stop living in the darkness of sin and we begin to walk in the light of His love.  When we do this we can shine so that others might see Jesus too.

Table #7 This Little Light of Mine  (5 mins)       
Need:  2 Flashlights.  One with batteries and one without.  Put wads of paper and coins and whatever else in the second flashlight.
Begin by Singing:  “This Little Light of Mine”
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Read:In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:16

Take turns reading the verse together. I like to read the verse normally, then read it super-fast and super-slow. Sometimes we read our verses “underwater” meaning I rub my fingers up and down over my lips while I speak to make the underwater sound. After you read the verse together, have kids sit quietly and answer a few questions.

Say, “What do you think it means, ‘Let your light shine before men…” Encourage kids to answer, let them know there’s wrong answer. After they have shared what they think, bring out the flashlight that doesn’t work. Don’t tell them it doesn’t work. Flip the switch on and try to shine a light. Say, “Wow! This isn’t working.” Shake the flashlight. “I think I hear batteries in there. Should we check it?”

Open the battery and show kids the junk that’s in the flashlight. Say, “Wow! These aren’t batteries. No wonder it’s not working. You know, we are kind of like these flashlights. When we have junk in us, we don’t shine our light. Now let’s see what happens we do have a flashlight that shines correctly.” Flip on the working flashlight and turn off the lights to show how bright it is.

(Object Lesson Source: http://ministry-to-children.com/shine-a-light-object-lesson-for-sunday-school-matthew-516/)

 

Total Table Time:  40 minutes

The Wrap Up Back In The Chapel –   15 minutes

Sing:  Marvelous Light
Here I am to Worship

Devotional:
Today we explore what topic in Messy Church?
That’s right the topic of light.  More importantly Jesus said:
John 8:12 –  “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
In all of our stations today we have explored all kinds of ways that we can share that light with outs and how we can shine as well…right?  Jesus told this to many people, and he wants us to follow him as well.  He wasn’t just any light…like a light bulb that can be replaced when it burns out – NO!  He is THE light of the world.  In fact it says in Revelation 22:5 about heaven that “there will be no night there–no need for lamps or sun–for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.”  Imagine that!  God’s light will never go out, never become dim, or ever, ever be extinguished.
Jesus came to this earth and told everyone he was the light of the world and that they should follow Him…I have good news today for you!  He still is the light of the world and when we choose to follow Him, we have this light inside of us and it shines too.

Now, perhaps this is the first time you are hearing about Jesus in this way.
And maybe you would like to receive this light for the very first time.
Jesus came to this earth to die for our sins and when we accept this sacrifice, we become His people.  We become Christ-followers, and he said that one day we would all be with him in eternity or heaven.  But do you know what we have to do?  We have to accept this gift of eternal life.  The light Christ offers will last for eternity, and with that light comes love, peace and hope.  Would you like to accept this light today in your lives?  If so, I would like to pray this prayer with you and if you would like to accept Jesus for the first time, or maybe just reaccept Him, would you pray this prayer with me?

“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I have walked in the darkness for far too long.   I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will.  I pray that you help me to be Your light in this world.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

 

*This lesson plan was adapted from the book: “Messy Church: fresh ideas for building a Christ-centered community.“*

Dear Salvation Army, Is This Mission Drift?…

It has happened in numerous conversations.
There has been the lament of decisions made, and the ripples that flow from those decisions moving outward growing ever larger and larger.
Could it be that in some places in our Army world that we are experiencing a floundering of our mission?  How can we recognize this mission drift in our ministries and in the larger army?

Perhaps the first question we should ask ourselves is this:  What is our mission as an Army?  Have we strayed from that mission?  And if the answer is ‘yes’, then perhaps we have indeed become castaways on mission drift.

I read a fascinating article recently from The Gospel Coalition by Matt Smethurst, he was interviewing authors Peter Greer and Christ Horst who wrote the book Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities and Churches.  In this interview, Smethurst asked Greer and Horst “Why is “mission drift” such a problem for well-intentioned Christian ministries and charitable trusts?”
Their answer really hit home with perhaps some of the issues our Army faces currently.  Here is what Greer and Horst had to say:

Through our research we confirmed that mission drift is a pressing challenge for every faith-based organization. The zeal and beliefs of the founders are insufficient safeguards. There is no immunity, no matter how concrete your mission statement is. Or how passionate your leaders are. Or how much you believe it could never happen to you.

Relatively minor decisions, when compounded by time, lead organizations to an entirely different purpose and identity.

boatDid you catch that?
Mission Drift is a challenge for EVERY faith-based organization…and I believe we are facing this imminent threat every day within our Army.  We are not immune.  We are not above this danger.  As a matter of fact, I believe that the chief danger in our Salvation Army today is mission drift within social programs, recreational programs and all other would be programs that are become increasingly devoid of any spiritual emphasis or initiative.  We have become professional outsourcers and imagined “the lost” would come banging down our doors on Sunday…yet they aren’t and our corps are dying…and we are riding wave after wave of mission drift.

When asked about money, Greer and Horst had this to say:

Q: How does money tend to factor into the mission drift equation?

Through hundreds of hours of interviews with Christian leaders of organizations of all varieties, donor influence was identified time and again as a leading cause of drift. With almost any donation there are “strings attached.” In some instances donors—often corporate donors or government funders—will place prohibitions about how overtly Christian an organization’s work can be. Historically this restriction was perhaps most evidenced in Andrew Carnegie’s university funding, which disallowed “sectarian institutions” from receiving funding. Many colleges—including Brown and Dartmouth—cut ties with their founding Christian denominations to be eligible to receive Carnegie’s millions.

Has money played a part of our possible mission drift in the Salvation Army?
I would say if it hasn’t, then the temptation has surely been there…and some may even rationalize “well, we will figure out a ‘work-around’ for our mission to continue as we accept these monies…” and yet the funds come and the implementation of missional, intentional Christ-centered programming gets tossed or put on the back-burner because regulations and guidelines must be followed.  Is this danger truly happening to our Army?  Is it subtle and sometimes unnoticeable?   All it takes are small, seemingly innocuous decision to take place in order for the drift to start.  Could it be happening in your corps?  Your Division?  Your Territory?

I certainly do not want to paint a doom and gloom, “let’s second guess every decision being made” – type of conversation.  But I am pondering whether we have already begun to drift away from our primary purpose for being an Army?  Later on in the interview, Greer and Horst said this, and I believe this describes my fear of mission drift in our army:

We chose the word drift intentionally. It has the image of slowly, silently, and with little fanfare carrying you away to a new destination. It’s not dramatic, and yet anyone who’s spent time on a boat of any size knows it happens.

It’s clichéd, but the moments of greatest temptation occur when you least expect it. We’ve felt the tug of secularization most when we’ve been enjoying seasons of growth. It’s so easy for success to cloud drift. But it’s always there. As Christian leaders, we must daily commit ourselves to protecting and celebrating what matters most in the institutions God has entrusted to us.

PONDER THIS:
So here is my pondering to you, Dear Army:  How do we even notice mission drift when it happens in our big Army?  And secondly, how do we course correct if our Army is Titanic and it takes all of us to turn the ship around?  Can this be done?  What are some of the indicators of mission drift that you see?  Would loss of constituents be an indicator?  Would leadership disconnect be another?  Would program not missionally based also sound alarms?  What kinds of safe-guards can we put into place to help us avoid this trap?  How might we course correct?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, comments and concerns.
Something more for our Army to ponder today.

Source:  
Smethurst, M. (2014, March 10).  The subtle danger of mission drift. The gospel coalition.
Retrieved from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-subtle-danger-of-mission-drift

*Disclaimer:  The thoughts and opinions written here are not necessarily the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.*

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Smart Strategies To Army Mission…

Dear Salvation Army Soldier & Friends, our mission doesn’t exist without those that push the mission and strive to see it succeed!  Without soldiers and friends working so tirelessly together in an effort to meet human need in Jesus’ name, we will fail and our efforts will be in vain.  With that being said, we serve more than just the army ranks.  For officers come and officers go, and our appraisal of those wearing red may increase or decrease depending on the character of each.  But collectively we are the army.  But without Christ at the head of our army we will be without direction and hope.

It is my prayer that we keep our eyes ever on Christ as we dole out our policy and mission steps in our world.  Dare I say that there have been times when policy and administrative decisions have not made sense and/or were not made with Christ in mind at all.  Such moments in our history, I would hope are few and far between and I am instead given over to the notion that we ought to pray for each and every leader that is appointed to lead this Army.  I cannot imagine the enormity of such a mantel, yet it is thrust on many who would deem themselves quite unworthy of it.  But, beware to those who think they deserve such a mantel, even power and leadership in our army can corrupt.  So pray in earnest for one another so that we do not fall into such a temptation of pride, ego and personal ambition.

Here are three smart primer strategies to our Army mission.  There are more subtopics and conversations to be had within this pondering…after you read these starting points, why not tell us what YOU think and what we can add to this list!

1.  Leaders – listen to the “Boots on the ground!”  

bootsI cannot stress how important it is for leaders of all positions to listen to those who are actively engaged on the ground in the fight!

There are certainly Church roles that we possess in our movement, some are appointed and gifted in: administration, some in pastoring, some evangelism…and so on, yet we all must do our very best within the positions that we have been given to glorify God and to edify and encourage each other!  Leaders who simply dictate and dole out policy but rarely listen to the boots on the ground will eventually be resented and our mission will become bogged down.  Take the time to listen to those who see the need every day!  Sometimes we as leaders have to have the guts to admit when the plan we plotted isn’t working and perhaps there is a better, more effective way.  Swallow your pride and adapt!  This goes for every position of leadership from the corps setting all the way up!

savesWe cannot afford to have polarizing visions when we should all be seeking to remain mission minded and focused.  There’s no time for that!   Leaders who listen and then lead have a better chance at successfully navigating and accomplishing their objectives in mission!  If leaders only dictate from their offices that are tucked away from mission we will fail because administration can only meet mission when it has its ear to the ground and a heart to serve in the capacity of servant-leader.    Enough with the old guard of “my way or the highway” brass!  Yes be strict on mission-mindedness but compassionate on leading and shepherding!  Be a shepherd first and listen!

2.  Boots on the ground – Pray for and love your leaders, trust them and then engage in the spiritual warfare while befriending the lost!  

do

There’s no time to jostle about and deciding which leader you will follow or trust.  There is too much at stake, too much to lose in forward progress as an army!  If we spend too much time worrying about the internal workings of our army, we will lose sight of those we are entrusted to serve and love!  Bring the mission of the lost into focus – make it your priority to keep this mission going!  Be the gate keepers of Hell so that no one slips by you and into that place of ultimate depravity!  Stand as the bridge builder who brings hope to your community!  Worry less about what others (even leadership) might think and more about what God might think with our inactions!  Get on with it!!  Fight on and be the voice for those without one.  The very progression of our army depends upon the movement of these vital infantry boots!  You will stand knee deep in the muck and mire of people’s sin and sadness.  You will witness the hopeless single mother who is struggling to put food on the table, or the children who come to your program that you know are currently living in awful places and conditions.  You must take action!

Love those who lead you.  Trust that God has placed them there to help you accomplish this mission together!  Pray for each other and for those who will come knocking on your door in search of help!  We cannot progress the good news of Jesus Christ and bring hope to a dying world if we are not first Holy people who are taking up our crosses and following Him!  We cannot look like the world and act like the world.  We are set apart to do mighty things, we cannot lack anything especially faith that God will pave this path for us!

3.  Look outside “The Bubble”!  

bubble

Lastly, do not get bogged down in your own bubble that you become ignorant of how God might be working in our world!  Be in-tune with Him!  Do not live in your corps buildings and your Divisional or territorial offices and forget to peer out the windows and walk the streets!  God is not static and He does not want us to become static!  Look beyond what we have already accomplished!  Don’t just maintain and do the same things over and over again especially if these things (or programs) are not bringing people to Christ any longer! Explore, study, become students of knowledge and strategy!  Read!!  There is this notion that any organization and mission can become so internal that it’s almost incestuous in developing its methods of mission, evangelism and mission.  Break this mold!  Take risks, and don’t be afraid to fail – even a hundred times (or more)!   We cannot live in our Army bubbles and expect people to come to us!  We have to go to them!  We have to think outside the box (or corps).  We have to stop living in the past or the glory days all the while missing countless opportunities to make history and break new ground!  If we expect revival we have to make revolution happen in our army!

pop I think sometimes what keeps us in our bubbles is the fear of what leadership might do if we try new things that don’t necessarily “look Army”.  Is there fear of reprisal and punishment for not maintaining the status quo?  Perhaps it’s time to pop the bubble!
Perhaps it’s time to refocus and realign our motives and mindsets on the mission of this world-wide movement!  But we cannot do that unless we become risk-takers and break the bubble comfort and tradition.
help
Something more for this Army to Ponder…now, tell us what YOU think by leaving comments and questions below or in your discussion feed!  I can’t wait to hear from you!

*Disclaimer:  The thoughts and opinions written on Pastorsponderings are not necessarily the thoughts and expressed opinions of The Salvation Army, reader discretion is advised!*

Dear Salvation Army: Is The Holiness Movement Dying? Then Perhaps This is Why…

I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.” John Wesley

Dear beloved Army,
This holiness movement used to be so much grander than it is today.
Are we a dying breed?
Is this movement more of a nod to a bygone era?

More and more, we find that Holiness is being preached less and less, and even more praytroubling is that holiness is not being lived out or made into something real and tangible for the world to see.  The notion of being set-apart is both vital and necessary for the purpose of entire sanctification.   Being set-apart means that we wash the feet of those who have only experienced religion with strings attached.  For we are not a religion, we are a movement that preaches about this holy relationship we can have with the Almighty!  We are a movement (or at least we used to be) that lived out holiness and preached it from our pulpits.  If this is missing in our corps and in our witness then perhaps we have lost a step and are no longer a moving, passionate movement…but instead could it be that we are static and floundering about trying to define our identity apart from Holiness?

Have We Forgotten The Power Prayer?  
couttsGeneral Frederick Coutts once said:  “To pray together is to be shielded from evil, not only from the perils which beset the body, but also the dangers that assail the soul
Coupled with this near extinction of the Holiness movement, have we lost sight of the power of prayer?  Has prayer, and prayer meetings become a thing of the past in our corps?  I am sure that some will write me and proclaim that their corps still holds prayer meetings, this is wonderful news to hear, but for every one corps that proclaims this, there are most likely three or four more that will admit to its vacancy.   Have we stopped praying for one another?  Have we relinquished this vital weapon of spiritual warfare?  An Army no longer on its knees in prayer is an army who ill-equipped for the battles ahead.  How can we march out into the streets and boldly proclaim “the world for God” when we have not been earnestly praying for each other in our corps buildings as we individually engage in spiritual battles no one is willing to talk about let alone confront?

holiness.jpgI believe that if that we are to experience a revival again as a movement, it will only come when we begin to take our prayer lives more seriously.  This spiritual discipline is vital to both the corporate worship setting as well as the personal one done in those private moments.  Let me ask you this, how often to you pray for your fellow soldiers and officers? How often do we lift up our concerns before the Almighty and continue to wait on Him?  In our fast paced lifestyles we have grown impatient and we lack attention to prayer.  We need more prayer warriors in our Army and less prayer worriers.  We need authentic, vulnerable moments in our pews as much as we need real, genuine times of solitude in our homes devoted to prayer.

The disciples, post ascension, waited on God…only when they waited and prayed and longed for His presence were they able receive His holy presence and go out and proclaim the resurrected and transformational Christ!

prayerSomewhere along the line did we get ahead of Christ?
Did we leave Him in our upper rooms?  Did we rush out to do good works and forget to bring Him with us?  We can certainly fix the brokenness of physical needs through charity and social work, but we cannot bring the cure to sin-sick habitual living if we ourselves have forgotten about the need for entire sanctification in our corps and in our lives.  The uniform means nothing if we do not first have this yearning to become the very image of Christ in our living and in our breathing.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.

So let me ask you this:  Is the Holiness movement dead?
Is it on life support in our army?
Or is it thriving in your “neck of the woods”?
If it is indeed thriving, please tell us about your experiences!
I would never presume anything about your corps, and I am not saying anything other than what the Lord is convicting me of in my own life right now.
It is my belief that if we are not continually laying our all on the altar in full-surrender to Christ, and if we are not giving ourselves continually to the discipline of prayer – we will in affect have sounded the death-knell of this Holiness movement.

Dear Salvation Army, if we have been asleep to these disciplines, I pray we wake up and shake off the polarizing agendas and the distractions and get on with being Holy…from this act we can then do this holiness through the mission of our movement.

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

*Disclaimer: These thoughts and opinions are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.* 

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