Dear Salvation Army, Baptism & The Great Commission?

16″ Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Salvation Army Doctrine #1:We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.”

I do not mean to stir the waters, pun intended, but I have often wondered what your Salvationist response would be on this topic.  I must confess that I have often struggled with reconciling our doctrine with the lack of fulfillment of the great commission as described in verse 19; “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”   Yes, I understand that we are non-sacramental in religious practice, but one wonders why even such a discussion often evokes the same response one might expect from a discovery of a sin issue.  Seriously, it’s generally frowned upon, knee-jerk reactions abound every time Communion and Baptism are even mentioned.  It almost seems like we treat such conversations as heresy and equate such talk to sin.  Why is that?
Why such harsh attacks on even the mention of these religious practices?

I bring the topic of Baptism up today in this pondering so that we can dialogue together, so that we might bring a deeper understanding of our theology to the forefront and that we do not linger amongst the shallow answers of “Because that’s how we have always done things“…but why?

water

Historical Context:
We ought to recognize that Industrial England, the birth place of The Salvation Army, certainly had it dichotomy of the upper class and the poor.  Many within the lower East-end would not have been welcome in The Church of that day.  Also, within the lack of practice of Baptism and Communion, we know that our theological tradition precludes the need of such symbolic practices because we are “baptized by the Holy Spirit” and “The Sacrificial life is more important than participation in the Sacraments”.  Understandably so, but I wonder if such staunch views have prohibited some in recent years of full membership?  What I mean is, does our lack of practice or participation in these fundamental “Christian” elements, distract some would-be soldiers in joining our ranks?  There are certainly many views on the subject.  On one extreme – there are those within other denominations who feel since one was never “properly” Baptized they cannot claim to be Christians.  And then on the other side of the spectrum, there are those who view practices of water baptism to be archaic and unnecessary.

 So back to my original question…
If we believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice, Why do we fail to include parts of the “Great Commission”?  Again I don’t mean to stir up controversy, but I would like us to answer this…I want you to help me fill in the content here that I struggle with.  No, I don’t have a baptismal in my corps building, no I don’t baptize my members, but I’m curious how we decide to fulfill some of the “Divine rule of Christian faith and practice” while excluding others?  Why is this topic so taboo?

Another question that comes to my mind then is this:  Are we a fluid moving Army or are there somethings that cannot change within our structure and practice?  I am in no way advocating we change our stance on Baptism or Communion; but is there a point where the reasons we refrained from such practices in another age and era should be reconsidered in another age and era?  Would this be going backwards or progressing forward?  Or perhaps there is too much emphasis on the baptism part and there ought to be more emphasis made on the “make disciples” component to the Great Commission.  Perhaps this is the “happy middle”?

go

Again, I’m curious on your answers here.
As always, I look forward to the responses that sound off with shock and awe that such a question should ever be asked within the Army.  Again, it is surprising to me how we often treat this topic as “hush, hush“, almost as if we’re talking about a sin.  Why is that?  Couldn’t we even deepen our understanding of our own doctrine by talking out-loud about such things and there by adding clarity to the topic for others?  Also, I am not looking for a lecture here either, simply a dialogue and what your response might be on this specific topic.

Something more for the Army to ponder today, hopefully you don’t label me a heretic for even asking the question.  Blessings on you today!


Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here are not necessarily the opinions and views of The Salvation Army, but rather the writer’s own thoughts, questions and opinions expressed.  Reader discretion is advised.  

Dear Salvationist, Participant Or Spectator?

lou
Jesus doesn’t need a fan club.
He doesn’t need cheer leaders on the sidelines happily applauding but never stepping foot on the field.

If you are a soldier or adherent  of The Salvation Army – we don’t need a fan club either.
We don’t have time to sit on the sidelines and cheer.
Every member of this army should an active participant in this great mission we are called to.

Distractions:

distract
I understand that there are times when we peer over the fence at other churches and ministries and we wish we were like others – but this isn’t what we’re called to do either.  We might also get so caught up in over analyzing everything within the four walls of our buildings that we lose sight of the hurting people outside of our buildings who need someone to bring them hope and to share with them the love of Christ.  We were made for so much more than just keeping a uniform warm and a pew occupied.  Our lives have been offered into a greater service than just selfish ambition and personal gain.  We are not serving ourselves but we are to serve our communities and those in it through Christ-like selflessness.  We cannot afford to become distracted by elements of worship or fence-peering or dressing to impress.  No, we have communities to serve in and to love regardless of how we might be treated along the way.

Along with our distractions, there is also the distraction of social media and cellular phonesdevices.  Although these can be used for good, they can also distract and pull us further away from one another.  It sounds hypocritical talking about this as I write this blog article, and I’m equally guilty of this, but how much time do we devote every day to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?  One might contend that they are bringing encouragement and hope by posting, and perhaps you are, but by and large we are so consumed by the social media that we sometimes neglect to look up from our tiny screens and into the communities we currently live.  We need breaks from these devices.  We need to look up and see real needs right in front of our faces – right there in your own community!

andre

 

General Andre’ Cox recently said this at the National Advisory Organization Conference – “Never has there been a time when people were more engrossed with communicating, but who is really listening?’ He continued: ‘The virtual environment cannot replace looking someone in the eye, talking directly to them and knowing that they listen. God must also get frustrated with us because he keeps talking, but do we listen? … He has spoken most clearly to us through Jesus. When God sent Jesus he gave us a clear example of how to order and live our lives.
(Source: http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/news/inr270416)

So let me ask you again, are you a participant or a spectator?
Are we still listening to the Holy Spirit as He leads us?
He is active and available…but are we?

Jesus doesn’t need a fan club, He desires disciples and soldiers who are willing and able to step out onto the mission field (both here and far away) and serve Him boldly and unashamedly.  Are you available?  Are you ready to participate in the battle for souls around you?  We cannot do this work, this calling with out first listening to His Holy Presence as He provides the wisdom and guidance for this army of salvation.
life
It’s time to get on with it and step up…are you ready?

Dear Salvationist – Arrogance Beware!

Luke 18:9-14(NLT)

Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer[a]: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Beware dear Soldier of the trappings of arrogance, for it can creep into that uniform of yours and corrupt your heart and attitude!  We do not wear this uniform and associate ourselves with this army because we are better than other people, instead we should wear it as as sign of utter humility, servitude to Christ and as a constant reminder of our mission in this world.

selfCould our corps halls feel like an exclusive club to outsiders?  -This should never be the case!  We might become tempted, at times, to puff ourselves up with all of our corps’ accomplishments and fortunes, instead run from such thoughts and temptations!  Do not become like the Pharisee in the parable Jesus told – who was so enamored by his own pride and arrogance that those earnestly seeking were criticized and despised.

No, instead fight this war against pride and arrogance as a Soldier of this army!  We ought to fall to our knees and repent every time we become prideful of who we are instead of Whose we are.   We must recognize and repent every time we aspire to places of position and power out of personal gain and selfish ambition.  Pride and arrogance will poison our army if we are not careful; and although we do good in our communities lest we not forget Who our faith is in and for Whom all of these good works are accomplished.thumb

If we as soldiers exchange this true calling of sincere holiness in our lives for earthly recognition and these temporary places of authority the world bestows upon us, we will have lost it all – and our identity as an Army for God.

Jesus despised the hypocrite and the religious zealot who couldn’t see past their own personal needs and desires.  Beware dear Soldier of the trappings of arrogance and pride.

Prayer:
Lord, make us humble.  May we be mindful of our fellow man – and the hurting world around us.  Give us Your heart and eyes – may we ever be on our knees earnestly seeking after you.  Holy Spirit, instill in us this servant-heart.  Break us of our pride and arrogance. Remove the dross, wipe away the old life.  If need be, remove us from places of prominence so that we may be yours and yours alone.  Lord, forgive us when we have had a divided heart – you want us all to yourself, and there have been times when we have strayed.  May Christ-likeness be our goal as we humbly serve.  Amen.
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So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[a] with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

 

Dear Salvationist – 5 Ways To Kill A Corps

I am certainly not advocating trying these out today in your corps, actually I’m pleading for all of us to do the opposite.  Our various ministries can, and should be paramount to our faith and to those we serve.   How we lead others, how we conduct ourselves in our corps makes a difference!

With that being said, dear Soldier, here are 5 ways to kill a Corps!

5.  Gossip lie
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
The Fastest way to burn your corps down to the ground is to strike the match of the malicious tongue that wags and pierces hearts.  Be aware of what you say and how you say things.  No one likes  to be around people who are asinine in their speech and malicious in their actions and opinions of others.  Gossip has no place in the corps, unless you long for it to die a slow and agonizing death.

We know that gossip shouldn’t be, but why do we tolerate it and even entertain it in our halls?  Dear Salvationist, have nothing to do with idle chatter and people who only want to slander and smear the truth.  (2 Timothy 2:23).

4.  Favoritism 
favorMy brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.  For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?” (James 2:1-6 NASB)

It even happens in Corps buildings.
It might not necessarily be about rich and poor, but perhaps personalities and someone’s available gifts.  An Officer can favor only a specific few corps members and by doing so, unknowingly cause dissension, envy and strife.  The same can be said for local officers who choose corps members to help them in their daily duties.  Be fair to all who come into your halls!  Show love and compassion and be aware that favoritism can happen even if we’re not cognizant of it.  Favoritism is a true, perhaps unseen danger in our corps, and if left unchecked will cause jealousy, anger and disharmony to occur which can lead to a terminal corps.

3.  Lording Power power
“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder andwitness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will ofGod; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:1-3)

This Salvation Army was founded upon a militant structure and sometimes we can get carried away with ourselves in places of leadership and authority.  Many of us have heard story after story where, one who was entrusted with power and authority, has used it in very unbiblical ways to hurt others.  I would hope that this is not the norm, but rather isolated incidents of worldly ambitions becoming visible to all.

power1Dear Soldier, be keenly aware of the pending dangers of authority and power.  If you are or ever become entrusted with any kind of power – use it wisely and with every amount of Holiness that you can muster!  What you say, how you lead, what you do – makes the world a difference!  Although we have a militant structure, keep in mind who is the head of our army – it certainly isn’t me or you, or even the General – It is the King of kings and Lord of lords!!  Be good leaders!  Be kind leaders.  Be wise leaders.  Set a godly standard by exercising grace, love and hope.

2.  Find Fault In Everything and Everyone!
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” (Romans 14:1-2)
fault-findingI have met some deeply cynical people in my day.  Many were housed within the corps…these individuals could never be pleased no matter how hard one might try.  No matter what took place, these individuals always saw the negative and very rarely the positive.  After time, no one wanted anything to do with them, because bitterness tends to bleed into the very fabric of our corps buildings if we let it.  thumbs

This blazing fire that could consume your corps, is like that of gossip.  It can invade and taint everything it touches.  People become disillusioned by it because no matter how hard you try fault and imperfections are always seem instead.

Examples (just to name a few):
“Well Captain, the service is just too dry for my tastes…”
“That worship band plays too loudly and I hate that sort of music…”
“We’ve never done it that way before, and we’re not about to try!”
“That man in the back has been coming to our corps for three weeks and he smells…”
“I might stop coming to the corps because _______(name here)___ is still there and they are horrible people!”

Sometimes, these nay-sayers use the old phrase “This and better will do” to justify their salty – never satisfied – fault finding attitudes that they have.  The problem isn’t everyone else, the problem stems from these individuals who can find nothing good to say…ever!  Don’t the the corps burn to ground because of fault-finders and judgmental people!

1. Abdicate All Leadership and Responsibilities  
batton

Let someone else do it!
I don’t have the time to come to corps programs and activities…”
Corps Officer – “So, who will lead adult Sunday School for the next three months?” (silence fills the space…no one volunteers even though there are many capable individuals in the room)
This Army isn’t fully functional until ALL capable members of our corps are engaged and serving!  Officers – you cannot abdicate your calling and role in the corps!  Soldiers, you cannot let or conceive that all things done in the corps is the sole responsibility of the officer!

If we want our corps to die – then never step up.
If we want to preach to empty pews during holiness meetings – then never lead.
We can die by not taking responsibility.  We can allow stagnation to set in and wilt away as one generation dies and there is no one left to take their place.

If you suffer from self-esteem issues or you question if you’re good enough to lead – you can do it!  You just need one person to believe in you.  We all make mistakes, it comes with the territory of leadership.  Being responsible means we own up to our victories and our failures…and then we keep going and we don’t quit simply because the going got tough.  We need more soldiers and officers with backbones – there I’ve said it.  It’s not a slam again those who are faithfully serving (Thank you for what you do both behind the scene and in front of everyone!)…we cannot afford to abdicate our authority and leadership IF this is where God has called us to!  Be faithful in the good times AND in the not so good times!   This Army needs you!  It needs good leaders!  It needs consistent, prayer driven leaders.

Wrapping it up.
So this is my top 5, it’s a primer…what’s yours?
Share with us your top 5 things that will kill any corps from your experiences!
Together, we can avoid these pitfalls!

Something more for the Army world to ponder today!
Photo Mar 11, 9 09 43 AM
*Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent The Salvation Army’s thoughts and opinions, reader discretion is advised*

Dear Salvationist, Why Do You Want To Be A Soldier?

Dear Salvationist,

I ask you this question within this pondering today because it truly matters how you answer the question.  There are good reasons to be a soldier, and there are not-so-good reasons to be a soldier.

The ‘Not-So’ List: Photo Feb 24, 1 29 59 PM
1) I want to be a soldier because my whole family is a soldier…
this may be the most common of answers.  The answer itself isn’t necessarily bad or wrong, but if this becomes the sole reason you are a soldier, then you have missed the point of soldiership.  In the same way that no one will get into heaven on the merits of others, so it is with soldiership.  A good soldier is one who understands the mission and is prepared to be holy and then to live out holiness everyday.  Familiar bonds are wonderful, yet they are not a sufficient motive for soldiership.

2) I want to be a soldier because I look good in dark blue…(comforts)
Probably not a common excuse, but none-the-less it still address the physical aspects of soldiership.  If we choose to become a soldier because of the opportunities and comforts it affords us – we will have joined for the wrong purposes and motivations.  I am not saying that one can’t change, but if this motive remains constant throughout soldiership, then it will always be about dependancy on the organization and movement than it will ever about being a useful part of movement in the first place.    We don’t wish to become soldiers because of the comforts it affords.

trimMarching On…
Why do you want to be a soldier?
If the answer is that you long to be used by God for His holy purpose, and that you care about suffering humanity – then you are in the right place!  Our hearts and purpose for being soldiers has to line up with the mission of this army.

what is that mission you ask?
“The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

What vision should we, as Salvationists share?
I think this still applies – don’t you?

ONE ARMY: We see a God-raised, Spirit-filled Army for the 21st century – convinced of our calling, moving forward together

We will… one

  • deepen our spiritual life
  • unite in prayer
  • identify and develop leaders
  • increase self-support and self-denial

ONE MISSION: Into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means

We will…

  • emphasise our integrated ministry
  • reach and involve youth and children
  • stand for and serve the marginalised
  • encourage innovation in mission

ONE MESSAGE: With the transforming message of Jesus, bringing freedom, hope and life

We will…

  • communicate Christ unashamedly
  • reaffirm our belief in transformation
  • evangelise and disciple effectively
  • provide quality teaching resources

Dear Soldier, 
bandif you join these ranks as soldiers for any other purpose than to be servants of God and servants of man, then we have joined for all the wrong reasons.  The uniform, and all it represents, is a symbolic representation of a sacrificial life.  We are taking a stand against sin and death in this world.  We are standing with the marginalized.  We are pushing to end human slavery in our world.  We are striving to end the blight of human trafficking.  We are fighting for the homeless, the destitute the helpless, the hurting, the lost.  When we put on our uniforms and say we are soldiers, we are saying that our identities are no longer individual, but we are united with Christ to bring His love into some very loveless places of our world.  When we say we are soldiers, it means we are saved to serve, and we are saved to save.

soldiersIt’s more than just a uniform.
It’s more than just a covenant or a soldiership enrollment paper that we sign.
This mission, this movement – we become the very hands of feet of Christ if we do it properly.  Improperly, we join the throngs of clanging noise of the world that leave little impact and change on humanity.  The choice – this choice to be a soldier of Christ is ours to make.

So…what will it be?
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Disclaimer:  “The opinions and thoughts expressed here on Pastorsponderings do not necessarily always reflect the opinions and thoughts of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.

Dear Salvationist, A Prayer For The Weary

drumDear Soldier,

allow me to pray for you today.
Prayer is a powerful weapon of spiritual warfare – that can become underutilized and sometimes disregarded except for moments of greatest need.  We need you, dear soldier!  You are important to this mission – if this mission is written upon your heart and you have given yourself solely to God for His service/and the service of others!

Please allow me to pray for you and your small corner right now:

Lord, you know the soldier’s heart.
You know the war that wages within our communities, both seen and unseen.
We ask that you be with our corps around the world.
We also pray for our leaders both near and far away.
We know that without you we can do nothing!
But with you all things are possible!
Help us when we are tired, weary, worn and discouraged.
Grant to us your strength to carry on.
Illuminate your word and make it shine within our hearts.
Break us, mold us, renew us, Dear Lord.
Strengthen us for the tasks which seem insurmountable.
Lift our heads when we are brought low by circumstances around us.
Remind us that we are your people, sons and daughters of the Most High!
Father, we wish to honor you, continue to teach us your ways.
We long to reflect you, Dear Lord,  both in word and deed.
May we practice what we preach daily – minute by minute.
Lord make us holy – help us to reflect Christ in joy and suffering.
May we continue to be kingdom people – not building our kingdoms
but yours and yours alone.
As soldiers gather throughout the world – help us in our efforts as we feed the hungry, clothe and shelter the homeless, the orphaned and the impoverished.
May this fight for social justice in our world (both near and far) not be about what this mighty Army can do, but what You can do through faithful people.
Lord, lift our heads
We will give you glory in all things!
So be it.
Amen.

**Please continue to pray for me, and if you would like to be prayed for specifically, feel free to leave a message here on private message me and you will be prayed for!**

Dear Soldier,
Fight on…the war is far from over!

Something more for our army to ponder and pray about today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvationist, 5 Things Leaders SHOULD Do!

Yesterday, we pondered on the topic of 5 Things Leaders Shouldn’t Do
Today, we’re going to flip the proverbial coin over and explore  5 things Leaders SHOULD do in their ministry and in their lives.  love

I will not simply “flip” the list we already have explored, but it should be obvious that some of these done in reverse will greatly impact your flock!  Don’t ever negate the fact that as an appointed leader you HAVE a flock to tend to!  Leadership isn’t easy, it never is.  There will be times when you will have to the do the difficult things that will cost you! army3 Leadership might impact your friendships, your family and your relationships in general.  I am not deterring you from leadership, if you are about to take up some sort of mantel, but be mindful that there are no short cuts to becoming a good leader; hard work, planning and perseverance are qualities that are required!

5 Things Leaders SHOULD Do!

nelson5) Lead By Example
Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” -John Maxwell

Leaders, don’t just bark orders and expect those they lead to fall in line.  Some will follow, but others will down right rebel!  Strong, qualified leaders set the trend by their work ethic and physical practice of that work ethic!  NEWS FLASH: You don’t need a degree to be a good, qualified leader!

Good leaders will show you how it’s done before ever expecting you to perform.  How can we expect laborers in the field to cultivate a harvest if we haven’t first shown them how to work?  This cycles back to being good disciplers of those you lead!  We can’t expect amazing results if we do not first feed the sheep we have and display for them what Christ-like leadership looks like.

max4) Set Realistic Vision THEN revisit, regroup and Persevere!
People want to be part of something larger than themselves. They want to be part of something they’re really proud of, that they’ll fight for, sacrifice for, that they trust.” — Howard Schultz, Starbucks
Setting goals and a vision that is realistic is only one piece of the pie.  The planning and casting of a vision has to have an end game, or an “outcome”.  What do you want to see accomplished?  How will you get there?  What sorts of goals can you set (realistic) that will help you get there?

Once this vision is cast, you MUST include your flock, your people!  They have to be invested in the vision too!  It can’t be your vision, because your vision will never move the congregation (your people) forward into realization of that vision.  Vision HAS to be share and invested!  Once the vision is shared and invested in, good leaders regroup and revisit the goals and steps along the way.  Once something is accomplished, celebrate the accomplishment but also analyze and study why and how it became successful…do the same thing with failed goals or visions – assess why they failed or didn’t accomplish what you set out to accomplish.  THEN, work harder and keep going!

leader13) Servant Heart – Compassion!
This goes back to # 5 – Be the servant leader!
That doesn’t mean you get walked all over and you allow those you lead to get a pass on being invested in the mission, it means you place the needs of the many before your personal needs.  It means you consider others before yourself and what you want others to remember about you…NEWSFLASH – It’s not about you!

If we serve out of some erroneous notion that it’s about our abilities, passion and notoriety, then we have been sorely mistaken AND perhaps we need to check our egos at the door.  Jesus told His disciples that if any of them wanted to be first they had to be last.  If they wanted to be a leader they had to first become a servant of all. (Mark 10:42-45)  When we remove self from the equation, it becomes much easier to love those you lead because the inward focus of love has been refocused towards others and the vital mission that we as Salvationist believe in – “Save souls, grow saints and serve suffering humanity”

2) Take Risks! leader2
The plan of William and Catherine Booth for the Christian Mission which eventually became the Salvation Army was extremely risky.  They would devote themselves completely to it.  The founders left their previous ministries and began something completely new and different.  They risked a lot.  They tried things that did not always work.  BUT they took risks along the way.

I think that today our Army has become a sort of playground for the “play it safes”, if you know what I mean.  We invest in the programs we have already done – because there is funding or there is an insulated safety net in place, but when it comes time to wander out of the comforts of that safety net – we withdraw, we shy away.  In part it could mean reprisals and discipline from leaders in authority over you, and it could mean loss in possible membership because you were willing to upset the apple cart (so to speak).

Albert Einstein once said,“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.”   Let me amend this quote for our purposes here today – “An Army is always safe in the comforts of its corps buildings – but that is NOT what it is built for!”  Good leaders not only help set the team vision, but good leaders take calculated risks in helping to build the Kingdom, because this is ALL kingdom building work!  Take chances, take risked – worry less about reprisals from your divisional headquarters (gasp) and more about not listening to the Holy Spirit as He leads your corps or ministry!  Obviously communicate your plans to your leaders but don’t hamstring yourself because you’re afraid to risk.

oil1) Plan Ahead – Be Proactive!  
Knowing your community and assessing what your community needs is a tool that helps you to become a proactive leader and participant in Kingdom building!  When we begin to study our surroundings and surroundings of our ministry demographic we can begin to recognize trends and needs.  When we are better in tune with our community and our corps people, we will be more prepared to “meet human needs in His name”.

Do you remember the parable about the Bridesmaids  and their oil lamps in the Bible? (Matt. 25:1-13)  You know, the one where some of them were unprepared and ran out of oil before the Bridegroom returned?  They begged and begged the ones who had prepared to lead some of their oil to them…but it was too late.  In order to prevent this from realistically happening to us in our ministries and preparation to usher new people to Christ, we have to plan ahead!  Pulling something out of your butt (sorry for the imagery) at the last minute will only be so successful.  True success in our ministries, and growth in those we reach is defined by how well we know our audience and how prepared we are to meet them where they are at.  Good leaders will prepare and plan ahead.  Good leaders won’t always be last minute and harried in the process.

Some of you might contend – but I’m already busy…I have too much to do already – I’m right there with you.  I’m also not quite to the point where I would consider myself (by this specific qualification) a Good leader – I still have to work on this in my ministry.  But that doesn’t stop me from trying to become better at it!  We all have room to grow in this.  Other “reports” may have to take a backseat sometimes in order for leader to get back to the important work of planning and meeting needs – by listening and studying their communities and those they love and serve!

These are just 5 Things Leaders SHOULD be doing…it’s a primer, something to spur and spark our thoughts and our imaginations.  None of this can be fully accomplished unless we are fully submitted to God’s will for our ministries.   Dear Salvationist, you matter to this Army!  You set the trend and the motion forward!  We continue to need strong leaders who are willing to take up this mantel and to share the burden & passion of ministry!  My hope and prayer is that we recognize that we all have room to grow and that we begin to prayerfully consider how we can accomplish this through the power and strength of the Lord.

Something more for our Army to ponder today!

*Disclaimer:  The writings and opinions of Pastorsponderings are not necessarily the opinions of the Salvation Army – Reader Discretion is Advised.*

Dear Salvationist – 5 Things Leaders Shouldn’t Do

Dear Salvation Army Soldier, it would seem that we are at a turning point in our Army.
Perhaps some of you have seen this coming for years, perhaps some are seeing this for the first time.  Our organization, built on the fire of The Holy Spirit and the Mission to reach souls for Christ through “Soup, Soap, & Salvation”  is in need of a second and possibly third blessing from the Lord.

What do I mean by that?  I mean we are in need of a Pentecost type renewal once again among our ranks.  We need a deeper resolve within our prayer lives.  We must preach Holiness from the pulpit BUT more importantly live holiness in our lives and be an example of Christ-likeness to those around us!

This turning point is like the Israelites of old who renewed their covenant with God over and over again only to forget its meaning and stray from their faith and relationship to the Author and Sustainer of life.  Do we stray sometimes?  Have we lost our way upon this pathway of duty?  I don’t think this Salvationist thing is solely about duty…no, it’s so much more than that!  To me, the word “duty” implies something arduous and required of us.  Something that allows us to plod along as long as we are performing our required/expected responsibilities.  That word only goes so far…we as Salvationists need more the duty in our lives and in our ministries, we need passion, faith and perseverance too!

That being said, allow me for a moment to delve into a very important topic of leadership.
This topic is not exclusively for our divisional/territorial or International leaders, this is a broad brush stroke that transcends position and status within our Army.  I say this because I do not want anyone to assume I am directing this at anyone specifically…if I did that, I would have to seriously contend that my abilities within leadership is perfect…they most certainly are not.  I am still learning.  I have a lot of room for growth here.  I am no fool, I recognize this in myself.   I write this for me…and perhaps, in some way – you might also benefit and relate from it as well.

My Master’s Degree is Organizational Leadership…despite all of that, degree and all, I’m still a work in progress…how about you?

 5 Things Leaders Shouldn’t Do – leaders

STOP –

5) “Do as I say, not as I do!” 
We might find ourselves barking orders and giving commands that we seldom or have difficulty following ourselves.  Weren’t the Pharisees of old really good at that too?  They were the enforcers of laws that they themselves didn’t necessarily keep.  Allow me to just say…”those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”  This kind of behavior within leadership is tempting – We lead, we should expect people to follow us, but if we don’t first lead by example, chances are those that follow will either resent our leadership or stop following all together.  THIS is extremely detrimental to our Army.  Beware of this leadership trap!!  If you find yourself here, please, please stop – you’re hurting the army more than you are helping it!

DON’T

vision4) Cast An Unrealistic Vision
This too is easy to do!
We set the standard SO high that no one can reach it and many will find themselves disillusioned and discouraged.  We are an Army, but we are also an army of compassion and hope.  We can’t expect a new convert to the faith to become Brengle overnight (for example).  Set your vision – YES, but be mindful that you don’t lose your people in the process.  Make your vision and your goals attainable, whatever they may entail.   Don’t lose sight of the sheep you shepherd and get so far ahead of them that they aren’t able to keep up or follow you.  Thankfully Jesus never His disciples in the dust, He helped them along, even explaining certain parables to them when they were confused or off base.

STOP
3) Discipline Without Compassion arnold
Stop this, please!
Jesus said this of the earthly model of leadership –
Among the heathen, kings are tyrants and each minor official lords it over those beneath him.But among you it is quite different. Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be your servant. And if you want to be right at the top, you must serve like a slave. Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah,* did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.”(Matthew 20:25-28 TLB)

The Army doesn’t need more iron-fisted leaders, it needs leaders who lead with compassion as their strength!  Discipline?  Yes – but fairly and with the intention to correct and restore.  Don’t discipline out of anger or misaligned points of view.  Some of the best leaders that I know are those who have a servant’s heart and are concerned about helping those they lead to attain levels of personal growth in their lives!

DON’T

stubborn22) Lead In A Way That’s Always Been Done…”   
It’s an excuse to lead in this manner – “The Army has always led this way” – False, men and women have led this way, but we can lead in ways that improve upon what has already been built!  Don’t hang all of your experience upon the coat hook of tradition as your standard.  Instead glean what worked and what didn’t…Adapt!  I will take a prayer warrior leader over one who wishes to climb the ladder by stepping on people any day!  Don’t think for a minute that there haven’t been those consumed by the compulsion to lead or driven by personal ambition…it’s a human flaw, and we all have our own personal egos to contend with.

Gut check time – I think the words of Ezekial 34:4 could apply to all of us as a warning to leaders who are not fair or lead by “how it has ALWAYS been done” – “You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.

Let’s not lose sight of why we need leaders in our army, and why we exist in the first place!
1) Stop Blaming Loss of Membership Solely On Those You Lead!”    sheep
This is critical.
It goes hand in hand with the whole setting the vision too high thing…be mindful of casting blame.  Officers – stop blaming all of your corps people on the loss of members (you might be warranted sometimes – go to specific people!) Soldiers – stop blaming your corps officers or the officers before the current ones!  We all have a responsibility in the here and now to lead and to shepherd people to Christ.

If we lose a battle, claim it and move on to the next!  To use the euphemism again – This war is not over!  We have much ground to gain and we need to persevere and fight on!  Leadership – where ever you may be, if you take credit for the victories, take ownership for defeats as well!  You are the ones to set the vision and assist in seeing that vision to fruition.

You might agree or disagree with me, that’s fine.
At the end of the day I want all of us (myself especially) to examine our places of authority. Whether it’s in the corps or at headquarters.  We either do this together, or fall apart trying to do our own thing!

Something more for our army to ponder today!

Stay tuned to tomorrow’s pondering on 5 Things Leaders SHOULD do!  trim
***Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed in this pondering are the writers thoughts and opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army…read discretion advised. ***

Dear Salvationist – 5 Reasons Your Corps Needs YOU!

I haven’t always been convinced of these, but as the Lord has convicted me in my own life of things I have needed to deal with, it has become more and more apparent that there are a slew of reasons your corps needs you!  (Phew, that was run on sentence!)
flag2
These are just 5 reasons that your corps needs YOU (Starting with #5):

#5) You are more than just a number in a roll book, your story matters!
I don’t just say this to be nice, I mean it!  If you are a soldier in good standing in your corps, you matter!  Your story might just be the one that leads someone else, who is similar to you, to Christ!  You might feel insignificant at times, or perhaps even unwanted sometimes, but please know that regardless of what others might say or how you might feel – You are loved by the Almighty and He can and will use you in your corps right now!  So don’t give up!

discipleship#4) Your corps needs mentors and disciplers!
Perhaps you are not called to become an officer, but you, dear soldier, play a vital role within your corps!  If you are mature in your faith, and you know of others who are young in their faith – YOU can help them develop into tomorrow’s leaders!  The corps officers can’t do it all, and we are so much stronger when soldiers are invested in the corps’ mission and we begin to work together instead of separately on our own “projects”.  You can help shape young lives.  You can help transform would be street thugs into kingdom people!  You can fill this role, dear soldier!

#3) Your Corps Desperately Needs Prayer Warriors & Sunday School Teachers!prayer
What ever happened to prayer meetings?  Are we too busy to pray together any more? Are prayer meetings now considered old fashioned and unnecessary?  I sure hope not!
Never, ever discount the need for prayer warriors in your corps!  If you have devoted yourself to the spiritual discipline of prayer then use it to empower and protect the soldiers, adherents and leaders of your corps!  Pray earnestly for God to provide miracles in your neighborhoods.  Don’t just pray for corps members and what you already have in your corps, but take it out into the streets and pray for the new souls that God will lead into your midst!   We need faithful, devoted, godly Sunday School teachers to lead our Sunday Schools and Bible Studies!  Many of your corps already have faithful teachers who have taught for years – and if you are one of these beautiful souls, we say Thank you!  Many a child has been brought to Christ because of your faithfulness!  Do not for minute think you are not contributing to young people’s lives!  Keep offering those prayers of salvation in your classes!  Keep sharing the love and acceptance of Christ with those that you have the privilege to instruct.  This is serious business – Kingdom business, and you are needed in your corps!

hosp#2) Your Corps Needs Hospitality and Welcome Sergeants! 
Do you know that the first persons a new comer sees will determine if they will stay or flee your building?  Some of you have this amazing gift to make people feel wanted and welcomed.  It’s a warming sense of belonging that people desire when they seek out a place of worship.  You can touch the hearts of many by serving your corps in this capacity!  Sometimes we take these roles for granted in our corps, and when we do, we run the risk of people experiencing a cold shoulder instead of a warm hug at the door (sorry to my Swedish friends who don’t hug).  There are many roles behind the scenes that matter – sometimes much more than even the elements of worship on Sunday mornings.  You can lead people to feel at home at your corps.  Hospitality is needed in every corps…and sometimes it’s a lost art.

#1) Your Corps Needs Workers In The Fields Who will Roll Up Their Sleeves! roll
This should sum up all of our corps’ needs in soldiers (and even adherents).  We aren’t social clubs or socials services – we still have a mission!  We still have a purpose as an Army.  Some have forgotten this.  Others have neglected this.  Sometimes, if we’re honest, we (I) fall into one or both of these categories.  Kingdom building is hard work.  It is labor intensive!  I might mean you go out on late night calls to help someone in need.  It will mean that we don’t just leave people at the altar, check off another seeker on our stat sheet and never disciple them – only to have them figure it out for themselves or wander away still lost and hopeless.  True soldiers of Christ invest their lives in the lives of others.  True soldiers of Christ love unconditionally.  True soldiers of Christ must become mindful of the things which trap us apathetically into patterns of comfort and carelessness.

Dear Soldier, your corps needs you!
God has breathed into you at the moment of your conversion His presence.  The Holy Spirit is our guide.  He will provide us with His strength, discernment and perseverance along the way.  This commitment will be difficult sometimes.  There will be victories and heartaches.  Unlike many of our professional sports teams today – your corps needs a lifetime contract from you – thick or thin!  This is a mighty, mighty ask – I know.  Some of you have experienced some heartache through fall out in leadership, or faced hardships because not everyone sees eye to eye.  Some of you might be glancing at the exit doors right now…but I urge you to reconsider.  I know with all my heart that we are stronger together than we are apart.   I don’t presume to know your story today, but I know God understands.  I also recognize that we often carry wounds and burdens…He can and will help to lighten your load.  Your corps needs you…the question is will you faithfully serve?

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

*Disclaimer – The opinions of the author expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Salvation Army.  

Dear Salvationist – Die Faker, Die!

Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8 The Message Version)

I don’t want to be known as a faker to God.
It’s not my intentions to ever appear to be something that I am not.
We can’t fool Him.
He knows us so intimately – better than we know ourselves.  Why?  Because He made us in His image.  He’s the Creator.  He’s the Author of our story, our lives.

Brennan Manning said in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel Authentic faith leads us to treat others with unconditional seriousness and to a loving reverence for the mystery of the human personality. Authentic Christianity should lead to maturity, personality, and reality. It should fashion whole men and women living lives of love and communion. False, manhandled religion produces the opposite effect. Whenever religion shows contempt or disregards the rights of persons, even under the noblest pretexts, it draws us away from reality and God.”

 
So why do I try to fool Him sometimes? mask
Perhaps it’s not so much me – fooling God, but rather – me fooling, or attempting to fool, others.  We can become so good at this fakery, this mask that we wear that no one around us would ever suspect – that’s how good we can become at it.

I’m not accusing anyone of faking it today – that is never my place or intention.
All that I am pointing out is that sometimes, in MY own life, I attempt to fake it spiritually…and it never goes well.  Have you ever been there?  Please tell me that you have, I don’t want to be the only one.
——————————–
I can sing all the right songs.
I can read all the right portions of scripture.
I can dress and look the part.
But deep down inside, the real me, the one that is genuine has taken a back seat and there’s the fake me putting on a show.
———————————
I don’t say this so that you’ll have pity on me, or that you’ll judge me (or think of me differently, “What?! a pastor/officer/soldier – admitting to faking it, how dare he!”)  …I’m just being honest.  AND -In my honesty, I hope that there are those who also can relate, and perhaps come to terms with this fakery in their (your) own life.

Like me:
mask2-You don’t want to just go through the motions of merely existing.
-You want to impact the world for Christ.
-You want to be authentic instead of a plastic soldier that looks awesome on the outside but is hollowed out on the inside.
-You want to reach real people for Christ because of your sincerity and genuine faith in Christ.
-You know anything less than authentic faith will NOT fool God. – He wants us to live for Him (die to self, become selfless just. like. Him.) He doesn’t want our lip-service and platitudes.

Die Faker, DIE!!!
Dear Salvationist,
I will not be a faker.
We cannot be phony about this faith, these uniforms, this army and especially WHOSE we are.

Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you.20 For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it.” (1 Corinthians 6:19,20 TLB)

So perhaps you can join me as I casually, ever so silently, rather quickly – put to death my fake-self once more.  Let’s cast it aside and get back to what really matters: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Luke 10:27 – in reference to the Shema)

With ALL my heart.
With ALL my soul.
With ALL my strength.
And with ALL my mind.

From this flows everything else.
Die Faker Die.

Something more to ponder today.

Disclaimer:  The ponderings and opinions written here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Salvation Army.  

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