Dear Salvation Army, For THY Mission Make Me Holy

Dear Salvationist, the movement of This Army of Salvation is inexplicably wrapped up in the holiness of the body of Christ.  Without this deep desire to be Holy and then to do holiness towards others, we become just another social service organization.  In the midst of doing the most good, often times the danger of making the mission ours and ours alone can squelch the desire to seek after God’s mission first.   How then shall we best serve the Lord and then others?

This is the main thrust of our pondering today, for I fear we as an Army have, in some ways, lost the “main thing” while in the pursuit of human approval and for our recognition of the works of our hands.
The question then becomes, “how can we shift our focus back to the mission of God?”

Here are four statements to help realign or replace our mission with God’s mission:

  1. Many lose the mission because surrender was never an option.  hat

This statement becomes deeply personal, for at the heart of such a declaration the defensive walls are raised, and we begin to tune out…don’t tune out, instead stare it dead in the eyes.  Is surrender an option…a REAL option in our hearts and lives?

We don’t like to submit to anything, because many times submission means we lose and someone else wins; but that’s not how God works.  When we submit to God, His mission and purpose becomes our mission and purpose for being.  We do not lose our identities in this, we gain our true new creation, the identity God has always intended for us to be.  From the very beginning of our being, God was present and He saw what and who we could be, but it is in our surrender that this identity can only be fully realized.

Since we have free will, the notion to surrender to the mission of God instead of command the mission is a foreign notion.  We want power to decide.  We long to be the captains of our own ship, and so the mission might be lost at the expense of our identities and authority.

  1. An accomplished mission at the sacrifice of holiness is no mission worth living.

bloodI once heard the story of a captain of a ship whose vessel had run aground and was in the process of sinking.  Many people were frantically evacuating on lifeboats, while there were still who were trapped below.  A noble captain would make every effort to save everyone, even to the point of one’s own life; but this captain discarded all sense of duty and ethics by abandoning his own ship, leaving the rest of the passengers to fend for themselves, many perished for lack of rescue.

Dear fellow Salvationists, there is the temptation in our army to do the most work instead of doing the most good, and in the process of doing the most work, the ethics of holiness could very well be abandoned.  I have heard story after story of officers and soldiers who have neglected their first ministry (their children and family) at the expense of their appointment, mission and public perception (both in and out of the army leadership realm).   Such a loss of first mission leads to a mission not worth living for!

We can grow the largest corps ministry in our territory and have lost everything if our own children turn from God because we failed to disciple them, and we left them to their own devices.  We were never appointed by the Army to be people pleasers.  We were never appointed to ministries apart from our families.  We cannot be effective, holiness teachers apart from God’s holy mission…but we cannot accomplish mission without holy living to our first ministry.

Our focus, before we feed a hungry soul, and before we DO anything, is to live within the very presence of God.  We must yearn and strive for such an image in our own life – the very image of Christ in us.  Without the image of Christ visible and living through us, our hands and the good they may do, will only serve the temporary and not the eternal purpose for which we have been ordained and called.

3.  Why mission? Whose mission? Happy Mission? mission2

Why do we do the things we do?  Is there a purpose behind it?  Are we not called by God to go into all the world, making disciples of every people?  (Matt. 28:19)

If we have to realign our mission, we first must go back to the original source of our that mission!  Who is it that commands our lives, and longs for our surrender?  Why is He calling us to this deeper purpose?  How can this all be done?

prayerChrist called not the qualified, but he qualified the called.  We don’t need to wait for that degree to be completed before we commit to His mission.  We don’t need to wait until we are older before we commit to His mission, nor should we delay for any other reason!!  The God of Abraham and Moses and David, still calls us to go.  The God the disciples served still calls us to go into all the world.  Our mission hasn’t changed, but has our priorities?  Have we neglected our first love?  Have we become distracted by other missions and other “services” that really have nothing to do with His mission?  If so, perhaps it’s time to discard those distractions…and once again follow Him.

4.  Before, during and after = Holy!

altarHow long must we be a holiness movement?
How long do we live this way?
This call to holiness in our service to God is not a temporary calling.
This is not a disguise we throw on to convince others or ourselves.
NO!  This is a conscious decision to ACTUALLY live for Him in every moment of every day.

Our Very Breath.
It has been said, that the ancient writers of scripture wouldn’t even write the name of God because it was far too sacred.  But if they had to record God within the text, they would use the letters YHWH or YHVH…Yahweh is spoken and you cannot help but speak it like you breathe.  In other words, may the name of God be the VERY breath you take every. single. moment. of. every. day.

So before we live mission – YHWH…
While we live mission – YHWH…
After each particular mission or victory is accomplished – YHWH…

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
If we are to live and breathe the mission of our Army, we first must live and breathe the mission of God into our lungs, into our lives, into the very fibers of who we are…and whose we are.

Because let’s face, leaders can let us down…
Volunteers can let us down…
Employees can let us down…
Friends and fellow Salvationists can let us down…

But God will never fail us or forsake us!

Dear Salvation Army,
without Holiness, our mission fails.
without committed Soldiership, our plans fall apart.
without a sincere love of Christ, and for others, the great commission that is wrapped up in our Blood and Fire flag will become a lost cause by disinterested and apathetic individuals looking to fulfill only themselves.  We are called to greater things.  We have been commissioned for the whole world, not just our own little bubbles.

Perhaps it’s time to re-explore our mission and purpose once more.

For Thy mission make me holy,
  for Thy glory make me Thine
  sanctify each moment fully
  fill my life with love divine.”

verse 2

Have I lost the sense of mission
That inspired my early zeal,
When the fire of thy commission
Did my dedication seal?
Let me hear thy tender pleading,
Let me see thy beckoning hand,
Let me feel thee gently leading
As I bow to thy command.

3.
Lord, release that latent passion
Which in me has dormant lain;
Recreate a deep compassion
That will care and care again.
Needy souls are still my mission,
Sinners yet demand my love;
This must be my life’s ambition,
This alone my heart shall move.

-Brindley Boon
(SASB #682)

Something more for our Army to ponder today.
God Bless You!

Dear Salvation Army, Mending Fences…

Dear Salvation Army, reconciliation is a beautiful thing.
We seek it for our soldiers, we preach it from our pulpits, but do we truly live it?
I have heard it said that we as people are quick to expect forgiveness when we have been wronged, but what about when we have performed the misstep, what then?  How quickly do we respond to the hurt with the seeking of forgiveness and reconciliation?  It can be likened to the parable that Jesus told about the unforgiving servant who had just received forgiveness for a huge debt that he owed.  You would think that he would go home with great relief and treat others the same way he had just been graciously treated, but instead he returned the favor by harshly treating someone who was in his debt.  (Matthew 18:21-35)

My fellow Salvationists, we can be so good at distributing grace to the stranger, but to those within our ranks, at times that grace is missing.  One might say that because we operate within an authoritarian leadership model, one has come to expect harsh treatment amongst the ranks…let me ask you is this how Christ led his disciples?  Of course not!  Let me clear the air, there is no excuse for leaders who lord their power over those they have been given authority over.  Eventually they will receive the same kind of treatment that they have doled out.  Please do not misunderstand what I am saying and take it to mean that I am directing this conversation solely on Divisional and territorial leaders, as a matter of fact, dear Corps Officers, you ought to be very mindful of the power you have been given in your current appointments too!  How you treat your soldiers ought to be the way that you desire to be treated as well!

Let us prick this very vein of conversation today in order to arrive at a very important destination – Reconciliation!
I have heard some very sad tales of officers and soldiers leaving our ranks because they felt that they were no longer welcome and/or specific people, who had an ounce of power made then feel powerless and useless.  Perhaps I should interject here and compare our attrition rates with those awful circumstances mentioned above and wonder aloud if we are not self-destructing because a minority of people were given power and they horribly misused it?

Proverbs 13:10 says, “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”  Perhaps some of us need exactly that today.  I am most certainly not the one who ought to give it, for I am just as imperfect as the next soldier…but I do feel led to offer just three helps upon the road to reconciliation today that I feel our Army should consider.

Instead of paving over the pain and pretending those hurts are not there…
Instead of turning our backs on those who have left our ranks for any number of reasons…
Instead of ostracizing, criticizing, and gossiping…

Here are three very simple suggestions for ALL of the Soldiers in our Army both high in rank to the adherent considering soldiership.

1 Admit to the wrongs
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” -Proverbs 11:2
Are we so haughty in our hearts that we are above admission of guilt and wrong-doing?
Do we fear that we will lose credibility and our place of power amongst the ranks if we admit our missteps?
Could it be that in order for us to truly move forward as an army and in our mission, we have to humble ourselves so that He might lift us up?  (James 4:10)  This “humbling” includes owning our failures both corporately and individually.  If we wish to seek failure and loss of mission, then keep sweeping the sin and guilt under the rug as we think no one will ever notice.  But if we wish to experience fulfillment of mission and victory over sin, then we have to admit our sins and failures before God.  Yes, admit the wrongs, but don’t remain or live there, for to do so will lead to certain disillusionment and disgrace.  We merely stop there to own our failures…but remember He will lift us up when we discard pride and put on humility.

2 Atone for the Wrongs 
I firmly believe that one of the cruxes of our army today is the willingness to forgive the shortcomings of prospective believers and new believers than it is to forgive the shortcomings of “the saints”.  We treat soldiers who have fallen more harshly than we would ever treat a stranger…why?  Because they should have known better?  Are we not still susceptible to the lures of temptation and sin even if we don on our uniforms?  Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”  Did you catch that last part?  It says “GENTLY”.  All too often we are more harsh with fellow soldiers and officers, so much so that we have driven some away from our ranks, and they will never set foot in a corps ever again because of the pain we have caused them.  How do we atone for such a thing?  How does the Army move past these wrongs?  The true authoritarian, devoid of faith, would simply relocate that officer (if it was an officer involved)…they move them to a less desirable appointment or far away from the blight that was caused…but is that really what a Holiness movement ought to do, assuming we still carry that mantel and title within our hearts as a mission?

I am not naming any specific situation, I am simply pointing out what a true authoritarian model of leadership would do.  Within this strict sense of this model, true authoritarian leaders are to never be questioned or opposed because to do so would unravel the very fabric of the organization’s identity.  This model can often be on display from the corps setting all the way to IHQ.  This is not to say that all leaders portray this model, but perhaps because of it, there have been times that wrongs were done and then swept mercilessly under rugs in the attempt to forget and not to forgive.  If we as Christ-followers wish to travel the path of reconciliation, we have to own up to our wrong doings and stop sweeping.  The truest form of bravery, sincerity and grace is found in making peace when you were the one who once sought war; To attempt to mend the broken that you once broke.  The bigger man or woman, the truest leader amongst us is one who admits and makes the attempt to atone for wrongs done to others especially those amongst (or formerly amongst) our own ranks.

3 Seek Reconciliation:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  -Matthew 5:23-24

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” -Matthew 5:9

Reconciliation doesn’t just happen once, it happens as often as there are wrongs to be righted.  I recall a time when I harbored anger towards a person in my corps and on Sunday morning I had to preach while that person was in the congregation.  I remember how my words felt like heavy weights that I could not lift, let alone speak.  How can I be sincere with my fellow soldiers if I had not sought to mend that which was truly broken in my heart and in that particular relationship at the time?  Was I at fault?  Absolutely, and it took every ounce of my courage to swallow my own pride and need to be right and make every effort to fix that relationship, only then would we be able to move on.  Once that was accomplished, it was like a large exhale had been released within our corps.

Dear fellow Soldiers, perhaps the reason your corps or your spiritual journey has been halted is because there is reconciliation that needs to take place.  Swallow your pride and seek it out, stop holding your breath of guilt and shame…exhale it in relief as you seek to mend the broken.  The hardest place to do this is with your fellow soldiers and officers with whom you hold animosity, pain and perhaps shame.  Holiness is dead if we are not able to offer grace towards one another.  Holiness is dead if we cannot admit, atone and reconcile both as individual travelers and as fellow sojourners.

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

Salvation Army Tragedy, Martyrdom & Faith

http://m.cleveland19.com/story/36981684/crime-spree-murder-victim-was-wearing-salvation-army-uniform

Many have seen the news story (referenced above in the link) about the tragic loss of Salvation Army soldier Jared Plesec.  I cannot put to words the deep sadness many have felt because of this seemingly random act of violence.   There is so much to say about that, but I want to focus in on Jared.  He didn’t know that his life was going to have such an abrupt and violent end.  He had no clue that he just so happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time…instead, from all accounts, he felt God’s appointment where ever he went.  He faithfully wore his uniform, but that isn’t what has distinguished him and endeared him to many around the world.  Anyone can wear a uniform, that doesn’t change hearts and minds.  Some have worn the uniform and have lived contrary to the articles of war that are signed upon becoming a soldier.  Yet, from what everyone has said of Jared, and what has been shared on social media sites, to Jared the uniform was an extension of his faith in Christ.  He was known to call up people who had been missing from the corps.  Young people looked up to Jared.  He wore his uniform proudly and at the time of his death, he was clutching his bible.  This, my friends, was a true soldier of God.  I seriously doubt that Jared was perfect, we all have our flaws, but I know the kind of legacy he has left for the ones who knew him.

I mourn for his friends and family, and I mourn with the Cleveland Temple Corps where he soldiered.   Jared has been promoted to glory at such a young age and I can’t but help wonder what future impacts he might have had if this tragic act of violence had never happened.

Can we start a campaign to IHQ to posthumously honor Jared with the Order of the Founder Award?  I think it rather fitting, don’t you?

2 Things
I don’t wish to whittle this down to simply two things today, and thereby minimize the life of Jared in anyway.  He has greatly impacted my life and I never met this young man…but I hope to one day in Eternity.

1) Consistency of Faith
Jared wasn’t just a Christian when he put his uniform on, he was a Christian (from all accounts) in every facet of his life.   Can we say the same thing today of ourselves?  The uniform doesn’t make us Christ-followers, it is merely another outward evidence of the inward change.  What does make us Christ-followers is the daily, even moment by moment commitment to Him regardless of the circumstances around us (good or bad).
How consistent in our faith?

2)  Persistence of Faith
Accounts of Jared’s life has left us with the deep impression of his persistent faith towards those around him.  He was an encourager and would frequently call those who were absent from the corps.  He kept his faith at the forefront of his life anyone to witness.  Many of us reading of his life, have witnessed a man persistently seeking after Christ…and I wonder if this can be said of us as well?  I ask this question first to myself and all others who wish to do a personal inventory of their lives.

Dear Jared,
I never met you, but over the course of the last few days, I feel like you were (and still are) my brother in Christ!  Thank you for your witness to many, many people – both while alive and in the instance of your tragic death.  We mourn for what could have been…but we also celebrate your testimony in life, and one day we shall all meet together in Heaven to sing Christ’s praises.  Well done, good and faithful servant!  We shall one day meet!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Scott E. Strissel,
Captain.

Dear Salvation Army, Where Are We Going?

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” -Michelangelo

This is more of a collective pondering today. We need your comments, thoughts and opinions in order to carefully and thoughtful answer the above question: Where Are We Going?

What is our vision?

What should our vision be?

How do we make that vision a reality?

What are some of the obstacles in our way of fully realizing that reality?

Who will it take (e.g. soldiers, officers, volunteers, donors)?

How important is accountability in such a large movement/organization?

How can we become more accountable to Christ within this Army? Where does Holiness belong in such a conversation?

I have disclosed numerous questions to ponder today…are you willing to take a chance at answering any or all of these questions? The larger scope question: Where Are We Going? In other words, if you were to envision where the Army SHOULD BE in 20 years, what would it look like? What would you want to see different, the same, the growth?

-If we have no plan or vision, then we will flounder and waver.

We look forward to your responses!

Something more for the Army to ponder today!

Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison

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

Dear Salvation Army: 4 Mistakes New Officers Make

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”― Oscar Wilde

Dear Salvation Army, it has been a while since we last spoke.
Today let us explore the topic of mistakes in relation to Officership.
It is never a comfortable conversation, but in reality these conversation are here to encourage, challenge and push us to improve our ministries.

Question:  Are mistakes always bad?  No.
Mistakes help us, and sometimes in the process of making mistakes we discover a whole new world of opportunities and possibilities.  Mistakes are just opportunities to improve and learn as we grow in our ministries.

Before we haphazardly jump into this list of mistakes, I am well aware that this list is for anyone in ministry, regardless if you wear red trim or not.  These mistakes can be made by anyone including seasoned officers.  My primary purpose for writing these down is not to demean or discourage, but as I have already said,  to encourage and challenge!

Let’s dig in…
4 Mistakes New Officers Make:

1.  Go It Alone Cowboy…cowboy
If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” ― John C Maxwell

The art of delegation is vital in ministry.
Admittedly we who minister in The Salvation Army realize that sometimes those we minister to are not capable of taking on any leadership responsibility, but can we give some of our corps people small tasks to do?  Could it be that we are attempting to do everything on our own because we have this perfect image of what Sunday worship should look like, or how bible study/prayer meeting should run?   Perhaps in an attempt to have this perfect notion of “Corps” we pass over the chance to invite others who are in our corps into the small opportunities to serve.

New officers (as well as older officers) are tempted to become Cowboys/ Cowgirls in their ministries.   By this I mean they go it all alone.  They ride off into the Sunset onto the next task or mission…all alone.   Ministry cannot be done without including others into it.  We will only experience minimal success in our ministries if we continue the mistake of the
go it alone cowboy.

2.  The Overnight Express
trainI recall when I was a young officer (*shocked*  wait, I’m not anymore?  Am I really that old?)  I was ready to win the world for Jesus and I was going to conquer my new appointment and get all of these perceived improvements completed overnight.  So I set out to do just that.  The funny thing was all of my efforts were not always welcomed or liked.  Why?  Because I failed to include others (Soldiers, volunteers and adherents) into those plans.  Instead I attempted to do everything myself and all in one week of arriving at my new appointment.  *Mistake*

Change takes time.
Yes, make the vital improvements and necessary cleanings of your buildings right away, but take your time in implementing new ministries and vision casting.  Tell the story.  Explain the vision to those you ministry with.  If you fail to include people in the vision and try to change things in the “overnight express” you will face more trouble and opposition.  That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t make changes and cast a new vision, just get the “movers and shakers” in your corps on board first!  It’s easier when you have advocates and backers walking alongside you rather than just changing everything on your own and right away.  Remember – change is never easy for anyone.  Some of your corps members have lived through multiple officer changes and those adjustments are already hard of your corps people.  Love them.  Get to know them.  Learn from them.  Include them in your vision and mission for your corps…don’t leave them in your dust!

3.  Wide-Angle Lens world
There is such a thing as casting too big of a vision for your corps!
It’s the wide-angle lens that captures everything, but fails to include the details of small victories!  When we only cast the wide-angle lens vision, we lose out on celebrating the smaller victories of accomplished goals in the corps.  Don’t lose sight of these victories.  We lose the trees for the forest, and if our focus is too broad.  We can also frustrate our corps people with the high expectations of massive visions when they haven’t had the kind of recognition that they desperately need in what we perceive as the mundane things of Christian faith and practice.   This mistake has more to do with only seeing the big picture while neglecting the small processes and goals necessary to fully realize the broader goals.   While seeing the big picture is important, without the details, we will never see these become reality.  Slow down, take your time, and acknowledge the small “baby step” victories with your people!

4.  Set-Apart…But Not The Right Kind.

alone

 

Lastly, there is such a thing as the wrong kind of “set-apart” in Officership.
Life as an officer is difficult and time consuming.  We may at times be tempted to become separated from our corps members.  We can sometimes perceive the people we minister to as a compartmentalize area of our lives – where we have our “home life” over here, and our “corps life” over there.  This can sometimes translate even in our work days where we are pulled in so many directions that all we want to do is stay away from people and hole ourselves up in our offices in order to avoid them.  This can translate into a perception that the corps officer isn’t accessible and shouldn’t be bothered.  As I say this, you must recognize that there will be times when you must get work done and things have to be accomplished in your office, but don’t make this the standard of your  ministry.  Be mindful of the people you are ministering to and with.  We must be intentional is getting out of the “Set-apart” mentality – and connect with people in our corps and our community.  This mistake will rob you of wonderful fellowship opportunities and limit the impact you could have on those you serve.  Carve up your “work” time and your “connection” time.  Make sure that neither are neglected, but be aware that the best laid plans will sometimes have to be altered.

There are more mistakes we can sometimes make along the way.
Pray for discernment and wisdom as you begin to minister to your people.  Love your people, and be the hope of Christ to those who will meet you.

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

3 Resources to help you become a better Salvation Army Officer…

Let’s face it, the role of a Salvation Army Officer is difficult.  I know…understatement of the century!

There are certainly joys…along with heartache and sorrows – it’s a mixed bag sometimes.  We all wish that things would go according to plan, but most of the time we look like this:
spinningAnd, we hope nothing gets dropped along the way…

The question doesn’t become what can we do less of, but rather how can we do the good things better?  How can we begin to focus on the strengths of our corps and our corps people?

If I have learned anything from Officership it is that we are very, very good at doing many things, but we do not do many things well.  Perhaps it is time to stop meeting the average expectations, stop doing mediocre work because we’re spread far too thin to do anything well; and instead, focus on the things that make our corps or ministry unique and successful!  To do this, sacrifices might have to be made, we might have to eliminate or reduce the amount of ‘spinning plates’, but we do no one any good if we implode from over-extending ourselves.

It would be so easy to simply offer you some amazing new Apps that will help you in your ministry.  It would be simple to offer this new thing I found of the internet that other pastors are using…instead let me offer you 3 Resources that you already have and will not cost you a dime (except for your time and effort).

  1.  Pastoral Partnerships: 
    pastorsThe unfortunate side of ministry, it would seem, is that many churches and pastors are in competition for parishioners.  It isn’t always intentional, but many churches have created their own silos, including The Salvation Army.  Sometimes it’s pride, and self-reliance, but these silos prevent us from truly experiencing the fellowship of other ministries and resources because we cannot work with others.  Visit other pastors in your community.  Go to their churches (but not on Mondays = Universal Pastoral day off) and meet fellow workers in the fields of souls.I recently visited the pastor of our local Wesleyan Church.  He called me up to donate some food to our soup kitchen, and I had not had the chance to meet him yet…so I personally went to see him.  What I experienced in talking to him for only 45 minutes was not only refreshing to my soul, but it encouraged me greatly.  We also struck up some commonalities, and resources were exchanged for the development of future partnerships together.

    Fellow Officers, we are so much stronger together than we are by remaining in our individual denominational silos.

    2.   Community Connections  Puzzle
    This resource is closely related to #1 as well as the continued need to get out of the silo…(perhaps you are picking up on the theme of this particular article).  There are many people in your community right now that love The Salvation Army and they just need an invitation to help out.  Be mindful that business professionals are very busy, so make sure the buy-in request is tangible, well thought out, and clear.  You are looking for pieces to the puzzle to help with the over all mission, that Bank president can help in great ways provided that you put that ‘piece’ into the right place.

    3.  Leadership Development, Empowerment & Delegation!
    The last resource (at least on this list, because there is SO much more that we could cover) is, in my opinion, the most important resource that your corps or ministry has – people who are already invested in the mission!!  We are only as strong as the team around us.  We as Officers are good at trying to do everything on our own, so much so that we often face burnout.  In Exodus 18, we find a workaholic named Moses who is wisely counseled by his father-in-law Jethro.  Jethro tells Moses; “what you are doing is not good.  You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (Exodus 18:17-18)

    This is extremely wise advise to Moses and to us.  We cannot do it all ourselves, so why do we try to be SuperOfficer?  Why do we think it all has to get completed by us?  This is where leadership development, empowerment and delegation comes into play.  We owe it to ourselves and the future development and growth of our corps to raise up leaders who can help us.  Perhaps those leaders are already there, they just don’t know it yet.  This type of development and action will take time and patience, but your ministry will be stronger because of it.

    Just think, every time we ‘go it alone’ we are potentially robbing someone of the opportunity to learn, lead and grow!  Do you need help developing your team?  Having struggles figuring out how this ought to be done?  Consult your divisional staff, ask for help from other pastors, and perhaps do some research on how other corps are appointing leaders and developing them.  MinistryHere is one resource that the Central Territory is using, and I know that there are other resources just like this in other territories.

    Do not leave your corps members behind while planning for the future!  Raise up others to help you accomplish the mission of the Army!  It might be easier to do everything yourself, but entrust, empower and lead others to become better invested in the mission of this Salvation Army!

    These are just three resources to help you become a better Officer, naturally, never discount or take for granted the power of the Holy Spirit in all of these ventures!  He will empower you to do what must be done, so above all else, humble submit yourself to Him daily!

    Something more for the Army world to ponder today!
    God bless you!
    officer.jpg

Dear Salvation Army, How Accountable Are We Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

flag

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

Dear Salvation Army, Why The Holiness Movement is Dead…

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

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

I digress…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Salvation Army, Why We Should Get Rid of “Church”…

The primary purpose for our founders in creating The Salvation Army was to be a Lighthouse, a beacon to the lost.  We were founded to help the lost, the drowning the marginalized in society…those who were not welcome in Church.  We are a holiness movement, and our origin story is all about gap ministry.   We go to places that the Church has forgotten or, in some cases, refused to go.
flag
Why then do we make it such a focus to emulate or replicate the Church?
I do not wish to disparage any church but as a practice, many times Church (big C) gets it wrong.  The Salvation Army was created to be a “door-opener”  – a ministry in which people felt comfortable with, where lives were being touched because the physical needs were met first.  But over time, I feel that we started looking around at the explosive growth of churches and mega churches and longed to be like them…when our mission and vision is nothing like them.   It’s like this:  We are all a member of the Body of Christ, some are the hands, some are the feet…but what happens when the hands look over and see the feet and they begin to try and act like feet?  What happens is we have a polarizing body that is not functioning as it was intended to function.  This is what I believe has become our downfall as an Army.  We were called to be the hands of Christ to the unchurched, to the depraved, to the marginalized of society…but we are trying to act and look like another ministry.

Getting Rid of “Church”
1.  Stop labeling “Worship” only what we do with music…
worshipWe need to rid ourselves of the Church of the worship of music!
Worship is so much more than music on Sunday mornings.  Worship is not just your praise band or your brass band and special music.  Worship IS holistic and it encompasses every aspect of who we are as Soldiers of this Army, just as Holiness is our aim in every facet of life!  Worship is the response to God’s wondrous love for us.  We worship in the van as we pick up people for Holiness meeting.  We worship as we go to midweek bible study or other such programs.  We worship as we clean the corps bathrooms (this might sound funny, but we once had a blind janitor who could be heard singing hymns of praise while he clean the toilets and washed walls – he taught me a lot about worship).  brass

2.  Stop thinking Church as only what we do on Sunday…
This notion of “Church” really should be eliminated so that we can get on with going for souls and going for the worst!  Church is NOT what we do on Sundays!  We worship the Lord on our Sunday Sabbath day.  We collectively get together on this day and sing, pray, encourage one another and hear a message…but Church is not only a Sunday thing.  We we have this mindset that Sunday is separate from the rest of the week, and that “Church” should only occur on Sunday then we have lost our mission as an Army.  Getting rid of this notion of “Church” will open up the possibilities that our Soup Kitchen days, and our Food Pantry days, and our youth program days…IS ALL MINISTRY!!  Every facet of these vital “soup, soap, salvation” elements is another opportunity to share Christ, disciple lives and encourage the downtrodden.  This is what Church should’ve been…and what we ought to strive to BE.    Your congregation is NOT Sunday, but everyday – everyone who comes to your corps, who receives services, who asks for help, They are your congregation!

3.  Create Community Not Programs!
programsWe as an Army are so good at creating programs.
We have programs for everything – we even have programs for programs.
It is not the Army’s mission to create more programs, it is our mission to create community and save souls in Jesus’ name!  When we aren’t engaging our community with the elements we are using, perhaps it’s time to rid ourselves of the Church of Programs!!
Programs can become our Church and we are so caught up in our program bubbles that we cannot see what families and individuals are truly in need of.  We think, we’ll just start a new program to reach them, when in reality what every person craves is a place to belong and to find encouragement and feel that they are a member of the community.

4.  Create an Environment of Ownership!own
Lieutenants, Captains, Majors & perhaps a few Colonels & Commissioners – We must stop trying to run everything ourselves.  Stop micromanaging.  The Army, at times, worships at the Church of the Micromanagers and we must rid ourselves of this Church!!  What we do by micromanaging is create a corps of dependency.  By this I mean is the attitude or belief becomes “since the Officer runs keyeverything, we can sit back and watch since they don’t need me anyway.”  If you have doers in your corps, they will quickly become frustrated and perhaps seek somewhere else that they will be used.  Stop micromanaging and start delegating leadership and other duties to others in your corps!  Begin to create the environment of ownership.

Do you remember what Jesus did when they were facing a mass feeding problem of about 5,000+ people?  He didn’t immediately take charge, instead he went to his disciples and said, “feed these people”.  Of course the disciples were in shock and did not know how to proceed, the cost was too high and they only had five loaves and two fish.  But do you remember what Jesus did with their effort?  He multiplied it.  

In a very real sense, the Holy Spirit will do that in our corps too when there is an investment and ownership by others.  We as officers and leaders have to relinquish our drive for perfection and our grip on authority and allow others to be discipled and in turn they will own their shared portions of responsibility.

I know there is much more to cover on this topic.
What other Churches do we worship at that we should rid ourselves of?
We are a gap ministry, a safe harbor for hurting people to come and find a home.
The Salvation Army needs to rid itself of Church so that it can fully embrace its Holiness as a Movement of Christ.

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
What do you think?  Tell us by commenting, offering your thoughts and opinions.

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑