Dear Salvation Army, Is It Time For A Uniform Update?

Dear Salvation Army,
I see an inconsistency and I’m wondering if you see it too.
I have been to some divisions and locations where uniform wear is enforced almost militantly and there has been a real lack of grace when someone falls out of line.  Flipping the coin, so to speak, I have also witnessed in other areas of the country and world where the uniform is stressed less, and I would imagine not “policed” like others clearly are.  I have even witnessed territorial and some divisional officers in other places being publicly photographed in “Army” polos and other “not full-uniform” wear, or in casual uniform wear.  uniform5

I am most certainly not criticizing this practice, nor am I railing against the uniform, but I wonder if a shift has begun in what the army deems as “appropriate uniform attire”?  It most certainly is not universal anymore, and I am rather happy to see women being able to “buck the trend” and wear suit pants instead of polyester skirts if they so choose.  Is this also a trend that will continue until suit pants are considered for full uniform for Women?   Some might consider the staunch supporters of the full uniform wear to be old fuddy-dutties or too stiff in a swiftly shifting organization.  I am not so sure about that either.  But I do wonder if we should consider a universal change given the fact the times have changed as have styles of most of the world’s militaries -from which we were modeled after.  I might sound a bit progressive here, but why haven’t we adapting and changed yet?  Is it that hard to do so?  Beyond the rationale “this is what it is” can we clearly articulate why it is so difficult to change it?
(names of subjects separated by commas)
Questions to Ponder:
Is full uniform still practical?
What purpose does it serve to the world around us?  Do they see and understand what it is we are wearing and why?  Do we simply wear it because it is what we do?
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Beyond these questions, and the practical applications of uniform wear, can or should the Army be pursuing modern updates or allotments?  Has this already begun?  Perhaps I serve is a moderately more conservative part of the Army world than you, and you are already seeing this trend…help us out and tell us about it!  Historically uniform wear was cost effective to many who could not afford certain “richer” clothing, but the uniform costs today have gotten more expensive, tunics ranging from $200 – 300…these uniforms are not cheap and that historic purpose, at least in my “neck of the woods” is now obsolete.

Someone will inevitably write me (and probably criticize me…again) and say, “But you’re missing the point, there are far more pressing matters to address”  to which I would say you are correct…but then why do we spend so much time on the emphasis of uniform?  Others might argue that it is our witness as those who are Saved to Save (or Serve, which ever you like) and is represented in our obedience to the uniform…quite right, but it goes deeper than that doesn’t it?  We aren’t necessarily obedient to the “Uniform” we are first and foremost obedient to God and then from Him all other forms of obedience flows.   One wonders if the uniform is a detractor or an attractor for others to join our ranks?  I am not saying that I hate this uniform, please do not take that from what I am saying here, I am merely wondering to what end does our uniform wearing take us?  Why do it?  Who are are impressing?  The General?  Our Leaders?  God?   Of course I am being facetious here, I know why we wear it…but is this a general consensus?  Or is it part and parcel to something deeper, more lasting within us?  Can you tell me its purpose?  And do YOU believe this purpose is lived out in your use of the uniform?

So  I guess this pondering is two-fold: skirt
1) Should the Army consider adapting and updating the uniform universally (understandibly there are certainly culture issues at play here as well)?
2) What is the spiritual benefit to the use of Uniform in our witness to ourselves (Ecclesia) and to the world around us?  To the last point, the uniform is certainly recognizable to some places of our world and to the poor and downtrodden.

What do you think?
Tell us your thoughts, concerns, gripes, Ideas, convictions…let’s hear it!
Ponder with me on this if you will!

Something more for the Army world to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, The New Song Book

You know, as they say, “Out with the old, in with the new”…but a part of me is feeling a little melancholy about this one.   I can still remember the old song book, now twice removed.  It has been put to pasture years ago, but for a few still lingering upon shelves of Salvation Army libraries or others who feel sentimental like me.  I remember how that book smelled. Its pages were crisp and contained many of the songs I grew up singing.  Some of those songs are still intact, reprinted with a new paint job and a new format inside this new song book. (Phew that was a lot of “news“)   Some of the old songs, will inevitably have to wait for another resurrection, until some of us sentimentals grow older and find we really do miss seeing those lyrics among the pages of a Salvo Book.
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Nonetheless, I do like this new edition…it is growing on me.  (Although, I realize that I too am not always amenable to change.)
The segregation of the chorus section is no more.  Newer, more singable chorus are now included.  The creators of this edition even took the time to incorporate scriptural referencing as well as thematic messages…it’s a Holiness meeting (and other meetings) preparer’s dream to have this new tool within these pages!

From a corps perspective, soldiers by and large, enjoy seeing this new song book among the pews.  I wonder if most soldiers, adherents and attendees feel the same?  I would be curious to know other people’s thoughts and first impressions of this new song book as it hits the pews around the world.

For Me:
It’s still growing on me.  It’s going to take some time as I put my long goodbyes away for “old red” and begin to feel the inevitable present-tense of this new tool in songbook form.

There are other, more pressing issues to ponder about…but for just a moment I had to find time to ruminate on the passing of another song book, besides I’m going to miss seeing those red bound books in the pews…perhaps that’s just me.

What do you think of this change?
Is it good, bad, kind of the same?  Tell us what YOU think.

Something more to ponder today.


Disclaimer: 

The views of pastorsponderings.org are the writer’s thoughts and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army.

Perspectives Day 1 Featuring Captain Andy Miller III

On “Changing the Army”

A loyal soldier approached me, it was clear he had something important to say. It was Sunday and the holiness meeting had just finished. His index finger was pointed right at me and with an agitated tone he said, “Your goal must be to kill the Army. You are trying to change everything!” Kill? I think not. Advocate for change to advance the fight? Absolutely.

In contrast, a few years ago I received a phone call from a well-known Salvationist writer asking me to contribute a chapter to a volume on Salvation Army doctrine that would feature  “liberal” and “conservative” opinions on a variety of theological issues. He said, “We are looking for a solid conservative voice like yours.” That volume never came out, and I was too busy changing diapers, so I declined.

So what gives? Am I conservative or progressive? Do I want to change everything, or remain parked with the status quo? It depends on whom you ask.  My experiences have led me to ask, “In what way can, or should, we change the Army?”

In full disclosure, I am a person who loves intra-Army discussions and am invigorated by change. Hence, I am writing this article for Scott Strissel and indulging myself as I do so.  I enjoy expressing my passions about the Army so much that I have found it to be a temptation for me. However, my efforts to “change the Army” shouldn’t keep me from “being the Army” while living out my covenant.

While at training, a staff officer said to a group of Cadets, “If you think you became an officer to change the Army, you are in the wrong place [officership, training college, etc.].” There are several ways to think about what is involved in “changing the Army.”

One way to enter these discussions is to list “non–negotiables,” as did General Clifton and General Rader. They have been helpful for my understanding of Salvation Army theology and practice. So when considering change you can ask yourself, “Are any of these values compromised in the process?” Other methods use mission statements, branding promises, or core values to achieve a similar response to proposed changes. For the Salvationist, and particularly the Officer, I suggest Covenant-centered change. If a simple test had to be administered it should be this, go look at your Soldier’s Covenant (Articles of War) and ask, “Is this change in conflict with what I covenanted with God?”

What is it that has formed the essence of the church’s beliefs throughout its history; we could describe this as the canon or orthodoxy. The Army’s canon is most fully summarized in the covenant we share. It is expounded and clarified through Handbooks of Doctrine, Song Books, Year Books, and other publications.

Do some of these articles (doctrines) need nuancing? Probably, but that does not mean they need to change?  We need to explain what we mean by “…the divine rule…” We need to shade “total depravity” with prevenient grace. We need to carefully discuss and elaborate on what being “wholly sanctified” is and is not. We need to clarify that we are not platonic philosophers as we present a Christian version of “immortality of the soul.” It could be an American stylistic bias, but I wouldn’t mind gender neutrality in the human pronouns. These pieces are all consistent with how the Army does theology and I don’t think they need, or should, change.

There are areas where I desire to see the Army change. I would love to see a renewed understanding of how we approach training and the connection therein to officer recruitment. A more nuanced conversation on sacraments would be helpful and welcomed. We probably need to do better in understanding the complexities of the marriage relationship in officership and how the dynamics of shared and separate appointments can work. The uniform and its use should be updated or changed as we seek to be a visible people. I have at times found myself helpfully and humbly corrected by experienced officers who have helped shape and refine my “ideas.”

The biggest change I would like to see is this – more soldiers, more corps, and more officers, bringing more people to Christ’s saving grace. This is a necessary change.

Changes that call us to redefine marriage, cut certain articles of our faith, reject original sin, deny the substitutionary nature of the cross, get rid of our name, become a formal high church that is a liturgically drenched denomination or embracing universalism all are changes that move us away from a centered identity, these changes are outside of the scope of Covenant-centered change. These changes are instead, Covenant-rejecting changes.
So what of those changes? First, questions lead to answers and we need to ask good questions to get to good answers. When I was learning to swim in the discipline of theological studies, I had to work through each article of faith. When I came up for air I discovered a richness in Army theology that humbled me.

Second, if you come up for air in your search for truth and are resolutely opposed to the Army’s theology and you can no longer affirm the covenant, and if you are trying to make changes that move away from the canon of Salvation Army teaching or Covenant-centered change, I wonder if you should find another institution in which to serve. I say that not in cruelty or anger, but in love. These things will not change in the Army. I am no psychologist, but I think your life would be much more fulfilled in another movement if this is the sort of change you seek.

A wise senior officer, who taught many years at the training college, described his approach in teaching the doctrines in our covenant. “Andy, I am not telling Cadets what they should believe, I am expanding on what they have covenanted their lives to believing and teaching.”

If the changes I desire remain unchanged, then I trust God. Continued growth and relevance is contingent on our ability to adapt to our changing world. However, that change must be centered in the covenant which unites every Salvationist.

Forward to the Fight!,

Andy Miller III

Check out my book, Holistic Hospitality: A Bridge to a Future Army, via this the link here.

Miller

Dear Salvation Army, Selling Your Soul For Relevancy…

It is one thing to be culturally relevant in our worship settings:
-For the music to be relevant to the demographics of our congregations.
-For the messages to be relevant to our target audiences.
I’m not saying relevancy is wrong…we need to be relevant to some degree!

But…

could there ever be a point at which we sell our souls for the sake of relevancy?
How far is too far?
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How far do we go in order to reach our local cultures yet do not lose our souls in the process?  There is no denying that The Salvation Army is needed and has the capacity to do wonderful things as we strive to help people in need.  We mustn’t lose this in any transformational process.   We cannot lose our identities as an Army of Salvation for the sake of “fitting in”.  Booth wasn’t so much concerned with “fitting in” as he was concerned with meeting human needs in Christ’s name.  He even worked with politicians to change labor laws and make working conditions safer for people by building a match factory.    Booth wasn’t about merely “fitting in”, he (Catherine too of course) was about making a difference in people’s lives while sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Wearing a uniform doesn’t quite allow any of its Salvationists to “fit in”…but they are certainly identifiable, and these elements which make us stand out can help us to be a light in a seemingly dark world.  We have the capacity to help transform lives with the help and power of the Holy Spirit.  Our main goal should never just be about relevancy.  This isn’t the main principle of what we do and who we are (or vice-versa).  The principle can still be summed up in one of our oldest slogans “Soup, Soap, Salvation!”  We were formed to go for souls and go for the worst.  We are united under one God, One Salvation, One Hope for the whole world.  We cannot water this down, but we can offer hope, love, support and grace one spoonful at a time.

Dear Salvation Army, have we sold our souls at times for relevancy?
Are we doing it right now?

Sometimes I fear that we chase the almighty dollar more than we chase after the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes I think that we fear what other entities including governments will do to us if we boldly proclaim the name of Jesus Christ in our programs and in public places.

Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t an army of Salvation anymore but rather more of an army of convenience and platitudes as long as no one is offended by the gospel.

Sometimes I wonder if we have lost a step in this march because of it.
Sometimes I wonder if we have been chasing after the approval of other people instead of the approval of God.

Sometimes…

If this has ever or is the case…then we need repentance.
If this is the case in our personal ministries we need to seek reconciliation and a realignment of priorities and holiness.

To the faithful and to the upright…show us the way!
Be examples to the rest of us.
Help us when we have gotten so focused upon pleasing the world around us that we have strayed from our first love.
I am not casting any blame upon anyone more than myself in this entry of Pastor’s ponderings today.  I have felt this conviction within my heart.  These are personal and yet public because perhaps, just perhaps there are others out there who feel the same way.

Join me, pray with me, pray for me…and I will pray for you as well.
We are not alone in this fight…we never were.
We are an Army, fighting side by side and with the power of the Holy Spirit who can and will provide us His strength and guidance along this dusty rugged path.

“Give me one pure and holy passion.
  Give me one magnificent obsession.
 Give me one glorious ambition for my life
  To know and follow hard after You.

To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you”

(by MARK ALTROGGE)

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

Dear Salvation Army: Why Quality Is Better Than Quantity

dusty-feetJesus had more than 12 disciples…yet many left Him. (John 6:66)
Did Jesus call each one of these “AWOL” disciples?  No.
Some joined the band later during the rise of Jesus’ popularity.  But Jesus wasn’t looking for popularity.  He hadn’t come to be lauded and complemented.  He hadn’t come to start a Roman incursion.  He came for so much more.  He taught that purpose to His disciples, those with whom He confided in and hand-picked for such an important calling.

soldiers4Dear Salvation Army, why is it that we feel it necessary at times to place quantity of soldiers and officers above quality?  I don’t think anyone intentionally does this.  I do not think we rush out and pick people off the street and throw uniforms on them just so we have “numbers” the next time the General or anyone else important in our Army comes to town.  But we do see success within our Army as something of a quantitative thing don’t we?

uturnHave we been going about this all wrong?  
Could it be that instead of sheer numbers and all of these “Corps growth” initiatives we must first focus on the ones we already have in our pews who are undiscipled and unequipped for the battle?  We serve many individuals who are marginalized and wounded by life.  Some might be incapable of ever achieving the standards of  “Christianity” that other churches expect of their parishioners. I have heard it said that the church is an emergency room for the sinner.  It should be a place of triage and shelter for the broken and the imperfect.  We serve many in our Army who not only need the spiritual emergency room but also long-term spiritual care!  Some may never walk upright within the spiritual realms of leadership.  Some may only crawl towards incremental spiritual achievements in their lives because they have been crippled by sin, shame and/or other spiritual, emotional and physical wounds in their lives.  Can we accept them for who they are, where they are and mark these limited steps of growth?  Are we patient enough to develop these wounded soldiers with grace, love and at times looooooooooooong-suffering?   Or are we so focused on getting “others” more “capable”, desirable people into our corps buildings?  We, unintentionally, stick up our noses at the uneducated, spiritually inept and broken cases already before us.

I don’t mean to make this an indictment because I too would wear a crown of guilt in this witch-hunt of pointing fingers.  I too have walked the fine line of measurable growth and statistically accomplishments while unintentionally leaving the spiritually crippled of the corps in my dust.  Shame on me.  Forgive me.

What I’m Not Saying:
I’m not saying don’t seek out others to bring into your corps.
I am not saying don’t work to improve the spiritual conditions of your corps.
I am not saying don’t preach holiness and hold the standards high for all who come to the corps.

What I am Saying: 
-Don’t forget those that God has already placed in your corps and on your ministry pathways.

-Don’t lose the emphasis on teaching and discipling your vital few who come week in and week out.

-Don’t lose heart when you look at statistical sheets and only see the same numbers associated with the same faces.

-Love your corps members even if they are incapable of loving you back (as hard as that may be).

-Be the very best representation of Christ to your corps, in your leadership and in your living examples.

-Don’t wait for more educated, better looking and polished people to come through your doors.  Focus on the ones that God has placed within your ministry right now to love and to lead.

Why Quality is Better Than Quantity?
When we become satisfied and confident with loving and serving the few we take off the burden of false success driven ministry concepts.  It’s not about packing your corps building to the brim every Sunday morning.  It’s not about attempting another evangelistic ploy to rope the unchurched into your doors.

binocularsWhen we begin to love and to focus our attention upon those we already have within our corps (the “quality“, no matter how far from quality we may view our corps members) we will begin to truly love them, appreciate them, long to better disciple them, and serve them as Christ would the Church.   When we focus our attention on the “few” and feed them spiritually, the love and “curb” appeal of our corps will become all the more evident in our communities.

We get it all wrong some times in our attempt to become like other churches.  We look over the ministerial fences and long to be like “that” church that boasts 400 or more members on a Sunday.  But the truth is we aren’t THAT church…we were never called to be THAT church.  Our ministry and mission as the Army is very, very unique.  Our mission will contain more elements of serving wounded soldiers day in and day out and maybe, just maybe we will see incremental or phenomenal life improvements both physically and spiritually.  I am not discounting the work of the Holy Spirit here, He can and will perform miracles, and we must  be diligent and faithful to His calling.  Yet in other occasions we must also not give up on soldiers and corps members who never seem to move from their one position of initial conversion.

We know there is more to be had within the realms of spiritual growth and holiness for our corps members…but sometimes it may take a lifetime for that corps member to achieve this understanding as well.  DON’T GIVE UP ON THEM!  DON’T QUIT OR LOSE HOPE!

**Yes, fight for the weak, the hurting, the lost.
**Yes, keep up the evangelistic methods within your communities.
-But don’t forget to employ quality love, support and leadership to the few as well!

Just something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

3 Warning Signs – When Leaders Are Out of Touch with Reality.

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It happens from time to time in every organization.
Perhaps those appointed, elected, or assigned to the responsibilities of leadership forget what it was like to be led.  Perhaps along the way of corporate or organizational “ladder climbing” they lost touch with true tangibles which are grounded in reality.  It can be true even within the Christian world that power corrupts absolutely.  

What are the warning signs as leaders that we ought to be aware of?  What kinds of tools can we utilize in our leadership models in order to stay relevant and lead with passion and vision so that others will follow?  I think it begs to be said but authoritative leadership cannot be respected or maintain just by brute force.  The result of leading in such a way is a leadership of fear and not respect.  Good leaders strive to make additional leaders along the way, not subjugation and “my way or the highway” philosophies.

3 Warning Signs – tools to help leaders stay in touch with reality:
1.  Cultivate a spirit of authentic humility:

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When the veneer and “polished” shine wears off of new leaders it is important to live within a spirit of authentic humility.  Those with whom you are leading need to know you are human and that you do not place yourself above their needs.  Humility within good leadership is usually developed not born.  It is much easier to lord over followers barking out orders and playing favorites.  It is easy to become a bad leader.  It is much harder to be a good leader.  Good leadership takes work and deep consideration of the needs of their followers.  Becoming humble despite the potential privileges that leadership can offer speaks volumes to those being led.  When we adopt a true spirit of humility within leadership, the paradigm of “top down” organizational structure is turned on its head…and this is a good thing!     

Humility in leadership has the ability win advocates not just “followers”.  What I mean by that is this – some followers will just follow out of obligation, but to cultivate productivity, respect and genuine leadership one must gain advocates within those you lead.  Being humble while leading is absolutely one way to cultivate these kinds of relationships within your organizational base.  

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2.  Listen to opposing arguments & perspectives

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Good leaders aren’t afraid of criticism, in fact they willingly engage in productive ideas sharing.   This doesn’t mean that the vision or mission of the organization should be sidetracked by opposing views but rather a good leader will listen to alternative methods to accomplishing the same mission and vision.  All too often I think insecure leaders are unwilling to be challenged because they lack the confidence in their own leadership abilities.  They see opposing or alternative views as threatening, even insubordination, when in fact others (even followers) are striving to accomplish the same goals and objectives.  Suddenly, instead of listening to other people’s opinions and ideas, the insecure leader will shoot them down and reprimand because they feel their leadership abilities are in question.  Lack of true listening as a leader is a warning sign for poor leadership and a polarized organizational vision.  

A good leader desires to actively listen to those they lead and seeks to consistently improve the mission through innovation and ideas sharing.  When a company or organization values the thoughts and ideas of others within the team, the mission can advance faster and more efficiently.  Great leaders are willing to fight for the ideas and thoughts of those who are subordinate yet passionate about mission.  Listening, really listening is crucial to great leaders.  Without such an ability, common leaders (which far out number great leaders) will ignore, plod on, and become out of touch with reality.  

3. Invest in People not the Product (or Mission): 

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Equipping, discipling, and developing future leaders must be a valued focus of great leaders.  Yes the mission or product is important to the success of whatever organization but without the people doing the hard labor behind the mission or product the organization will eventually fail.  All too often the mission (or product) gets placed above the people.  Suddenly people are not treated like people but rather just another number or warm body to facilitate the desired outcomes.  When this happens the company or organization can become a cold place to work.  Those who work there might be begin to feel unimportant, morale might be low, vision can be misplaced for simply “survival”, and the passion for the mission might evaporate entirely.  

In the vein of this warning sign, leaders might sense something is wrong with the organization or company, but because of their disconnectedness to the reality of those they serve in leadership, they may conclude that the remedy is another program or ‘relabeled’ slogan.  Without the aforementioned characteristics of great leaders, (Authentic Humility and Active Listening) the common leader will strive to improve the company or organization through more program and success driven ideas without the inclusion of its followers.  When this happens the common leader has decided that they will invest in the product or mission over the people.  All too often, through this impersonal leadership method, common leaders will sacrifice the few (or the many) for the sake of marginal product/mission success.   

These are the warning signs of leaders who are out of touch with reality.  The reason I write this today is to help us decide what kind of leader that WE want to be both in life and in our places of employment.  These are very common threats to any organization or company, and without corrective steps and measures, attrition rates within the organization or company will increase.  Coupled with that loss, the mission and vision will become harder and harder to accomplish and the investment in people instead of product (programs and mission) will be abandoned.  

I, for one do not want to become disconnected and out of touch…do you?  

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-Just something else to ponder today…be the kind of leader that you aspire others to be!!!

 

The Salvation Army – Are we enabling through Social Programs?

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This is an open question that begs your response. 
Don’t kill the messenger here, It’s something that I’ve not only seen, I have heard said as well.
Are we working to address underlying needs of those we love and serve or are we just addressing the basic needs of “the moment”?  
All too often it is far easier to “meet human needs in His name without discrimination” right now based on what they need…but it’s much harder to ask the difficult questions, to pry back the hurt in order to discover underlying causalities.  

NOT A STEREOTYPE
I recognize that not every Salvation Army does take the “easy” route in services.   Some take great pains to work with those in need and to help discover and address the real issues.  I am certainly no unopposed to handing out a food box or securing temporary housing for a displaced family but without addressing the real causes are we slowly hurting those we serve more than helping?

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 Enabling is okay for time, but providing solutions, real tangible answers to their problems…isn’t that what Booth was all about?  If you have a problem with drink – stop drinking.  If you need a safe environment to work – here’s a job.  General Booth said to his son Bramwell “do something!”  

WHAT ARE WE DOING?

Perhaps the question shouldn’t be “what are we doing” but rather “what can we do better?”  
How can we get to the bottom of life issues, help to heal – feed both the body and the soul and help a person back onto their feet? 
I understand some may never get back on their feet…some may have experienced the worst kind of life imaginable and they will need our support for the rest of their lives…but not all are like this.  Can we help them and then send them to become helpers as well?  Can we break from the “status quo” and become revolutionary again?  

This revolution may look very different in other countries, but what about your country?  What is YOUR Army doing to pick people back up, to help heal the hurting, to mend the shattered?  Can we avoid enabling within our social programs?  We must recognize that we are called to so much more than just social programs…but spiritual hope and salvation as well first.  

I would like to hear your thoughts on this. 
What is being done? 
What can we do differently? 
Are we impacting the world as we once did?  
Do we risk enabling souls instead of healing souls through the power of the Holy Spirit?  

-Something for our Army to ponder today.

May we ever be daring to continue to “go for souls and go for the worst!” 
 

The Salvation Army…A Holiness for Failures.

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Okay, I admit my title is a little inflammatory…hang with me, I’ll get to the point.  Here’s what I mean: The Salvation Army ministers to many who come from hard-living lifestyles.  Admittedly many souls who come to us for help are victims of these lifestyles.  How we minister to them begins with the old catch phrase/slogan “Soup, soap, salvation”.  We long to fill their stomachs, clean them up and get their lives back on track before we can minister to their hearts.  Perhaps it doesn’t have to be specifically in that chronological order either, our ministry opportunities could come simultaneously.  But the core of our ministry stems upon a demographic of those who are marginalized, poor and/or destitute…and the failures – there I said it.   

The “Failure” –
We live in a numbers oriented ministry driven world where, from an outside point of view only having 20 or 40 in a service on Sunday seems to indicate a dying church when compared to mega churches and large community churches that boast well over a 1,000 members.  I’m not knocking these churches, nor am I jealous and want to become them…but there are quite a few who join the ranks of the army who look at these churches and then look at our corps attendance on Sundays and feel as if we’ve failed and/or are dying.  It’s a failure of a different sort, a failure of perspective.  This failure of perspective comes when we buy into the lie that numbers in the pews are the only source or indicator of a ministry’s effectiveness.   Successful ministry begins and ends at personal relationships.  Do we spend quality time one on one with those with whom we minister with and to?  This is the true evidence of genuine discipleship.  Not that it can’t happen in other ministries where you can possibly get lost in the crowd, but can you hide in a corps that boasts 40 members?

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 Are we caring for the complete person?  Is there follow-up and attention to the real sources of crucial personal issues in their lives? The Salvation Army isn’t like other churches because it isn’t just a church, it’s a movement and a triage location to the lost, hurting, marginalized and the failures.  

Operating within a Holiness For Failures: 
Fellow spiritual freedom fighters we aren’t strictly in the business of merely facilitating “goods” to those in need.  We have a broader, greater mission to fulfill.  It may indeed begin with the services of goods in order to meet the physical needs, but it mustn’t end there!  That is only the beginning.   We must be willing able to help usher those we serve in our community into the very throne room of heaven in order for them to have the opportunity to meet and know Christ Jesus.  Providing “goods” and services gets us in the door but if we are a mission of holiness for failures (myself included) then we must do more than a box of food, a place to sleep and a warm meal…we must display and convey Jesus!  

Jesus came for the Failures and the Lost! 

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Jesus came for the whosoever, and those He picked to serve in His mission were not the best of the best.  They were tough men and women.  Many were from hard living lifestyles and many did not have the best of educations.  If Jesus had operated within modern day success oriented means He would have gone to the synagogues and recruited the most educated.  He would have filled the temples to the brim and He would have had an active prosperous ministry that would have afforded Himself many properties and riches…yet this wasn’t His mission.  He came to the rejects, the prostitutes, the outcasts, the uneducated, the lame and the sick, the dead and all we failures.  Not failures by occupational standards or in friendships (not all anyway) but by a salvation standard.  “For all have sinned (failed) and fallen short of the glory of God.”   (Romans 3:23)  He operated within a holiness for failures system.  This isn’t to mean that Holiness is or was a failure, but rather He went to the sinner, He lived among to poor, He cared for the outcasts and brought the power of redemption to those who would hear and seek.  Even selecting His disciples He showed evidence that He would use anyone who was willing to follow and willing to receive His holiness and success at the cost of even death.  

From point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ 

How are we bringing people from point ‘a’ (a life of sin and shame) to point ‘b’ (a life of salvation, redemption and holiness)?  What are we concerned with more?  Numerical success or the success of holistic ministry and spiritual life altering opportunities?  Are we looking over the fences at other ministries that do not embody what our movement is all about? We are many parts of the body of Christ and with that being said other ministries out there operate for different reasons.  Jesus brought hope to a world of failures, how are we emulating Him in our Corps and in our various ministries in our communities?  

Perhaps you’re hung up on the word “failure” today because of its negative connotations.  Jesus came you and for me because we needed Him!  Still today many are lost in their failures, blinded by habitual sins and shame…be a light to them not by your power but by His Holy Presence.  Help to usher His holiness to those who need Him most!  Perhaps we must stop looking over the fences, stop comparing ourselves and get back to work.  The upside – when we allow Christ to work within us as well as those we minister to He will turn us from Failures into His Holy Success stories.

 “Go for souls, and go for the worst!” 

-Just another thought to Ponder.

 

 

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