10 Church Signs The You Need To See…And Never Duplicate!

This pondering is certainly tongue in cheek.
I want to poke a little fun at my fellow Christians today.
Perhaps some of them didn’t know that their Church signs were a little questionable…perhaps some did.
I understand some churches like to grab our attention as we drive by their buildings, I get that…but sometimes you see a church sign and, if you’re anything like me, you shake your head and/or groan.

I see a lot of church signs, I’m sure you do as well.
Some are good.  They get to the point of their message.
Some are just down right bad.

Here are 10 church signs that you need to see…and never duplicate.  -I mean NEVER!  

#10Signs1I understand that churches want faithful members, but guilt tripping people to come to church isn’t probably the best use of your signage space.  It just comes across as negative, it might actually push people away from your church because they might assume your church is judgmental and fickle.  Skip the negative, guilt tripping messages.

#9
signs2Okay…I kind of like my churches pain-free!  I don’t know about you but I’m really not into getting beaten at church.  All kidding aside, I’m sure the person who put this sign up quickly realized how it sounded by actually reading it aloud…I hope.  Like it or not Pastors, we shouldn’t love to hurt people.

#8
Signs3Ok, I get what this church is trying to say, I just think there might be a more tactful way of saying it.  It seems a little presumptuous for this church to make this statement.  I’m not saying that laziness and poverty can’t be related, I’m just saying – what if someone who has fallen onto hard times sees this sign?  How would they feel about themselves?  I just think a church who has to put this sign up to make a point is sort of sending a message to the community that they believe all of the poverty issues are because people are lazy…that is simply NOT true.

#7
Signs4I get this message too, but what about those who aren’t Christians yet?  What kind of message does this convey to them?  Also besides being a little tacky, it’s also a little crass.  Perhaps this church was trying to be “edgy”, I just think this sort of message does not attract people and/or bring them into the church on Sunday, instead it drives them away.

#6
signs5Two words:  Run. Away!  We don’t need the church to help us all to die thank you very much!  Again, I understand the message that they were trying to convey – I’m really laughing, but at the same time I’m kind of cringing too.

#5
signs6I’m sure we get it, It just seems a bit forced doesn’t it?  The message seems to insinuate that none of us are busy doing what the Lord has called us to do…and it also assumes (albeit with a little humor involved) that by “acting” busy we’re going to fool Jesus.  Ha!  This message is so off base that I have a tough time reading it again.  Maybe I’ll just walk by because I’m too busy acting busy…okay, I digress.

#4
signs7Wow.  There is SO much to say about this diatribe of a sign.  So, let me get this straight, God is the reason for the Tsunami, AIDS, and War?   I feel anything but “Welcomed” by this sign, in fact, I would run far, far away from this sort of message.  I understand that God did punish people in the bible because of their disobedience and sin, but to assume that all acts of nature and disease are created by God to punish the world, I feel is a bit too much (I’m being a little too subtle at my distaste for this sign)

#3
signs8
So that’s the reason we have to forgive?!  I was forgiving people for all the wrong reasons for all this time, when I should have been focusing on messing with their heads…how dumb of me!”  If we forgive, it is to help ourselves as well as the other person.  I won’t get started on the phrase “forgive and forget” today, that’s a whole other topic, but obviously the message is about forgiveness.  I get the sarcasm here, I also have the spiritual gift of sarcasm, it just seems to be the wrong place to put a sarcastic message (at least to me).

#2

signs9

I’m sorry Dr. Parker, but we’re not related.  HA!  Again, it’s all about the sign and the placement of the words.  I found this sign to be rather funny.  Perhaps this is the Sunday’s message, I get that…but if you’re like me, you might have read this message a little differently too.  Nope, no DNA test required this Sunday!

#1
sign10Whaaaa????
I’m sorry but to me this flies in the face scripture;
Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22)

Yes, this relationship that we have with Christ requires faith, but it also requires us to sort out the wise and foolish teachings that are all around us.  Sometimes I think churches use this type of propaganda in coined phrases so that members will be completely dependent on the church as their main source of theological understanding.  We should be free thinkers in the sense that we question things, we search out truths and we confront falsehoods and erroneous beliefs.  We can’t just blindly accept things of “faith” at face value!

I have left out a number of signs, some of them were beyond provocative; Some were offensive, some were just flat out silly.  These are just ten signs you should see and never duplicate.  I would be curious to know others that you have seen.  Either post them here on this pondering thread or share a picture of a church sign that you have found.

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, Identity Crisis or just “More than a Church”?

We are an army of soldiers of Christ, organised as perfectly as we have been able to accomplish, seeking no church status, avoiding as we would the plague of every denominational rut, in order perpetually to reach more and more of those who live outside every church boundary.” (Commissioner George Scott Railton)

No church is perfect.
No Christian witness is flawless.
No song we sing can ever compare to the Holiness of God.

Dear Soldier of The Salvation Army,
prayI don’t necessarily see our mission and identity as completely “Church”.
Yes, we celebrate the resurrected Christ.
We recognize Jesus as the Son of God; the only way to eternal life and the source of salvation to the world; but this good news cannot be contained within four walls of a church building can it?  No!  We are called to go out into the world.  Our mission as The Salvation Army is about being faithful to going out into our communities.  It’s not just about feeding and clothing the poor, but this is a starting place!

We should represent the most welcoming aspect of “Church” in our communities to those who truly will “come as you are”!  Many that we have the opportunity to reach will be unchurched, uneducated in “church etiquette”, and having little to no practice in biblical understanding.  Some will know, but life has often times robbed them (whether through conscience choice or beyond their control) of their dignity, hope and joy.  Yet, because of our mission, we have the capacity to welcome them into our buildings and provide for them more than just a morsel of food, but something more substantial – living water, and living bread.

We Are Not Perfect!
Photo Jul 08, 8 07 19 AMThis organization is NOT perfect, it does have its flaws, it’s politics, its issues, as do we all as individuals.
There are numerous social issues we MUST fight for, however, that begs us to put these faults and imperfections aside and get back to work within our mission.  If we can first get past the fact that we are flawed, we are imperfect even within our uniforms, we can make a more rapid response to the plight of people all around us.

We MUST be humble! 

hum
Officers & Soldiers, no matter what rank you are, no matter how long you have served, no matter how “high” you go up in the structure of our Army – know this:  we do not serve as soldiers in this Army to attain rank and position.  This should never be our aim and first pursuit.  Unlike the world around us, our mission for Christ is about winning souls, serving souls, and caring for the lost, sick and afflicted.  We cannot afford to become sidetracked on fame, rank, power, position or anything that would entrap us.  The father of lies would love for us to become entangled in this game of church politics and army power wrangling…because if we do become ensnared in this, we become limited within the scope of our mission and its success.

The disciples of Jesus even argued about this very thing.
They wrangled about who would be the greatest disciple.
They tried to show off, look better, be more attentive to Jesus…it wasn’t what Jesus wanted from them.
So Jesus set them straight:
 “An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” (Luke 9:46-48)

Dear Soldiers, we must be completely humble.
None of us should think we are greater than our fellow soldier.
We need each other and so we too must humble ourselves.
He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

No, we do not have an identity crisis in our Army…we simply have to recall what our identity is and should be for future generations!  The structure of this Army is to get beyond Church walls, beyond Church boundaries, politics, policy and procedures and to reach into our communities toward those who have been rejected by everyone else.  We must reach into our communities for those who are disparaged, discouraged, disillusioned, drugged out, pimped out, drunk, condemned, and without all hope.

So, what is your identity as a soldier of this army?
Are you humbly serving as a soldier of Christ?
Where is He sending you?
What is holding you back?
Who in your community is the fallen and rejected?
Can you go to them?
Will you show them love and grace and offer them hope?

Dear Salvation Army, let’s keep up this fight!
We are not finished yet!
Our calling still stands – His Holy Spirit will guide us!

Something more for our Army to ponder today!

Disclaimer: These postings and ponderings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Salvation Army.”

Dear Pastors, Authentic Joy Can Inspire Your Congregation!

sleepThe Pastor looked tired.
He gets up to preach the message and delivers an impassioned four point sermon with colorful illustrations and “all the fixin’s”…still no one comes forward to altar.  He starts to doubt his abilities to lead people to Christ.  He starts to grow frustrated and restless in his calling.  He looks out at his church congregation and believes most are just without “ears to hear” and have settled into Christian mediocrity.

What’s wrong with this picture?
It seems like some sort of fictional story and yet this is not so uncommon among pastors today.
Many pastors get out of seminary and believe that they will make a difference…and most will.  Most Pastors are prepared for the fray, and for “ministry life”.  Yet, as reality sets in, the risk many might face is disillusionment, ministry fatigue, and a loss of mission.

The problem that I have with the above illustration is two-fold: 
1) It’s all about the Pastor.  me
We pastors and ministers of this amazing grace can often get it wrong or backwards.
It’s not about us, it never was.
It’s not about how awesome we are, or how contemporary or traditional we are…it isn’t about how much media we utilize on a Sunday morning either.  Oh, and it’s also not about how amazing our worship band is or isn’t.  These are all surface things.

Dare I say that we as Pastors can begin to have an ego problem.
We call the shots, we make the executive orders, we plan the service and we preach that sermon that our congregation needs to hear each Sunday morning.  Is it easy to miss the point of “Church”?  You bet it is.  Especially when it becomes all about the Pastor.

This is a real danger, so be aware of its beckoning ego-centric call! 

2) The authentic joy is vacant in the Pastor’s life & ministry.  bored
The second problem I see in the uninspired ministry goes hand in hand with the last issue.
If it’s all about us and our ministry team, we run the risk of displaying that misaligned vision to our congregations.  And when we “put up a front” and paint this perfect picture for them, they see right through it. It’s like that elementary teacher who is terrified of elementary students…those kids just know when the teacher is scared to death.

Authentic joy cannot be faked.
People, especially our congregation, will know and see through inauthentic fakery.
It doesn’t matter how flowery your sermon is…
It doesn’t matter how “on point” the worship band was this Sunday…
It doesn’t matter if you have everything right on the bulletin this Sunday…
IF you aren’t authentic and you’re just going through the motions, it will be more evident than you think.

What I’m not saying today:
I’m not saying that we have to be Happy all the time – I know that it’s just not possible to put on a happy face when things are far from happy in your church.
I’m not saying that we have to perpetually seek joy and happiness for our church members either.

What I am saying is this: 
Authenticity, in every season is a hard commodity to come by all the time.
I have preached those sermons.
I have lived that illustration.
I have been there.

So how do we recapture that Authentic joy once more?
Not by some feel good seminar or self-help section (but sometimes that helps).
Not by continuing to fake it and gut it out for a little while longer.
No, we have to find fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to confide in and to share each other’s burdens.
We need (and crave) fellow Pastors to tell us that they’ve been to those desert places as well.
We have to feast on uplifting, yet challenging spiritual readings by theologians and thinkers who will push up out of our funk from time to time.  If the iron isn’t in the fire being sharpened by other iron, then it is growing rusty and dull.

Don’t hole up in your office.
Don’t internalize your struggles and think no one else will relate.
Don’t pretend that you have it all worked out.
Talk, share, connect with other Pastors…

We need to go back to the source of living water…and sometimes (many times) we need each other more than we think.

Capturing authentic joy and passion for your ministry once again requires other pastors, mentors and leaders to help you.  Don’t become rusty and dull…let’s help recapture that spark in your life once more!

Something more to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

“Undoing Church” 4 Ways We Miss The Mark

Sometimes I wonder if Church, the way it is right now, is the way Christ intended it to be.  What I mean is, over time the early “Christians” met in houses and broke bread together, sang some songs of praise and prayed together…but soon the incorporation of “things” and “elements” within those worship settings were added.  These things and elements aren’t a bad thing, but what if those things and elements begin to shape our worship so much so that now we have actually lost some of what “Church” was supposed to be in the first place?  What if  Church has become so mainstream and so institutionalized that we have lost some of its initial significance and power?

Ear Phones, Tangles & Church
If you’re anything like me you probably have some of these:earlying around your home.
They are really pesky to keep straightened out.
They can become easily tangled by just putting them down on the kitchen counter or in the dreaded pocket of your jeans.  Undoing the tangles on these earbuds is a necessity in order to use them properly.  If we allow them to remain tangled or if we yank them apart in frustration we will most likely break them.

This simple illustration is kind of how I see the Church today.
We’re often times just a big, frustrating tangled mess.
We have allowed some elements and even the institutionalization of the Church to become so embroiled in complications, rituals and non-biblical traditions that these sacred cows have entangled us and restrained us from experiencing what true “Church” is all about.

We think that everything points to what we do on Sunday morning in our very rigid “bulletin” format.
We think that what we do in these elements is what matters most…but if nothing translates from ritual to spiritual disciplines and real life application in our lives, then it is all for naught.

So…perhaps instead of tightening our rigid formats in worship we need to undo them.
Perhaps part of the dwindling attendances on Sundays has less to do with “worship styles” and “cultural distractions” and more to do with our complicated worship practices and formats.

I am not saying that we toss the baby out with the bath water…but perhaps the bath water is tired, dirty and cold, if you know what I mean.  Why do we do what we do on Sundays?  Is it because that’s the way we’ve always done it?  Is it because this is what feels comfortable to us?  Is it because we’re mandated by the powers that be to conduct our services this way?  Are we so tangled up in complicated knots that we wouldn’t even want our families who don’t go to church to come to our services?
mark
4 Ways we miss the mark: 
1.  Beating the same, tired, broken drum.  drum
I won’t beat up on traditional music, there is still a place for it.
Music is vital, but it is not our focal point in worship.  It ought to lead the worshiper towards what God is saying…it should never be a performance to show off the talents of the few.  The drum we beat that is tired and old actually lies in our format of worship.  There is this sort of rigid format that we follow every Sunday where we always have the message at the end, and before that we sing a song, and before that we have the bible reading…and so on.  It’s a worn and beaten path.  It gets old.  It’s a tired and broken drum.  Sometimes I believe we lose the significance of our worship if we don’t change things up.  I believe that we can lose new comers, not because of the content of our service, but because of how we – the long timers – respond to it in our own hearts and expression.  If the drum is broken, if worship is mundane and uninteresting, if we just keep plodding along like a tired mule on a familiar path, then, perhaps it’s time to change.

We also miss the mark many times because –
change2.  We fear change so we lag behind
We don’t want to upset the apple cart.
We don’t want to “break with tradition” even when “tradition” has nothing to do with the true origins of Christian worship.  So, because of this fear of changing, we drag our feet for as long as possible.  This is just one more rung in the clumpy, tangled mess of the church.  Sometimes it’s not so much culture that is prodding us to change and adapt, but it is the Holy Spirit who is doing the prodding.  Even then, the steeped traditions and tired drums keep being played without so much as a cadence change.  Our fear of change as a body of believers might be the death of us.  I might receive some negative criticism for this, but I believe it doesn’t make it less true.  I have said it before and I will say it again that I despise the phrase “We have never done it that way before” …which sometimes translates as “We’re not about to try either!
Perhaps, in the undoing of church, we ought to be less fearful of change and more fearful of not changing and adapting as the Lord leads us.

3. We fear change in our church because of what denominational leaders might think leaders
Dare I say that “undoing the church” isn’t only about addressing the fear of change, but it is also about addressing this misguided notion about fear of what institutional and denominational leadership might think.  I am not advocating anarchy or rebellion against leadership, in fact, for the most part, God has placed leaders in those positions for specific tasks and they should be honored and respected…but…if we spend so much time pleasing our leaders and worrying about what THEY will think or say, I believe we will have lost our way and will have only added to the tangled mess that is the church today.   Yes, denominational leaders set the vision and motivation for the churches but we in those churches must meet the communities in which we live.  We must be innovators of the Word of God.  We must please God and fear Him above all else.  We must move when He asks us to move.  We must change when He prods us to adjust.

bubble4.  Our focus is inward instead of outward
Another way in which we miss the mark is the internal focus of our mission.
We, as a church, can become so internally focused that we lose the great commission unless it means the “lost” come to our doors.  I find this inward focus to be extremely entangling and detrimental to our mission as a church!  We must be welcoming of new comers to our worship services, while at the same time be community focused and attempting to serve the needs of others.   Sometimes, when our church has been a long-time established we can have this air about us…that we are “amazing” and think “why wouldn’t people want to come to us?“; or even ask condescendingly (God forbid we ever say this) “well those people really wouldn’t fit in here!”  Do cliques occur in church?  I wish I could say “no” but as sure as they exist in schools, they are in church as well!  Sometimes these cliques are inclusive of new members and many times (without saying so) they are not.  We miss the mark of true “Church” when we lose the love of the “outsiders” and instead insulate ourselves inside our own glass bubbles.

If we are to “undo” Church, we will need to adjust these issues, and untangle our hearts.
Perhaps we must revamp our worship services even though we fear change.
Perhaps we must question why we do the things we do and what real significance they actually play in leading others to Christ and into a deeper relationship with Him!  If we beat the same drum and refuse to undo church, we could face church extinction…I don’t say that as a threat, it’s just simply the truth…and sometimes the truth hurts.

Something more to ponder today!
God bless you!

The Ministry Tool Kit, 5 Tech Tips And Tricks

There is something to be said about working smarter not harder.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t work, mind you…it just means that perhaps there’s a smarter, more effective way.
Today on Pastorsponderings.org, I would like to explore some of the tips and tricks of ministry.
I would caution you though that these are simply tools of ministry and that these elements ought never take the place of person/pastoral studies as well as hard work and scholarly thought.

I remember in seminary (College For Officer’s Training) instructors expressing the need to have ministry files and preaching calendars.  These elements, if prepared ahead of time, can save pastors from rushing around on the weekend or when a crisis hits they have spare messages and/or bible studies to reach for.  Preparation is key!

prepared1.  Prepare!  
This is the first tip to ministry.  Don’t get blinded sided by how busy the life of a pastor can be.  Work ahead of schedule, stockpile thoughts and ideas.  Prepare to be bombarded, at times, by the “hecticness” of life.  The Boy Scouts were right…”Be Prepared”…if you plan ahead, the late night cramming session won’t be necessary.

Photo Mar 31, 10 51 34 AM2.  Dropbox/Cloud Storage.  
I am sort of a tech-head.  I use technology when it suits me.  It has saved me at times when my computer has frozen up or crashed.  Saving my sermons and other such pertinent information on a cloud based server can help preserve needed information in the future.  It may seem tedious saving it twice…but it doesn’t hurt to have a backup, especially if the information pertains to finances, sermon prep and other administrative documents.

Make sure you pick a cloud device that has lots of free space, and if desired you can always purchase additional gig space in the future if the need arises.  Most of the time, however, the start-up free space offered is more than sufficient.  There are numerous platforms by which you can use these cloud based sites and applications for both android, windows and apple.

Save onto the cloud, make sure your password is complicated enough but not too complicated to forget…and save often!
song
3.  CCLI/Songselect Subscription

For just over a $100 a year, you will have access to a plethora of worship songs both old and new.
There are other subscription based worship groups out there but none are linked like Songselect is to CCLI…and since there are the occasional audits from CCLI anyway, it doesn’t hurt to have an inventory of your songs already available to you.  There are a couple of subscription options to choose from.  Since I’m predominantly a guitar player, I utilize the basic membership which includes unlimited guitar chords to thousands of worship songs as well as traditional hymns.  The beauty of this subscription is that you can link it to other software that perhaps your church already has such as MediaShout, ProPresenter…etc.

4. MediaShout media
There are numerous song/scripture/lyric presenters out there for Sunday worship that do a far better job than the traditional Powerpoint software.  I have used some, but admittedly not all.  I cannot comment on the ones I haven’t personally used, but the ones I have used I can say that it can make life a lot easier.  Again it comes back to the principle of thinking smarter not harder.  Having software like this at your church can ease the load of having to build worship sets from scratch every week.  I cannot tell you how great it feels to have a library of worship songs that are ready for me to choose from, and if it’s not there yet I can link my Songselect account to MediaShout and pull up that new song I need for the up and coming Sunday.  Some might consider the cost of this software to be too much, and I certainly don’t work for this company or others I’ve mentioned, but I can tell you that they do certainly pay for themselves in the amount of use I get out of them.
I know that there are many other such software companies that offer similar services and I would imagine most of these would work just as well within your ministry.

apple5.  Tablet For Ministry
Again, don’t get tempted to lean too much on technology, but don’t be afraid of it either.  Take a risk from time to time…these modern devices can help to improve your ministry or provide you resources at the touch of a finger or two.
I personally use my iPad to preach from.  I bought an app about two years back called ‘Documents to Go’ (before Microsoft Word was available on an Apple device).  I usually write my sermons from my computer, save it to Dropbox and upload it into Documents to Go.  I find it easy to use, it stays lit when I am preaching and I potentially can go paperless while still maintaining a library of my written sermons on my device or on the cloud.

I do have Bible Apps on my tablet, but honestly, I still use my personal Bible for study and while I’m preaching on Sundays…somethings won’t ever change for me.  Perhaps you already feel comfortable using these devices, perhaps not.  If you think you can use it, then give it a shot…if not, don’t sweat it.  These are just a few suggestions to help you in your ministry.

How About You?
Do you have any other “Tech” Tips and Tricks for ministry that you can offer us today?
Leave your comments below…share, and join in the conversation.  I promise to post your suggestions in the future, and I will have other tech tips and tricks in the coming weeks that perhaps can aid you in your ministry right now.

Something more to Ponder today.
God Bless!

Perspectives Day # 4 Featuring Captain Marianneke (Anney) Summerifeld “Family”

familyFamily.  This one word evokes a particular meaning to the reader, doesn’t it?  Something specific.  Something defined. Something wholesome, perhaps?  A television show is “family oriented” or an activity is “family friendly.”  What does it mean to you?  The lines surrounding the definition are not rigid, and they are becoming increasingly fluid.  A traditional, nuclear, family is not what we once pictured it as.  Roles are changing rapidly around us, and if we, as ministers of the Gospel, are to preach the love of Jesus without discrimination, what does that mean and how does that look?

Sure, we are all know that “society is different” and “times they are a-changin’!” – but when things affect you personally, you become all-too aware of where there are lags in our ministry and motivation.

I love my family.  I am daddy’s girl, I look up to my mom, and my siblings have morphed into dear friends.  Growing up, we were the picture of ‘traditional.’ Everything normal, everything happy. In recent years and months, and even as I type, I am suddenly confronted with the idea that normal is changing, and happiness isn’t the be all and end all.  What is? Love.  Love for God and love for others.  Love for our family, however that might look.

Ten years  ago (even five, really), I wouldn’t have been able to define “polyamorous triad,” and if I did know what it meant, I would have never expected it to be a part of my lexicon, not to mention my family story. Never would mentions of divorce and infidelity ever come into mind as being in the realm of possibility.  But you know what?  Life happens.  People change, people grow; and as they grow and change so does our understanding.  I cannot stop loving my loved ones.  I continue to strive to love as Jesus loves, despite bumps along the way.  How can I not?  As an officer, an ordained minister, it’s my calling to share in Jesus’ love.  I have no room to judge or condemn.  Until you experience something yourself, you never know how you will react.

All of that isn’t to say, “hey look at my family, aren’t we a bunch of kooks!,” rather, it is to show that even circumstances thought to be so static and just right “as is” do change and while they change I cannot sit by on the sidelines wondering what to do and letting life pass by.  Should I change with it?

Yes.  And no.

As I write this, I am supposed to be writing my sermon for Mother’s Day.  I was finding verses on being Children of God and what it means to be in His family.  1 John 3:1 reads, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”  Later in 1 John, we read, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands” (1 John 5:2).  And what are God’s commands? Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

I’m pretty sure changing the Greatest Commandment isn’t a good idea.  Likewise, I shouldn’t seek to change the Gospel just because it might not gel with someone else’s belief system.  But I CAN change my approach. I can change the borders of my understanding as the borders of  family continue to change.  This won’t be easy.  Some might see loving others as endorsement or acceptance of lifestyles contrary to what we see as the Biblical standard. No one is saying we need to water down the message, and loving others doesn’t compromise our own beliefs and doctrine.  We need to look head on at the world around us, literally right beside us.  The growing definition of what family means WILL affect you and your ministry if it hasn’t already.  So the question is: what are we going to do about?

Tell you what, let’s start with love.  I can’t tell you HOW to love and how your ministry to your immediate family, your family of origin, your adopted family, your corps family…(you get the idea) is going to look and how it will work.  Most likely, steps made today will have to change sometime in the future. This is fluid.  Don’t be scared, rather, see this as a challenge – the good kind.  A challenge of loving God and carrying out His commands as best we can.  We will make mistakes, I know I have.  Ah, but remember, if we are jumping headfirst into love and loving others, this also means we are jumping headfirst into forgiveness and grace.  Take my hand; let’s dive together!

(Captain Marianneke (Anney) Summerifeld is the Corps Officer of the Burbank Corps in California.)

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

Churches – “We’re outsourcing our benevolence funds”…Really?

Is the need that great?
Are churches having trouble “keeping up”?
Why are some churches outsourcing the care of the poor to agencies?
Isn’t there some sort of responsibility that churches ought to have in regards to helping those in need?

It is mind boggling to me when I come across community churches that have outsourced one of its primary functions in as Christians to a created agency to facilitate.   They are happy to funnel their “charity” funds into a created social service office somewhere off of their church buildings.  It almost says to the outside world – we’re interested only in those who can support themselves but we don’t want the riffraff of society  in our beautiful buildings.

The Benefit of the doubt: church1
Granted, there are always new legalities and policies within cities taking place which makes it difficult for some churches to serve the needy.

Secondly, some churches do not have the budgets for staffing full time social service employees to facilitate this need.

Thirdly, storage and distribution space.

changeBut…
(and it’s a big one) does this mean ONLY parishioners/members of that church can have access to services?
The danger in this kind of model of social distribution of services (and it really does exist) is that support for individuals in need is managed in a discriminatory fashion.  If you do not belong to the “club” you cannot receive help…”but here are a list of food pantries in the area that we can direct you to.”  That’s all well and good but don’t you think the message it is sending is “you don’t belong here, please go somewhere else…Members only!”?

Outsourcing:
The only kind of outsourcing Jesus did was delegating responsibilities to his disciples.
It was for their education as disciples.
It was to help them and to grow as future leaders.
Jesus didn’t send people on their way to the temple administrators.
He didn’t tell some “I can’t heal you because you aren’t a member”

Why do some churches take this path?
Does it deviate from the true purpose of “Church”?
Does it seem to send a message of “We care, but not in our backyard“?

I ponder these things today with open questions because honestly I don’t have the answers.
I just see that certain churches have become pretentious in appearances and treat benevolence like a blight or an annoyance that they deal with once or twice a year with a collection.

Is this not important?
Are we not to care for the orphans, widows and poor?
Has it become beneath the modern American church?
If that person isn’t a member is there any help that we can give them?

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, Too Much Rhetoric Not Enough Practice??

You don’t have to be in a political office in order to view politics…it’s everywhere including the church.
Church/corps splits have happened because of truly silly things – “the color of the carpet in the sanctuary”…really??

I’m feeling a little feisty today, so please bear with me.
army
Rhetoric…and Holiness???
The Salvation Army struggles with too much rhetoric and not enough practice sometimes.
What do I mean by this?
We (like any church) are so good at saying all of the right things.
We (like any church) are so good at wearing all the right clothes…ahem the uniform.
We (like any church) are so good at touting our scripture verses and doctrines…but can it become more about outward appearances like when the DC, TC or General comes to visit than about personal/corporate holiness?

Sometimes I feel as if we are very good at polishing the outside of the cup while we just keep neglecting to do the hard stuff like cleaning the inside of the cup (our hearts).  We try and try to impress the “brass” with our efforts and works but are we truly living consistently?  This isn’t some sort of witch-hunt today.  I’m not pointing the finger at anymore more than I am pointing fingers. back. at. myself.

This is Personal…
This is truly personal.
if this resounds with anyone else, then great!
Let’s do something about this together.
I honestly know that I am not the only one who struggles with this.
We are so good at singing ‘the Founder’s Song’ in Holiness meeting and thirty minutes later we’re at our favorite “Sunday Lunch Spot” complaining about the wait time, the server, we barely give a tip and then we complain on our way home about the traffic and some ignorant sap who just cut us off…do you get what I’m saying?

This is Deadly…blood
I, for one, do not want to be a member of the Salvation Army in Laodicea, if you get what I mean (Revelations 3:14-22).
If I’m honest, I’d rather rip off this uniform and walk away from it all before I start striving to become a pew warmer and a luke-warm one at that.  The church of Laodicea, according to Revelation, didn’t get their act together.  They didn’t have the passion to serve Christ as His bride.  They weren’t on fire for Him, instead they were barely tepid in their faith.  Sometimes I feel that in our Army we walk a fine line too.  We can utter all of the “catch-phrases” of our Army like “Fire a volley” and “Hallelujah”  but on the inside we’re so caught up in the bickering and pettiness that are missing out on the fire of the Holy Spirit.  I don’t think we need another Pentecost, it’s already here we are just so caught up in our own issues that we can’t see it…that’s just how I see it…I hope I’m wrong.  When did we desire to be a mediocre Army?  When did we sign up to warm a pew but as soon as the hard work comes we’re suddenly absent?  If we are truly “witnesses for Jesus” why aren’t we more visible with this message in the streets?  We cannot hole ourselves up in beautiful Halls of worship and expect the brokeness of neighborhoods to be mended by how well we sing and play an instrument.  We’ve got to get on with it!  We’ve got to either catch fire and be moved by the Holy Spirit or we need to get out of the way and stop hampering the Spirit and the potential growth of other Soldiers.  Either warm up or be spit out.

shielfThis is real…
I have felt this sting of conviction.
I don’t write this as a “guilt trip” for anyone before it strikes my heart and brings ME up short first.
We need to stop “playing” army and be army.
We need to stop fighting amongst each other and fight the real war for the souls of those who are lost.
We need to stop spouting half-empty words of rhetoric when our hearts aren’t in it and instead fall upon our faces and recommit ALL OF WHO WE ARE to Christ once more.
We do not need pew warmers and more apathetic bodies in uniforms, instead we need leaders who are servant who will serve and love regardless of where someone came from or what their last name might be.
We don’t have time to play “church politics”…this gets in the way and stunts our growth as a corporate body of holiness.

It’s “Put up” or “Shut-Up” time.
I have seen the walking dead amongst soldiers and officers.
I have seen the passion-less works of apathetic hearts.
I have witnessed the “going through the motions” without a resemblance of the practice of holiness.
We have a choice.
We can either put up or shut up.
We can either live lives worthy of this calling upon our lives, or we can stop pretending and get out of the way.
This is a wake up call.
This is a call to holiness.
This is a reminder that there is more to it than donning on the uniform and spouting all the right words.

How is your heart today?
How is your spiritual journey?
This is something more for our Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

“Cleaning the inside of the Cup”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.26“You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” -Matthew 23:25,26
dishes
I hate doing dishes, just ask my wife…There, I’ve said it.
Sometimes I put dishes into the dishwasher and put that  little soap dispenser in and just hope for the best.
Most of the time that little soap dispenser lets me down…but sometimes I get lucky.

We do this too sometimes within our spiritual journeys too.
This passage of scripture may have been originally directed at the Pharisees and “hypocrites”, but it may as well have been directed at us too.
Jesus blasts these teachers and scholars of the Torah.  They know all the right things to do and all the right things to say, but their hearts are far from clean.

Sometimes we just load up our spiritual practices. practice
We just pile up the songs and scriptures and outfits that we wear…and we hope for the best.
Sometimes we get lucky.
Many times we do not.
A lot of the time, it makes us feel hollow and empty inside…almost as if something is missing or somehow, something has been overlooked.

Why?
cupBecause the inside of the “cup” has not been cleaned.
We can polish away at the soft glow of a sparkling clean exterior, but if the interior is still gross and filthy – what good will that polishing do?  I’m sure we can fool everybody.  We can fool even ourselves into thinking we have it made spiritually…but we aren’t fooling God.

News Flash:
You. Can’t. Fool. God!

I’m not saying we don’t sing songs of praise.
I’m not saying we don’t read the scriptures.
I’m not even saying “don’t go to church”.
But if all that we do is for “appearances”…then what’s the point?
If all we do in “worship” is hope that we sound good and “man did that worship team nail that last song“…we’re misguided and we could be avoiding the “camel” for the gnat (Matthew 23:24)…me may have some serious internal issues to deal with.

How is the inside of your cup?
Does it still need work?
Does it still need some cleaning?
A lot of cleaning?

This is a personal thing.
This is deeply personal…and yet this is also a corporate “Church-family” thing too.
Each of us should be mindful first of the condition of our own hearts before we even begin to contemplate the condition of others.

Are you sick of just going through the motions in Church? –So am I!
Are you tired of comparing yourself with others of the faith because they seem to have it all together and you’re just pretending?  -So am I!
Are you ready to do the hard work?
Are you prepared to allow the Holy Spirit to strip away the grime and caked on gunk in your heart?  -Me too.
You see this is the constant work of the Lord.
We must not stop seeking to be like Christ in our lives today.
We must not give up because holiness seems to be so far from where we are right now.

How is your cup?
May you seek Him out.
May you diligently allow Him to reveal and remove the dirt within.
God Bless you today!

-Something more for us all to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

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