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.
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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.

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*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.* 

“The God that never lets go!”

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“I was taking the kids to school”

I was listening to music on the radio as I was dropping my children off at school this morning.  Minding my own business, when God decided to pop in for a visit.  Perhaps it had been a while.  Perhaps, if this was a time for confessions I might admit to getting caught up in work and other things…perhaps.

Isn’t it funny how God can speak to us in so many different ways?  We can go to an art gallery and suddenly a painting of flowers will strike a chord in our hearts and we would know that God had something to do with it.  Or perhaps we see God in other people as the driver just ahead of you casually pays for your toll as well…God was there.  Or even in the midst of utter despair, pain, hurt, loss, we might read something that gently and quietly reminds us that God is present with us.  He is here with you now as you read this…do you believe that?  I do.  His presence is with us always, even to the ends of the earth, even when all hell breaks loose around us, even when we are blind to His passing…He is there!

…back to the music on the radio…

I was sitting in my van and two songs back to back touch my heart in a way that I couldn’t deny His presence there.  The first was a song by Mumford and Sons called “Below my feet”.  It wasn’t so much the entire song but the refrain that captured my heart for a moment:

” Keep the earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn”

As I heard those words I pondered that last sentence; “Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn”…but I said it like a prayer to the Lord.  Lord, keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn…. I didn’t lose control of the vehicle but I could feel His presence there and I may as well have been in church.

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“I may as well have been in church!”

The very next song that came on was a song by the David Crowder Band called “You never let go”.  Its words go like this:

When clouds veil the sun and disaster comes
Oh my soul, oh my soul
When waters rise and hope takes flight
Oh my soul, oh my soul, oh my soul

Ever faithful, ever true
You, I know, You never let go

You never let go, You never let go
You never let go
You never let go, You never let go
You never let go

When clouds brought rain and disaster came
Oh my soul, oh my soul
When waters rose and hope had flown
Oh my soul, oh my soul, oh my soul

Ever faithful, ever true
You, I know, You never let go

I was in church in my van…God was very present.  He reminded me of just how important it is to not only serve Him but to always look for Him in every moment of my day.  He’s here right now wanting so desperately to fellowship and commune with you and me.  And His promise to us is that He will never let go.

-Both songs will be linked below.

Just a thought for today.

Community…love it or hate?

Let’s be honest, living in community isn’t easy. We all know it, but we don’t say it because it’s kind of a sensitive subject…it effects you and me. We live in community with a lot of people whether we know it our not. Your co-workers – community. Your family – community. Your church – community. Your Neighrhood – yeah still community.

How we interact sometimes depends on how a particular relationship is at that time…if there’s been a falling out or disagreement that community might be strained or awkward. But no matter how you slice it we live in community…unless you’re a hermit in the woods.

With that being said, community can either be a positive or negative experience. Just look in the bible at Acts chapter 2 for an excellent example of a positive experience in community. After the day of Pentecost the early followers of Christ began an amazing house church community in which things thrived and exploded. They shared everything with one another such as food and financial resources. There was harmony and the sense of love was overwhelming. This was and still is one of the most amazing examples of community working, active and thriving in all of history.

I could give examples of unhealthy, negative communities but all one has to do to see this is to flip on a reality television or even experience it (possibly) in a co-worker dispute or family disagreement. It happens.
We are all susceptible to selfish ambitions and pride…the question is do we want to change? Is change possible? Can we grow?

Community isn’t easy, blow outs take place…but is it possible to exist in an Acts 2 community in our world? I believe it’s possible, but in order to get there we have to take off our mantles or pride and selfishness and adopt an attitude of Christ-like selflessness and humility…when or if we ever get there watch out because THAT community will be a magnet to many who witness it.

But first…compassion, selflessness and humility. -Micah 6:8

Just a thought.

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