10 Ministry Tools for the Non-Musically Inclined Pastor.

YouNot all of us pastors have the luxury of having a full worship band, pianist and an ear for music. Let’s face it, some of us reading this article right now can’t carry a tune in a bucket…and that’s okay. We don’t all have to have the gift of music. Scripture even points out the various gifts that we are all given and appointed with (Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11), and just as the focus on speaking in tongues can become an issue, so too then use of music. Don’t get me wrong, music in worship can be most beneficial to the body of Christ, but it should be viewed as a conduit to deeper worship, not the desired end result.

Today, let us focus on this element of worship with the non-musical pastors in mind. If you fit this mold, then take note. My wife is very, very talented in other areas of ministry, but she will openly admit that music is not one of those talents.

There are many, many pastors in small churches or corps that do not have a musical bone in their bodies, and that’s okay. I want to help you find some tools to use within worship that will assist you and your congregation within and even around the conduit of music on Sunday.

1) YouTube Videos/YouTube Video Downloaders.
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If you are not musical at all, you might utilize a plethora of Christian worship music on YouTube. There are even Youtube downloaders that you can use to have the videos accessible in places of worship where WiFi and the internet are sketchy or nonexistent. Using a video on YouTube could include modern top 40 Christian songs, a movie clip, or numerous other topics other than just music.

Don’t neglect the power of videos and or worship songs in your Sunday services. Feel free to be creative and intentional in the planning of your service theme too. Caution: This will take time, so don’t just throw everything together on Saturday night and expect amazing results…intentional planning takes time and hours. We are all busy people, but not taking the time to find the appropriate videos and/or music, is noticeable in our services (I’ve been guilty of this too).

2) iSing Worship (app)
This is a great app that does cost a little bit, but is a tremendous tool if you have a portable device like an iPad or iPhone. The app is free, but the songs will you about $3 a piece, which is only a dollar more than what you would pay for songs you currently buy on Google Music store or the apple iTunes Store. When you buy these songs, you then have the ability to include all of the elements of the song (i.e lead vocals, guitar, drums etc.). So, for instance, if you wanted to lead the song you could turn the vocals down and sing with the music like it was Christian Karaoke hour. Or iSing worship could become your worship band in a box by simply hitting play. Be sure, however that you plan the songs you are going to sing ahead of time and have the words either printed or displayed on the screen for the congregation to sing along.

Just some of the songs I have purchased and used in my services.The nice thing about iSing Worship is that once you select the songs you want to present on Sunday, it comes up on the display in front of you with the Lyrics as you lead the song.I highly recommend this app if you are willing to invest a little bit of money for the songs.  It adds an element of intentionality into your worship, even if you’re not musically inclined.
3) Recruit & Delegate
One of the challenges for many pastors, regardless if they are musically inclined or not is the use of other people in worship services.   Do not be afraid to ask other people to help out, or lead elements of the service.   In fact, a shared worship experience with other people leads to a better all around worship service.  If you’re at all like me, perhaps you are a control freak and you want to ensure everything goes according to plan, perhaps we have to come to the conclusion that we must trust the Holy Spirit as well as other people.
When we share the worship experience with other people, we share ownership.  Be picky when you select, recruit and delegate people to these tasks, make sure you are selective and intentional.  Find people who have potential as future leaders or already established leaders.  It’s okay to fail or have rough worship experiences with these individuals, that’s a part of the learning & discipling challenge!
4) Utilize your Youth
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The apostle Paul told Timothy not to allow others to look down on him because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12)…the same can be said about young people in our churches and in the worship setting.  Use your young people, don’t discount their willingness and abilities to lead.  Teach them, disciple them as the future leaders by investing in them now within your worship services.  Have them help by reading a prayer, or scripture verse, a skit, or even by leading a song.  Some of your young people might be more musically gifted than you are – so cultivate that gift and use it in your worship service!Also, don’t let older people in your congregation overly criticize your young people.  We do not want to discourage their growth as future leaders, we want to encourage them.  Unfortunately most churches have the old grouches who grumble at anything new – even young people.  Don’t tolerate that behavior from any member of your congregation.  We need to disciple our youth, and this is a great way to begin to do that!5) Set the Stage (don’t neglect this!)


Regardless if you are musically inclined or not, we can become more creative in our church decor.  Don’t neglect the aesthetics of your worship space!  Take into account the seasons, the topics you are preaching on and use your worship space to reach all of the senses of the worshipper.  Use smells (plug ins, or spices, candles – but don’t let it become over-powering.  Use sites – place artwork up, or banners, build sets out of styrofoam and paint it…there are many links of Pinterest and other websites to explore and tap into our creative sides.
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Use worship songs at the beginning of the service through cd/mp3/computer…set the stage with song (even if you aren’t musical).
When we actually plan the scenes of worship within our worship spaces we introduce our congregations to a living and moving God.  The stages and worship places are concerts or performances, but there is something to be said about being intentional with the sights and sounds (and smells) or our spaces for the purpose of ushering our congregants into the very throne room of God.6) Worship Band in Hand (app) 80F2AEDA-13F8-4F91-9073-5EC1C971B0E4
This app also costs some money in terms of purchasing the songs that you want yo use, but it comes with a lot of features and abilities.  You get one free song included upon installation of the app, it gives you the opportunity to try in it out and see if you like it.7) Auto Pad(app) DB7C4580-E865-4E70-90EB-D6A043897404
This app will cost you $2.99, but there are many features that this ambient sound pad contains that could set your worship onto a new plain.  Perhaps you use this during your sermon and the use of tone and ambient sounds can deepen the worship experience.   Using such a tool might require you to include/recruit others to help you operate the app while you preach or read scripture.  Give this app a try and experiment with its use in your worship service!8) Lead a Messy Church instead!  messy church 2
Do you want to break up the monitany of the worship experience?  Do something different.  Some have begun to do dinner church, while others have started to incorporate Messy church into the worship experience.  Messy church can be a great way to reduce your music phobia by utilizing stations through this very practical, teachable methods.here is a link to a few that we have done over the years – https://pastorsponderings.org/category/messy-church/9) Conduct A Quaker Service7256EF73-FB9D-41F8-A2CB-50ABA8C4E724
A Quaker service generally is not focused on music, but instead the recitation of poetry, prayers, and the element of silence.   This type of service might be a stretch to many of your congregants, even more so than Messy Church because of the use of silence.  Despite the drawbacks, using this type of worship setting, but be just the thing your church or corps needs in order to have everyone dig a little more deeply into their hearts and minds.

Here is a link for more information on the Quaker service

10) Prayer Stations/Artistic Approach
20A21EF5-8630-4240-9045-86461F35EDE7Conduct a prayer service with stations.
If you want to get creative, you can go onto Pinterest and explore the many ideas expressed there when it comes to Prayer Stations.  This approach takes the focus off of the use of music and onto a hands-on prayer service.  You could quietly play worship music in the background through your sound system and encourage everyone to spend the next 45 minutes at the many prayer stations that you have intentionally set up in your sanctuary.  Here are some links to help guide you in this:
Prayer Loom
Thy Kingdom Come
Scrabble Pieces
More Pinterest Ideas

These are just 10 suggestions to help the non-musical and musical pastor a like, for the purpose of creating a deeper, more meaningful worship service.  These are not exclusively ‘it’ for worship ideas, but just a primer for more exploration and worship developement in your corps & churches.

Please tell us what you use in your churches that help to make your worship experiences more meaningful and helpful to you and your congregation?  Post your commends below, we want to hear from you.

Something more for all of us to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Why The Holiness Movement is Dead…

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

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

I digress…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The primary purpose for our founders in creating The Salvation Army was to be a Lighthouse, a beacon to the lost.  We were founded to help the lost, the drowning the marginalized in society…those who were not welcome in Church.  We are a holiness movement, and our origin story is all about gap ministry.   We go to places that the Church has forgotten or, in some cases, refused to go.
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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.* 

“No Regrets” – Sermon Podcast

Here’s today’s Sermon from the Evansville Corps – click to listen:

OR

To download and subscribe, click on this link:  “No Regrets

2 Timothy 4:5-8 (NIV)

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faithNow there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

How to live without regrets: 

1.  Recognize your failures, own them then press forward, the past cannot be changed but the present and future can: 

2.  Hardships on the way are indicators that you’re on the right track – keep going!  2 Timothy 4:5 –
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship

3.  Don’t Let Up Until The Finish Line – Endure, Persevere, Thrive!
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (V.8)

Perspectives Day #1 – Featuring Colonel Dennis Strissel “Opinion8ed”

“Opinion–8-ed”

(A series of eight installments)

Number Seven – Mulligans for Ministry continued

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In his excellent biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas includes this important event as foundational to Bonhoeffer’s faith.

 “In November 1921, at the age of fifteen, Bonhoeffer went to the first evangelistic meeting of his life. General Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army had conducted ministry in Germany before the war, and in 1919, greatly moved by reports of suffering there, especially the hunger among children, he found a way around the official channels and was able to have milk distributed. He also gave five thousand pounds to relief efforts.

Two years later Booth came to Berlin to lead a series of evangelistic meetings. Thousands showed up, including many soldiers broken by the war. Sabine recalled that ‘Dietrich was eager to take part in it. He was the youngest person there, but he was very interested. He was impressed by the joy he had seen on Booth’s face, and he told us of the people carried away by Booth, and of the conversions.’ A part of him was powerfully attracted to this sort of thing, but he wouldn’t see anything like it again for ten years, when he attended the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City.”

Forgive me for having some measure of pride in the fact that the joy observed and experienced through the moving of the Holy Spirit by Salvationists past, impressed and blessed an adolescent Bonhoeffer. Perhaps the memory of such joy accompanied him through his darkest hours. One of Bonhoeffer’s final writing describes life’s finality in this way, “Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom.” That is only possible through divine joy.

Since this article is meant to be reflective, considering what I would have done better during my years of active service, it goes without saying that living a joyful life would be paramount. Life in Christ is always about joyfulness. It is distinct from simply being happy. We can all attest to days that are not happy ones but in spite of the seriousness that life brings, joy can always be found in every event or experience. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear someone express the beginning of the faith walk as a result of seeing your joy, even during some of the most stressful times of life? Perhaps you will join me in praying part of David’s prayer of contrition today…

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

Ps 51:7-13 NIV

Amen

Dear Salvation Army, 5 Ministry Life Hacks That Can Improve Your Ministry

You’ve seen all of the life hack ideas out there.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were Ministry Life Hacks?  Well, there are.
I’ve done a little digging on the web as well as thought of some realistic ministry hacks on my own.
I should point out though that ministry hacks are necessarily short cuts or a means to short change your ministry…it still takes hard work and determination, but perhaps we should be thinking smarter about the way we do things instead of making it harder when there could be a simpler way.

5 Life Hacks That Can Improve Your Ministry
These might be some obvious and/or not so obvious to you.
The key in our ministries is to be relateable, realistic and holy.
How do we do these things?
-Consistency
-Be Real
-Be Honest
-Be Available
You get the point.
Anyway…here we go…

1.  YouTube Mini Webisodes icon
Here’s a hack within a hack – 

Your corps could do these type of videos in your services as well…it’s really very simple.
You might also consider doing these videos instead of your regular “announcement time”.

Most smart phones these days are affordable and relatively easy to navigate.
The world becomes closer to your fingertips and using it for the right reasons makes all the difference.  We ought to take advantage of these media platforms.  It’s really not hard.  The hard part is adding content to places like YouTube that people will actually watch and/or be interested in.  Make sure the videos you post are well thought out, planned and creative.  YouTube channels are free.  You can add one yourself with just a google e-mail account.  With the use of a smart phone you can now upload simple webisodes and/or informational content to your YouTube channel.  You don’t have to have a big budget on video editing equipment to get your message out to the masses.  Experiment and give it a try for yourself!

calendar2.  Keep And Sync Your Lotus Notes Calendar to all your (approved) devices
(Or Google Calendar)
Again, the nice thing about modern technology is that you can organize your life.
I have a confession, I’m not the most organized person in the world, in fact I’m far from it.
I need this kind of help on a daily basis in order to keep track of my schedule and calendar of events.
You can use IBM’s Lotus Notes Calendar and have it synced to your phones…it works!
If you’re more of a web-based calendar person, you can use google calendar (Note: I really don’t work for google, seriously, it just stuff that I’ve found through trial and error that works).

Maybe you’re like me and you’re unorganized and you need help.
Try using a calendar for a month…stick with it.  Any new habit has to be formed and it takes time.

3.  Media Saturated Social Media Posts

Image of male touching virtual icon of social network
There will undoubtedly be someone out there who will say (and comment)  “Well, what about just using the Bible and preach the gospel, we don’t need all of this stuff!”  If that’s the case then don’t use all this stuff.  This is just a means to make our ministry smarter, better prepared and sharper.  

If your corps/ministry uses social media then use it well!
Put your phones to use by taking photos of events and posting them.
Put thought provoking content on you Corps facebook page, twitter account, tumblr and any other media platform you may use.  Keep your corps members engaged through out the week.  If your sermon on Sunday can spill over onto your website or social media page then do that!  Don’t miss out on the opportunity to stay connected and be a source of hope and challenge to your corps members and community!

It’s really taking the quote “Why should the devil have all the good music” and bringing it into the modern generation.   Why should the devil have all the good media content (other than the occasional “if you love God then click ‘like’ if you don’t then ignore” dumb posts you see sometimes on places like Facebook)?

Being innovative in your ministry doesn’t mean selling the truth of the gospel out.
I. Am. Not. Saying. That.  (But someone will certainly accuse me of this today…just watch)
What I’m merely suggesting is we ought to use the tools that we have at our finger tips to get that message out more and in a more accessible and visible way.

4.  Be Prepared!  prepared2
It’s really not a new life ministry hack.
Do you remember the old Colonel or Major that used to tell you “keep an extra sermon in your bible just in case” THIS STILL APPLIES!   Preparation is King!  Always have a message to speak.  Be creative, be innovative, be prepared!  It’s so much more than the Boy Scout motto.  It ought to be the Christ-follower’s motto as well!

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...” (1 Peter 3:15)

remoteMaybe put down the tv remote and refrain from watching another hour of programming.
Maybe put aside that video game that you’re totally immersed in.
Maybe get up a little earlier each morning and get some spiritual preparation under your belt by spending time in prayer and meditating on God.
Maybe put aside any other distractions that might get in the way of your preparation as a minister/Officer/Soldier/Evangelist/Worship Leader/Corps Sergeant Major/YPSM (the list goes on)…

Maybe read a challenging book about the Christian faith.  challenge
Maybe do something that stretches you.
Do whatever prepares you to engage our world and those we have the privilege to minister to.

5.   Connect with Corps Members Through Intentional Social Events. 

Group of people at lunch table outdoors, smiling, portrait

If food is the way to a man’s heart, then social events are the way to your corps people’s hearts.
How else will we connect on a fellowship level if we don’t intentionally schedule events that will allow us to “let our hair down”?  All families, singles, divorcees, seniors, middle agers, young adults crave some sort of social connection other than Sunday morning worship times.  Don’t skimp of the fellowship times because you think it’s a frivolous waste of time.  Schedule.  Connect.  Don’t make it all about some sort of additional bible study time.  Don’t be afraid to have some fun with your corps members.  This allows them access to you as a person and not just their officer or local officer.   Be real.  Make the attempt.  This ministry life hack is the grease to the ‘cohesive body of Christ’ cog.

These are a mere five suggestions to help improve your ministry.
Do you have additional suggestions?  Comment below and share with us your insight!
Join the conversation, that’s what these ponderings are all about!

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

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Reasons Your Corps Needs A Vision Statement

Some people aim at nothing in life and hit it with amazing accuracy.
―Aman Jassal
We cannot become what we need by remaining what we are.
―John C Maxwell

Having vision is vital.
Having vision within our mission as a Salvation Army is crucial.
We cannot wander aimlessly around hoping to do something remarkable if we have no idea where we want to go and how we are going to get there.

Here’s a classic definition of a Vision Statement:
A Vision Statement defines what your business will do and why it will exist tomorrow and it has defined goals to be accomplished by a set date. AVision Statement takes into account the current status of the organization, and serves to point the direction of where the organization wishes to go.” -(Bruce Mayhew Consulting)

Does your corps know where it wants needs to go?
Is there a clearly communicated vision statement for all of your soldiers, adherents, volunteers and employees?
How can we accomplish our mission if we have not articulated where we need to go in our community to meet human needs in His name?

I would like to congratulate those corps out there who have a vision statement that is visible to all and attainable.  Many times, if the vision is clear and it is executed appropriately, corps will see success.  Similarly, if there is no vision, there is aimlessness and polarizing directions.

“Where there is no (Vision) revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” –Proverbs 2:18 
Here are 3 Reasons Your Corps Needs A Vision Statement: 

vision1.  A Specific and Clear Vision Statement Helps To Eliminate Polarizing Views
When we present a clear, concise vision within our mission as a local corps ministry, we can take the blinders off and begin to see clearly.  With the razor sharp vision set to meet specific needs in our communities, we can drastically reduce the wasted space of other polarizing notions and aimless attempts.  Meeting the needs of the people around us in Christ’s name means that we have been given a huge responsibility.  It also means that we ought to be good stewards of this keeping.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do in a corps is to unite everyone together under the same goal and purpose.  Unfortunately we are very individualistic in our purposes to attend the corps from time to time.  As hard as it is to say, we all come to the corps with our own motivations and intentions…sometimes they are not always for the purposes of helping others, but for the purposes of selfish gains and personal accomplishments.  In order to have a specific and clear vision, we must shuck our egos out the window and work together.  The body of Christ does not operate separately without proper recourse and consideration of the body as a whole.  When we have a clear and specific vision, we are better joined into this body of Christ…we become His sacrificial message of salvation, love and compassion to the world.

iron 2.  A Clear and Specific Vision Statement “Sharpens Iron”
Once we have established a clear and specific vision statement, we begin to hone the tools of mission.
We, ourselves, become sharper and more intentional in our service to Christ as we reach out into our communities.  These vision statements (as well as the goals that we set) make us more accountable to each other (Soldier to Soldier, Officer to Soldier, Soldier to Officer).   When this takes place, we become in step with one another.  If ever we needed a united front in our communities and in our singular aim it is now!  From the point of a specific vision, we can also better disciple one another.  We have a point of reference to draw from and we, as soldiers of this army and of Christ, can become stronger with these visions firmly grasped and displayed in our corps buildings.

3.  Goals Are Better Accomplished (Forward Progress)

Runner crossing finish line
Runner crossing finish line

Have you ever taken a road trip?  I imagine we all have.
When we begin our journey we have maps that help us chart the route that is to be taken.
With these maps we can also gauge how long we will be on any specific road at a given time.
Maps are important.
Without a map we can easily become lost, sidetracked and disoriented.

Think of the vision statement as our map to where we want to go on this journey.
Without the map we will become aimless and directionally challenged.
Goals are wonderful tools for any business, organization and even our corps, but without a clear vision, these goals can take us all over the map (so to speak).  Once we have clearly articulated the vision for our corps (where we want to go) we can then put into place and execute specific, purposeful goals to help us accomplish that vision!

boothSO WHAT? 
These are just three reasons our corps’ need vision statements.
There are more, many more reason.
This is not corps specific either, it is beneficial for the entire organization and mission of The Salvation Army!
Is your corps currently without a clear vision?
Perhaps it is time to begin the process of outlining where your current ministry needs to go.
Perhaps it is time to sharpen iron and better equip your soldiery.

Also, as we continue this conversation (as I’m sure we will), I would love to hear some of the ways your corps have created your personal vision statements and set specific goals in order to reach community needs in Christ’s name.

Please, leave some feedback today.
leave your comments and suggestions for the rest of us…we’re all in this together and we all desire to improve our Army!

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

Dear Salvation Army, 4 Habits Of Healthy Corps

I recall how aggressive and proactive our Founder William Booth was when it came to the Ministry of The Salvation Army.  In early days, it was recommended that if the corps was not producing, then it should be shut down and our efforts must be applied elsewhere.
booth
This got me thinking.
Do we consistently pour resources, time, effort into ministries that are already dead on arrival?
Are we so organizationally stubborn or reluctant to pull up the rug and move on?

This sounds callous of me, I know.
I also realize the ramifications it could have on families and individuals dependent upon our services.
BUT…with fields ripe in other places, could our habits of holiness and mission be shunted by lack of courage to close one corps and open others?  OR have we become so fundamentally stuck in the mud of being an organization that we are now incapable (by and large) of shutting down broken, financially devastated, unsustainable corps?   I realize this is a sensitive topic, when some people look at certain corps with historical romantic lenses on and only see “what was”…but is being sentimental – detrimental to the forward progress of need and mission?

With that in mind, and with our focus upon corps today, I would like to explore the healthy habits.
This should help us better define our corps, its success in ministry and provide us vitals to its future.
What does a healthy corps look like?
What are they doing differently?
Is MY corps healthy?

4 Habits Of Healthy Corps:

prayer1. Prayer is at the forefront, not the background.
Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a goodly Christian weapon.” -Martin Luther
Prayer is not a last resort but a first response.
If a corps longs to be healthy, its corps members and leaders have to be on their knees in prayer.
It is in this act of humility and petition that we can become sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  Prayer is more than just offering a wish list to God.  Prayer is also more than just asking God to heal our friends and loved ones in their times of health concerns.  Prayer is the vital connection between humanity and our Divine God.  It is the spark plug of fellowship between believers as well.  Without prayer we lose the connection and the conversations with God.  He longs to connect with us both personally and corporately.

Have we begun to decline in corps attendances and in our fervor and mission because we have forgotten how to pray?  Are prayer meetings still a scheduled “thing” in our corps?   I believe that there is a direct correlation between dying corps and the death of the prayer meeting.

I can recall the prayer meetings that took place before Sunday Services.  It was specific, set aside time, when the local officers and the corps officers would gather, sometimes as they held hands and prayed for people, and for the Holy Spirit to fall afresh.   Are we missing this in our corps’ today?  Is prayer at the forefront or is it in the background?

2. A Healthy Corps Has Ministries & Programs That Are Relevant To Its Community Needs.
I understand that there are some tired, old programs that just need to be retired.  walk
I don’t say that with any trace of cynicism or disdain, but rather, with a sense of concern.  Sometimes we still believe that some of the old methods of programming we did in the 1960’s will still be relevant and applicable to today.  No doubt, the message of Christ will never change but the method of delivery has to.  Culturally speaking things have changed since the 1960’s.  I hold nothing against that era by any means, but we can’t live there anymore.  We have to progress.  We have to, at times, change our methods.

There will always be some who will argue that we shouldn’t search to be relevant, but if we love people…if we wish to connect with this modern generation, many who are unchurched all together, then we have to adjust our methods and our programming.

communityWhat are the needs of people in your community?
What is it that no one else is doing or is capable of doing in your community?
Could your corps be that “all things to all people” type of ministry?
We have to adjust.
We have to modify, while we uphold the sacred integrity of the good news of Christ.
Healthy Corps are doing this.
Healthy Corps are doing more than just surviving week to week on tired old programming.
Perhaps, if you see your corps as “not quite healthy”, it could be time to take a step out of the mundane, “same ole” routine and give your ministries a shot of adrenaline.

3.  A Healthy Corps Has Godly Leaders Who Are Developing Future Leaders
(Active Discipleship)

developmentIs there a drive to develop future leaders in your corps?
It could be through Corps Cadets classes, it could be through other one on one methods…but there ought to be a push to develop the future of leadership within your corps RIGHT NOW!  I don’t wish to alarm you, but many of our present corps are dying out.  Many of our currently “healthy corps” are in actually one generation away from being put on life support.  Where are the future local officers?  Where are the future corps officers?  How are we seeking to cultivate those gifts in younger generations?  It’s not overly complicated.  You don’t need a Phd in education to lead someone and mentor them, you just need to be available and giving of your time.

If you are a leader right now in your corps, you have the utmost responsibility to recruit your replacement and to disciple them.  Don’t wait for the Corps Officer to do this, you do it.  We cannot just wait for someone else to do what we are all called, as leaders to do.  A healthy corps has godly leaders who are developing future leaders. Are you available?
Are you willing to begin this if you haven’t already?

4.  A Healthy Corps Is Attractive And People Linger & Fellowship
fellowshipHere is where the first 3 habits trickle down to this last habit.
This last habit is more of a response to what is already happening in a healthy corps.
When fellowship is GOOD, people linger in its presence.
We’ve probably seen this after Sunday services from time to time.
People just want to continue “hanging out” with each other.
The fellowship of believers ought to be sweet…but sometimes it’s just plain sour.
There are, unfortunately, sometimes corps members who have bickered with each other for years and as soon as the last “amens” are said in church they march right out the door so that they do not have to be in the same room with their “enemy” who just so happens to attend the same corps.  REALLY?  Again, dear soldiers, this ought not be!  If we want desire to have a healthy corps, we have to seek reconciliation with those who are supposed to be our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

A healthy corps offers time to linger within one another’s fellowship.
It is a safe place to share with each other what is really going on in their lives.
The sweet aroma of this kind of fellowship is extremely attractive to those seeking Christ and a church to belong to.

Does your corps have a sweet aroma or a sour smell?

These are just four habits of a healthy corps…there are many more.
This is a mere primer to a larger topic of Christian living and corps health in our Army.
Is Your Corps Healthy?

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

Dear Salvation Army, 5 Healthy Habits For Healthy Salvationists

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”     -Mark Twain

How do you become a quality soldier of Christ?
How do you find out why you were born and how to become the very best “You“?
Perhaps you became a Soldier of this Army and wondered to yourself “what next?
Perhaps there have been those in your life (in the corps, in your family, in the Army in general) who have truly paved the way for you to strive and have set certain quality standards for you to emulate.

Without a doubt we have witnessed negative examples too, but let us focus today upon 5 healthy habits for healthy salvationists.  These are obviously transferable and not singularly exclusive to the Salvation Army experience.  Certainly I could have easily called this “5 Healthy Habits for Healthy Christians”…but for the sake of continuity and for the sake of a majority of this Salvation Army readership, I will leave it the way it is…you’re welcome.  😉


5 Healthy Habits for Healthy Salvationists

books1

1) Become a Reader (Challenge Yourself!)
I still recall a certain Commissioner whose first question would always be “So what are you reading?”
This was asked to prompt critical thinking and to communicate the importance of reading.
No matter if you are a fast reader (my wife) or you are a rather slow reader (myself), reading challenging material is rather important to developing healthy habits in our lives.

DON’T:
Don’t just read fiction.
I love fiction, it spurs on my creative side and I can easily become immersed in the characters of a good novel…BUT there are numerous quality spiritual writers out there who can challenge us and shake our preconceived understanding of God, the Universe and the world in which we live.  If we only reside in the comfortable fiction section of the bookstore or library, we will limit the opportunities for personal growth and further spiritual understanding.

DO:
Do seek out challenging writers of various topics – not just Christian writers.
Do read the works of certain writers that you might fundamentally disagree with.  When we simply refuse to read books from certain writers, speakers and thinkers just because of what others have said about them, we may miss out on some critical thinking/development and real teaching moments.  Reading these challenging pieces doesn’t mean you have to always agree with them, but refusing to read these works could limit you and prove just how closed minded and small your ideology is.  I don’t mean to insult anyone here, but I have heard people speak from uninformed – closed minded perspectives.  They sound like fools regurgitating bits of information that others have spouted and rather than discovering it for themselves rely on others to formulate their opinions.  When we challenge our understanding of God, even by reading controversial books, we begin to formulate our very own personal spiritual understanding of God.  This is vital as we mature in the faith.  Challenging traditional and even contemporary views by reading books from various authors from a wide spectrum of thought can help us to better define our love relationship with the Most High.  I will caution you though, in the same breath, to be on the lookout for crackpots, charlatans and heresies for they do certainly exist.

2) Ask The Hard Questions hard questions
When we become “readers” we in turn begin to develop and formulate difficult questions that we ourselves cannot answer.  Do not shy away from such conversations of faith.  Also do not be afraid to ask these questions to those with whom you know to be more mature in the faith.  It is not wrong to ask such questions.  It helps us to grow and become healthier followers of Christ.  When we refuse to step up to such challenges, we could very well be limiting the possibility of growth that could occur in such ventures of spiritual exploration.

Understand too that  pillars of our faith have walked these paths before us.  These “saints” of Christendom did ask the difficult questions.  These “saints” of Christendom did not bypass such important defining ventures of faith.  Do not be afraid to ask and to seek out that which currently is unknowable to you.

accountability23) Accountability, Mentors & Sharpening
In order to possess the healthy habits of reading and asking the difficult questions as a Salvationist, there is also the crucial need for accountability and mentors which help us to sharpen and hone ourselves into spiritual maturity.  It is understandable that maintaining a consistent accountability partner or mentor can be daunting and sometimes impossible, but strive to continue to seek out these people in your life.  Sometimes these individuals will change over time as people move in and out of our lives.  We NEED the assistance of fellow believers to spur us onward in becoming healthy Christ-followers.  Here within this vulnerable yet safe environment the difficult questions can be asked, the spiritual “check-ups” can take place.  Some people are more determined than others to possess these kinds of relationships and so they actively seek them out.  Others are more reticent to ask because of fear of rejection or making the wrong choice for accountability and mentor.  Be aware that such relationships will give us tools we ourselves do not personally or currently possess, after all, a solitary piece of steel cannot sharpen itself can it?

4) Exercise & Healthy Eating
(here goes…I hope I don’t step on anyone’s toes…)healthy-life
What we put into our bodies in regards to nourishment matters!
We cannot feast every day on junk foods, carbonated drinks and fast-food.  These may momentarily satisfy our cravings and sometimes aide us in times of stress, but they WILL lead to health issues.  How we treat our bodies and what we eat can determine how long we have on this earth to be effective Soldiers of God!  It may sound kind of funny, but realistically if we have surrendered our ENTIRE life to the Lord, this includes our eating habits and our daily activity schedules.  One could argue that our physical bodies are secondary to our spiritual conditions but I believe that these are interconnect and not mutually exclusive.  What we do with our bodies can have a lasting impact on our spiritual journeys as well.  To simply limit our existence within the spiritual realm while discarding our physical condition seems foolhardy and wrong.

A healthy soldier is also concerned about the upkeep of their bodies as well.
It may not always be the first priority, but it should be a close second as we become conscientious of our active and inactive lives as well as the foods that we eat.  Discipline shouldn’t be exclusively utilized within our spiritual path and completely vacant within our physical well-being.

5) Develop A Disciplined Personal Prayer And Devotional Life devotions
A Healthy Soldier is not only a reader; questioner; involved in some measure of accountability and in possession of some form of healthy physical attributes, but they should also seek to develop a disciplined personal prayer and devotional life.  There are many ways to do this.  Do not think that just because one soldier reads THAT devotional book that everyone must follow suit.

Do not underestimate the gravity of a healthy prayer life!
Also do not underestimate the need for a healthy devotional life either.
These two forms of spiritual discipline can become dry and drab if we do not change our study/focus habits up from time to time.  Without a healthy prayer life, we are essentially placing limits on our interconnected relationship with the Father.

SUGGESTIONS: Find a simple, yet profound daily devotional if this helps you to develop the discipline of spiritual study.  This is not the same as the first suggestion of “Become a Reader”, this is in addition to “digging deeper”.  There are numerous spiritual classics that can be used in tandem with the Word of God.  Even some contemporary devotionals can help to “feed” and “nourish” the soul.  Seek these out, and purposely take times of the day to pray for yourself and others.
wrap
These are just five suggestions to developing healthy habits for healthy Soldiers.
This is not an exhaustive list and understandably there are many more ways to become a healthier soldier.
Consider these today!

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

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