Dear Salvation Army, The Fish-Bowl Effect…

Dear Salvation Army, are we fooling ourselves?
Are we seeing one thing within our ivory towers while the reality looks quite different?

Please don’t take offense.
I mean no disrespect.
I just wonder if there are times that we are disconnected from how things truly are as opposed to how we perceive them to be.

It’s like the notion of missing the mark of evangelism & missions…It is like aiming for the lost with a harpoon when what you needed was a loving hug and a warm cup of coffee. Or perhaps, there is this grandiose idea of what success will look like (we envision a mega church with people all neatly lined up trying to get in) when in reality it is meeting with that single mother and ensuring she has enough to feed her family and she takes the leap of coming to church on a Sunday morning.

Do we miss the mark because our notion of successful mission has been aligned with a faulty or unrealistic sense of who we are serving and what they need? It can become that illustration of insanity, ever endeavoring to do the same thing over and over again, only to realize that it hasn’t worked in thirty years.

Perhaps we need to wake up.
I fear we have become too insulated in our own fishbowls, be it the corps, divisional headquarters, territorial headquarters or beyond. We cannot sit in our offices and expect the people to come to us. Yes, our branding is recognizable, but that doesn’t mean that we become lazy in our planning and in the reaching for the lost, hurting and oppressed. We cannot afford to sit in our fishbowls. We cannot become complacent, overly busy with interior paperwork, when outside in our communities families and individuals need to see the hope that the Holy Spirit is prodding us to give because we serve more than just an Army, we serve the Lord first and foremost.

Dear Salvation Army,
I am fearful that we have lost our way, because of mission drift.
I am fearful that leaders from every rank have forgotten what it means to have a heart to God and a hand to man. This is a broad brushstroke, not aimed at offending, but perhaps prodding those who need it. There are many, many saints in our Army. I wish to recognize that as fact, may we ever endeavor to emulate their great faith!

Lastly, we cannot program our army to death.
We cannot course correct without first dispelling the faulty realities that have gotten us to this point.

Questions to Ponder:
What fishbowls do we need to get out of today?
Do we truly know the communities and people that we have been commissioned to minister to?
Have we prayed about our mission and vision for the lost in our areas of influence? (Not all of these places will look the same, or require the same kinds of ministry tools to reach the lost and disciple the faithful).
How can we (I) encourage 1 person today (maybe more, but start with just one)?
Can we pray that God would reveal to us the hindrances and hang ups in our lives right now that prevent us from having a greater impact on the Kingdom in His name?

As I sit here and write this, I admittedly have first considered the fishbowls that I have placed myself in. No, this has nothing to do with appointments or rank, but as a follower of Christ there are walls that I have constructed that have not been ordained by Him. Constructs that insulate my selfish heart and profit nothing for the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps you can relate, dear Soldier. I believe that if we do not first dispel these walls and climb out of our fishbowls, so too will our impact for the Kingdom be limited.

Can we identify these fishbowls?
Are we prepared to climb out of them?

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

Spiritual Growth – A Lawnmower Theology

What do you mean by “Lawnmower theology”?  you might be asking…let me first tell you a story.

I was mowing the grass the other day.
I greatly enjoy mowing, it’s cathartic for me and it gives me time to think.
We just got a new lawnmower and I had to put it together before using it.
So I begin by putting the arm onto the mower body and attaching the pull lever to the extended arm.  Then I put the nuts and bolts into the connector holes at the bottom of the arm that actually attaches to the base of the mower.  Long story short, I merely tightened them with my fingers and did not use the tool needed to tighten it fully – I’m impatient like that sometimes.

I was really anxious to start up the new mower and get to mowing our neglected backyard.  So I start it up for the first time, and it just purrs – it was wonderful (I know I’m lawnmower nerd).   I begin to make my way around the yard, meticulously ensuring I don’t miss any wayward grass as I pass with the new machine.  It was really starting to look good…and then it happened – the arm that I had attached with the nuts and bolts came loose.   I had not tightened it enough and through the constant jostling and vibration of the engine, one of the bolts had come loose and was no where to be seen.   I looked aroundbolts in the tall grass and in places I had already mowed, I couldn’t find it anywhere – it was gone, *poof* vanished.   I searched for another five minutes only to recognize that in my haste to get the job finished, I had lost a crucial component that held everything together.  I had to make a run to the hardware store and purchase a new bolt and nut – only this time I used the appropriate tool (not my fingers) to tighten the bolt into place.   Now, it’s not going anywhere!

Why do you I tell you this tale?
What’s the point?
I think our Spiritual Growth can be a lot like this lawnmower of mine; or rather, how we put this “Christian life” together.  We are often impatient with ourselves and with God.  We want to just get out there and live for him, and so we take shortcuts.  I took a shortcut wayin assembling my spanking new lawnmower – I thought I had tightened everything down good enough only to discover I had misjudged my strength and the terrain around me.  Perhaps in our lives this rings true too.  We get ahead of ourselves.  We cut corners and take shortcuts because we think we already know it all.  We don’t take the time as we should in our Spiritual lives and explore the spiritual disciplines necessary for long-term spiritual growth and success.  Instead we settle for the quick fix.  We go to a service here or there and we think it’s enough – yet the things that hold our “Christian” lives together isn’t enough, and it’s certainly not strong enough either.

Why do we think we know better than God knows us?
Why is it that we become impatient with God when He seems to take a long time?
Do you get impatient with Him?  I am embarrassed to say this, but I do sometimes.
I don’t always take the time I know I need with Him.
Sometimes I do all of the talking and I hardly ever hear what He has to say to me.
And so I get out there in life and I plod ahead full-steam only to realize I’m not as put together as I thought I was.  I find that I, all too easily fall apart – because I didn’t take the time to truly tighten things down in my prayer life, or my faith walk.  Sometimes I’m a mess…and it’s all my fault.

Have you been there?
Are you there right now?
I have to confess I’ve been there more times than I care to admit.
I’ve run so far ahead of God only to fall apart.
It’s in those moments that I realize just how much I need Him.
It’s also very humbling to know that I still have much work to be done within my life.
There are perhaps a few missing nuts and bolts that have to be replaced by God – but I have to be willing to let Him work on me.  It’s painful sometimes to admit this.
It’s embarrassing to recognize that although I’ve been a Christian most of my life – I still need help, I still need work, I still fall apart from time to time.

Have you been running ahead of God in your life?  hs
Perhaps you recognize right now that there are pieces missing in your life.  That somewhere along the way you have taken a shortcut and you really aren’t as “put together” as you want everyone to think you are.   The Holy Spirit still has work to do with us!  He longs for us to expose those missing pieces, those broken pieces, the dirty old life that still remains.  He wants us to surrender it all to Him.   It won’t be easy – but in the long run we will be made whole without any shortcuts or missing pieces.  He has something much better in store for us – if we allow Him complete access to us daily, even moment by moment.

So how about it?
Are you ready to put the lawnmower together the right way this time?

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

Dear Salvation Army, Cheap Grace…

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

readingI believe that one of the major failings of the “Seeker Sensitive” movement is that many times it became a numbers game with very little by way of discipleship after repentance.  Do we do this still in our Corps, dear Army?  We are “over the moon” about seekers coming to the altar, but then we don’t really know what to do with them once they come.   BUT…Is that it?

I don’t wish to point fingers because I realize that I am also pointing at me.
BOOTHI am not always very good at the “what happens next phase”.
In the old Army, there are numerous stories of drunkards becoming gloriously saved.  The amazing thing was that the old Army soldiers and officers knew what to do next.  These drunkards had a perpetual problem of the habitual kind.   Once such story recounts how this drunkard, now saved knew he had to change his old patterns of life, so each day after work this man was met at the doors of his place of employment by fellow members of The Salvation Army.  They literally walked him to and from work each day for the purpose of helping him overcome his addiction at the local bar.  That is truly determination.  That is truly going the extra mile.

How are we going the extra mile?

The Extra Mile Just Ahead Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.
I don’t say this to guilt us into something.
I am quite serious about asking this very question in my own present ministry.
-It won’t matter how good you preach on a Sunday…
-It won’t matter how good the band sounds…
-It won’t matter how immaculate your chapel may be…
-It won’t matter how friendly your soldiers are to visitors…
There isn’t accountability and discipleship taking place throughout the week.
This one stipulation is a major time requirement!
It involves all of us being completely invested in one another’s lives.
We aren’t simply playing church on Sunday and then we have nothing to do with one another throughout the week.  There MUST be something more to our corps than just worship services.

Cheap Grace: Cheap+Grace
-It is apathy and the lack of concern for the “continuance in a state of salvation…” of ourselves and others. (Doctrine #9)
-It is forced fellowship without love.
jail-It is the Monopoly game “get out of jail” card type of repentance where the rationale “I can always come back and ask for forgiveness next Sunday at the altar” is uttered in our hearts but sincerity and true repentance is lacking.
-It is more concern for the preservation of program than the preservation and salvation of souls.

-It is found in our surfaced, shallow calls for forgiveness but never the reconciliation of believers.
-It is acceptance of sin and a lack of conviction to call out sin within the body of Christ.
-It is ignore the Holy Spirit’s promptings to relinquish control over those deeply hidden strongholds of the heart.
Cheap Grace still exists, but many times we’ve become so blind to it.
It is almost common place.
We cry out sins in the street and lifestyles in our culture and yet we don’t talk about unmarried soldiers living together without the bonds of marriage.  We decry the plight of people “over there” yet we don’t really take the time to look into the eyes of people in our buildings and around our neighborhoods.

We don’t need to look outside our walls to find Cheap Grace, because it still exists in the church…it still exists even in the Army.
Photo Oct 20, 9 22 58 AM
Again, I don’t say this to point fingers that I am not willing to first point at me.
I have blindly accepted cheap grace from time to time.
I am still in need of forgiveness and to give that forgiveness to others.
I have at times ignored the Holy Spirit’s plea in my own life to tear down remaining strongholds of my heart.
I too confess that I have not always discipled as I should.
I have not always taken the time to truly fellowship with other believers that helps to sharpen iron and forge holy communion with one another…

Doctrine #7 says this:
We believe that repentance toward God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and regeneration by the Holy Spirit are necessary to salvation.

Yes, cheap grace still exists.
I am still working to eradicate it from my life, how about you?
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Yesterday’s Blog – Dear Salvation Army, Let’s Talk About Sin and Holiness!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in Pastorsponderings are the writer’s view and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Salvation Army.

Dear Salvation Army – “Leadership, The Art of Delegation”

What you are doing is not good.  You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Exodus 18:17-18

mosesMoses was trying to lead as best he could.
The problem was THIS wasn’t “the best”.
He tried to take on the mantel of leadership all on his own.
I don’t think it was pride, I think it was determination to see this mission through.
Moses was trying, he really was…but he was trying too hard.
You know the phrase “think smarter not harder”?  This is where we find Moses.
He was doing a good thing, but he wasn’t doing the best thing.

How often do we get caught in this trap too?
How often do we take on the mantel of leadership and fail because we face burnout and discouragement?   If I were to venture a guess it is because we try too hard and we reap little by way of reward for our efforts.  Could it be that we have failed to include others within our mission?  Could it be that we have become so consumed by our work that we have made it all about us instead of God?  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t supposed to be this way, nor was it our intentioned to make it that way, but in our efforts we have lost focus and we are experiencing tunnel-vision.

Dear Salvation Army,
we call it micromanaging…but we just assume it only happens within leadership and with “those officers and people at DHQ or THQ or even IHQ”.   We assume wrong.  We too are often guilty of micromanaging and failing to include others into the mission by delegating responsibilities to others.  When we fail to delegate, we actually rob others of the opportunity to serve and to experience ministry.  Think about it for a second, when we step up on the platform on Sunday and lead everything – who is getting edified by leading? The answer is –just you.  Who could benefit from stepping up to lead?  Who would be available to help?

The Screening Process:
qualityIdentify others.
Pick people who can support you in leadership and who will strengthen your mission.
Don’t pick people to help and then never use them.
Help to equip them to lead.
Be mindful that not everyone will be “on the same page” as you when it comes to our mission.
This is why we need to be careful who we select to help us lead.
On the flipside of the coin, don’t be too stringent on your selection process to the point that no one qualifies.

Replace Yourself:disciple
Remember that the process of discipleship – true, authentic, real-tangible discipleship is all about leading others to replace you.  You cannot carry this mantel of leadership all on your own or indefinitely.  Don’t be so prideful to think that you can “hold on” forever.  This is especially true in The Salvation Army when Officers move around from appointment to appointment.  Are our corps set up to disciple people to pick up the mantel of leadership beyond just the Corps Officer?  Is there an intentional leadership plan to develop people and move them into active roles?  Are we preparing younger generations to model and become the leaders that we so desperately need?

Discipleship isn’t just about delegating roles we’d rather not do.  This is a deeply spiritual thing to do.  What happens when we allow discipleship to occur is that we allow that person access to us –we become vulnerable to that person.  We grant these would be disciples the keys to the door instead of just peering through the window of our lives.   In the process, the mantel of leadership is shared, the burden can be lightened, the joys, victories and sorrows equally experienced.

Dear Salvation Army,
We are sometimes guilty of monopolizing leadership opportunities…
-Sometimes it’s because we feel no one else is capable.
-Sometimes it’s because we’ve always done it THAT way.
-Sometimes it’s a matter of pride and even arrogance.
-Sometimes it’s because the pressure to succeed is so high.
-Sometimes it’s because replicating and delegating seems to takes so much time and effort.

Moses was carrying this mantle, this burden of leadership on his own.
He was worn out, burnt out and spent.  He needed someone like Jethro to remind him that he couldn’t “handle it alone”.

Dear Salvation Army, do you need this reminder today?
Are you burnt out, spent and worn?
Have you shirked discipleship and the gift of delegation because it requires more effort?
I’ve been there too…sometimes I’m still there.
Perhaps this is your wake up call.
Perhaps this is your reminder.

Perhaps today we should take these words to heart and do something about it –
What you are doing is not good.  You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Exodus 18:17-18

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, Are You A Manager Or A Leader?

Dear Salvation Army, many of you have just come from the mountain top while at Boundless 2015.  God is moving in our army is He not?  He has also entrusted us with such a great responsibility within His kingdom here on earth!  I feel compelled to write on this topic today for all of us.  A lot of what I am about to write on today comes from my own struggles…but I’m willing to venture a guess that I am not alone.

So here goes…
Photo Jul 07, 9 01 46 AM
The Parable:

Do you remember the parable of of the talents (or minas)?   The Master was going away for a while on a journey and so He entrusted his three servants with parts of his wealth to take care of while he’s gone.  To one the master gave five talents, to another two, and the last servant was given one talent.  Then the master goes on his long journey and these servants, whom he entrusted with his valuables, are on their own to be good stewards.

If you know this parable, you will know that to the servant who was given five talents he went out and multiplied the five into ten, thereby doubling the master’s wealth.  The second servant took the two talents and doubled it to four.  But the last servant took the one talent and buried it for safe keeping…(Matthew 25:14-30)

Leaders / Managers:
This is a story about stewardship.
This is also a story about faithfulness and boldness.
Lastly, this is a story about Leaders and Managers.

I would like to tackle the third topic today here on
Managers are those who “look after” things, but usually their intent is to preserve not increase.  It is not in the manager’s “makeup” to invest or risk or to explore any kind of future vision.   For a manager, the risk of failure is too great, and so investing in what has been entrusted to them is not possible.  A manager keeps the status quo and does not upset the “apple cart” when change needs to take place.

Leaders on the other hand, take calculated risks.  They cast the vision for others to follow.  Leaders are good stewards of the gospel, they recognize that this “investment/talent” is not static and was never meant to remain static.  They go out and produce fruit for the kingdom.  They invest in other people.  Leaders set the pace for real tangible results that equate to success for the kingdom.  It is more than just statistical “numbers” on Sundays.  It is more than preserving the Women’s Ministry or the Men’s Ministry or whatever ministry…it is about developing disciples who will in turn make other disciples.

The road to a Manager is relatively easy.  They watch over.  They order.  They take care of “what is theirs” to take care of…but it is predictably easier than the road of a leader.

The road of a leader is wrought with conflict.
Conflicts about fear.
Conflicts about stumbling blocks and those who would oppose them.
Conflicts about change (even the color of the carpet in the sanctuary…really?!)
Conflicts about the vision.
Conflicts about uncertainty and worry.

soldierDear Salvation Army, 
We were never called to be managers within this army of salvation!!
We were not appointed in this army to bury the talents and to simply “hold on”.
Sometimes this happens more often than not.
Sometimes we fall into the trap of “holding down the fort” while we wait for someone else will do the hard work.
We are not should not be managers of this Army.
There should not be managers within our ranks.
We cannot afford to simply preserve the accomplishments of yesterday while outside our walls in our communities people are still in need of food, of clothing and of the good news of Jesus Christ.

A Call For More Leaders:
This is a call to all the managers out there (including me from time to time)…STOP!
Stop burying the talent.
Stop “holding down the fort”.
Stop squandering the resources of your corps or offices.
Stop wasting time by just sitting in your offices.
Stop pawning your responsibilities off on someone else.
Pray, pray, pray!
Invest in the lives of those around you.
Set the pace for a mighty moving of the Holy Spirit by ACTUALLY believing He will move in your corps!
Set the vision.
Don’t maintain.
Don’t preserve.
Get up and lead!

Leaders are not static.
This Salvation Army is not static.
I don’t want to be a manager…do you?

Something more for this Army to ponder on today.
To God be the glory!  uniform4

Ponder Cast #9 “Setting Our Sights”

Dear Salvationists, dear fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ…
let me ask you two questions –
Is there a cost to discipleship?
Are we called to make sacrifices?
The answer to both of these questions is “Yes”.

Check out our latest “Ponder Cast”  – #9 “Setting Our Sights”
Please share our Ponder Casts, and also please subscribe!

Our Scripture Focus today is:
itunes pic

Luke 9:57-62 “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the [a]air have [b]nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Dear Salvation Army, Is Your Corps Designed To Disciple?

Discipleship leads to holiness.
Holiness is the intentional shift from self to becoming the very reflection of Christ.
If we are to hear the Holy Spirit’s prompting in our lives we need to be discipled into a deeper faith.
The Problem: 
There are a lot of baby Christians who have never taken the next step.
Some have decided, whether because of low self esteem or doubts in the possibility of their personal growth, that this is as good as it gets.  Some simply get saved and maintain the same level of commitment to Christ.  It might not be intentional, as I’ve already stated, it might be because they just aren’t convinced growth is possible for them.  Sometimes relinquishing perceived “freedom” is the issue.  If the new convert were to commit further they fear they would lose their personal identities or have to give up the things they love to do the most in life.

The Question:
Is Your Corps Designed To Disciple?
I don’t mean is your corps prepared to add another program to its already extremely bloated schedule.
I mean, is it remotely possible that discipleship and/or mentoring younger Christians can happen today in your corps?  Are there older Christians who are mature in their faith who can take younger soldiers under their wing?  Are we actually serious about training the next generation of Soldiers to become the leaders of our corps…not only to become leaders but to be properly equipped Disciples of Christ?

We are good at talking about discipleship, but do we really know how to disciple?
Sure, it looks great on paper.  It tickles the ears of our leadership at DHQ…but are we actually serious about it?

The questions that always trip us up: 
displeWho will teach?
How much time will it take away from our other ministries?
Will it make a difference?
Are we equipped to disciple?
Where do we even begin?

Attached are a few resource links to check out:

Click to access Discipleship%20Handbook-Instructor.1.pdf

Making a Disciple
How To Disciple
What is Discipleship?

Don’t be afraid to keep it simple…we don’t need to over complicate things when it comes to discipling our soldiers and adherents.  It’s not that they won’t understand these things, it’s just that by keeping it simple and practical we will show our soldiers and adherents that discipleship is possible!

Discipleship makes holiness possible.
If we have better equipped soldiers in our corps wehave a stronger corps.
If we have committed disciples who are in turn discipling others, we will be laying a firm foundation for the next generation to follow!  growing

3 Steps To Help Your Corps Disciple: 

1. Be in Prayer!
Emphasize prayer for your corps family.
Don’t neglect this vital tool.
Pray in your own personal time with the Lord about discipling and who to disciple.

2.  Listen!
Don’t just talk to God, listen to Him.
Hear what He is saying.  Listen to those in your corps as well.  Hear their needs.  Hear the promptings of the Spirit to help you mentor those who need mentoring.  When we stop talking and start listening we will find that God has already put people in our path who need discipling.

3. Teach!
I don’t just mean opening up a book.
I mean lead by example.
Take a member of your corps out for coffee.
Spend time with them and share with them the principles of Christian living.
There are numerous resources out there that you can use.  There are some wonderful workbooks…BUT KEEP IT SIMPLE!  There is no need to inundate your people with overly complicated homework and requirements.  Don’t make it a classroom, make it life.
Don’t make it another corps program to attend, make it feel like home as you attempt to lead your corps members into a deeper, more substantive faith in Christ.

Is your corps designed to disciple?
If it is, will you comment on this article and tell us how your corps does it?
If your corps doesn’t, will you also indicate this in the form of a comment?
All questions are welcome, and we can explore the answers together!

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

Dear Salvation Army, 5 ‘Right’ Ways To Disciple (Part 2)

Yesterday we explored the wrong ways to disciple:  “5 Wrong Ways To Disciple (Part 1)

Today I would like to flip the coin.
I would like us to look at the positive side of things.
Discipleship is vital to our Army.
We want need soldiers who are discipled, who are living a life of holiness, who are determined and disciplined, and those who long to disciple others along as well.

In other words: The Salvation Army needs us all to grow up!
We need to grow up in the grace of Jesus Christ.
We need to mature in our faith walk.
We need to deepened our spiritual wells.
We must step up, stop living on baby formula and strive to feast of a richer more sustainable way of holy living.

“…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,…” (Ephesians 4:15)

Photo Mar 10, 11 06 52 AMYes, many within our ranks may have grown up in broken homes.
Yes, many within our ranks may have experienced abuses of many kinds.
Yes, many within our ranks may still carry these scars into the present…some may never fully heal.
BUT I believe in a mighty God who can and will transform, restore and renew us!
Each of us are capable of growth regardless of the scars that we carry with us.
We are not called to be educated.
We are not called to have all of the answers.
We are not even called to be capable by human standards…BUT: we are called to be faithful and He will provide the tools that we need in order to thrive within His plan for our lives.

5 Right Ways To Disciple: 
1.  Slow down – Don’t Run but Walk run
There will be certainly times that the Holy Spirit will prompt us to pick up the pace, but if we are discipling others along in this faith, remember that it will take time.  Be patient!  Don’t overwhelm new Christians will all of your religious jargon and “army terminology”.  They will not be ready for this.  It is too much.  They won’t understand and you may inadvertently drive them away.  So go easy!

Understandably we have “Christian” standards that we, who are more mature in the faith, live by…remember that those with whom you have the privilege of discipling or mentoring do not have those deep roots yet.

treeA Parable of sorts:  A tree within the forest can grow for hundreds of years.  As that tree grows (slowly) over time, the root system expands and deepens into the fertile soil.  Younger trees, however, are more susceptible to the prevailing winds as their roots have yet to embed and deepen.

Remember, dear mentor, soldier, friend, that God has been patient with us…and we are far from perfect even now.
Go slow with those you disciple.
Be patient.
Don’t discourage those that are young in the faith because they still have many roots to deepen…show them that you care and that they truly are loved and accepted!

2.  Be Real, Be Genuine! real
The second right way is to be honest.
Don’t hide the fact that you yourself still struggles with things of this life.
Don’t try to make yourself look perfect in every way.
Don’t hide behind some sort of “Super Soldier” facade.
Be a real person who is accessible and honest with those that you disciple.
Two things happen when we are real and genuine:
a. We have a more tender hearted approach to those we mentor because we too have become vulnerable.
b. the disciplee will see honest living, nothing faked, and they will treasure this gift!

Do you know what millennials despise more than anything? – Disingenuous overly religious people who are hypocrites and hide behind religious sayings and mantras but are in no way righteous in their living.
I think Jesus despised disingenuous people as well…no wait, I know He did!  Lead by example, not by dictating laws and rules…Genuine living trumps hypocrites and phonies any day!

bible13. Reverence of Scripture and life application!
Are there other spiritual sources for encouragement and Christian living?  Of course, but do not discount the power of God’s Word.  Were the people who wrote various books in the Bible perfect?  Of course not!  But there is also hope, joy and encouragement wedged within those pages as well!  Teach from the Word of God!  Make sure it is utilized when mentoring disciples of the faith.  Life application should take place within the narrative lessons of the Bible.  When reading passages of scripture, I still ask myself the question “what can I learn and apply in my own life from this story or teaching?

The Bible is not obsolete, it is not writings of an ancient people that has no footing in our world today…so use it wisely.

4.  Point To Holiness
For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7

This walk of faith that we are on, directs us to the longing and the need to be like Christ in every way.
This isn’t some mumbo-jumbo babble about holiness, this is our prime example of holy living!
Mentors, speak of holy living often!
Live holy lives!
Display selflessness.
Be genuine and sincere.
Allow those you disciple to understand who we are to imitate and follow after!
Speak often of the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Of His indwelling within us.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21

5.  Invest of yourself and your time!  clock
If we are leading disciples of Christ into a deeper relationship with Him, we must make ourselves available!
This includes our “personal spaces”, times of real fellowship can occur in places other than the corps building!
I recall those mature Christians who mentored me – they were accessible, they were available to my questions, they were there when I needed them.  Are we available to those we disciple?  How much of our time are investing in them?

Again, this is not a sprint but a marathon.
Discipling people will demand our attention and our time.
Are we prepared to give it?
Are we prepared to give of ourselves?
Those we disciple will know if we feel inconvenienced all the time with their questions and need to linger with us.
Be patient, and compassionate and kind.
Your attention to them will make a difference!

Note:  You don’t necessarily have to have a book on “how to disciple” someone.
Sure, there are good materials out there, but if you don’t have text books available to you to lead someone through a discipleship/mentoring program, just be who God has called you to be and teach through example and through the Word of God!

Photo Mar 10, 11 07 43 AMDear Salvation Army,
we need more willing, godly Soldiers to step up and disciple others!
We need more examples of holy living in our corps!
We need more examples of holy living to our young people who are being pulled in every which way and could succumb to the immense pressures of temptation and sin.

Will you go?
Will you disciple?
Will you invest of yourself?
Will you be the very reflection of Christ?

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

Dear Salvation Army, 5 Wrong Ways To Disciple (part 1)

Discipleship is important.
Jesus lived with His disciples for 3 years, and in those three years He taught them through both words and deed.  They were not mere students in a classroom learning some “concept”, they engaged humanity and encountered the Divine as He loved and led.  Our prime example of discipleship should Christ and how He instructed His followers.

Some within the The Salvation Army, as well as other denominations, have never been properly discipled.
One might contend that soldiership classes count as discipling, but I believe it is only a drop in the bucket and is not enough. Others might contend that youth classes like junior soldiers and corps cadets are a form of discipling, again, a good start but not enough.

Discipleship is more than a passing grade.
Discipleship is more than completing a work book with a mentor.
Discipleship is SO much more than these things.

We begin this two part series on discipleship with the wrong ways to disciple.
Some of these might be obvious to you, but it never hurts to put these down in writing…so here goes:

5 Wrong Ways To Disciple:

1.  “Do as I say, not as I do!”  lead
This is can be a very slippery slope.  Mentors and Disciplers want to be good leaders of others, but sometimes putting into practice what is preached (even to the leader) is easier said than done.  We all find it much easier to tell others how to live while experiencing the same struggles of daily temptations of old habits that haven’t quite passed away.  If we live by this principle within our leadership model, we could very well be leading people astray because they will inevitably watch us closely in how we conduct ourselves and they WILL notice our inconsistencies in faith and practice.

Photo Mar 09, 11 37 10 AM2.  “Fake it”
“I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice...  (2 Timothy 1:5a)

This is inexplicably linked to the above “wrong way” of discipling.
Discipleship is vital to our pathway of holiness.  What I mean by that is: we cannot become like Christ if we do not first long to emulate Him in every way…we cannot simply fake it!    A true disciple of Christ is willing to place the great commission of Christ and the needs of others above them self.  If we, as leaders, mentors and instructors don’t first walk with Christ in every way how can we expect those that we disciple to walk with Christ?  Faking it is not an option.  For a time we can fool others, but we again, will not fool God!

Secondly, and quite obviously, we cannot either by word of action teach disciples to simply plod through and fake it.  “If you don’t know the answers, just fake it.”,  “If you have no faith, just fake it!”, “If you don’t like that person, just fake it!”

Perhaps you think this sets the bar too high, and maybe unobtainable to everyone.
Jesus isn’t asking for our human perfection, just our faithfulness and authenticity.

3.  Abuse Scripture biblethumping
not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock...” (1 Peter 5:3)
Disciplers and Leaders, be mindful that although you have authority over those you lead that you yourself are also being held accountable to God!  Do not utilize scripture for the purpose of making the disciples your servants.  It sounds funny saying this, but in placing these disciple under you the temptation is there for you to make them do things for you or by forcing them to lead things in church when perhaps they are not ready to do so.

Another way in which we might abuse scripture is through plucking out specific verses in order to fit our needs.  Be aware of the this!  Look at the context of verses in scripture.  Do not try to force scripture verses to imply something that they were never intended to imply.  Also, do not use scripture as weapons against those you disciple.  Isn’t it interesting how scripture can be weaponized sometimes?  Please don’t do this.  It not only serves to make scripture become something its not, but it can and will drive people away from the faith!

4.  It’s all about the uniform (Outward Appearances)  cup
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.(Matthew 23:25) 

Please know that I am not calling you Pharisees today, that is not my intention with the above verse.
What I am implying is that we in the Army can become so “uniform” focused that we can run the risk of being outwardly focused on appearances than about the internal cleanliness of the “cup”.  We want to be one Army strong and focused on the battle to win souls for Jesus, but if we skip the sacred step of consecration in lieu of appearances and numbers we will have already lost the war.  The uniform, like baptism and communion are merely (or should be) an outward evidence of an inward change.  Sometimes we might get the cart before the horse.  Many times is this deeply personal and at the same time extremely corporate.  If we strive as leaders to just those we disciple into uniforms for the sake of numbers (I hope this doesn’t happen very often) we will have done true discipleship a great disservice.

classroom5.  It (Discipleship) should only be taught in a classroom with a book.
Please turn to chapter six in your work books and let’s finish this fill in the blank section…
Discipleship isn’t only some class you might take part in.
Discipleship isn’t about filling out sections of a book.
These things can certainly help, and I am not discounting these as elements or tools for discipleship, but discipleship is SO much more than the classroom setting!  If there is no challenge outside the walls of the classroom to actively engage and put into practice in daily life what was learned, then it is all for naught.

Jesus took His disciples out into the field.  He didn’t do everything for them.  He had them put into practice all that they had learned.  They (the disciples) were still a work in progress, but Jesus lovingly pushed them along in hands on training with real life situations.

Disciplers, mentors, how do we do this for those that we train to become disciples of Christ?

These are just five wrong ways to disciple, I am sure there could be more to discuss.
The key is to recognize what a privilege and responsibility that we have been given.
Let us disciple with sober intentions, love, compassion and grace…
Something more for Army to ponder today.

To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, How To Build A Healthy Corps

Dear Soldiers and Officers, this is not the end all or be all of Corps Growth or the “How to” guide for all things Corps…but this is a start, a primer of sorts.

I want to delve into this topic of building a healthy corps today because I feel it vital to consider the basic elements that make up a healthy, vibrant corps.  All too often we can simply settle, maintain the status quo but never truly experience the thriving pulse of vibrancy.  Dear Soldiers and Officers, let’s not settle for mediocrity in our corps.  Let’s not plod onward thinking we can’t improve or grow more deeply spiritually as a corporate body.

Here are four basic elements for us to consider today.  These are tools to help us experience and create a healthy, vibrant corps.  ***(Disclaimer, we are not striving solely for a number increase, nor should we look over the fence at another larger corps and church and exclaim “let’s become them”…embrace your corps’ identity in your community)***

4 Basic Elements To Building a Healthy Corps:

meeting1.  Prayer & Prayer Meetings
It seems like some sort of over-simplistic Sunday school answer.  “You have a problem?  Then pray about it.”  But here is reality; those who pray together, weep together, laugh together, strive together, fellowship together will become strong…TOGETHER.  Long ago our corps would meet for prayer meetings and they would gather together, sometimes holding hands and pray for the needs of their congregation and community.  Some still meet like this…many have ceased to meet in such a way.   Soldiers and Officers – THERE IS GREAT POWER IN PRAYER!  Both corporately and privately.  I don’t mean to sound callous, but somewhere along the way a majority of us stopped meeting like this.  I am not sure if we truly believed God would hear us in our prayers or if we just simply got tired of meeting together.

Prayer is a vital spiritual discipline both corporately and privately.  It takes concerted effort to pray for each other and for everyone to ACTUALLY SHOW UP to these meetings of prayer.  If we want to experience a healthy corps, then we need to pave the way with fervent, meaningful times of prayer upon our knees.  The vital signs of our corps may not improve drastically overnight, they may not improve in a month or two…but over time the Lord will grant us a softened heart and a yearning to bring the needs of our corps into focused concentrated prayer.  When this happens, true love will spill over us for each other; true fellowship can occur; a sincerely desire to see God transform lives within the corps will also happen within us.

2.  Intentional Discipleshipdiscipleship
I don’t mean just some printed materials we use in a six week course.  I don’t mean just another program to count on a stats sheet…I mean Christian brothers holding other Christian brothers accountable, Christian sisters holding other Christian sisters accountable.  Intentional studying of God’s word together, elder Christians guiding a patiently loving younger Christians.  Can it begin with a simple bible study tool?  Of course, but it has to become something more than just filling out answers and memorizing scripture.  Trust is sometimes an issue.  Divulging ones personal struggles with another “Christian” brother or sister can be extremely difficult and even embarrassing.  One might feel that they are too vulnerable if trust is not first established and coveted in confidentiality.  But when we disciple one another…when we yearn to grow together (because let’s be honest, sometimes we just don’t trust others in our corps and we don’t think that they have our best interests in mind)  When we can learn this spiritual discipline of discipleship, we can finally grow into the identity the Holy Spirit has been preparing us for since the moment of initial sanctification.

coffee3.  Intentional Joy & Fellowship
Not only should we be meeting for pray and discipleship but we ought to be joyously seeking fellowship together outside of the walls of our corps building.  I understand we do not all have the same interests and personalities and this might make fellowship difficult at times, but do we make a concerted effort to go to each other’s homes?  Are we seeking out times to share a meal together, go to a movie together, maybe take up a hobby together…or even bowl?  There can be joy found in laughter and the sharing of life moments together.  Are we willing to put ourselves out there?  I think that sometimes we are afraid of asking people over or taking a chance to share a meal with another member of our corps because we’re afraid we might not have anything in common or find total rejection.  If we are to become a healthier corps, we have to be willing to take a risk and to find intentional fellowship with other soldiers and friends.

Out of these intentional moments, a sweet aroma of love and joy can be expressed, so much so that others might be drawn to our fellowship.  People will see this kind of interaction of corps members and long to be a part of something like that.  Individual crave acceptance and love.  People want to “fit in”…when we make that concerted effort to fellowship with others, we can begin to emit that sweet aroma of joy and fellowship to those around us, and by proxy, we are unknowingly creating a visual type of appealing evangelism.

4.  Listen To Needslisten
I don’t merely say “Listen” to imply that we offer canned advice and suggestions, but rather when we actively listen to the needs of those around us we become more inclined to physically bridge that gap for others.  When we stop talking about our wants and needs, we can begin to listen to the needs of others.  “Others” can be those within our fellowship already as well as those who are on the fringes or living within our community.  Don’t draw a line in the sand that separates “Our People” from “Community People”…In God’s eyes ALL people are His, some just don’t know it yet.  Make sure that we allow this intoxicating joy to spill out and over not only those WITHIN but also those who are on the outside of the corps walls.  When we begin to actively listen to the needs of others, we can begin to hear the pulse of organic evangelism that is created from an Ideas book or another promotional “EVENT”, but rather is done simplistically and genuinely.  I am not saying that these other evangelistic ideas can’t be genuine, but from experience, listening to the needs of others silences the groans of prideful, often deaf, arrogant self and refocuses the heart onto true love and service to others.

These are just four ways to build a healthier corps together with you and me…and that neighbor down the street who has never been asked or invited to share in this intoxicating joy of fellowship.  Remember, we are saved to save and in the process we can sharpen each other and grow together through holy living.

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

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