Dear Salvation Army, Failure Is Certain Unless…

We cannot become what we need by remaining what we are.
― John Maxwell

Have you heard of the phrase “less is more”?
How about the phrase “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”?

monkeyOne more idiom or parable – Do you remember hearing about how to catch a Monkey?
According to the old parable, Monkeys are selfish animals who will take as much as they can carry.  As the story goes, various tribes figured out a way to capture Monkeys.  They burrowed out coconuts and filled them with rice and other foods which are attractive to the monkey.  Once the monkey reaches into one and grabs what they desire, the monkey will not let go.  The monkey will reach into the coconut and latch onto that rice and will not un-clinch   its fist.

I think we, as an Army can sometimes become a little like those monkeys…please don’t stop reading…I’m not calling anyone a monkey, rather our attitudes and activities can resemble their behavior.  We can become so good at many things that we become good for nothing.  We take that phrase from the Apostle Paul “I became all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) to extremes sometimes even to the point of arrogance.  I believe at times we think that we are the only ones who can help people in our communities.  I believe that sometimes, in that arrogance, we have reached into far too many coconuts and we are unwilling to relinquish our fists on the prize inside.  We, at times, are unwilling to share the resources or allow others to help.  Sometimes, the “Army Bubble” is perceived as the ONLY way to do things…and we become blinded to alternative methods and agencies who are determined to help others just as much as we are.

Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.
― John Maxwell

**I believe, dear Army, that failure is certain unless…we can be willing to let go of “the more” and focus on “the most“. **

What do I mean by that statement?
I’m glad you asked:

thinI believe that we as an Army of Salvation is spreading itself so thin because we are attempting to do too much.  I believe that because of this, we are becoming worthless to anyone, including ourselves.  We, in our arrogance (sorry I have to say it), do “the more” programs…and we add more and more to our heaping plates…because “We’re the Salvation army, and people respect us“…yet we are ill-equipped, understaffed, unprepared and not properly trained.

Now, before you shoot the messenger, please hear me out.
(*sigh, I just compared everyone to monkeys and now I talked about arrogance…I am sorry, it’s not my intent to insult anyone!*)
Instead of doing “the more“, shouldn’t we be focusing on doing “the most“?
The Most Effective Ministries to help reach souls for Christ.
The Most Needed Helps for the Lost.
The Most Aggressive uses of our time, talent, treasure to impact those lives in the long-term for Christ.
The Most wealth of resources spread amongst other agencies (gasp) instead of trying to be an Island unto ourselves.

thin1We have to stop presuming that The Salvation Army is better than any other agency (if that is an issue for you) and begin with simplicity, humility and grace.  Sometimes I feel as if we enter our communities with a perceived “power house” mentality and with it comes a kind of pride and arrogance that should never be present in a uniform.  Our deeds ought not have ulterior motives to conquer and claim leadership in the community.  Our actions ought not be led by a superiority complex because we’ve been doing this for over a hundred years (or more) in our respective communities.  Rather, we ought to be present at community events, seeking to bridge gaps that may be present, helping in anyway that we can.  Let’s avoid the arrogance of “knowing it all” and presuming we always have the answers.  Rather, we ought to be humble servants of the Most High and reflect that grace in our words and actions.

Can we stop focusing on “the More“?
Can we take a step into “the Most“?
I don’t just mean that we assume that branding of “Doing the Most Good”…but we ought to live “the Most Good” both in and out of uniform.  It boils down to our attitudes.  How will we serve?  How will we succeed?  How will we love?

We will not succeed by doing more.  others
We will not succeed by spreading ourselves too thin that we can’t make ends meet.
We will fail if we attempt to exclude or isolate ourselves from others who are helping people too.
We will fail if we allow arrogance to close our fists as we grasp at things (and money) that are not ours.

I don’t want to fail.
I want to succeed.
I want to be an aggressive Army, hell bent on winning souls for Christ by any and every available tool.
I don’t want to settle for doing more, but rather doing the most with the best of our gifts and abilities.
If we could just stop focusing on doing everything and instead focus once more on doing the most important, most meaningful things that will impact lives for Christ…we will win, we will succeed in this mission.

Questions to Ponder: 
What 2 or 3 things does your Ministry do well at?
How can you eliminate “the more” so that you can focus on “the most”?
What tools will I need to make this happen right here and now?
How can I let go of my clenched fist full of pride and “stuff” so that I can refocus on the vital and the truly needed?

Prayer: 
Dear Lord, help me to let go of the things that don’t truly matter to the mission that you have me here doing.
May it not be about my pride and my arrogance, but about your love for others.  Help me to serve You by doing “the most” not “the more”.  In Your name I pray these things.  -Amen.

Dear Salvation Army, When Do We Hit The Reset Button?…

setPeople have reminded me over and over again that change just for the sake of change isn’t always good…I agree!  I am not proposing change just because it’s the “in” thing to do, in fact a lot of things we do in our Army has meaning and significance.  But what happens when things lose their meaning, their relevance and vital-ness?  What happens when that program, symbol (and or any other thing in our Army) becomes the object of worship?  *gasp*  Does that even happen?  Could it happen?

I doubt something becomes an object of worship intentionally.
I also doubt programs and/or things in our Army lose their significance and meaning quickly, but rather a little over time.

When this happens, isn’t it an indicator that perhaps we have wavered?
Isn’t it an indicator that perhaps we have veered from our course?
Perhaps then the need to hit the reset button becomes paramount.

But are we afraid to push it?
One might wonder if this would change everything.
One might wonder if this would destroy everything.
One might also wonder if they would be known for destroying everything just because they dared to hit the reset button.

reset_buttonPrograms In Ministry
Sometimes we do the same thing year after year…once, long ago we had the passion and drive for it, but now it seems as if all we are doing is go through the motions and just “getting it done” because it’s required.  What happened to it being fun?  What happened to spontaneity?  What happened to progress when it just seems we are maintaining?

Is there a point when the program that we’ve been doing for years and years (since Catherine and William were still alive) is just tired, old, repeated, and irrelevant?  So when do we hit the reset button?  How does that look?  Does it mean first me must internally realign our motives and intentions in ministry?  -Absolutely!
Does it mean that perhaps we put that spark back into thing…that spark that’s been missing in our ministry for years?  -You bet.  Do we politely and rather intentionally push for changes to come from our leadership in the Army too?  -Of course!

In the past few years a number of reset buttons have been pushed.  RESET-BUTTON
Programs like – Home League, Corps Cadets, Junior Soldiers…and so on.
I wonder though if we are really hitting the reset button at all or just relabeling and repackaging the same old thing?  No offense to those whose programs are thriving…perhaps we can learn a lot from you!

Questions to Ponder:
When do we hit the reset button on certain programs and things in our ministry?
How do we know that the time is right?
How do we evaluate success and failure?
How do we know if our programs are tired, old, defeated?
How much prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit are we doing?
Are we guilty at times of merely want to change for no good reason?
Are our motives sincere?
Is our mission still intact?

I pray that when the Holy Spirit spurs us into action to step “out of the norm” that we listen.
I pray that we are bold and daring for not only the Army but most importantly for God.
I prayer that we pursue lives not just statistics.
I prayer that we measure our successes not by mere public accolades and government funding, but by lives discipled and transformed by our willingness and His power.    reset_button_MLEK

Is it time to hit the reset button in your ministry?
Something more to ponder today!

Connecting The Dots At School – (A Pondering on our Youth)

I went to High School today…I mean I visited one, not attending one…I did attend several years ago.
We were handing out backpacks the school social workers and counselors for youth in need.
The “teenage” years are so pivotal and sometimes uncomfortable especially if you are poor and/or your parents live in constant poverty situations.  Times are hard and teens don’t need that added pressure while at school if their families can’t afford the basic needs such as backpacks, pens and pencils and other school supplies.

It was a lot more this:
high school
Than it was this:
HSM

backpacksWe dropped the backpacks off at various schools today, with the knowledge that there are nine additional high schools to connect with before we are done.  I looked down the hallways of those high schools and I saw a ghost of myself;  scrawny, projecting a macho attitude, and yet scared…I was still naive and unsure of the world around me at that age.  I couldn’t imagine having to go without something  (like a backpack and school supplies) while enduring zits, ridicule from peers, mounting pressure to grow up way too fast, and dealing with constant assignment due dates in various classes.

Walking those overly waxed hallways made me realize how much we need to pray for our young people.  They need our support in prayer and in encouragement.  Sometimes they may act like complete grumpy bears but deep down they are searching for significance in life and we can help shape them if we just take the time to care and understand them.

Can we help connect the dots?
Can we provide a listening ear?
A Shoulder to cry on?
Can we be a friend?
Can we be role models?

This school season, let’s support our youth as best we can, after all, they are our future leaders!
Something more to ponder today!
-God Bless!

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 Officers, All My Bags Are Packed…I’m Ready to Go??

We (my family) are under farewell.
In Salvation Army terminology we were given marching orders, and soon those orders will come to fruition.
It is, as it usually is, bittersweet.  It reminds me, as an Officer, that this life and calling is at times very transitory.

It seems that we could claim that famous line from Robert Frost that says,
But I have promises to keep,  
And miles to go before I sleep
(Stopping by Woods on a snowy evening)
boxes1For it seems to me that this journey within this uniform is often times met with both laughter and tears, sorrow and joy,  the swell of jubilation and the crash of brokenness…all rolled into one.  Those words of Jesus often resound in my head like I was there that day listening to them, hanging on them, and making them mine – “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)… We as Salvationists who have accepted this calling as Officers of The Salvation Army, literally live within borrowed homes and it seems all so temporary.  It is not that we are attempting to do the impossible and assume the very existence of Christ, but within the covenant that we have signed and in the sacrificial lives that we are to accept, there is certainly this element of homelessness that embodies transitions such as these.

paintI am, perhaps feeling a little bit melancholy today.
For the boxes are piling up in the garage.
The paintings and photographs are now bubble wrapped and in the ready.
The children’s art work that used to adorn the refrigerator and would often times overflow onto the surrounding cabinet in a cacophany of paint splashes and vibrant colors reflecting child-like creative expression, has now been carefully folded and packaged beneath plastic bins containing other family keepsakes.
The quarters, the house that we have occupied for nearly four years is becoming vacant and echos of emptiness fill both my ears and my heart.   There are, however, still ghosts which linger here.  Mere memories of events hosted, and parties with favors and paper streamers strewn everywhere.  These ghosts hover upon my memories today.  They fill the void of these now empty rooms as lists of cleanings and briefs and a litany of other concerns flood in before the final goodbyes take place.   house

This is, to be certain, a unique calling to undertake.
We can sometimes, with rose colored glasses, peer into “Officership” and see only the adventures and the “win the worlds for Jesus'”, but often times it does come with a price.  There are trade offs.  We don’t ever take for granted what is provided to us, for certainly we are taken care of (far more than yesteryear where officers wouldn’t even have a paycheck for nearly a year if times were hard) and our families are supported rather well.  We are blessed to see this level of support.  No, we do not take this for granted, but despite our best efforts, these transitions, these farewells and marching orders do take a toll.  The transition (which may as well be some sort of holiness movement’s version of purgatory) can sometimes leave us stepping from one appointment over the deep dark, scary crevice of limbo and uneasiness.   It is the letting go of hands that you have ministered to for the last four years and have invested countless hours in…those hands will be holding onto another shepherd (very qualified I am positive of by the way)…and as you let go, there in the other direction is another group of hands of people to minister to lead and disciple (they too have been shepherded by very capable hands as well).   This is certainly a unique place to stand at the moment.  I am currently staring into the empty room that once occupied so much…our bags are all packed, and yet there is a burden and an ache as I write these words today.   hands1

Some have wisely said that if we didn’t feel this burden and ache as you leave then perhaps there might be something wrong.  If this is true, then something is certainly right with me today.  Each place of ministry is unique.  It is an adventure.  It is, often times, a leap of faith.  I do sometimes struggle with this full-submission in the calling.  It’s not so much that I don’t trust God as to where He will place our next step…but perhaps I just don’t trust people as much as I should…perhaps I am still learning to trust leaders and leadership of any kind.

Honestly, the life of an Officer in the Salvation Army is rewarding, but there are the heartaches as well…maybe that’s what Jesus was talking about when said those words to those He was calling to follow Him:

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Manhas no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.”  But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”  Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)

I’m really not trying to look back today.
I’m ready…?!?
It’s daunting…But Jesus is strong to deliver, He IS mighty to save, mighty to save!
And so we go, and we go in faith.
This sacrificial life is not easy, but then again nothing is easy if it’s worth it…and I know it’s worth it!

Something more to ponder today as I go back and pack some more boxes.
To God be the glory!  

The Ministry Tool Kit, 5 Tech Tips And Tricks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something more to Ponder today.
God Bless!

Dear Salvation Army – 3 Questions To Ask Before Becoming An Officer

Dear Salvationists,
this is not 3 “magical beans” reminiscent of Jack and the bean stalk, this is simply an exploration into officership.

The Truth:
Officership is not for everyone.

The Lie:
In order to live out my calling as a Soldier I MUST become an Officer.

I do not say this to discourage anyone from becoming an officer, please do not misunderstand me.
I wish to dispel the myth that in order to be fulfilled in ministry within the army one must ALWAYS become an officer.
I do not wish to undermine anyone’s calling either.
If God has specifically called you into Officership, then by all means fulfill that calling!
There are, however, some within our army who feel that in order to do more and be more they must become officers only to discover that this was not the right choice for them.  I believe this certainly does contribute to the continued and troubling attrition rate amongst officers.  One way to address this issue (loss of officers) is to ask the hard questions prior to becoming an officer.  Sometimes, not always, individuals enter training with a pie in the sky, unrealistic concept of what Officership looks like, or should look like, and then when they are sent out to appointments reality hits and they begin to say to themselves “this isn’t what I signed up for”.  THQ and DHQ are very good at reminding officers of the covenant that they signed (sometimes too good) but in all honesty some consider this covenant as just another hurdle to become an officer and wear that red trim.

Understandably, the screening process and testing done for prospective candidates has become more elaborate (depending on the territory, it will vary).   With these benchmarks in place it does help to process “qualified” candidates.  In saying this, I recognize some might take offense to this, perhaps because they did not “qualify”, or are currently in the process of becoming an accepted candidate.  To some this is frustrating.  The testing process, like many things in life, is not perfect.  Individuals have potentially made the screening process only to phase out in training or eventually leave the work for a multitude of reasons.

Putting that aside, please allow me to share three important questions one should ask themselves before committing to Officership.
DISCLAIMER: These three questions are merely primer or starter questions and are not meant to be all inclusive.  There are many more variables to consider before taking that important step, but here are three suggested questions to consider:

questions13 Questions To Ask Before Becoming An Officer:

#1 Why do I want to become an Officer?  
When we ask this personal question of ourselves we can hopefully draw some conclusions as to our purpose and intent for wanting to become an officer.  Be honest.  If you can’t be honest with yourself, then who can you be honest with?  Answering this fundamental question of officership can help to further clarify your personal goals in life.  If you feel as if God has specifically called you into this then that should be your answer.  uniIf you don’t know why you want to be an officer – that is your answer (as murky as that is)…and so you explore that possibility.  If you answer this question on the basis of relatives who are also serving in the army and you signed up because it is comfortable and familiar to you – there’s your answer.  I am not saying any, other than God calling you, are completely wrong reasons but they do become the catalyst for what kind of officer you do become.   Perhaps make a list of all the reasons that you want to be an officer, jot them down on a notepad so that you can better see them.  This might help you make a comprehensive decision and not one that you might regret if you enter into this decision half-hearted and unsure.

pray#2 Have I prayed about this?
Another honest question to ask yourself.  Not to scare you or anything but this decision is a big one!  It will impact everything that you do in life.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t change directions later, but it means that you can make the right choices at the onset by simply and prayerfully considering this decision.  Please note that I am not discouraging anyone from becoming an officer, in fact if anything I am pleading to anyone considering taking that step to do so with prayerful consideration which involves the Lord throughout the process in a daily walk with Him.

Start a prayer journal if you’re a writer or can better connect to God in this way.  For some of us articulating these emotions upon the page can help us sort through our spiritual decisions.  Have others pray for you as well.  This is probably obvious, but take the time to ask the Father for guidance.  Be specific.  Pray for support and the proper guidance of other people.  Pray and don’t hide any motives from God, because naturally He already knows our hearts.

#3 Can I Live This Life of Submission? jesus
This is the Officers Covenant that is signed while at College for Officers Training:

MY COVENANT

CALLED BY GOD
to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
as an officer of The Salvation Army

I BIND MYSELF TO HIM IN THIS SOLEMN COVENANT

to love and serve him supremely all my days,

to live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life,

to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends,

to maintain the doctrines and principles of The Salvation Army, and, by God’s grace to prove myself a worthy officer.

Done in the strength of my Lord and Savior, and in the presence of (the following wording to be adapted to local circumstances) the Territorial Commander, training college officers and fellow cadets.

This calling to become an officer is a sacred decision.
I do not wish to sugarcoat this.  covenant-signing
I also do not wish to paint an officer’s life as always glorious, or always rosy, or always joyful.
These things do happen,  there will be setbacks, heartaches, days of discouragement, stress and disappointment.
When we deal with people, even leaders can and will make mistakes.
We are not perfect people, but we are striving to live a life of humility and submission.
Is this easy?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!
For some of us, this is the hardest thing we could ever do.
Many do not like being told what to do, where to go, and sometimes how to do something.
Politics does happen.
Favoritism does happen too.
Living within a relationship of submission to the Lord in this capacity will not be easy.
We do trust that He knows what He is doing even when we feel others have made leadership mistakes.
We do trust that He will lead and direct even when sometimes the directions seem skewed and wrong.
Submission first to God allows us to live this life under the authority of the Army.
Can you live this way?
Are you prepared to submit to this kind of authority (even when you may not always agree)?

The life of an Officer is rewarding.
It can be fulfilling…but is this the right decision for you?
Only you and the Lord can answer that question.
There are many, many saints in this army.  Some wear red trim on their tunics and some wear blue trim on their tunics…these saints are equally needed and important in this army!!  If God has called you into Officership then get on with it and stop dragging your feet!  If He has not called you into Officership but into a place leadership and service as a soldier and/or employee of this army, then get on with it also – YOU ARE NEEDED regardless if you wear red or not.

Something more for this army world to ponder!
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Warning – Spiritual Alzheimer’s and Atrophy!

Pope Francis recently criticized his own church’s bureaucratic leaders of being power hungry and having spiritual Alzheimer’s.
Wow!  Hearing those words strewn together for me has become a warning of sorts to us here in the Army.  This is something very practical that I believe we too face in the Army.

power
Politics & Bureaucracy:
Politics and bureaucracy exists in every church regardless of denomination.
Believe it or not, dear soldier, we too have this struggle in our army.   We too have, at times, individual leaders who suffer from spiritual Alzheimer’s .  We too have, at times, have individual leaders who are afflicted with spiritual atrophy of the heart.  Politics and favoritism is nothing new and it certainly does happen within this army too.  Does that make it ever right?  Absolutely not.  Can God intercede?  He certainly can and He will.

crest6The Real Danger In Our Army:
You see, dear soldier, the real danger in our Army doesn’t come from outside, it comes from within.
We can be our own worst enemies at times.  We can get so caught up in preserving these political games and regulations that we, in effect, execute fellow soldiers for it.  The danger in our army IS SPIRITUAL ALZHEIMER’S!  The danger in our army is SPIRITUAL ATROPHY!  This can happen not just to people within executive levels of leadership though, don’t fool yourself into thinking you are immune, No!  This can happen to anyone within our ranks of this Army!  Be careful!  Watch out!  Don’t lose sight of who you serve and why you serve!


To the power hungry: 

Your craving for power will eventually ruin you.
Your lust for positions and destroy your ministry.

To those afflicted:
You have become the church of Laodicea…so watch out!
Turn back!  Seek repentance.  God will not honor your efforts of lukewarm spirituality!
He will not honor these petty offerings of lip service and displays of “soldiership”.  God knows our hearts!
God doesn’t want these afflictions to destroy us!  He wants us to be spiritually healthy, not spiritually atrophied!

Dear soldier, look out for these pitfalls in our Army!  Spiritual Alzheimer’s and Atrophy is very real!
Be aware of them.  Do not slip into the same trap as others have already done!  Do not forsake your first love for the lust of power and position.  Do not become slack in your devotion to Him.  Do not keep Him too far from your heart and mind.  We need you!  We need the next generation to step up and be on fire again for the Lord!  We need more than lip service and positions telling us how to move this army forward.  We must not stop fighting for the lost and seeking to help the marginalized in our world!  When those who become afflicted with such spiritual diseases see the marginalized and poor they close their doors to your offices of power and close their eyes as well.  We cannot afford to do this, dear soldier!  We were commissioned by God, as Christ’s disciples first to lead others to Him.  We must not falter in this.  We must never close our doors and close our eyes!  If we ever do, we not only jeopardize our spiritual walk but the potential spiritual walk of those seeking.

Beware, dear soldier, Spiritual Alzheimer’s and spiritual atrophy are very, very real to our army.

-More for our Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Supercharge Your Ministry With Just One Word!

I once had an Officer, whom I greatly admire, tell me the secret to a successful, healthy corps.  Do you wanna know what he said?  Let’s see how long I can prolong the suspense…  okay, suspense over: He told me that there is one crucial ingredient in any ministry that will either make or break you.  That one crucial ingredient is this:  Love.

(Someone cue the Beatles singing “All you need is love”)

Okay, that felt better!

Question:
Do we love those with whom we have been placed to lead?
This is important…pay attention!
(this may be the only question to truly consider today)

The Dilemma:
The Salvation Army ministry as a whole is an often transitory process.  Officers come and go and this isn’t only difficult on the officers who are moved (sometimes faaaaaaaaaaar too quickly), but it is also difficult on the corps leadership as well as the soldiers and adherents.  I might even go out on a limb to say that it has some longer lasting impacts on the corps ministries than it does on the officers who were farewelled and/or recently appointed there.

The dilemma then becomes how can we love something or someone that is transitory?  How can love exist within this plain of ever shifting views, and an ever shifting leadership structure?  Even within divisions and territories when leaderships leave and a new one enters the fray, the vision and plan set forth changes.  So, that being said, how can we love within such an ever changing ministry dynamic?

I will be bold enough right here and now and say that we can’t.
We are not equipped to love so blindly at times, especially when we feel as if the last “move” was not God’s will but rather done politically or out of convenience sake for “the Army”.  Pardon my cynicism here.  Yes, we cannot love enough to replace the hurt and disappointment in our hearts sometimes.

We can’t love…by our own volition.  That being said, we CAN love by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our own love, at times, might take time to become whole again.  Our own love, might come along with us like our transported furniture does sometimes – bruised and broken (thanks movers!).  Our own love will sometimes leave us defeated and lacking enough in the reserves to give anything more to our families, let alone others.

To the counselors out there – don’t tell us to pray more.
don’t tell us that maybe we need to read the Bible
more.
don’t tell us that it’s just a “dry spell” spiritually
don’t tell us that we aren’t doing enough

Supercharge Your Ministry With Just One Word: LOVE…
No one ever said it was going to be easy.
In fact it may be the toughest thing you ever do.
It would be easier to operate from a place of “like” or even just “get the job done”, but it will never be as effective as it would if we fell in love with those we serve and lead.  I mean the kind of love Jesus had for His disciples.  I mean the kind of love the Apostle Paul writes about when he writes to Timothy and other leaders of the faith.

What would it take for us to love those we lead?
What would it take for our hurts to be replaced with healing?
For the broken pieces of our hearts to be put back together?  (The cracks might still be visible for years to come)   What would it take for our wounds to be transformed into healing scars?  You see, these bruises might take time to fade.  What would it take to supercharge our ministry?  Perhaps even that word “supercharge” implies something that we’re not even comfortable with.  Would it take a miracle of the heart?  Would it take a transformational power only the Lord could provide?

Don’t Be Jaded!
It might be easy to become calloused, hardened and cynical.
No one human leadership entity is perfect.  Things will be done to you that were not done with the “Lord’s will” in mind…But at the same time can we still be effective?  Can we still lead with that one word – Love?

Can I be honest?
There are days when I simply don’t know.
There are days when I shake my head at decisions that have been made and can’t help but feel betrayed.  That’s raw, but genuine.

The Truth Is: 
I will never let the Army define who I am.
I serve the Lord first.
I know in whom I have believed!
The things of this world, even the systems in which we serve in are imperfect and sometimes people make mistakes.  But you know what?  I won’t let those mistakes, those “political” decisions, those wrongs that were never reconciled define who I am as a child of the King.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are some very wonderful blessings along the way as well that we cannot over look either!  Sometimes there are blessings in disguise and in order to discover them we have to place our all on the altar again and live by faith.  (I know that this is very hard to do)

Can I supercharge my ministry with this one word – Love?
Not by own volition.
But I will through the power that strengthens me, which is the Holy Spirit.

Words of Wisdom Passed Down To Me: 
*  Don’t let anyone, other than the Lord, define who you are or give you a sense of self-worth.
*  Be strong in your convictions and yet, don’t be so convinced of your own self-righteous need to be right all the time.
*  Take time to listen and not just talk.
*  Love those that God has given to you to lead…and when your love isn’t enough, ask for more love that can only be provided through His supernatural power!
*  There is love in healing.
*  Relationships are important crucial to cultivate in a lifetime of ministry.

Something more for this army to ponder today…To God Be The Glory!

Dear Salvation Army, 4 Warning Signs To Watch Out For In Ministry…

Ministry is rewarding, but it isn’t always easy.  Along the way pastors, lay ministers, Salvation Army officers and soldiers face challenges both big and small.  Is it our responsibility to produce larger and larger statistical successes?  Dare I say the answer is “no”…but, it is our responsibility to be faithful to God as He provide the opportunities to us and we can help usher in souls through relevant, practical relationships and evangelism.

That being said, there are 4 warning signs that I would like to point out today that might help us in our ministries.  These aren’t an exhaustive list of warning signs, merely four of them…there are probably many more to be mindful of.

4 Warning Signs to Watch Out For In Ministry: 

1) Lack of commitment –commitment 
Small Group ministries, for example, can be very rewarding because it is ministry in an intimate setting, but sometimes small groups can be a notoriously uncommitted group.  Whatever the ministry event, group or activity you embark on, if the commitment level isn’t there it will not be successful.  Commitment has almost become this horrific word in our society today because there is so much attention demands for individuals and families.  These demands include school activities, sports, extra-curricular activities, family time etc.  Then comes the church pastor or officer/local officer who is asking for more of  a commitment by this person or family as a small group or bible study begins.  A corps member’s time is valuable to a lot of areas and sometimes the corps loses an element of commitment by its soldiery because it just can’t compete with other extra-curricular event.

This isn’t an excuse to just eliminate that ministry opportunity.  Look for ways to adjust, incorporate and work around people’s crazy schedules.  There should be possibly ways to compromise so that attendees are available for personally geared ministries.  Be sensitive to the needs of families in your corps, study their schedules and make every possible attempt to provide times of ministry at the best times during the week.  I am not saying cater to every corps’ member’s whims and needs but I am saying be sensitive to schedules and busy lives.  If we can make every opportunity available to our soldiers to attend then committing to a personalized ministry opportunity will be easier.

Lastly, this doesn’t mean everyone will just rush in and commit to attend…some corps members (whether on the fringes or even active members) will only conveniently show up when it best suits them.  Perhaps, at some time, when all of your efforts have not produced their commitment level, you may want to confront them on this lack of participation.  But ensure first that your bible study or small group is something of which that person(s) will relate to or need in their lives.

hotdog2) “Hotdog” Leadership

Definition:  A “hotdog leader – one who shows off, refuses to share, enjoys the lime-light, is a “ball” hog.

Moving away from commitment to, perhaps an extreme level of commitment, be mindful of the dangers of solo leadership.  Jesus didn’t teach His disciples to become solely dependent on Him to do everything, and neither should we with our soldiers and corps members.  I am not saying that you and I are Jesus, but we have been placed in people’s lives to display the example of Jesus to them.  In so doing, we ought to be mindful that a proactive leader is one who produces ownership in its corps members and soldiers.  Ministry should never be one sided.  It wasn’t intended to be this way.

When I was a younger officer every Sunday was the “Scott Show”, meaning I didn’t fully trust those around me to be of much use in the Sunday morning holiness meetings.  It was prideful I know.  I micromanaged everything and wanted everything to be done my way.  I was a control freak when it came to how I wanted our worship to be.  Some of that isn’t all bad mind you.  Some of that planning is necessary…but without the use of other leaders in corps we can become “Hotdogs” in the pulpit.

One might argue that many within our ministries are not equipped to lead anything.  Maybe so, but hotdog leadership doesn’t provide any shared ownership opportunities either.  Perhaps we can assign small tasks to some who are not able to lead.  Perhaps we can assign larger tasks to those who are capable to lead.  This warning sign within our ministries is crucial to heed.  If we lead everything we could possibly stunt the spiritual growth of potential leaders of our corps.

3) Tunnel VisionMysterious tunnel to the light
Tunnel Vision sometimes goes hand in hand with “hotdog” leadership.   While other times tunnel vision can be a stand-alone problem of lack of vision while performing mundane ministry tasks by simply “going through the motions”.

News Flash:  Just because a program worked twenty years ago doesn’t mean that it is still viable today.  Sometimes we have to changes things up even if that change causes initial discomfort within the body.  Remember that ministry programs are two-fold – for edification of the current body of believers as well as the opportunity of adding to that body via evangelism and welcoming newcomers.

I believe that can become quite easy to fall prey to tunnel vision in our ministries.  To avoid the slippery slope of “the tunnel” here are a few remedies:

      a) Have a healthy prayer and devotion life as a leader!
This will keep you in-tune with the Holy Spirit as He guides and directs
both your personal relationship as well as your role as leader in your
ministry.

b) Become (if you already aren’t) a reader!  
Not just reading the Bible, which is vital, but read other spiritual authors
challenge yourself within the realms of Christian-living and practical
ministry ideas.

c) Listen to your people!
Engage them at where they are.  Be mindful of where you want them to
go.  Gauge their participation as well as their interests.  From this vein,
research and mold your ministries around their needs and spiritual
challenges.

forgive4) Lack of Trust/Un-confessed sins
This may seem to be a “two-fer” (my Minnesotan is coming through in that term), but it’s connected!  Trusting someone with your deepest darkest sin is crucial for divulgence.  If you or another leader isn’t trusted, a soldier or corps member will most likely refrain from sharing those burdens that they carry.

Be aware of this crucial component of ministry.  Be a leader that is safe to be around.  Be a leader who is trustworthy and  capable of providing a safe, listening ear.  It takes a concerted effort to merely listen instead of offering sage advice.  Sometimes people need less Yoda and more of an ear.  When one finds a safe place to confide, sins can be confessed.

I am not discounting the work of the Holy Spirit or trying to eliminate His power in any and every occasion, but we as leaders should be wise in presenting the gospel and His truths within a safe and loving environment which allows people to face their sins without the judgement of others muddying up the waters of forgiveness and grace.

Watch Out!
These are just four warning signs to watch out for in our ministries.  If we can circumnavigate these trappings, our ministries will be healthier for it.  Allow His wisdom to guide you.  Be diligent in your prayer life for those within you serve as leader.  Take great effort to truly listen to your soldiers and corps members.  Be aware of tunnel vision and its slippery slope.  Take great effort as well to be a safe harbor for those seeking God’s grace, love and forgiveness.

Something more for this Army of Salvation to ponder today.
To God Be The Glory!

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