Dear Salvation Army, Where Are We Going?

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” -Michelangelo

This is more of a collective pondering today. We need your comments, thoughts and opinions in order to carefully and thoughtful answer the above question: Where Are We Going?

What is our vision?

What should our vision be?

How do we make that vision a reality?

What are some of the obstacles in our way of fully realizing that reality?

Who will it take (e.g. soldiers, officers, volunteers, donors)?

How important is accountability in such a large movement/organization?

How can we become more accountable to Christ within this Army? Where does Holiness belong in such a conversation?

I have disclosed numerous questions to ponder today…are you willing to take a chance at answering any or all of these questions? The larger scope question: Where Are We Going? In other words, if you were to envision where the Army SHOULD BE in 20 years, what would it look like? What would you want to see different, the same, the growth?

-If we have no plan or vision, then we will flounder and waver.

We look forward to your responses!

Something more for the Army to ponder today!

Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison

*Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army and are that of the writer of this blog, reader discretion is advised.*

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, 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: Why Quality Is Better Than Quantity

dusty-feetJesus had more than 12 disciples…yet many left Him. (John 6:66)
Did Jesus call each one of these “AWOL” disciples?  No.
Some joined the band later during the rise of Jesus’ popularity.  But Jesus wasn’t looking for popularity.  He hadn’t come to be lauded and complemented.  He hadn’t come to start a Roman incursion.  He came for so much more.  He taught that purpose to His disciples, those with whom He confided in and hand-picked for such an important calling.

soldiers4Dear Salvation Army, why is it that we feel it necessary at times to place quantity of soldiers and officers above quality?  I don’t think anyone intentionally does this.  I do not think we rush out and pick people off the street and throw uniforms on them just so we have “numbers” the next time the General or anyone else important in our Army comes to town.  But we do see success within our Army as something of a quantitative thing don’t we?

uturnHave we been going about this all wrong?  
Could it be that instead of sheer numbers and all of these “Corps growth” initiatives we must first focus on the ones we already have in our pews who are undiscipled and unequipped for the battle?  We serve many individuals who are marginalized and wounded by life.  Some might be incapable of ever achieving the standards of  “Christianity” that other churches expect of their parishioners. I have heard it said that the church is an emergency room for the sinner.  It should be a place of triage and shelter for the broken and the imperfect.  We serve many in our Army who not only need the spiritual emergency room but also long-term spiritual care!  Some may never walk upright within the spiritual realms of leadership.  Some may only crawl towards incremental spiritual achievements in their lives because they have been crippled by sin, shame and/or other spiritual, emotional and physical wounds in their lives.  Can we accept them for who they are, where they are and mark these limited steps of growth?  Are we patient enough to develop these wounded soldiers with grace, love and at times looooooooooooong-suffering?   Or are we so focused on getting “others” more “capable”, desirable people into our corps buildings?  We, unintentionally, stick up our noses at the uneducated, spiritually inept and broken cases already before us.

I don’t mean to make this an indictment because I too would wear a crown of guilt in this witch-hunt of pointing fingers.  I too have walked the fine line of measurable growth and statistically accomplishments while unintentionally leaving the spiritually crippled of the corps in my dust.  Shame on me.  Forgive me.

What I’m Not Saying:
I’m not saying don’t seek out others to bring into your corps.
I am not saying don’t work to improve the spiritual conditions of your corps.
I am not saying don’t preach holiness and hold the standards high for all who come to the corps.

What I am Saying: 
-Don’t forget those that God has already placed in your corps and on your ministry pathways.

-Don’t lose the emphasis on teaching and discipling your vital few who come week in and week out.

-Don’t lose heart when you look at statistical sheets and only see the same numbers associated with the same faces.

-Love your corps members even if they are incapable of loving you back (as hard as that may be).

-Be the very best representation of Christ to your corps, in your leadership and in your living examples.

-Don’t wait for more educated, better looking and polished people to come through your doors.  Focus on the ones that God has placed within your ministry right now to love and to lead.

Why Quality is Better Than Quantity?
When we become satisfied and confident with loving and serving the few we take off the burden of false success driven ministry concepts.  It’s not about packing your corps building to the brim every Sunday morning.  It’s not about attempting another evangelistic ploy to rope the unchurched into your doors.

binocularsWhen we begin to love and to focus our attention upon those we already have within our corps (the “quality“, no matter how far from quality we may view our corps members) we will begin to truly love them, appreciate them, long to better disciple them, and serve them as Christ would the Church.   When we focus our attention on the “few” and feed them spiritually, the love and “curb” appeal of our corps will become all the more evident in our communities.

We get it all wrong some times in our attempt to become like other churches.  We look over the ministerial fences and long to be like “that” church that boasts 400 or more members on a Sunday.  But the truth is we aren’t THAT church…we were never called to be THAT church.  Our ministry and mission as the Army is very, very unique.  Our mission will contain more elements of serving wounded soldiers day in and day out and maybe, just maybe we will see incremental or phenomenal life improvements both physically and spiritually.  I am not discounting the work of the Holy Spirit here, He can and will perform miracles, and we must  be diligent and faithful to His calling.  Yet in other occasions we must also not give up on soldiers and corps members who never seem to move from their one position of initial conversion.

We know there is more to be had within the realms of spiritual growth and holiness for our corps members…but sometimes it may take a lifetime for that corps member to achieve this understanding as well.  DON’T GIVE UP ON THEM!  DON’T QUIT OR LOSE HOPE!

**Yes, fight for the weak, the hurting, the lost.
**Yes, keep up the evangelistic methods within your communities.
-But don’t forget to employ quality love, support and leadership to the few as well!

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

3 Warning Signs – When Leaders Are Out of Touch with Reality.

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It happens from time to time in every organization.
Perhaps those appointed, elected, or assigned to the responsibilities of leadership forget what it was like to be led.  Perhaps along the way of corporate or organizational “ladder climbing” they lost touch with true tangibles which are grounded in reality.  It can be true even within the Christian world that power corrupts absolutely.  

What are the warning signs as leaders that we ought to be aware of?  What kinds of tools can we utilize in our leadership models in order to stay relevant and lead with passion and vision so that others will follow?  I think it begs to be said but authoritative leadership cannot be respected or maintain just by brute force.  The result of leading in such a way is a leadership of fear and not respect.  Good leaders strive to make additional leaders along the way, not subjugation and “my way or the highway” philosophies.

3 Warning Signs – tools to help leaders stay in touch with reality:
1.  Cultivate a spirit of authentic humility:

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When the veneer and “polished” shine wears off of new leaders it is important to live within a spirit of authentic humility.  Those with whom you are leading need to know you are human and that you do not place yourself above their needs.  Humility within good leadership is usually developed not born.  It is much easier to lord over followers barking out orders and playing favorites.  It is easy to become a bad leader.  It is much harder to be a good leader.  Good leadership takes work and deep consideration of the needs of their followers.  Becoming humble despite the potential privileges that leadership can offer speaks volumes to those being led.  When we adopt a true spirit of humility within leadership, the paradigm of “top down” organizational structure is turned on its head…and this is a good thing!     

Humility in leadership has the ability win advocates not just “followers”.  What I mean by that is this – some followers will just follow out of obligation, but to cultivate productivity, respect and genuine leadership one must gain advocates within those you lead.  Being humble while leading is absolutely one way to cultivate these kinds of relationships within your organizational base.  

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2.  Listen to opposing arguments & perspectives

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Good leaders aren’t afraid of criticism, in fact they willingly engage in productive ideas sharing.   This doesn’t mean that the vision or mission of the organization should be sidetracked by opposing views but rather a good leader will listen to alternative methods to accomplishing the same mission and vision.  All too often I think insecure leaders are unwilling to be challenged because they lack the confidence in their own leadership abilities.  They see opposing or alternative views as threatening, even insubordination, when in fact others (even followers) are striving to accomplish the same goals and objectives.  Suddenly, instead of listening to other people’s opinions and ideas, the insecure leader will shoot them down and reprimand because they feel their leadership abilities are in question.  Lack of true listening as a leader is a warning sign for poor leadership and a polarized organizational vision.  

A good leader desires to actively listen to those they lead and seeks to consistently improve the mission through innovation and ideas sharing.  When a company or organization values the thoughts and ideas of others within the team, the mission can advance faster and more efficiently.  Great leaders are willing to fight for the ideas and thoughts of those who are subordinate yet passionate about mission.  Listening, really listening is crucial to great leaders.  Without such an ability, common leaders (which far out number great leaders) will ignore, plod on, and become out of touch with reality.  

3. Invest in People not the Product (or Mission): 

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Equipping, discipling, and developing future leaders must be a valued focus of great leaders.  Yes the mission or product is important to the success of whatever organization but without the people doing the hard labor behind the mission or product the organization will eventually fail.  All too often the mission (or product) gets placed above the people.  Suddenly people are not treated like people but rather just another number or warm body to facilitate the desired outcomes.  When this happens the company or organization can become a cold place to work.  Those who work there might be begin to feel unimportant, morale might be low, vision can be misplaced for simply “survival”, and the passion for the mission might evaporate entirely.  

In the vein of this warning sign, leaders might sense something is wrong with the organization or company, but because of their disconnectedness to the reality of those they serve in leadership, they may conclude that the remedy is another program or ‘relabeled’ slogan.  Without the aforementioned characteristics of great leaders, (Authentic Humility and Active Listening) the common leader will strive to improve the company or organization through more program and success driven ideas without the inclusion of its followers.  When this happens the common leader has decided that they will invest in the product or mission over the people.  All too often, through this impersonal leadership method, common leaders will sacrifice the few (or the many) for the sake of marginal product/mission success.   

These are the warning signs of leaders who are out of touch with reality.  The reason I write this today is to help us decide what kind of leader that WE want to be both in life and in our places of employment.  These are very common threats to any organization or company, and without corrective steps and measures, attrition rates within the organization or company will increase.  Coupled with that loss, the mission and vision will become harder and harder to accomplish and the investment in people instead of product (programs and mission) will be abandoned.  

I, for one do not want to become disconnected and out of touch…do you?  

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-Just something else to ponder today…be the kind of leader that you aspire others to be!!!

 

Perspectives Day 3 – Featuring Commissioner Clive Adams “Do Something!”

 

It spurred William Wilberforce, subsequent to his conversion, to dedicate the rest of his life to the abolition of slavery in the eighteenth century.

It was the command that William Booth gave his son, Bramwell, upon seeing homeless men huddled under a London bridge in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

It inspired Bob Geldof to organise Live Aid in 1985 after watching a BBC documentary on the famine in Ethiopia the previous year.

In 2007, it drove Michael Smith, sickened by the violence and destruction he witnessed daily as a policeman, to start Word 4 Weapons which, to date, has seen 10, 000 weapons handed in to collecting bins supplied by The Salvation Army.

The compulsion to ‘do something’ springs from the very heart of God – He, who…

has told you… what is good…

has told you what he wants from you:

to do what is right to other people,

love being kind to others,

and live humbly, obeying your God

(Micah 6:8 New Century Version)

God’s word is filled with such injunctions for us to reject indifference and inaction as responses to need. From Abraham’s intervention in Lot’s troubles when he could have been enjoying the land, through the prophets’ clear proclamation of a God less interested in creeds than in deeds – of mercy and justice, to Jesus, moved with compassion into action, and on into the Church Age, where, from its earliest beginnings, we see the Church appointing leaders especially to ‘do something’. A continuous line of grace being communicated through actions, throughout humankind’s history we see the hand of God ‘doing something’.

Doing something in the face of need should be as natural to the disciple of Jesus as participating in prayer, fellowship, worship and witness. Those first disciples would have recalled their own perplexity the day they stood alongside their master at the end of a long day of ministry, worrying about the hungry needs of thousands (John 6:5-13). Their perplexity arose from the size of the problem – it seemed insurmountable – and the Master’s clear expectation that they should do something about it – it seemed impossible. They learnt that day that, if they did what they could, gave what they had and obeyed as instructed, Jesus would bless their efforts, abundantly!

Children of the Central North Division have been inspirational in grasping this strong correlation between discipleship and doing something. Taken on a discipling course, they soon made the connection between their discipleship and doing something for people in need. The result is the amazing Change4Change project they have started to help trafficked children in Malawi.

                     [Donate to their Change4Change page here]

The Children’s Ministries Unit at THQ recently hosted these fine Salvationist young people when they enjoyed a trip to London, which included a visit to my office. What a joy to meet such enthusiasm! We were able to rejoice over the phenomenal amount of money they have raised already.

These young people have not let the enormity of the problem intimidate them. They’ve done something about it which will make a difference. Thereby, they join a long line – a line which starts at the Throne of Mercy and reaches across the ages and all around the world as people understanding the heart of a just and merciful God go out and do something. All of those referenced – Wilberforce, Booth, Geldof, Smith and these intrepid Salvationist young people – faced challenges too large for them to tackle, but, undaunted, they did tackle them, overcame them and made a difference. They were not overwhelmed, they did something!

There’s more than enough need to go around. Which begs the question: What can you do?

Image Check out Commissioner Adam’s blog site: http://insight.salvationarmy.org.uk/do-something  

ImageThis is so relevant yet today!  Do something!  

 

Perspectives Day 2 – Featuring Stephen Court (Major) “Semantics Antics”

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“SEMANTICS ANTICS”
(Stephen Court)

Words have power. Yes, this truth is usually used in the context of either speaking life instead of death (see James on the tongue) or of the prophetic (see the creation account of God speaking things into being).

 

But it also goes for semantics – the meanings of words.

 

When we use certain words we imply and apply certain meanings. When these words enter the general vocabulary they shape the meaning of the things they describe. Words have power.

 

We (The Salvation Army) have been using some words and terms far too carelessly. Here are some examples:

 

lay (as in ‘lay people’ and ‘laity’): this refers to people who are not ordained and otherwise qualified to participate in Christian service. It is carelessly applied to everyone who is not an officer. This is poor theology and terrible history. Despite the spiritual inferiority complex-induced mistake of the late 1970s and the ‘ordination’ of officers, there is not some mystical abracadabra ‘ordination’ that accompanies commissioning. All of our generals and the vast majority of our commissioners (in all of history) have not been ‘ordained’ in the mistaken sense that the relatively recent commissioning exercise has appended. By the loose use of the term ‘lay’ that means Booth, Railton, Booth-Tucker, Higgins, Carpenter, Orsborn, Kitching, Coutts, Wickberg, Wiseman, Brown, Wahlstrom, Burrows, Tillsley, Rader, Gowans, Larsson, Clifton, Bond, and Knaggs were/are ALL ‘LAY PEOPLE’. The term is ridiculous in a Salvationist context. There are no ‘lay people’ in The Salvation Army. There are converts, recruits, soldiers, and officers. That’s it.

 

Words have power.

 

clergy: Official SA websites (AUE, USE, C+B, among others) as well as influential sites (e.g. wikipedia) define or equate officers as and with clergy. This is evil. Officers are not clergy. Officers are soldiers who have given up secular employment and covenanted to make themselves exclusively available temporally and geographically for the salvation war in vocational leadership. ‘Clergy’ by definition requires ordination.   Watch the end of the faulty reasoning:

If ‘officer’ equals ‘clergy’; and,

 

‘Clergy’ requires ‘ordination’ (which it does by definition); then,

 

All the generals (but our current one) and most of the commissioners were not/are not officers.

 

By using words like ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’ we are reinforcing the unbiblical clergy/laity split, one of the key strategies of the devil against the people of God.

 

Words have power.

 

pastor: These are the four New Testament ‘offices’ Paul outlines in Ephesians 4: apostle, prophet, evangelist, and teacher/shepherd. The last – teacher/shepherd – includes a word that is translated only once in the whole New Testament as ‘pastor’ but clearly means ‘shepherd’.[i]

 

Those covenantally involved in vocational Christian leadership – our leaders – are called corps or commanding officers, divisional commanders, territorial commanders, and general. They are not formally called evangelist, apostle, prophet, shepherd/teacher even though many fill one or more of these roles. To pick one out of the hat (with the increasingly rare exception of ‘evangelist’ as in ‘territorial evangelist’, the chosen term is always ‘pastor’) is to call hockey hall of famer Wayne Gretzky a penalty killer. Now, Penalty Killer Wayne Gretzky certainly was efficient in killing penalties but to limit his impact on the ice to penalty killing is ridiculous.

 

Why then do officers (and lots who attend meetings) call officers ‘pastors’? Excellent question, no good answer to which is available, but some explanation is possible:

A. we have an inferiority complex when compared to churches;

B. we have an identity crisis in which we don’t know that we are not a church (see below);

C. we are catering to a church subculture instead of fighting to rescue lost people from hell;

D. we are overwhelmingly influenced by non-Salvationist Christian content (books, conferences, TV, radio, podcasts, blogs, etc.).

 

Remember, words have power. What are the effects of officers being called ‘pastor’?

 

i. we sabotage our mission because, among the people we are trying to rescue from heading to hell, ‘pastor’ generally has negative connotations. So we inaccurately identify with something that is unpopular in trying to reach the people with whom it is unpopular. Ridiculous.

 

ii. we change what it means to be an officer from some heroic combination of apostle/prophet/evangelist/teacher\shepherd leading troops in a salvation war to some bad-breathed, shellac-haired, touchy-feely stereotype aiming to keep the pews warm.

 

iii. we limit Holy Spirit, who actually works through all FOUR offices, not just a distorted half of the teacher/shepherd one.

 

Only church people seem attached to terms like ‘pastor’.

 

Could it be that we use a term like ‘pastor’ because we want church people to attend our meetings and don’t really care about people who are lost?

 

Words have power.

 

church: For centuries we have understood the ‘Church’ to be a place where the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered. However, The Salvation Army is a revolutionary movement of covenanted warriors exercising holy passion to win the world for Jesus.

 

Based on these definitions, is your corps a church?

 

No. (unless you are surreptitiously passing around bread and grape juice and splashing your people with water)

 

So, by definition, your corps is not a church. Why call it one?[ii] Why identify with something that is manifestly unpopular with the people who are headed to hell that we are trying so hard to reach with the Gospel? Why sabotage your local mission and the mission of our global movement? Your corps is not a church despite what someone stuck on a sign or put in a magazine or said from the microphone.

 

Words have power.

 

service: This one is hilarious. Just this Sunday afternoon a salvationist took a phone call at the hall. The person had been calling, apparently, for the last hour but our explain, “we’ve been in service for the last hour and a half… we were in service… we were in service…”

 

Well, this person was evidently LOOKING for some service and it made absolutely NO SENSE to him that The Salvation Army had been ‘in service’ and yet had neglected to pick up the phone to SERVE him! Now, our friend had been taught that what had just happened was a religious ceremony (that is the definition of her use of the term ‘service’). But to the people going to hell, ‘service’ means service – the act of being served – and we’d not been serving them.

 

So, for the record, The Salvation Army does not hold ‘services’. We have what are called ‘meetings’. Check out your history. We have holiness MEETINGs and salvation MEETINGS and soldiers MEETINGS and all kinds of meetings. But we don’t ‘have services’. As the sign on the way OUT of one garrison said, ‘The service begins when the meeting ends’. Let’s keep our serving in VERB form, please.

 

Words have power.

 

Do you get it? The words you use affect what we are. When you use terms like ‘church’ and ‘pastor’ and ‘service’ and ‘clergy’ and ‘lay’ you are watering down The Salvation Army and compromising the testimony of salvationists and insulting soldiers and limiting Holy Spirit and sabotaging our mission and hindering our effectiveness. Stop it, please.

 

Don’t even get me started on ‘members’, ‘ministry boards’, ‘sanctuaries’…

  Endnotes

[i] 1. ‘Pastor’. For some reason, people like this term. In KJV it comes up once – Jeremiah 17:16 (NIV renders it ‘shepherd’); in NIV ‘pastor’ turns up once – Ephesians 4:11.

 

But the word in Ephesians 4:11 is ‘poimen’ and it actually appears 18 times in the New Testament, 17 times being translated ‘shepherd’. So it seems like ‘pastor’ is a biblically rare synonym for the much more popularly used term ‘shepherd’.

 

Since ‘shepherd’ actually means something, apart from being a synonym, and since ‘shepherd’ lacks the negative connotative accretions of ‘pastor’ in today’s society, it makes much more strategic and biblical sense to use that term instead of ‘pastor’.

 

This says nothing of the replacement of CO with ‘pastor’ (‘pastor’ is not nearly synonymous with CO and so is an even worse replacement for CO than it is for shepherd).

 

So, let’s agree that ‘pastor’, being unbiblical and unpopular, is a term we should avoid.

 

[ii] ‘church’. The Bride of Christ? Metaphor. Flock? Metaphor. Building, temple, body? All metaphor. But the Army of God? The Salvation Army? We’re not a metaphor. We’re not a comparison to something that we aren’t. We’re an army. ‘Church’ carries negative connotations throughout the West. The large majority of populations in developed countries vote with their feet that ‘church’ is irrelevant and unimportant and marginalised. Why on earth would we rush to pretend to be a ‘church’ when it is, a. not accurate, and b. not effective? Why on earth would we forfeit our God-given, biblical identity as an Army? (possibly because we got the ‘prophetic trumps relevant’ principle backwards and we have a spiritual inferiority complex).

Catch Major Stephen Court’s Blog Writings at – http://www.armybarmyblog.blogspot.com/

 

Human Sacrifices…they still happen (A Lesson in leadership)

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We would most likely all agree that mission and purpose in ministries as well as organizations are vital to its effectiveness and success.  But is there a trade off to achieving certain goals along the pathway to fulfilling our missions?    Are there casualties along the way?  Do we become so mission focused that we lose, in some way, our compassion and care for individuals which includes team members?  

The old adage “too much of a good thing is probably bad for you” could become true when all that we do, eat, sleep and breathe is our mission.  I am not insinuating that we discard our mission and lose our focus, but sometimes we must check our motivations and ask ourselves some difficult questions in order to realign and correct possible missteps.  

Mission is vital, but so are the people who embody the driving force behind the mission.  Leaders aren’t leaders unless there are people who are willing to follow them.  Whatever system is put in place, without the “fight force” (people) mission cannot be accomplished.  

Are we sacrificing humans?  

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Truths: 1.  There will be people who might not catch the vision.  2.  There might be those who dissent and disagree.  
But we, as leaders, must be mindful that we cannot simply continue to plow through our goal steps, chug along on the path that we have plotted without the “team” around us.  If we choose to go this way and disregard those who disagree with us, we may not heed (at times) those who cry out with the voice of reason.  Sometimes we as leaders have to acknowledge that we do not always have all of the right answers.  Pride can enter in, and we may feel as if these decisions (which we have made) cannot be allowed to be discarded for to do so will reveal our inadequacies and/or human short-comings.  

Good leaders should admit when they are wrong.  Good leaders need to listen to the voice(s) of counsel, and in spite of the interpretations of others as the course is corrected; change that course.  

Misguided (I wouldn’t use the term ‘bad’) leaders refuse to admit wrong doing.  Misguided leaders only listen to the counsel of the ‘yes’ people and punish those who voice and/or question their authority.  

Human sacrifices are still being made in organizations when mission and purpose moves at a pace which is faster than the followers can run.  Mission is important, but without those who can carry out the mission, any attempt for success will be futile.  

3 Preventive Steps:

 

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1. Genuine Compassion: 
In order to have followers, leaders must go to them.  Leaders need to understand how their followers live, think and also what they are (and aren’t) capable of.  Compassion goes a long way to ensuring the success of any mission plans.  When we stop and care for the needs of those we lead we inevitably open the doors to not only obedience but healthy loyalty and love.  Compassion oils the cogs of motivation and loyalty.  

2. Listen

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I have found myself guilty of this one.  I have plotted certain paths of mission and neglected to actually listen to those with whom I was given the charge to lead.  Good leaders understand the great importance of active listening.  When they gather their followers they not only engage in productive planning but also engage in active listening.  These moments of active listening (it is ongoing) include concerns, desires, skills, and dreams.  Once leaders listen, certain plans along the way of mission may need to be altered in order to further strengthen the foundation of the “team”.  These aren’t necessarily always concessions but perhaps better solutions and alternatives which will help the group to arrive at the completion of goals within the mission.  

3. Motivate

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It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men. Men respond to leadership in a most remarkable way and once you have won his heart, he will follow you anywhere.”  -Vince Lombardi
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Good leaders understand how to lovingly challenge people, how to push them but not sacrifice them to the mission.  What is in the hearts of those you lead?  How can you motivate them to accept the mission and embrace the pathway towards achieving that mission?  Motivation can be challenging because all people are different, but when we are actively engaged in listening to those we lead we will find the means to appropriately motivate them.  These motivations shouldn't be seen as punishments or a negative thing either.  Positive reinforcement, encouragement and guidance is crucial when challenging those you lead.  Find the appropriate source(s) of motivation for your team and embark on helping them see how capable and valued they truly are.  Don't neglect this step because the members of your team need your motivation to achieve the goals you are setting out to accomplish.  

Caution & Completion:
If you find yourself leading only to turn around and find no one is following then perhaps you’ve sacrificed the humans on the altars of mission.  Beware of the dangers of leadership.  Leadership carries both a burden and a blessing if used correctly.  The burden being people are seen as people, not just another number or group to lead.  Compassion is vital; active listening is crucial and motivation is paramount to walking across the finish line with those you began it with.  Don’t sacrifice the humans for the mission…we need each other and we cannot accomplish anything without every component and every person.

 

***Disclaimer, leaders carry a tremendous burden and those who follow must also try to recognize where leadership is coming from and as the old phrase says “the door swings both ways”.  Much of what has been written here should also be applied in reverse.  Those who follow should carefully consider their motivations and consider what may be best for all concerned.  Mission cannot be accomplished unless both leader and follower can work together. ***

-Just something else to ponder today.   

Is Salvation important…to the Church?

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Sometimes I think the church is more concerned about competition than it is about people.
It strikes me that many churches spend a lot of money on “church-growth” seminars and guest speakers and even other resources just to increase their Sunday attendances.  I doubt many pastors are like this, but at times there is this perception that the more people a church can attract the more in tithes and offerings they will receive.  

I feel it vital, for we who are church members and fellow sojourners of Christ, to stop the comparisons and the rivalries.  What is the purpose of such folly?  Are we fulfilling the great commission when we look across the street and the other church and covet what they have?  Are we really reaching the lost and hurting in our world when we mock or slam other churches and denominations?  Granted there is a time and place for theological conversations, but our unloving actions have a way of destroying any good we might do.  

Fellow believers in Christ, how vital do you consider the salvation of others to be?  This isn’t a question about how big or small your (our) church is, this is a question about your (our) mission and your (our) priorities.  Sometimes we cloudy the already murky waters of what we do and make excuses for our busy-ness when the #1 priority is to, through the Holy Spirit’s power, help save lost souls.  If what we are doing does in no way impact the potential salvation of the lost then, perhaps, we must once again re-align our priorities.  

I offer you two solutions to assist in the realignment of mission:

 1.  Stop Coveting what you do not have!  

1 Corinthians 12:12 – “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

We need to get back to work!  Just because another church is having success doing one thing really well, doesn’t mean that we have to stop what we are doing and adopt their mission.  Perhaps they are fulfilling their “part of the body” and we need to put our heads down and stop coveting what they are doing!  Our mission and effective tools, given by the Holy Spirit, might be something completely different than theirs.  We don’t need to have an identity crisis over this, we have to move on and prayerfully and humbly do as He (the Holy Spirit) prompts us to.  We may never look like that mega-church down the street, but was that supposed to be our “model” for Holy Living in the first place?  NO!  Jesus should never be replaced with out covetous longings to be someone else.  He has created us very differently and uniquely!  So with that in mind we need to stop the comparisons and sometimes the jealousy…get on with it!   

2.  Start using what you do have!  

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 – There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts and dare I say even the passion to fulfill our mission of Salvation to the lost.  So we must be willing to use what He has given us to use.  We must stop with our identity crisis and get on with the full utilization of the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit wishes us to employ!  He provides what we need, so we have to work within our giftings and abilities!  Every one of us is vital to the body of Christ.  It matter little if we serve in a small church or big church.  The message has to be the same though the gifts might often differ.  

Is Salvation important to you?  

If the answer is “yes” then we need to put aside our jealousy and our frustrations.  We may even have to go before the Father and ask for forgiveness because of our covetous ways.  The church was never intended to be some sort of statistical competitive success drive, but rather a mission of love, compassion and grace who willingly went to the orphans, widows, the poor and hurting and those who were seeking.  We are still that today?  Can we put aside our ridiculous worldly desire for statistical successes and instead focus on the vital nature of the great commission and disciple making?  

Perhaps it’s time for a readjustment of our motives and our missions.  Perhaps it’s time to get back on our knees and allow the Holy Spirit to reignite our wandering hearts.  Perhaps it is time to stop relying on our “church-self help books & seminars” (sometimes they work) and start relying more on the leading of the Holy Spirit in our churches and in our hearts.  There is not some “quick” method to salvation…it begins in relationship, love and fellowship.  So, without further adieu, let’s get on with it!  

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