Dear Salvation Army, Rituals And Sacramental Living

Our founders, William and Catherine Booth got away from the observances of Communion and Baptism…did they go too far?

I know that this blog has covered the sacraments in the past…I’m will not shy away from such conversations.
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The question still remains, did our founders go too far in regards to the sacraments?  I am not disagreeing with our doctrinal stances, I wish to ask the question.   I also understand that they weren’t condemning anyone who participates in communion or baptism, but has it become something of an elephant in the room?

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One could argue that anything could become ritualistic and routine within worship practice.  Thus, if our only argument against communion or baptism to be “ritualistic” in practice then perhaps we could look at certain practices we in the Army already participate in.

Can sacred moments in worship become routine and ritualistic?  Yes.  Have they become so in our services?  Yes, at times.

searchA SEARCH FOR SIGNIFICANCE
If anything that we do within the practice of worship becomes something that it was never intended to be, should we cast it out?  Or, should we bring it back into alignment?  Whatever “it” may be?

When we have our altar calls and the Mercy Seat is open, do we make it less significant if it is over emphasized…every.single.Sunday?  I do not wish to diminish its importance in worship, but has it, at times, become our surrogate “go to” for the sacramental life?  Is the Mercy Seat and the “sacramental life” one in the same, or mutually exclusive?  Are there other representations or manifestations of the sacred that we over look and/or ignore in the process?

Please do not misunderstand me, I do not wish to downgrade the importance of the Mercy Seat, but is there a danger of IT becoming ritualistic and thereby causing its loss of significance?  Isn’t that partially why our founders moved away from the Sacraments in the first place?

“Outward Expressions of the Inward Change”
I believe that all of the external representations of holy or sacramental living are NOT as important as the inward relationship.  This should not, however, eliminate the outward practices.   It’s like a love relationship with a would be spouse or soul mate.  You want the world to know that you are in love with that person and you want that person to know it too.  So we express our love in many ways.  We put our love on display for all the world to see.  This is what the sacred should look like!  It isn’t about appearances, or a statistic for Holiness meeting.  It isn’t about anyone else but our relationship with the Lord in a corporate setting.

How are our outward expressions today, dear Soldier?  Are they bound up in appearances and/or ritual practice?  Have they lost some of its true meaning?  Are we running the risk of having these become more about practice than about significance within our hearts?

Anything can become rituals devoid of meaning and significance if we allow them to develop as such.  What kind of fruit are we producing from our spiritual walk with God?  Can we be honest with ourselves as we reevaluate our priorities, our practices, the outward expressions of our inward change?

If we are called to be set apart and to live out holiness in our lives, how can we avoid the ritual, the mundane, the loss of spiritual emphasis?

These questions are worth pondering today in our Army world.
More to come…
To God Be The Glory!

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.