Dear Salvation Army, Cheap Grace…

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

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

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

How are we going the extra mile?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Salvation Army, Is Your Mercy Seat Broken?

Recently in our corps something happened.
No, it wasn’t another rousing chorus of “O Boundless Salvation”.  It wasn’t another meal around the table, although those are rather nice.
Instead, there in the sanctuary of our corps, in the place where lives are changed and hearts transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, in that very room…something was damaged – The Mercy Seat.

It happened because some corps kids were playing through out the building…scratch that.  It happened because not “some” kids, but MY kids happened to be playing in the corps building (Why is it always the Officer’s Kids?  Really??).   They ended up in the sanctuary.  Perhaps the lure of the microphones and musical instruments were too much.  Regardless of how they ended up there, they were there.  In the process of scaling the mercy seat, my eldest’s foot got caught on the lip of the seat and tripped.  As he tripped, the mercy seat came with him.  He tipped it over completely, and with it the top was pried off.

Upon inspection of the mercy seat, I quickly realized that it was not going to go back together without a little help from a hammer and some new nails.  Currently, repairs are underway.

It’s a Metaphor…mercy seat2
It dawned on me last night while laying in bed, and it all began with a broken mercy seat.  Perhaps in our corps we have lost what the mercy seat used to represent.  Perhaps, it is broken today and in need of repairs.

Question: Is your mercy seat broken?
I don’t mean physically, but emotionally, tangibly, spiritually, is it still intact?
Does your corps still call people to penitence, repentance and reconciliation?
Or have we gotten away from holding each other accountable for fear of offending others?  I don’t mean “accountability” in the sense of judgmental attitudes and condescending “I’m better than you” behavior, I mean is that standard and call to the mercy seat still available to all who would seek it?  Is there an invitation to it?
mercy seat
My Fear:
I fear that we as an Army have gotten away from it in some places.  If your corps still introduces people to Christ through the mercy seat, I applaud you.  The mercy seat in and of itself isn’t magical.  It isn’t really even about how nice it looks or how old it might be in your building.  What matters is the emphasis of repentance, reconciliation, and holiness.  The mercy seat could represent more than just that piece of furniture in our chapels…but do we emphasize it anymore?  There are times when I wonder if, in the next ten years, will it still be a part of our Army’s identity?  Will we have discarded it as some ancient Army relic of times gone by?

Is your Mercy Seat Broken? Mom 1
Perhaps it has gathered dust from lack of use.
Perhaps it needs some revitalization and fixing today.
Perhaps, in order to revive this Army, we ought to seek it out…but more importantly we ought to seek out the power behind our faith.

I believe the Holy Spirit isn’t finished with us yet.
I believe that He longs for us to linger upon that mercy seat as we reconcile ourselves to Him once more.
I believe that in order for us to possibly regain our passion and fire for the world, we have to go back to it and start once more upon our knees.

I fear that if we do not repair these broken mercy seats, our Army will soon follow that same fate as well.

-Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be The Glory!

(Cover image: Mercy Seat at Exeter Temple, UK)

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