What is tradition and why do some of us cling tightly to it and some of us find it suffocating? Why is there such a struggle between being something new and holding tightly to something old? Is tradition or newness best for the Corps?
The answer is yes to both.
I think that in order to find what’s best for the church, within the Salvation Army, both camps must loosen their death grips and come to see that the answer lies within each claim, just in an unexpected way.
Jesus was the master at taking something old and renewing it. Not remaking it, but renewing it.
And I believe the answer to why our churches are dying lies within the struggle to come to terms with the unexpected, because if we do not come to terms with the unexpected, I am afraid that we may go the way of the Pharisees and leaders of the law. Are we to become something that a church history class studies in a hundred years from now, a charitable entity who faded away into irrelevancy because we just couldn’t grasp the way of the unexpected?
Jesus was always doing things that upset the religious leaders, healing on the Sabbath (how dare he) not fasting (how un-Jewish of him) telling the Pharisees they are dirty unwashed bowls (gasp), what in the world is this man doing?
He was not remaking the law; he was renewing how the people saw it. They had taken something simple and made it complicated and unwieldy. They made it difficult for God’s work to be done because of all the, ahem, addendums that they added to it….
It is not that the old ways where bad in themselves, but the way that people applied them over the years that made it into something that it was not intended to be.
It happens. People muck things up from time to time and God has to shake things back into the rightful place. The question to ask ourselves is, are we going to move with God when he shakes this Army or will we get left behind as God moves his mission forward in this world?
So…what’s the answer?…
The answer, I believe, lies in the unexpected.
Jesus’ actions were always consistent with the law, just in different and unexpected ways. He observed the ritual but took the meaning of the law and expanded and enriched it! The Pharisees and religious leaders had it backwards; they took the ritual and expanded it while ignoring the richness and meaning of the law in the first place.
And here is what I believe has become a stumbling block for the Salvation Army. We don’t need more ritual a.k.a more “growth” programs, more paperwork, more ritual, more law, what we need is a deeper richer meaning to the simple foundation of what make the Salvation Army who it already is.
We do not need to get rid of our rich traditions, but we do need to get rid of all of the baggage that hinders the mission.
Somewhere we lost our simplicity of mission among the mounds of responsibility heaped onto Officers backs, and I mean all Officers not just Corps Officers. We have spread ourselves so thin that we are in danger of becoming shallow and useless, instead of deep and rich.
I am not calling for a revolution of the Salvation Army, what I am asking you to consider is a re-evaluation of who we already are. Not to remake the whole system but to pull out and expand what is good and to keep it SIMPLE! Let go of the complicated extended busy work and enrich and deepen what is good! Don’t extend the shallow and complicate the simple!
Jesus’ way is simple and his burden is light, it’s his followers who tend to weigh things down.
So, how do we figure it out? How do we come together as an organization and deepen, enrich, simplify and give deep meaning to the traditions we already have, how do we embrace the unexpected?
That is something that we have to figure out together.
Let’s let God Shake us up shall we?