DANGER: Slighly controvesial blog-read with caution (and a cup of tea).
Cadet Dawn Hinton, fellow Preparer of the Way (still in college bless em), asked me the question “when I look back at college do I laugh (or cry)?”
Sometime I think you have to laugh to be honest, and of course, there were loads of genuine laughs we had at college alongside the things that we have to laugh at to keep our sanity…there are a lot of great things that college has given me, some really good friends that I will never forget and some good opportunities for ministry not to mention a great corps appointment, but I guess if I was to respond seriously, I have to say that college gave (and gives) me a fair bit of tears.
I risk getting very personal here, also realising that some college staff read my blog now and again, but what really broke my heart about college was our identity crisis. I don’t just mean the cadets that weren’t too bothered about uniforms and flags, (although I was often tempted to say “there plenty other churches out there” Right Chris?) I am talking about not being bothered about some of the core essentials of salvationism.
- Such as a deep desire for personal holiness and a grasp of the concept that actually, in the power of the Spirit, we can actually go half an hour without sinning. For example…how can doctrine teachers throw Brengle in the bin? Would the TC be bold enough to correct that more fundamental discrepancy? Not just that Brengle would be read at least, but that we will be able to grasp what it means to be a holiness movement by the power of God.
- Such as an active concept that our enemy is as real as our God and we actually have to do something about him.
- Such as a high view of scripture as the word of God. I fully agree that we need to look at the bible intelligently and to look at the various way that people look at the authority of scripture, but only from the point of providing evidence for the scripture’s defence. Being looked upon strangely for quoting some ‘conservative scholarship’ was interesting at college. We are people of the word, with out it we might as well read FHM or Hello!
- Such as a real concept of what it means to be saved. If we muddle this one we might as well got an play bingo. I’d love to have heard someone else at college say “Its Jesus or Hell” (apart from myself) to hear it from staff wold have been a good start. Matched with that, when that realisation comes, a desire to spend ourselves for the spreading of the news. Gee…it would be impossible to rally cadets for a voluntary open air ( I wish someone would prove me wrong by trying). Do people get saved in open airs? No….especially if we don’t do them. We need to take praise to the streets, but more than that, we can’t rely on friendship evangelism to win the world…most of us are more influenced by the world than we influence it. We need more effort in the fight….come on!!!!!!!!!
- Such as a sense of calling to be salvationist. If you want to practice sacraments please join that kinda church. It is perfectly acceptable, but don’t try and place it on us…we settled this issue years ago…like it or lump it. Our prophetic mantle of “non-sacramentalism” is at risk in these days because we are more intersted in being a church than being an army at war. We still need to be a witness to the wider church about the true grace behind these sacraments, but we also still need to be proclaiming to the world that it is Jesus alone..not Jesus AND baptism and sacraments or any other thing which could become an idol. (Gee…I will be down the job centre tomorrow at this rate). If we want to do more along the lines of helping people experience God in the post-modern way, lets do it by evoking the presence of the Spirit instead of relying on capturing peoples imaginations with clever meditations, responsive readings and other clutter (not that these are wrong, but they will never work if we are not pleading the Spirit in big ways…the Army’s spiritual disease is not the need for sacraments of liturgical worship, it is for a big bath in the Spirit). How about reciting the Articles of War and our doctrines if we want to recite something??
- Such as a sense of strong leadership. None of this “Oh, I am just the same as you, we are all the same.” Rubbish…leaders are annointed to lead, with the rest of the “eldership” of course, but we are annointed to lead. We all know that a leader must be defined by someone following them. I think we lacked both role models and encouragement to lead like this at college.
- Such as a commitment to a simplistic lifestyle. I will not say too much on this one, but I do have to say that the old line “its all vanity” could have been applied. I guess some guys will not be able to survive in officership because of this…whilst we might have a right to expect a standard of decency, we must guard against materialism at all costs. We cannot serve both God and money.
- Such as a respect for leadership. A kind of respect that not only obeys when asked to, but a respect that will challenge decisions when they seem to be made out of a fear of something different or made for the sake of it…if you know what I mean. If we can’t be led, how can we lead?
- Such as a realistic expectation of real life ministry. I heard some great idealism which was not so much idealism but actually totally unrealistic. Comments like “I will definetely have one day off per week, one day for preparation, half a day for my wife and children, a good few hours a day for recreation and I will take all my five weeks holiday from the time between commissioning anc Christmas” will fall flat on their face five minutes after arriving. And will someones ministry fall down because they don’t have all that? No. You are more likely to fall down if you stick to that kind of idealism.
And I guess…what I would have loved to see the most is every cadet and officers fully understanding the work of the spirit beyond the experience of the section in the songbook, and a clear understanding of spiritual gifts beyond the ‘normal’ ones. I’d loved to have witnessed more passionate worship and prayer and diving into his word.
Hope that answers your question Dawn. Ha! Ha! Sadly, and I hope I am not right, college as it is, whilst it does have many redeeming factors which I have not mentioned (perhaps another blog), is an accurate reflection of the state of salvationism in the territory. And sadly, “a kingdom divided amongst itself will fall” (Jesus). But I have great hopes of renewal, great hopes that the Spirit of God will brand the essentials of his Kingdom and its ways on the hearts of everyone so that we might actually be equipped to prepare the way for the Lord, to make the mountains low, raise up the valleys and make a highway for our God….watch out were coming out to fight and nothing will stop us bulldozing our way through. Anyone willing to be branded by the Spirit?
yours in Jesus
Preparer of the Way
(NB Branding hurts).