I came across Geoff Ryan’s new book, ’10 on The Army: re-imagining The Salvation Army for the 21st Century’ at Roots this year. The books don’t seem to be widely available as yet, so I thought I’d go through the ten articles, lift some quotes and make some comments.
Article 1: McArmy and the Franchise Factor
I think that much of the genetic code of The Army stalled in the early part of the twentieth century, wedded to a culture – a formula – that we have remained doggedly loyal to even as it has become irrelevant and archaic.
AC – The Army must seek to express its core values in the local context. People joke about sausage factory training colleges, training all officers the same way. It still happens. No corps used to be complete without a band, songsters, Home League. By and large, these things have a fair degree if irrelevance to them in what they have become. Yet we still measure success by them. As much as we love The Army, it is much more important to preserve the passionate motivation for our existence rather than just the forms
What are the values that drive the corporate culture of our day and age? Are they compatible with scriptural values, or antithetical? What price are we paying in our ability to speak prophetically into culture when we align ourselves with the power structures of globalization that encourage consumerism in order to encourage materialism?
AC – Geoff maintains that the new empires are large corporations and the fact that the Army still seems to model itself on empire. The Army have been jumping on empire building for years…Church Growth movement, and now Natural Church Development (NCD). These are all tools of preserving self. They remove us from mission to maintenance. When we jump on the bandwagon of becoming more business-like. We lose each week, it seems, another element of freedom to be creative in the Salvation War. What happens is that we end up with a church culture that says: ‘come to us to be saved, but only when we are open, and only on our terms.’ If we are going around wedded to a pre-decided plan wherever we are and not adjusting ourselves for the lost, we become no better than the churches of Booth’s days which excluded vast amounts of people.
Have we become McArmy? And are we happy to be McArmy uncritically franchising ourselves all over the place in pursuit of a magic formula that does not actually exist?…Are we still shaped by values that at the most fundamental level clash with the values of our faith?
AC – we want to be celebrating the diverity of God’s creation and recognising that not everyone in every nation is the same. But we also need to recognise that to win a community, we have to bend over back-wards to make that possible. What are the transferrable principles of The Army’s mission? I’d argue: salvation, holiness, visibility/availablity, internationalism, commitment to the last lost and least, prophetic calling out with in the church and within society the heart and standards of the Kingdom. The rest is commentary and most certainly dispensable.