Article 2: Joining Up…Membership Isn’t What It Used To Be
As strange as this may sound, as a mission structure, Al-Qaeda provides a greater model for The Salvation Army. A group of pre-modern people with a medieval, yet profoundly religious, worldview, have come up with a perfect post-modern organisational structure that embodies the latest in management theory and employs the best in technological gadgetry. Al-Qaeda has been described as a ‘hybrid peer-to-peer network in which a central source triggers the actions that are carried out by individual nodes.’
AC – yep, I can see it. Our hierarchy can slow things down instead of providing ‘Osama Bin Laden’ vision and resource. With a combined commitment to covenant and mission, we are united enough to simply operate on instruction and vision.
There are a number of extra-biblical clauses in the Army’s membership document that are not weathering the strain of the changing times overly well….While this is a good and prudent thing, and often very necessary for our mission…can we really, at the end of the day, make abstinence from alcohol a requirement for membership in the church, the Body of Christ? The truth is, we cannot – but we have.
AC – I disagree with his conclusion…in fact, we say that membership in the body is by repentance, faith and regeneration. We mustn’t confuse Salvation Army ‘membership’ with membership of the body. We must have the flexibility of including those who can’t sign up. We have to ask different questions about those who won’t sign up. There is strength in covenant. Admittedly, there are some non-soldiers more committed that soldiers, but that is not about the benefits of soldiership, that is about the inneffectiveness of soldiers. Controversial, but hey ho! Interestingly, Geoff, in Sowing Dragons, says that he doesn’t enrol soldiers without uniform…as he also says, its key for our mission
The bottom line is that we have confused the demands of joining an Order with the necessity of joining the Church
AC – how do we respond to this? Its simply about being clear about the fact that soldiership is not simply church ‘membership.’ Every soldier should be a committed missionary, signed up to the covenant. I firmly believe that anyone can be sold the benefits of soldiership. That’s my experience so far. I believe our covenant is a prophetic call to the church which, when fully functional, displays a radical lifestyle and missional commitment.
“Oh yeah, I’m a gym member. I try to go four times a week but I’ve missed the last…twelve hundred times” (Chandler from Friends)