More on Soldiership

Back in May 2004 I wrote the following on soldiership…it relates well to the last post.

So Major Chick Yuill was talking to us about Leadership yesterday. We were discussing the whole post-modern effect and how it impacts on people’s ideas about joining things and being committed to things. Obviously in The Salvation Army, our membership lines are pretty strong, to be a soldier is to enter into covenant with God, to live betrothed to those promises. Dilemma?

I agree that people are not joining up quite so much these days. We have the sort of half-baked membership form of adherency, which now thankfully at least has a declaration of faith. That’s not to look down on adherents, I am sure the system has its benefits somewhere. But, perhaps it is time we looked at seeing membership/soldiership through different eyes it will give a different light.

In the UK, being a soldier basically is summed up as those people in the corps who are “Christian,” feel able enought to put aside drink, alcohol etc. and so enter into “full membership”. If that is all that soldiership is about, then I don’t want soldiership and I dont want to be part of a church where that is the whol deal. Soldiership is more than that.

Soldiership, by its very definition is tied up with relating to the army. A soldier relates to the army, its structures, orders, and a military soldier goes to the war, not necessarily because he is passionate about that war or what it stands for (listen to some soldiers in Iraq at the moment!), but because it is his duty and his job…his chosen vocation. No wonder, when it comes to somethign as rich as our spiritual lives that people in the post-modern culture don’t want to relate or be associated with that.

The thing that came to me as we listened to Chick was images of young men and women in little boats climbing up huge military vessels making peace protests and environmental stances, young Palestinians daring to throw little rocks at huge armoured tanks, a group of people standing outside a famous department store protesting about animal fur and all the other stuff like that.

So, whats the difference? What makes post-modern people do stuff like that? Well, its clear that they relate to the cause and not to the struture built up around the cause, but, of course, because of the cause, they attach themselves to the organisation which is passionate about the cause.

I’ve heard someone say that whilst the soldier relates to the Army, the warrior relates to the fight. Geoff Ryan comments that when he took The Salvation Army to Russia, he thought he was talking something rediculous into a culture that was absolutely tired of military and fighting and uniforms and all the rest of it. But, the Russian people were attracted to it….The Salvation Army and all its imagery had come to them and replaced all their old pictures and given them a new one. Communism had been a negative, The Salvation Army, its ideals, its fight, its self-lessness and its transforming message caught the imagination.

Captain Gordon Cotterill in his URBANarmy blog makes comments about a tired military metaphor. I totally agree that when we look at some elements of salvationism today, then it is tired…very tired. However, what is it about the “cause” that makes ranks of post-modern men and women sight up and risk their lives doing things like climb Big Ben in order to protest against war??

Soldiers relate to the Army…Warriors relate to the fight. I guess the adventure is to start promoting soldiership as an adventure, as holy heroism, as dedicated to the cause. But what of The Salvation Army? It can only be the richer because instead we will have soldiers who relate to the war as opposed to just the army. We will have adherents so caught up with the vision of what it means to be a soldier/warrior that they won’t want to stop at adherency.

We need a culture that is, as Chick says, “fuzzy at the edges”, people need to feel comfortable about coming and sharing with us, but we need, as he went on to say, to be “solid at the core.” Actually moving into being part of the church, being ‘baptised’ into it is the sage where there is commitment to discipleship and all that follows. WE NEED TO STOP MAKING SOLDIERS WHO ARE NOT WILLING TO BE DISCIPLES AND BE DISCIPLED. We cannot afford to have a two tiered membership, there seems to be no biblical or scriptural presidence for this. You are either baptised (enroled?) into the fellowship of the church, signifying that you have left your old life behind and starting a new one and now enterong the covenant of discipship, or you are not, or…at least you are committed to working towards it.

But what about our additional “requirements” for membership? Drinking and smoking, taking drugs? Bg issue, perhaps for the next blog, but I want to say that surely common sense and a good look at society shows us the dangers of all these things. Chick Yuill talks about making those elements voluntary…perhaps there is something in that. But, my point is that if people are engrossed with the bigger vision of knowing Christ, serving Christ, winning others to him like I did when I was converted, then the drink issue pales into significance and we will discover the absolute power of God to deliver us from those things! Are we the ones who “are of little faith?”

Well, thats it for now…
yours in the fight
Andrew Clark

One thought on “More on Soldiership

  1. It would be interesting to take the discussion onto a forum on this, but while I agree the military side is awfully tired in a corps, I’ve been astonished at how lively and vital it can be in a fresh expression setting. There is no way we can afford to either lose this or compromise on it. Going back a minute to my present obsession, which is Alan Hirsch’s book The Forgotten Ways, he identifies ‘communitas’ as one of the features which (if they all appear) create conditions for potential phenomenal growth in the church. I’m just playing with all of this in my mind and trying to make sense of it alongside what I’ve already read elsewhere on cells, simple church, and so on. But the point of what he describes as communitas is that it is that quality of community that forms when a group of people have either undergone suffering together for their beliefs – for example endured persecution as in the church in China – or who have taken on a really challenging and difficult mission together and been forged into an effective and close team in the process of giving all they have to that endeavour. We seem to be torn in two directions here in UKTSA – Alove perhaps provides a context for some younger people who want to take on that huge challenge of mission in the UK together, but in a regular corps you are a bit of a freak if you’re looking for that kind of challenge to rise to as part of a team, assuming any kind of team can even be found or joined. All the churches around us seem to be filled with what Sara Savage referred to cuttingly as the ‘settled blancmange of social loafers’. I think that was rather judgemental, as many are held back heavily by doubts and uncertainties, as well as woundedness and suspicions of becoming involved/committed in organised church. But it matches Barna findings in the US, which put the figure of deeply committed at about 18% as far as I remember.Fresh expressions offer a chance to help both groups but we need some very well thought out approaches to make it work. I’m not sure what fuzzy edges Chick had in mind, but if it refers to our ways of doing church, that would match my convictions.Maybe we could do with a dedicated site for cafe conversations on line on the future of UKTSA? Blessings and thanks for a good post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.