Forward 2008

This week of the year is one I love, I have to say. Its time for me to take stock, review, and pray about the year coming, think about my personal warfare, resolve and set goals for the year to come and generally have an opportunity to stand at the beginning of a year and thank God for what might be accomplished for Him in it. It’s getting into that time now where you start to go from simply observing how a corps runs, what it gets up to, to now starting to steer direction. I’m not a believer in the ‘wait a year before you do anything’ theory because there are people being lost, time is not a luxury.

I’ve already outlined here my vision for more soldiers and junior soldiers. I’d also love to see work increase in the other towns and villages in our corps district…its a vast and under-evangelised stretch of land with several small communities. I’m still praying about the best plan of attack. Helmsdale, Golspie/Brora, Keiss and Lybster are viable communities for work of some form.

I am also hoping to develop local leadership in the corps. We have but two senior local officers in the corps, albeit we have a few good folks doing ‘non-senior’ posts (if you know what I mean). They are all fantastic, but we need more. It will simply be about inviting people to stand forward because there are many people well qualified to lead.

We’re looking forward to the prospect of an Essential team towards the end of next year (pray for a building we can rent to house them) and also the development of our Hub project, utilising an unused building that is part of our little ‘compound.’

We’ve a few ‘in-house’ fellowship details we want to look at too….just about giving people who already attend more opportunity to interact, fellowship and get to know each other better.

All in all, as we do all this as well as do some projects under the Hope 2008 banner, we’re hoping for good fruit! Pray for us, will you?

The Word

I’ve just been sitting here enjoying one of my new Christmas pressies and realised its 2.40am! My other half bought me the complete NIV Bible on CD and I got hooked on listening. It’s something I’ve been wanting for a while, especially for the car and for places where there’s no light. The audio accompanying regular reading just brings extra impact. If you shop around you can get this set for around £30 (and do shop around, because some people charge as much as £100 for the same set).

Whatever you do for 2008, why not make the extra commitment to get into the Word. When you get into the Word, the Word will get into you and you’ll reap the benefit in every area of life. This is the ideal time of year to be finding yourself a ‘read it in a year’ bible plan to ensure you’re reading through the whole scripture at least once this year. There are plenty on the internet.

And hey, don’t stop at just reading, live it out!

Lord, let Christmas be Real to Me

I wrote a wee song to sing at our Christmas Holiness Meeting this morning. Its to the tune in the chorus section ‘Lord, make Calvary real to me’ (CS81) and its called ‘Lord, let Christmas be real to me’.

I offer it for you to use if not this year but next if you want to. It worked really well in the meeting and the familiar tune helped folks. We used it for the response time.


Lord, let Christmas be real to me.
Lord, let Christmas be real to me.
Help me to see your great gift of a Son for me,
Lord, let Christmas be real to me.

Lord, place joy in my heart today.
Lord, place joy in my heart today.
Thrill me with wonder and praise of your Holy name,
Lord, place joy in my heart today.

Lord, let peace reign in me today.
Lord, let peace reign in me today.
Peace that helps me to bring love to the world, I pray,
Lord, let peace reign in me today.

Tis the season…

Had a good day of meetings. Busy holiness meeting this morning and a packed hall tonight for the carol service. Our new Kids Alive Choir put in a performance and it was good to see mums and dads and grannies etc etc there to support. We were a few kids down, but was great to have them all. Our little Sunday School did a wee bit too, bless em.

I smiled at a little conversation after the meeting: ‘busy tonight Captain, glad its not like this every week.’ Did I say conversation? I think I meant gob-stopper! :o) I think I knew what the person meant…its like I promised our good corps folks like it would be when you have an influx of kids with no real church connections…chaotic! Now, I love chaotic…it seems so very authentic to me to have a messy church. Other folks don’t quite see it like that though I suppose.

A corps needs to be prepared to give and take a lot when expecting new people to turn up. We’ve got some important ground work to cover as a corps to prepare us for new people. This is the challenge any established corps faces. Its a joyful challenge though!

I doubt this will be the last blog before Christmas, but just in case, have a Happy, Jesus-filled Christmas!

Christmas Message – Bishop Mike Hill of Bristol

Was looking around on You Tube and found Bishop Mike Hill’s Christmas message…posted it here for you. Had the opportunity to meet the Bishop in Bristol, and to hear him preach once or twice. It was great to encounter a high ranking man such as him with a strong, modern, evangelical and engaging message. I listened to him preach to a group of around 500 teens to mid-20 year olds on one occassion and he brought the house down.

It also challenged me again about how we should be using the internet positively to share the message of the gospel. Hope you take a couple of minitutes to hear the message.


So, I mentioned a few posts back the whole junior soldier and senior soldier thing. 10 senior soldiers and 20 junior soldiers. To be more exact, we’re especially talking 10 adults and 20 children saved…whether they reach soldiership during the course of the year is not quite as important, so long as they’re saved and recruits.

God’s really confirming it for me and my faith is building alongside the prayer. Growth has been slow here at Wick in recent years, conversion growth that is. All you Wick readers, are you praying already as we prepare to launch this vision in the new year?

Report of Our Current Strength
I’m not sure exactly the reasons for lack of growth in recent years, I don’t want to offer any conjecture, but to put it bluntly, apart from transfers in (that doesn’t really count as growth, but I’ll tell you we’ve transferred 5 in), we’ve enrolled 2 soldiers since 2000 and lost at least 9 that I can make out due to promotion to Glory, backsliding etc. An overall loss of 7 soldiers in 7 years. The transfers in dull the reality, I suppose.

Of our 41 soldiers, 7 aren’t able to regularly attend due to health or having recently backslidden in the months running up to when we came here. Of the remaining 36, there are possibly 6 who are under 60 years of age. Of that remaining 30, maybe about 10 of them are between 75 & 80+. In that 36, there are varying ranges of engagement with the mission of the corps.

As for Junior Soldiers, well, we have…wait for it….none. Yet, we have 200+ children on our JAM Club registers, all hearing the gospel every week. In that regard, our problem is integration, discipleship and sustainability.

As I’ve blogged before, we do have a history of major revival with 500 people seeking the Lord in the space of around two months. We’ve also had subesequent ‘mini-spurts’ of growth. A salute to Captain Grace Gordon for one particular season during her time here.

So, that’s where we are at the moment. Here’s hoping that by the time this date comes round next year, we’ll have good things to report for the Lord. People like to quote the old phrase ‘its God that does the saving.’ I say thank God for that, but we do find in the New Testament the idea of ‘going out to save people’, especially from Paul. Jesus spoke too about ‘catching people.’ Jude speaks about snatching people from the fire. I’m all for it. It simply means bring people to the Saviour…taking our part in the process. The fish won’t jump into the net by themselves. ‘We don’t wait until people want to hear about Jesus, we go to them otherwise we’ll be waiting a long time'(to paraphrase Catherine Booth.)

Our methods? Do as much as we can, to the most we can, in the best way that we can, in order that we might reach but some. If it falls into that category, we’ll be doing it in 2008! You recognise that here in Wick, ALL evangelism is friendship evangelism, no matter what you do, because nearly everyone is in some form of relationship with us. Here in Wick, we don’t carry out our mission in isolation from being an integral part of the community.

The Lord has confirmed prophetically that he is bringing a harvest out of season for us. Its out of season because we’re not ready, it doesn’t seem possible, I’m still just sharing the hope and dream, but I feel some sort of move in my spirit.

Now…where did I put my fishing net…

Praise Note, Prayer Note

I begin this post with a note of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. Long term readers of Army Renewal Blog will know that this time last year, due to a variety of circumstances, that I was off work because depression had set in. It used to happen now and again, throw back from a heathen upbringing. I just want to say that I have been free from depression since that time. Praise God. He is able, more than able. Go on, believe him for that thing that’s troubling you today. You know who you are, yes, you…I’m talking to you. You know who you are!

As I look back a year, its weird to be in a different place again for Christmas. As an officer you do things for a couple of years and then you miss them when you don’t do them, only to be presented with a new set of ministries and opportunities in a new place. Carol Young, our successor at Pill was recently blogging on some of her Christmas activities this year and I had a few smiles as I recounted the people and places and times.

This week is gearing up to be a full one, as you’d imagine. But as I was saying to my folks this morning, we must remember that the thing that will last from Christmas is our holiness experience, how our faith grows. Don’t miss Jesus is the midst of it all. Thats my prayer for you.

I’d ask for prayer for one particular event this week….I have to primary schools worth of children coming to the hall for their Christmas service. There will be about 240 children plus teachers and parents. I’ve been asked to use the idea of ‘Christingle’ as the basis for my message (if you don’t know what it is, Google it). Its a good opportunity to share Jesus with the kids, so many of them I know and love.


yours, under the flag

Andrew C

Beautiful Scotland

After carolling today, and because our youth club has finished for Christmas, I had a longer spell of time to have with the kids before I went with the War Cry to the pub. We had a lovely drive to a beautiful place called Lairg on Loch Shin, in the southern part of Sutherland then down to Bonnar Bridge.

It was incredibly relaxing and the scenery was out of this world. Thank God for Scotland…breath of fresh air in more ways than one!

Velvet Elvis Reflection 1

BEFORE YOU READ: This post will not make sense to you unless you have read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell.

Regular readers of Army Renewal blog will know that I’m not particularly a fan of Rob Bell. I recognise too that the moment I offer any thought on his writings that people will have to restrain themselves not to a)brand me as a narrow fundamentalist or b)feel a sense of duty to defend his writings at all cost because….well, for whatever reason.

Yet, Rob, in his book Velvet Elvis does encourage readers not to take everything he is saying at face value. Moreover, he encourages critical engagement. The more time passes, the more people I am aware of who are being blown away by the message in the book. With all the honesty and thought I can muster, I still must confess that the message of the book worries me. But before I mention those again, I just want to say that there are a few things I agree with in his book (I’m trying to be dimplomatic here!!!). I’ve spent more time with the book and just want to comment.

Where we agree
– He talks about salvation going beyond just salvation of the soul. As a Salvationist I’m comfortable with that…of course I am. He goes on to talk about restoration, and whilst I don’t follow his escatalogical conclusions in that area, I believe the gospel is restorative.

– I do agree that we are always interpreting scripture, of course we are. I believe that there are right and wrong ways to do that, but of course, every time we read scripture we interpret it. I also agree with him when he says we must do this in the context of community, working out together how to live out Christian faith.

– I agree with him in that the war cry of the Reformation is not ‘reformed’ but ‘always reforming.’ The principle of ‘always reforming’ or ‘semper reformanda’ is key to the heart of orthodox Christian faith. The sad thing is that many reformed churches are not longer reforming, but are simply reformed…something that has happened instead of happening.

– I agree with his persective on ministry that we must kill superpastor or superofficer or superwhatever. It is biblically unnatural, unhelpful and unsustainable. Its enough to send a person insane, the perpetual demand to be super-Christian in the sense of ‘professional ministry’ or clergy centred ministry.

– I agree too that we too often create a sacred secular divide. We as Salvationist belief all life is a sacrament, it can all be holy if it is not unholy. So yes, I love to listen to some ‘secular music’ and hear spiritual messages resonate like the next person. ‘Where the streets have no name’ by U2, for example.

So, those are some areas where as I was reading again I found an ‘amen.’

Let me write again (for my sake if not yours) where I depart company from Rob.

– the ‘velvet elvis’ analogy is misleading. He talks about a picture of Elvis he has in his basement…its there because its a static peice of art…the creator has stopped painting and the painting never becomes a greater piece of art. He relates this to the Christian faith, saying that Christianity and the teaching of Jesus needs to be repainted, suggesting that folks perhaps a bit like myself who are not as fast and loose with their theology have simple stopped creating.

I just want to say that my study, theology and understanding of God is not something that I’ve completely uncovered and mastered. I view God and faith as an immense masterpiece, pre-created by The Creator. It is all in place, its beautiful, awesome and captivating but one which is uncovered piece by piece as we seek God, explore who he is, understand and meet with him. Its not that I need to repaint it, its that I need to discover more of who he is.

This is not simply semantics, I hope you can see the fundamental difference. I don’t need to recreate God or Christianity…what God has done and who God is is perfect…my joy is to find him. The trampoline for me too is teaching, ideas, which allow me to discover more of who God is, discover the plan (or the wall, as he describes it.)

– I don’t believe it is enough just to affirm God where he is, or point him out, and give truth applause where it turns up. Of course love, truth, goodness and all those things have their source in God, we are made in his image. But those things are not enought to produce righteousness in us. Like Bell said, Adams experience is our experience, we’ve falled, we’ve eated the fruit and that needs rectified. Adam, even in his lost state, knew God at work, because his conscience was still alive, he was still able to perceive God at work. But seeing God at work is not the same as having God do his continuing work in our lives in response to regeneration. I can watch a tap running with water all day and recognise its properties, benefits and potential for keep me alive, but its only when I drink it and keep drinking it that I remain alive.

The other aspect of this is that he talks about affirming truth wherever it is found in other religions. Yes, there are parts of God’s truth, simply fundamental truths about the world that will be inherent in all schools of thought, but I reject his notion that we can call those notions ‘God.’ His analogy with the couple about to get married is about humanism, universalism, making god of our own perceptions and experiences and has little to do with actually experiencing the I AM. It is never, never, enough to say that because a Muslim has a good value, or because a couple can love each other, or because non-Christian thinkers sometimes say truth that it ultimately all points to God. This is only a step away from saying there is salvation outside of Jesus Christ.

There are those, according to Jesus, who say ‘Lord Lord, we’ve done this and that in your name’ and he will say ‘depart from me, I never knew you, you worked for the enemy.’ Not everything painted as light is light….it can often be just paint, a poor imitation for light itself

– For Bell, Christian truth is relative. He advocates the view in Velvet Elvis that if one community says such and such a thing is right, it is just as good and valid as a community to who take a different stance. Its equally right in both cases…that is, until someone comes up with something better or a new angle. Through the book he is all about applying the message as people find it to be true, yet, consistently (although subtly) attacks Christians who don’t see it like him. If you think this is a crude summation of this aspect of his teaching, then I have simply offered it in the same tone that he criticises Christians who have clear biblically based moral teachings on certain subjects. He seems to be offended by universal Christian truth. If he says that God is truth, and as he affirms that Jesus is the way truth and life, and that Christian faith and practice is worked out in the context of community, but in the next breath suggests that faith and truth are relative and that there are some sections of community which haven’t earned or don’t deserve to be heard, there is a fundamental error.

– he talks about their being no place where God isn’t. This is true, of course. But we must take into consideration teaching about the Kingdom of God which actually isn’t established every where. Yes, the principles are established for all eternity, but they actually have to be worked out, applied, ushered in, established. Sure, God is there, but we cannot cannot cannot cannot say that the rule of God exists in every place. Its rarely the case of simply pointing out the rule of God, there are many places where hard fighting has to be done for the rule to be established.

These are but reflections from deeply reading the first two thirds of the book. I’ll be back with more when I’ve finished again………..

Give us faith for souls

The Lord has laid on my heart that we should aim for 10 new soldiers and 20 junior soldiers by Christmas 2008. What does this involve? It will involve deeper discipleship and decisions for some of the people on our fringes, it will involve soldiership being portrayed in a different light for some, it will involve, mainly, prayer love and evangelism.

Most people would say, especially in the UK, that numbers don’t matter. My last DC, Cliff Bradbury, used to say that you count what you value. When I say 10 soldiers and 20 junior soliders, what that is interpreted as is ten converted men and women in a covenanted discipleship process and 20 children doing the same.

I have some friends who’d say this aim is too low. I’ve some that say its unobtainable. But yet this is what I feel the Lord is saying. Now, either God is sharing that he knows that 30 will sign up this year or whether he is just trying to help us raise our game, I don’t know but I’m looking forward to the process!

When you break it down, it is one adult becoming a soldier about every 5 weeks, not even one a month on average.

Children, we’re talking about two a month on average. That’s simply 2% of the children who attend our weekly JAM Club. Seems like my faith should be higher when it comes to children!

Like you, I’m not interested in scalp hunting, number crunching, bums-on-seats counting nor money either. However, I’m passionate about people finding and serving Jesus as covenanted warriors in The Salvation Army though.

What souls is God laying on your heart?