Under the fence


We’re in a situation here on our front where we have no money (as in much less than zero in our accounts) and we’ve few people (as in soldier fighting force). You could, of course, help us with that by either sending some cash or moving yourself up here, getting a job in our city and moving in. However, prayer for us will do equally as well.

Here is what we have discerened our strategy is. We have a vision to plant small groups across our city…when I say small, I mean we only want two or three in each group. We will start a new group each time it gets to four (the simplest biblical form of ‘church’ is ‘2 or 3’). At some point, when there are enough groups (say 4 or 5) we’ll gather the people together and form a nucleus for a small outpost for public worship and ministry in some form or other. We have 4 areas identified for doing this…4 potential outposts, two that will start in embryo form next week.

Its called ‘Under the Fence Warfare.’ Why? Because we don’t have the resources to go into these communities all guns blazing. All we’ve got is air cover (prayer) and on the ground warriors. We’re not so much basing ourselves ‘Scottish Regiment of the British Army’ but more ‘French resistance’ (low key but strong effort behind enemy lines)

Pray for us as we start going ‘under the fence.’

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Vision


I went to the doctors a couple of weeks ago to have a medical done so that I can drive our minibus here at the corps. I just, only just, passed it because my eyesight, without my glasses on, is only just on the required figure.

“Your vision is only just good enough” said the good doctor.

In my heart, my vision is huge. The struggle, with any vision I think, is how to get it out of the heart, onto the paper and more importantly, into action. I’ve spent these last months since end of July doing very little other than trying to listen to the Lord. The enemy has intercepted some of this time with annoying distractions such as health and other stuff, but its been a valuable time of listening to God and to others in the community.

I’m going to start speaking hypothetically here, because although we have a few firm plans for development on our Torry front, we have still so many gaps. What I’m writing now is certainly what might be how Torry and our work here looks, but its mainly what is on my heart as a Salvation Army officer and how I see ministry.

I guess, in terms of values and ‘ideology’ my framework is very much that of the 614 network although, as you’ll see later, when it comes to methodology I may differ in vision slightly. The 614 network hinges on the passage of scripture in Isaiah 61, but verse 4 specifically

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

In that context of the city, we want to be making plans to give people a hope and a future…not just for heaven, but here on earth (cf Jeremiah 29:11).

Rebuild, restore, renew, plans, hope, future.

Discussions are already underway in Torry becoming 614 Torry to identify ourselves with that theological framework. The netork is quite diverse in expressions of corps, although there are two or three who are what you could call ‘primitive salvationist’ which is much of where my mission ‘pattern’ lies. There are, of course, strong cross overs in any ‘stream’ attepting to capture the essense of The Army.

Primitive Salvationism is ‘charismatic-flavoured, mission-focussed, heroism.’

“charismatic-flavoured…”
– its about operating in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit; fully open to all the the Holy Spirit might accomplish in and through us, believing on Him for more, being free to engage in mission as the Spirit enables!

“…mission-focussed…”

– it is about recovering a heart for the lost and a passion for the gospel. It is about the desire to move beyond maintaining the status quo to being driven by our God given mission.

“…heroism!”
– it is about recognising that we are to be voices for the oppressed and suffering as well as being lifters up of the fallen. The world is in the grip of hell…we are sent to the rescue!

In very practical terms: committed to evangelism, outpost planting (through initiatives such as mmccxx to see corps/outposts started in 2000 cities in 200 countries within 20 years), strong commitment to prayer, focus on authentic Christian community by building cell/ward corps, incarnational ministry to the poor, with a strong commitment to training up covenanted warriors to engage in the fight.

With all that as my own personal sort of ‘vision for ministry’ there then simply comes to the questioning as to how the Lord wants to see it in the front I’ve been deployed to. Thats the exctiting bit. Its where the tyres hit the runway!

So, there you have it, my vision for my officership…this is what God has been forging in my heart for these last 13 years as a Salvationist and I thank God for it. If I could keep sight it it more clearly, I’d do better, but by the grace of God I’ll win!

(Credit to Lieutenant Peter Lublink at pointful.ca for the artwork used here)

The BIG conversation

I was all of a sudden reminded this evening of Tony Blair’s ‘Big Conversation’ that he initiated. Do you remember the hype? I do, but I don’t know what happened to the conversation.

Translate that into the Salvation Army context: One of the frightfully strange things about the Salvation Army culture in the UK (can’t speak for other places) is that there is very rarely a medium for open discussion…on anything!

The Salvationist (newspaper) only prints supposedly good news. Officers forums are….well, I can’t tell you, because they are private and confidential! The Officer magazine has too wide a distrubution to have real effectiveness in terms of discussion. There is no set up in divisions for wider discussion, and territorally, even official mediums such as advisory boards are becoming less and less.

Where do we wrestle with the grass roots issues? Where do we sharpen, challenge and provoke each other onto greater things?

This territory is quickly becoming a territory of individual islands linked by an over-riding identity, but where there are no ferry crossings, no phone lines and no mobile masts. Its ‘you in your small corner and I in mine’ – well, certainly when it comes to grappling with the big questions together. True, there may well be much local co-operation, such as we have here in Aberdeen.

Urgent conversation in this territory needs to take place about rekindling vibrant salvationist spirituality; about modus operandi in terms of mission; about moral, ethical and biblical issues take by leadership or individual island corps which don’t sit well at all with other corners of our movement; about the role, mission and ministry of the officer and the soldier; indeed, about the nature of the covenant and commissions that both of those undertake.

There have been times over this last few years where, either on holiday or otherwise, I’ve left Salvation Army meetings often wondering where the fire has gone. We’ve so often lost our sense of passion in worship, in soul winning and in radically serving the poor and disadvantaged. I’ve literally left halls, up and down the country, carrying a heavy load and a burden for the spiritual vibrancy of salvationism. I openly confess that there have been far too many times where I’ve felt no other desire but to walk away. There have been times where I’ve felt ‘what is the use?’

However, although sometimes the light burns very low, I am someone who passionately believes that the Salvation Army was created for more than this. I do believe we have a destiny to stand up and fill. I do believe that God has been doing a work in us, there has been a lot of ‘trimming’ of the vine, and there may be more to come.

Everyone who has a heart for what God wants to do with us must embrace the need to engage in the conversation. To ask the big questions, not shrinking back in order to preserve the status quo. Neither must we fall into the trap of ‘only reporting (or discussing) the good and the positive’. Sometimes there is sin to confess, wrongs to right and realities to face alongside all that celebration.

I can’t really expand here what provokes these thoughts, other than to say that this week, again, has been one where I’ve really had to evaluate the ‘is it worth it’ question and ‘do I continue’ question. The answer is a resounding ‘YES’, but that yes comes with a price. Saying yes to persevere is a commitment to change.

Like I’ve said many a time before…they will probably bury me in an Army box.

Army Meetings

This one totally borrowed from armybarmy.com/blog. Stephen blogging on some takes on Lt-Col Ruchard Munn (principal of the ICO in London) on the desired outcomes of Army meetings:

The Salvation Army
5-fold Meeting Outcomes

Salvation
-People saved from sin
-New Birth in Christ
-People moving from darkness to light; death to life
-Recommitment to Christ

Sanctification
-People filled with the Holy Spirit
-Baptized with fire
-Baptism of love

Deliverance
-People set free from besetting and compulsive sin
-Casting out of the demonic and unclean
-Breaking addiction
-Binding the strong man

Healing
-Physical healing
-Laying on of hands
-Anointing with oil
-Standing in proxy
-Emotional and spiritual healing

Calling to Ministry
-New vocation revealed
-Changing of lifetime plans and goals
-Anointing for spiritual leadership
-Missionary calling

Roots

…no, not Army roots…I’m talking of more ancient roots than those.

Anyone who has ever sat under any ministry of mine for any period of time will know that I have a love for the Old Testament. I really loved studying the Old Testament at Bible College especially. I really believe that if we don’t have a grasp of the Old Testament as well as the New, we really miss out on large aspects of the character of God and his purposes. We just don’t want to do that.

I’m becoming aware, through other study, that there is much that we miss about Jesus when we see him out of his earthly context as a Jew and, effectively, Rabbi. For example, I’ve learned that Jewish prayer such as reciting the shema (Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one etc, Deut 11:13-31) and other prayers in the Hebrew prayer book (the siddur) are prayers that bless the name of the Lord. The idea of blessing God is simply saying, God your are it, you’re the main guy and I am going to praise you for everything. You know, in Fiddler on the Roof there is the classic section when someone asks the rabbi how they bless God for the Tsar and the rabbi responds “God bless and keep the tsar…far away from us.’ That over-riding idea of blessing God for everything is beautiful.

But then, when I learned this, my first thought turned to the words of the Lord’s prayer, where Jesus teaches his disciples to pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” – here Jesus teaches his disciples to bless the Lord, to praise and honour his name.

It is clear from scripture too, that Jesus followed Jewish customs in terms of what he wore. For example, before he is crucified, we read that he had his all in one Jewish undergarment, to which were probably attached his tzitzit. His what? His tzitzit (Numbers 15:38 and Deuteronomy 22:12) which were little tassles that reminded Jews of the precepts of God’s law…sort of a Hebraic uniform!

In Jesus’ day, Jewish men wore a simple tunic both at home and at work. When appearing in public, they would cover their tunic with a large rectangular cloth which draped over the shoulder and fell to the ankles. This cloth was called a tallit and served as protection from cold and rain. Hanging from the end of each of its four corners (wings) was a tzitzit in obedience to the biblical command above. When we read in Malachi 4:2 that the Messiah will come with healing in his ‘wings’ the mind immediately go to the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment.

Essentially what this woman is doing is remembering that the Messaih has healing in his wings and reaching out to touch him…she is healed. But note, the significance is not the actual literal tassles, the significance is that she looked a) to the Messiah and b) to the part of his garment that signified the law, you could say the Word of God (not just book but Jesus as John identifies him in John 1…in the beginning was the Word…etc etc).

These are just some of the things that have struck me. It just goes to show that there are layers of significance in the bible that a little bit of study just brings out to you and leaves you blessed and with a fuller appreciation of who God is and what he’s done.

I believe too that a fuller understanding of the Hebrew concept of sabbath (as opposed to the highly prohibative sabbath of the pharisees and modern day hyper-conservative Christianity) is the very kind of sabbath that Jesus often pointed towards. There is much to be learned to aid us in our walk with Him who loves us and calls us His children.

‘Blood and Fire’ Now Available


My book, ‘Blood and Fire’ is now available here for £6.99 in book form (plus postage) or as a £4 download, all from Lulu.co.uk.

Downloading will save the environment as well as directing 100% of the sale amount to the work of The Salvation Army in Torry as well as saving you a few quid.

Just in time for Christmas!

The book is a reflection on the potency of The Salvation Army’s war cry, Blood and Fire, and a hopefully accessible treatment of how what we believe about salvation and holiness should impact our mission. I hope, at least, it will be helpful. Many of you may also be interested to note that it contains, as an appendix, the Ward handbook we issued in Pill when we launched the system there.

Thanks in advance to all of you who will buy yerself a copy and support the mission here.