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.

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