Pleasant Surprises

I was greatly encouraged by the post that dropped onto my mat this morning. Alove’s regular mailing included their new D:Pack, a nice shiny booklet highlighting discipleship in 2009 and beyond with some great, practical and earthed resources and strategies.

Alove, which has been around for a wee while now has, in my opinion, been struggling to get beyond ‘concept’ and ‘hype’ and so you’ll understand why I was encouraged to see something solid beginning to appear which will resource people at the grass roots level.

However, not just excited about that. I’m encouraged by the things that were promoted:

– cell groups. Face to face discipling is a much needed thing across the whole Salvation Army in the UKT, from children to old comrades. We need to get people gathering intentionally around Jesus to get to grips with the call of Jesus on our life.

– LTGs (Life Transfrormation Groups). These are smaller (leaderless) groups that encourage two or three people to get together, read scripture, pray for each other, and keep each other accountable. As a young Christian growing up in the Army I was desperate for this. Bring it on!

– social action projects…emphasising the need to reach out in practical ways with some ideas

– and finally, Soldiership being promoted as “Radical Discipleship: The Life of a Soldier” At lase, we are seeing Alove chosing to paint positive picture of soldiership. Here’s hoping more and more young people stop being deterred by poor pictures of soldiership around them and decide to do it real to show us all what it should really look like.

You can get a copy of the D:Pack from the Alove website (I think). Worth a read and certainly worth putting into action where you are.

A Five Step Strategy to planting

Get ready for some stuff thats so simple and relatively uncomplicated that it might just blow your mind!

Floyd McClung offers five simple steps for planting. As we build the Kingdom we need simple and biblical strategies for doing that all emcompassing task of making disciples of all nations. Here is what he suggests:

1) Pray. This is not just a five minute “Lord, we fancy doing this, will you bless us?” thing. This is specific prayer, warfare prayer even. This is praying up a storm for the lost…tying up the strongman to get ready to plunder his ‘treasure.’ We pray as we walk, we pray fervently, all through the night and at ‘all times.’ We pray for God to send us divine appointments, people with whom we can say, yes, thank you God for placing me on that persons path. Pray for the community, ask God for his heart for it. Pray for effective means of discipling and building the Kingdom. Pray that you’ll find the ‘people of peace’ Jesus referered to and that you can start building with them. Pray.

2) Meet. This is a MASSIVE plea for Christians everywhere to get out of the church, away from all the stuff and get out amongs people. Remember, you’ve prayed earnestly that God will give you divine appointments…now we have to put that into action and go where God leads. Get out of the cloisters, debunk from the barracks, go AWOL from the band practice and maybe even step away from over indulging in ‘fellowship.’ Fellowship happens better when we’re engaging in God’s plans anyway!

Build your relationships with people, your oikos (as the bible calls it…literally, your household). Build this stuff expectantly. I can already hear the screams of ‘oh, thats so un-authentic…you can’t make friends just to make them potential Christians.’ Well, if you have a problem with that, take it up with Jesus. He had no problem with this stuff AT ALL.

As an Army, a great way to do this stuff is through serving. Here in Torry, although we are going ‘under the fence’ in lots of ways we are also stepping up in simply meeting the needs of people. We can be a literal help to people, it brings us into relationship. Understand, we help them whether or not we ever even get round to mentioning God, but we build relationship with them through serving them from a heart of love.

3) Make. Yeah, make disciples. Invest in people. Notice in Matthew 28 we’re told to make disciples of all nations…well, the evangelism process is part of discipleship. We notice well that none of Jesus’ disciples that he called were asked to accept him as Lord and Saviour before they could follow him. It certainly was part of it later on though, and lets not miss that out. But lets focus on making, investing, and speaking into peoples lives that we meet.

We become like a person introducing a friend to our Friend. One begger telling another where to find bread. All that stuff.

Floyd points out that Jesus gave us 7 ‘discipleship’ commandments, and when ther right time comes, we introduce this stuff:

1. repent and believe
2. be baptized with the Holy Spirit
3. forgive
4. give
5. pray
6. gather with others
7. make disciples of all nations
(build this in early as part of their DNA like someone helpfully did to me….it doesn’t leave you, you know!)

Oh…and remind them that there is a cost to following Jesus.

4) Gather.
Yeah, get people together. Pull the ones together who are seeking spiritually, those who are open. This is the beginning of things. Again, don’t necessarily wait for them to ‘say the prayer’ or somesuch thing. Food is a great way to do it…people love to eat together. And get this, Jesus said that where two or three are gathered in his name, he’s there. This is Jesus’ bare minimum for ‘church’…two or three. From that minute, you’re on your way. It begins with gathering, although you’ll feed into that as you go.

An example is our youth ward/cell/group/gathering. They’re not Christian young folk. But we’ve gathered them, they are interested, and the discipleship process has begun.

5) Multiply. Resist every temptation to contain your gathered group. Set if free. Build in the concepts of expansion right from the beginning. Train people up as you go, give away leadership bit by bit…all part of the discipleship process. Develop people step by step. Then, like Paul, you’ll be able to move on quickly to start afresh!

OK, so along the way there are going to be issues and complications….sure, thats life. But keeping those five in mind just give you pointers for planting your outpost in your living room or you gathering at the cafe or the pub/restaurant. Get stuck in, fight like a warrior and lets get the job done.

Try it…its probably dynamite!

Changing Shape, Changing Mission

The shape of our corps changes from tomorrow…the first key shift as we usher in our ‘Under the Fence’ strategy (see below).

Last Sunday was our last weekly public meeting based on the old ‘build it and they will come’ paradigm. From tomorrow, we throw ourselves wholeheartedly into being a cell/ward corps. We’re calling our wards ‘Life Groups’ and we’re multiplying them throughout the community and beyond.

Our little band of 5 who’ve attended our Sunday evening stuff up until now will form our first Torry group. Two weeks ago we established our youth cell with a group of interested teenagers from our drop-in which is going well so far. We have a little group which draws women from our lunch club which will take on cell format loosely. We have a group looking to start in the outlying area of Mastrick as an ‘outpost’ as we have soldiers up there and we are now making firm plans to start something a couple of miles down the road in a town called Stonehaven, another ‘outpost’.

Beginning the first Sunday in March, we will hold monthly celebrations to bring the groups together for a meal, worship and to just be a bit of glue to hold things together.

We are a corps of small groups who happen to have the occassional meeting, rather than a corps with meetings who happen squeeze in small groups. The difference is subtle but significant. The aim is to put discipleship to the forefront, to increase our reach and effectiveness and to build up a significant group of people before moving on to stage 2 of the strategy.

I know you are praying with us. We’ll keep you posted.

Going Organic

I came across this banner on a simplechurch website. I think it is a good reminder of the simplicity of our mission. I think this little equation works on an individual and corporate level, with the both being interlinked, of course.

Let me just expand on how I understand the terms.

Good Soil: now, I believe we have a duty to share the message with all. We all know, however, is that there are different levels of receiptiveness. This is shaped by many things that I won’t even try to list. Its not saying that bad soil can’t become good either, but the actual beginnings of life happening is when good soil is found.

Good Seed: I’ve been ‘hauled over the coals’ many a time for stating that sometimes the content of our gospel message within the ranks is less than what you could call ‘good seed’. We are still guilty at either stopping short with the gospel or turning it into something its not. I believe that whilst the scripture is innerrant, it IS possible to turn great seed into poor seed by mis-using it or re-shaping it. So, (a) be careful about the gospel we preach and (b) be aware that it requires both good soil AND good seed to produce great growth.

Growth: I just want to point out that whilst the seed carries the DNA for what comes, almong with all the other elements that contribute to growth of an organism, every tree looks different. We can become more pre-occupied with our church brand than we are with the process and fruit of the planting process. Expect growth in good soil with good seed, but don’t try to stifle it because its not looking how you expect. In Army terms, its still possible to contain very real ‘Army’ DNA without us looking like every other corps, and still be a very valid missional expression of The Salvation Army.

Plan for growth with prayer, care and responsible sowing.


Sometimes we get the impression that in order to be successful in mission and have a successful corps, that all we need to do it continue to add more and more programme on top of what, for many folks, is an already busy programme. As in many cases, 80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people and it leaves to ‘fall out’ with the faithful.

Whether starting from scratch like we are here in Torry or whether you are in a more established setting looking to grow, its great advice to simply focus on a couple of things that you can do really well. For many of us, that means a lot of slimming down, it means shedding a few ‘missional pounds’ to create a leaner and meaner ‘fighting unit.’ Lets not compromise quality with quantity.

However, don’t hear this as a plea for slacking. No, by focussing on a couple of things and doing them well, it still requires putting in the 100% effort…its just that you aren’t spreading it quite so far!

The litmus test for what we do has to be measured up honestly with your mission statement, whatever that is. Broadly, you’ll be asking “does this effectively save souls, grow saints or serve suffering humanity?” If the answer is, “no, not really” then stop it. Change focus. Don’t overload, but work ’til Jesus comes.

Waiting and Prayer

By far the most beneficial meetings I’ve been in of late have been ones which have purposely created space for allowing the Holy Spirit to minister. The practice of giving ourselves time to reflect, for example, on a sermon/message/teaching, allowing the Holy Spirit to apply it to our hearts in the context of the worship setting is very beneficial. We often shy away from it for fear of creating an elongated appeal which can seem false, but I’m not necessarily talking about a ‘rend you heart’ appeal even.

Giving people the opportunity to be prayed for, in every meeting, is something which is ingrained in our Salvationist heritage and we may have been guilty of sensationalising it. But nevertheless, lets reclaim it an restore it to its place. Whether this takes place at the Mercy Seat is incidental, but having a clear time where people can come forward for prayer, or indeed, where individuals are encouraged just to pray for others is something healthy to build into our ‘corporate experience.’

Many in our ranks may take a somewhat ‘Mrs Beamish’ approach, as I blogged a few posts ago, but lets have a good go at changing the church culture we’re in where prayer becomes a naturally supernatural norm and where Holy Spirit isn’t scheduled out of the meeting. Its easy to do, I’ve done it myself, but how I regret every time!

So often we need to get out of the way and let the Spirt of God do as he pleases.

Accountability in Mission Leadership

Many plans for how we see Torry develop were firmed up as Tracy and I took our strategy to the Divisional Strategy Council. It was good to have the input of the various divisional directors/officers, not only in terms of their affirming the plans, but in terms of the good positive suggestions in areas we were still working out details on. This sorta thing is good evidence of synergy between corps officers and DHQ working to a good advantage.

I’ve often discerened in ministry an approach that seeks to ‘keep the head down so as not to attract attionion’ sort of thing and maybe every now and again thats tempting, but I am a firm believer in officers being accountable in mission terms to their leaders. I’ll never forget the first time I had a visit from my DC when I was a Lieutenant in my first appointment in Glasgow.

I had made all the preparations of making sure all my books and rolls were up to date and available for inspection….only to discover that DCs didn’t do that sort of thing any more. This, you understand, was not what I’d read in Os + Rs and really from that point I’d made the decision to be open and transparent in terms of what I’m planning in mission terms. I just feel its good policy.

Much more so in our private lives. Growing up as a teenager and new to faith altogether, I craved someone to come alongside and provide a strong mentoring approach as I worked out ‘how faith works’ and how it should impact my life. In many ways that didn’t really happen, although there were a few that I could always turn to in emergencies! The concept of discipleship is best served by the Rabbi/student relationship that Jesus models with his own talmidim (disciples). They watched what he did, how he worshipped, prayed and interacted and was able to say ‘follow me.’ Paul, also, took this approach and was bold enought to say ‘follow me as I follow Jesus.’

I make no profession that I’m absolutely perfect in every way (or any way for that matter), I’ve failings for sure, but much rather than have an attidude of ‘do as I tell you’ as leaders, we much more want to be in the place of saying ‘do as I do…learn from me as I learn from Jesus, and together we’ll go further.’

Can I encourage us all to ask in what ways are we accountable in our spiritual life and our service in the Kingdom? Ask God first, and then act on what you find.