Unleashing the Apostolic Genius in The Salvation Army – Part 5

5. Organic Systems

This is about appropriate structures for metabolic growth. Phenomenal Jesus movements grow precisely because they do not have centralized institutions to block growth through control. Here we will find that remarkable Jesus movements have (1) the feel of a movement, (2) structure as a network, and (3) spread like viruses.

Now, this is an issue for us in The Army. At its best, our military approach was to harness efficiency. By this, we cut out layers of beurocracy such as committees and boards. It was swift and efficient. However, like any man-made system, or even any interpretation of any sort of church leadership structure, it can become an end in itself, instead of a means to an end.

Today, however, is a different picture. Our structures don’t allow for flexibility, spontenaity and all the other ‘ity’s’ you care to mention. We sometimes structure ourselves out of any felxible mobility.

Hirsch notes, not without significance, that Jesus movements are viral networks rather than command structures. This doesn’t mean to say that there is no structure of leadership, rather it is flexible. We need a structure that can support potential growth, not stifle it.

You see, when I reflect on the leadership of the early Salvation Army, aside from the sometimes control-freakery of the likes of Wm Booth, we see something interesting. The ‘Army’ thing gave direction and purpose, but when we consider some of Booth’s strategies, we see they are something akin to organic structures.

Listen to what he said:

Beginning as I did with a clean sheet of paper, wedded to no plan. willing to take a leaf out of anybody’s book. above all, to obey the direction of the Holy Spirit. We tried various methods and those that did not answer we unhesitatingly threw overboard and adopted something else.

And while the conclusion was the military model, Primitive Salvationists were quick to borrow from other systems:

We believe that all rational measures, all the measures which men use with respect to the world, if they are lawful and good, may be transferred by the sanctification of the motive, by the transposition of aim, to the Kingdom of God. Yea, we are bound to it. (Catherine Booth. THE SALVATION ARMY IN RELATION TO THE CHURCHES)

Change, adaptation, fluidity…they were there. It also strikes me when seeing this in reality. Take the stories where Booth would get stories from some distant lands saying that people had started the Salvation Army, could he send and officer. Now thats exponential and virus like growth.

I’ve heard more modern and recent comments similar. I think it was General John Gowans who noted that he still often had people write to tell him that they had started the Army somewhere and that some of his Salvation Army Commissioners in some African territories could never quite pinpoint how many corps they had at any given point because soldiers would simply go off and start something where they were.

Now, thats apostolic genius at work, all enabled by an organic organising principal.

We all need to work at thinking about how we help, or hinder, the growth of our movement by what we think is our right to sanction or not sanction. Can we get to the place again where we structure for growth and spontenaity?

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The Questions

I’ve no problem with the Sovereignty of God and his choice to take Jo home. It leaves many with sadness, but I know her experience is now a fulness she was yearning for her whole life. No problem with that.

My questions is around the bare fact that there are precious few voices left to speak life and a different path into The Salvation Army. Jo never held a position of authority outside her corps appointment, but yet she was what one would call a true leader in the real Salvation Army in that her leadership authority spoke much wider than her own sphere of immediate infuence.

There are others who had the same voice, who are also now very much outside the Salvation Army. Even if these guys are still linked with Salvation Army communities/corps, they have stepped back from speaking into the corporate life of The Salvation Army in a significant way. Let me just name them: Chick Yuill, Phil Wall, Russell Rook. We also lost Nicola Garnham recently to cancer who was another woman in the same fashion as Jo…we needed them.

I have many friends who would say..well, we coped without Gypsy Smith and Smith Wigglesworth, we’ll survive without the others. And yes, there is a real sense that its not just about a few people. The problem is not so much that some prominent voices are now not there, but who will take the stand for a new generation?

Let there be no misunderstanding when it comes to my position. I firmly believe there are aspects of Salvationism that are repulsive to God, without a doubt. Our worldliness, our lack of prayer, our lack of zeal for the lost in this Territory are signposts of the spiritual disease we face. We have soldiers who can’t describe what mission is, don’t know the Holy Spirit in their lives and don’t know what the Kingdom of God this. Please, this is not a judgement, this is a reporting of my experiences with Salvationists. Its a statement of lament, not of condemnation and God knows I, like other leaders, try to change that. We continue to press forward in increasingly irrelevant and self-defeating modes of mission and ministry to preserve our form whilst deglecting to sense the moving of the Spirit.

God knows I love the Salvation Army and that I am enthralled with the call he has placed upon us, but I’m increasingly beside myself with grief to the levels we have forgotten our first love and moved aside to less worthy callings.

I don’t know what God is doing with me in these days. I spend nights in tears and mourning over this part of his vineyard. Every day I wake up and ask ‘what are we doing?’ and more than that, ‘what am I doing?’

Well, these are questions I am continually asking. I so sincerely wish I could be released from these feelings and just faithfully do my task as an officer…that I could leave doubt and massive concern behind believing all will be well. I wish I could stick my head in some ‘positive-thinking’ sand and ignore the blatant and obvious. I wish I could see the good on my front and forget the rest of the thing. But I’m called to The Salvation Army, not just on my local and immediate front, but as a movement and I cannot separate the two. We’re all in covenant together you see. When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer.

Major Jo Norton

A huge Armyrenewal salute to Major Jo Norton who was promoted to Glory this afternoon after a short illness. Jo’s ministry was a mighty Kingdom ministry, she was a true woman of God and a mighty prayer warrior and leader. There are precious few like her.

Jo Norton has had a profound impact on my own life and ministry. As much as 12 years ago, when I was experiencing the Roots events for the first time, it was in Jo I saw a very different Salvation Army officer and a radically different Salvation Army in contrast to all that I had experienced.

I always remember her testifying that after becoming a Christian, she had two questions. She would read the book of Acts and ask ‘ok, when do we do that stuff?’ and she would read Salvation Army history and say ‘excellent, when do we get stuck in?’ Having gotten over the dismay that the reality was far from the records, she set her face towards seeking God and his Kingdom and indeed showed the Salvation Army something different.

Jo’s ministry had a profound impact on the direction of Pill Corps whilst we were appointed there. During our Aggressive Christianity Conference, Jo provided timely prophetic ministry which I know that many can look back to as being a decisive change in Pill.

Her influence through the 24/7 prayer movement and the Wandsworth Boiler Room in particular have had an influence on the Army that is simply immeasurable.

I have to be thoroughly honest. I don’t understand why God has taken her from us. Her death is devastating to me. She was a hero of mine. I look across the face of The Salvation Army in the UK and ask who will take her place, who will take up the mantle. God’s Kingdom is bigger than one person, of course it is. Her gain is now very much our loss.

I thank God for Jo Norton and pray blessing and peace on her husband, her children and the great team at Wandsworth SA boiler room.

Authentic Discipleship

“We must still prove our discipleship by our love one for the other. It is not enough to wear the uniform, to profess loyalty to Army leaders and principles, to give our goods to feed the poor and our bodies to be burned. We must love one another. We must make this the badge of our discipleship. We must wrestle and pray and hold fast that we do not lose this.

The Army is so thoroughly organized and disciplined, so wrought into the life of nations, so fortified with valuable properties, and on such a sound financial basis, that it is not likely to perish as an organization, but it will become a spiritually dead thing if love leaks out. Love is the life of The Army. ‘If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.’ But if love leaks out we shall lose our crown, we shall have a name to live and yet be dead. We may still house the homeless, dole out food to the hungry, punctiliously perform our routine work, but the mighty ministry of the Spirit will no longer be our glory. Our musicians will play meticulously, our Songsters will revel in the artistry of song that tickles the ear, but leaves the heart cold and hard. Our Officers will make broad their phylacteries and hob-nob with mayors and councilmen and be greeted in the market-place, but God will not be among us. We shall still recruit our ranks and supply our Training Garrisons with Cadets from among our own Young People, but we shall cease to be saviors of the lost sheep that have no shepherd.”

– Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle, OF

Unleashing the Apostolic Genius in The Salvation Army – Part 4

4. Apostolic Environment
William Booth was, without a doubt, a man with an apostolic ministry. His visionary leadership, along with that of his closest encouragers, launched a spectacular expansion of the Christian faith around the world. Its a legacy that continues today as our current General, Shaw Clifton, launches us into more and more nations.
Essentially, an apostolic environment (where all 5 Ephesians 4 ministry roles are in place) is one that calls out and develops God’s people, and releases them and sends them into their part of the mission. Apostolic ministry creates the background, the bedrock, for other ministries. Apostolic ministry establishes true faith communities. It gives birth to the prophetic ministry which ensures that the people remain faithful. This then gives birth to evangelistic ministry, calling people to the one true God. With souls being won, shepherds are called into play. Once saved, the teaching ministry leads to fuller disciples who then continue the ongoing work. The balance must remain if the movement is to be kept vibrant, ‘sent’ and advancing.

The Salvation Army has inbuilt a ministry model that most churches today can only hope for. In its primitive form, the local corps setting successfully leashed all five ministry roles. In the corps officer, you could have a mix of any of the five, but her main role was as apostolic overseer, steering the mission of the soldiers. We see Generals, Territorial Commanders, Divisional Commanders ‘talking up’ our mission to win the world for God. We have our prophets calling out the word of God, speaking prophetically to the world and the church on issues such as social justice, poverty, sexual slavery, the call to holiness, and on the spiritual nature of the sacrament.

Back at the corps, the evangelists were leashed in a variety of forms, directed by Corps Sergeant-Majors galore. The Recruiting Sergeant team, including the Band and Songster Sergeants, as well as Visiting or Ward Sergeants were mobilised in pastoral care as well as in the teaching ministry along side Corps Cadet Guardians, Sunday School Guards and the Corps Officer.

We all know the story. I contend that The Salvation Army worked because the whole corps (read ‘body’) was mobilised to their particular ministry. It was honouring to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and it created an effective fighting force.

Today, to a large extent, our officers have become one-man-bands. The simple call is for each officer and soldier to discover, develop and function within his or her own gifting. As officers, we fall into the trap of trying to embody all five ministry roles. Either that, or we believe that our sole function is as pastors. We need total mobilisation.

As officers, are we teaching our soldiers to be warriors? As soldiers, are we engaging in the mission dei where God has placed us? Is the Salvationism you experience a creative culture where you are encouraged and released in ministry? If its not, what can you do to encourage change? Are the five-fold ministries alive in your setting?

Unleashing the Apostolic Genius in The Salvation Army – Part 3

3. Missional-Incarnational Impulse.

We saw that a crucial element of discipleship and disciplemaking was a thrusting of ourselves into the world. For Jesus followers, it was the same. The concept of ‘sending’ is central to the mission of the New Testament. Jesus was sent by the Father, the Spirit was sent by Jesus into the context of our lives so that we could then be empowered for witness ‘to the ends of the earth.’ But like Jesus, that ‘sent-ness’ involved becoming one with that which he was sent to. It involved a deep and intimate engagement with the world.
Hirsch describes the missional-incarnational impulse of Jesus like and good preacher and offers us some ‘Ps’:

Presence – Jesus became flesh and blood, ‘moved into the neighbourhood’ and developed a close relationship to us. He didn’t ship out to Heaven every night.
Proximity – He dealt with every strata of society, from Chief Priests, Pharisees, Roman Legionnaires all the way down to tax collectors, prostitutes and ‘sinners.’ He had table fellowship with people in ways that got him a reputation.
Powerlessness – Jesus was the ultimate servant of God. He led from a position of rejecting all the conventional methods of leadership of his day. He didn’t come as a king, priest or prophet, but he was, in the absolute truest sense, King, Priest and Prophet! Jesus influence and authority was spiritual rather than institutional.
Proclamation – Jesus announced the Kingdom as well as demonstrating it. He was at odds with the St Francis of Assisi who thought words we optional. You can’t take away proclamation of the gospel away and remain true to the gospel.
It is clear to see that the early Salvation Army understood missonal-incarnational impulse. The Army invaded and became and integral part of every slum and palace it could get into. In terms of presence, whilst Booth’s Darkest England scheme was happy to ‘get people out’, here was a commitment first of all for the Salvationist to ‘go in.’ The stories of Booth-Tucker in India are legends. With regards to proximity, William Booth’s funeral was attended by queens and prostitutes.

Even with our autocratic rank system and slightly tyrannous William Booth, we find words like this from the likes of Railton: “We are an army of soldiers of Christ, organised as perfectly as we have been able to accomplish, seeking no church status, avoiding as we would the plague every denominational rut, in order perpetually to reach more and more of those who live outside every church boundary. (George Scott Railton, HEATHEN ENGLAND) We resisted the temptation to approach mission from the lofty position of the churches, but instead was happy to be the object of ridicule from the churches who though we ‘dumbed-down’ the glorious body.

In the field of Proclamation, we took need say very little. We were born in the streets and the gospel was broadcast in every genre possible, as we all know.
For today, the questions are clear. Are we sufficiently engaged with the lost? Are we fully participating in the life of our world? What company do we keep? Is our leadership and ‘position’ as Christians expressed in service? Do we assume our position in society? Are we willing to stand up to the requirement of the gospel to proclaim the Kingdom in season and out of season? Are we still creative in getting the message out? Are we a movement accessible by ‘the people’ we are sent to serve and win?

Values

Apparently, here in the UKT we have a new set of values….or maybe its just that we’re trying to articulate the ones we’ve had for a while. Anyway….Xander Coleman is blogging on them over at his blog. You’ll want to check it out.

Unleashing the Apostolic Genius in The Salvation Army – Part 2

2. Disciple making.

Inherent in the concept of disciple making is the concept of the Holy Spirit imparting to us the grace we need to become, in essence, little Jesuses to our world. The early disciples ate, breathed and slept ‘Jesus’. Their task as talmidim, followers of their Rabbi Jesus, was to become like him in every way, to somehow begin embodying all there was about him in terms of practical expression of his spirituality as well as simply the teaching he gave. The Hebrew disciple wanted to be so close to his masters footsteps that the dust from his feet would be continually in his face. The implication being that as the Rabbi moved, so did the student.

We notice that Jesus’ method of discipleship and teaching was very pragmatic. Yes, there were times when he sat them down and taught them, but much of the teaching was ‘on the go.’ He recognised that the best way to get these guys to think like him, was to first teach them to act like him by practically ‘doing the stuff.’ The thinking came out of the action. Look at the example of Jesus sending his 72 disciples out to heal the sick and proclaim the Kingdom in Luke 10. It was at this point that he was saying to a group much wider than his initial 12 ‘Look…you’ve seen me do it, you know the score, its your turn.’ They obey, the respond and faithfully go only to return with a extreme excitement of all they had accomplished. Right off the buzz of their missional accomplishment, Jesus enforces their experience with the theological back-up to explain what had just happened.
When we delve into the history of our own Jesus movement, our own discipleship training mission, we see early Salvationists in the cut and thrust of active discipleship. Catherine Booth explains the discipleship emphasis like this: “There is no record since the Apostles of a body that has so encompassed the Divine idea, all its members being taught to make all other objects and aims of life subservient to the one grand purpose of preaching the Gospel to every creature and striving to win every soul with whom they come in contact to its salvation (Catherine Booth. THE SALVATION ARMY IN RELATION TO THE CHURCHES. p31,32).

Hinting herself at the discipleship making element of Apostolic Genius, she reflects on the contrast between discipleship in the Army and in other churches of her day. The fact that the soldier saved at the drum was pinned with an Army badge, called upon to testify straight away to their new faith in Jesus and in uniform serving Jesus at the front line the next week is proof enough of this dynamic. In Scotland, we have a phrase that goes something like ‘its better felt that telt’ – in other words, learning comes from experience, not from simple accumulation of knowledge.
As we have developed as a Salvation Army, we’ve taken up the very discipleship practices that Catherine Booth was protesting against. We She said that “these people stand in these paths of traditionalism and routinism just where their forefathers left them occupying all their time admiring the wisdom and benevolence and devotion of their forefathers instead of IMITATING THEIR AGGRESSIVE FAITH, and MARCHING ON TO THE CONQUEST OF THE WORLD. (Catherine Booth. PAPERS ON GODLINESS, emphasis hers.)

If ever there was a danger for The Salvation Army, it is this very same thing. It is imitation that is the key, seeking to live out the aggressive and apostolic faith. Not necessarily of Booth, or Railton or any other such name that played a part of throwing the mission of The Salvation Army round the globe, but in the ways of Jesus that threw the Christian faith worldwide; the same passionate commitment to living the life of Jesus that has permeated modern-day China with Christians.
Authentic discipleship can never be about either membership or about simply what we do at the Army. We must ask ourselves, ‘what exactly is the everyday, practical requirement of the follower of Jesus?’ How transformed would our world be by a group of people who covenanted to flesh out in real terms the life of Jesus in every area of life? What would our officer training look like? How would this approach change our teaching and training methods for soldiers and local officers?

It strikes me that if there is to be a future for The Salvation Army, our ‘members’ must cease to be members and begin passionately run after Jesus to see what he is doing in our day in the lives of our communities and learn from him, by his Spirit and grace within us, what it means to be a little Jesus in that immediate context. I wonder if we will have the courage to take our discipleship learning outside the classroom and hit the road with our crazy itinerant Rabbi.

Unleashing the Apostolic Genius in The Salvation Army – Part 1

It seems pretty safe to say that there is probably more conversation going on now about the nature , shape and ‘feel’ of Salvationism that possibly ever before. The fragmentation away from ‘first love principles’ have left us with a Salvation Army which isn’t always encouraging, certainly in the context in which I am placed.
I have personally been convinced that The Salvation Army is something akin to a sleeping bear. When roused and fully awake, its potential is tremendous. I’ve also been one who has been deeply inspired and motivated by the Salvationism of our founders. I’ve long been convinced that there was something in our earliest days as a movement which are key to our regeneration as a missional movement, a permanent mission to the lost.

It was in reading ‘The Forgotten Ways’ by Alan Hirsch that I began to get a really clear sense of what it was about primitive Salvation Army that was so potent. Its actually something that is common to many movements, especially Jesus movements within the Christian Church over the whole course of its history. Alan Hirsch calls it Apostolic Genius…that is, certain elements that are deeply ingrained in the spiritual DNA of Jesus movements. He draws his conclusions specifically from studying the early church and the present day phenomenon of the under-ground church in China. As I read, I started to explore how his principles applied directly to the missional DNA of The Salvation Army.

My history lecturer at Bible College once said that ‘we cannot know who we are and where we are going, unless we understand where we have been.’ The thing is, when we look at issues regarding who we are as Salvationists, we often fail to go further back than Booth, recognising that what was in him and all that The Salvation Army came to be came from somewhere else. Its all in Jesus.

Let me share each of Hirsch’s elements of what he calls, Apostolic Genius, the stuff that fuels and shapes authentic missional movements.

1. Jesus is Lord
The thing that set Judaism apart from the rest of the religions of its day was the nature of God himself. This is the God who declared in the Shema, in Deuteronomy 6:4, that ‘The Lord is God, the Lord is One.’ The implication of this was that God was the God of every aspect of life. This explains the somewhat confusing nature of Leviticus! If God was God of everything, then he was God of everything! For Yahweh, there is no sacred/secular divide. The whole of our being is under his Lordship.

As we move into the New Testament, we have a full revelation of God in the form of his Son, Jesus. The concept of the Lordship of YHWH over everything becomes focussed. We are invited to understand God through the Lordship of Jesus. The central war cry of the early church was ‘Jesus is Lord!’ This wasn’t just a statement of theology, it was the heart of the Hebraic mindset that understood that spirituality and religion were not compartmentalised to certain sections of life. It is the ultimate distillation of our faith. The whole of life was to be ordered under the Lordship of Jesus. Everything was spiritual. It is the essence of faith, after which everything else is marginal.

The early Salvation Army no doubt had the Lordship of Jesus at its heart. Catherine Booth wrote: “And what is our work? To go and subjugate the world to Jesus; everybody we can reach; everybody we can influence, and bring them to the feet of Jesus. (Catherine Booth, AGGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY)

More spectacularly, she said at another point, “ The decree has gone forth that the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and that He shall reign whose right it is, from the rivers to the ends of the earth. I believe that this Movement is to inaugurate the great final conquest of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Catherine Booth, in John Rhemick. A NEW PEOPLE OF GOD.)

Not only did Catherine believe in the centrality of Lordship of Jesus in faith, but she affirmed his was an organising principle, something which gave reason to our coming together in the first place.

We see this Lordship expressed is various ways with the primitive Salvation Army. Consider uniform wearing at work, the desire to take faith into the workplace. Look at our theology of sanctifying the ordinary and our theology of the sacramental life as opposed to the sacramental rituals. Revisit the construct of The Salvation Army flag with its reminiscent ‘Yahweh our Banner’ (Exodus 17:15) and the desire of William Booth to see it flying from every public building. One need look no further than our response to societal problems! This was a robust desire to see the Kingdom come in every sphere, and in every area of life, temporal and spiritual. Today we call it wholistic; a term we were doing before we knew the term.

Is Jesus the Lord of The Salvation Army today? Do we divide our work, service and ministry into sacred and secular? Are we passionate about bringing the world to the feet of Jesus to the extent that everything we do is organised around this principle? And what of our social work? Does Jesus claim of Lordship find itself at home at the heart of all we do in that sector? As a whole, does our ministry look like an expression of the whole ministry of Jesus as we find in the pages of the gospels?

Keep tuned for thoughts on the other elements.

The one about….our missionary challenge

It is the most obscure thing to be a missionary in your own country and culture. The state of the nation, its spiritual temperature, its distance from the ‘church’ lead us to a very specific challenge. That challenge is how do we share Jesus with people.

In many ways, we face a not to dis-similar challenge to that the Army faced at its birth…a nation far away or excluded from church and in desperate need of redemption. It was on this stage that the Apostolic Genius which Alan Hirsch talks about began to show itself and be unleashed in the life of Booth and his comrages.

Apostolic Genius? At the heart of it all, Jesus is Lord. But also: disciple making, missional-incarnational impulse, organic structures (or at least in the Army’s case, a functional structure which gave the structure needed for that particular time), apostolic environment and a communitas (not community) of people focus and gathered round the one over-arching missional task.

In my little foray recently through the archives of armyrenewal I came across a startling quote by General John Gowans. General Gowans drops this bomb, in reference to some particilar corps in the Army:

“They started taking care of the corps instead of taking care of the lost and the Lord took their candlestick from its place. The glory has departed.”

Wowee!! Strong. It is a reminder, though, that we are certainly not in this business to build churches. That is congregations of people who gather like sheep to be fed. Rather, we make disciples who are then equipped to incarnate the gospel in the work place, the school, the street, the neighbourhood watch meeting, the parent council, the local government, the local prison, the schools, the statutory youth work, the community associations.

I came across a quote from a guy called Hugh Halter, someone I’d never heard of until a few days ago when I came across his book ‘The Tangible Kingdom.’ He says this: “The goal of our missional life is not to grow churches. The goal of church is to grow missionaries. The goal of the gospel is not to get people to church. The result of the gospel is that people will find each other and gather because of the deep meaning of a common experience.”

This needs to sink in folks. We can patch up our ‘churches’ or our ‘churchy corps’ until the cows come home with all sorts of schemes, deals and promotions but until we mobilise the Army as a force propelled by apostolic genius, we’re barking up the wrong tree. Halter’s quote could easily have come from the mouth of a Booth or a Railton. And actually, I think it rings true with the very words of the Commander-in-Chief himself, the Lord Jesus.