Phil Wall on Officership (1998)

This is snippets of an appendix to Phil Wall’s book “‘I’ll Fight…’ Holiness at War” from way back in 1998. Having talked in the book about the call to mission and pragmatic holiness, Phil addresses officership in the context. The whole book is worth reading, but these thoughts are particularly helpful in the context of what I’ve been blogging about recently. The whole thing is Appendix II in the book, not sure if its still available. This is a shortened version here. My comments are in red.

______________________________________________________

Officership

It would be inapproproite not to mention this specific area of vocation in a book so focussed on the mission and ministry of The Salvation Army. Full-time officership was Booth’s pragmatic response to his need for missioners who could travel around the country opening up new centres of outreach and resourcing existing ones. I am sure the current-day scenario of long-term pastors, specialist social care ministry and numerous administrative roles was far from his mind.

ac – again, picking up the apostolic function, not just in terms of divisonal leadership overseeing, but in officers being the apostles/apostolic workers themselves.

For many of my officer friends and family, much more thinking is need in terms of a theology of officership and philosophy of ministry for them to come to terms with the new context… The world has changed dramatically since the phenomena of officership began. For many underclass people it provided the only career they would have had. For most, if not all, women this was certainly so; very few wives would have had any expectation of a career. It emerged in a world that expected people to give their lives to one profession for their whole of their working life. Thus it made sense to ask for a lifetime commitment to the specific role of officership. Officers became the ubiquitous generalists who fulfilled every role which went well beyond the original missioner plan.

ac – just look at the variety of roles officers fulfill and you’ll see that far from even being leaders and equippers or apostolic workers, you have a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ approach.

Things have changed dramatically since then. Many of those coming in are highly skilled, qualified people who have already fulfilled a significant role in a particular field. This includes many women who have led their own career distinct from their husband’s role… Increased number of young people who are deeply committed to The Salvation Army, are seeking out opportunities as full-time employees within specialist niche roles, as opposed to generalist ministry.

ac – youth work, planting, inner city work, ‘fresh/new expressions’, incarnational ministry

My own view is the recognition of officership once again as a specialist role. Firstly, in the arena of leadership… Ephesians chapter four lays out very clearly the role of people gifted in a particular way; some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:11-12). The meaning seems very clear that those with the gifts mentioned are primarily responsible not for ‘doing the work’ but equipping the saints for doing just that…Scripture seems quite clear that leaders gifted in the ways described have a primary function to equip others to do the work. The calling of officership, if seen as aligned to this leadership role, must be this essential equipping of the saints…Many of my officer friends see this as their primary role to lead, envision and equip people for the work of ministry.

ac – I’m not entirely sure that officership should be all this…there is little scriptural ground for paying people in all of these roles, but like the early officer and the apostle, where itinerancy or at least flexible movement was key, it will be necessary. Equally, you wouldn’t need one at each corps.

The financial implications of full-time local corps leadership is significant with 70% of corps in the UK and 90% of corps in the USA in receipt of centralised grant funding. Morally, this position is not tenable. The public give us money to care for the needy, not to keep our heating and lighting on during winter. Living in a world where the needs are increasing rapidly, and a Church where the giving is static or shrinking, full-time leadership may become a thing of the past for most of our small to medium corps. A form of part-time/ job share officership may be the shape of things to come.

ac – bi-vocational ministry is the way forward. Especially so in urban settings where corps will never cover the costs of two full-time officers and where the officers are under pressure to fund themselves from the general public through things like War Cry sales and coffee mornings. Let’s stop begging and get a job!

I’d argue too that there is little scriptural grounds for the giving of the church even to be spent in heating buildings etc, especially not at the cost of ensuring that those amongst us aren’t poor. I’ve been to too many corps where there have been poor soldiers that have received little by way of help.

Whatever the future of officership in a changing world there are some realities that need to be faced. Firstly, officership needs to be brought into the market place of vocational choices rather than being perceived as some special elitist calling. From my experience of working with young people, an oft-times one-track vocational theology that is neither biblical or true Salvation Army has closed their minds to the possibility of a fulfilling ministry as a Salvation Army officer. It needs to be affirmed as the role it is, for those gifted in the appropriate ways. Whilst it remains on the fringes, accessible to those only with a powerful ‘call’, it will remain inaccessible for the consideration of most. By giving officership a kudos above and beyond other calls we inhibit rather than enhance its development and growth.

ac – to be honest, I have met many fine young people who would become officers only if they felt they could really make a difference.

Secondly, the nature of leadership is changing dramatically in the Western world. To say that top-down hierarchical leadership is dead is an understatement. Current specialists in leadership such as Charles Handy and Professor John Hunt of London Business School, suggest that linear and relational leadership will shape future organisations, and emerging generations will have little attraction to heavy authoritarian institutions.

ac – if this was true in 1998 when Phil was writing, its certainly true now in the UK context.

Thirdly, we obviously need more candidates entering the training college that are at present doing so….The demographics of officership in many nations means that significant levels of responsibility will be help by those of younger generations. The opportunity to shape the future of this movement in terms of its leadership has possibly never been greater.

ac – I’d argue, rather, that the need is for ever soldier to look at where God has placed them, engage with people and begin drawing people together to discuss the things of God in that context. But yes, we do need people to equip and facilitate this mindset.

Fourthly, all of us within full-time leadership must make sure we keep mission at the forefront of our thinking and lives. the challenge for people like myslef and many of my officer-friends is toensure that we are doing our all to inspire and equip people to wake this war and also to ensure that we ourselves are engaging with people who do not have living faith…The snare of being consumed within the affairs of a Christian subculture must be avoided at all costs.

ac – God help us to move beyond shuffling chairs on the titanic, and start manning the lifeboats.

People employed by the Church are constantly in danger of settling into the comfort of the fold. I am constantly challenged by how little risk is involved in my current role. The extent to which I need to step out and trust God for provision seems to decrease annually…

ac – I am sick and tired of the comfort and ‘everything-on-a-plate’ nature of officership. Even in an innercity context I want for nothing and that makes it incredibly difficult for me to even understand my neighbours living on £120 a fortnight. We need to begin to take incarnational ministry very seriously.

What is apparent, is that for someone to become and officer when God’s best for them is to stay in their working role, or vice versa, would be sin. Yet for me the issue is not so much the theology of officership but rather our theology of mission and where we perceive its focus to be. We must avoid at all costs the internal workings of our religious system to consume all of our best time, energy and resources. Our vocational appeals at youth councils must truly reflect our theology of the priesthood and maximise the opportunity to encourage, equip and inspire people to be their best for God wherever he has placed them. I believe the Great Commission forces us to consider afresh how me might better be reaching people in all spheres of society. Decisions of the will must be determined by individuals within commuities deciding how best they can impact this world for God. Lift up the vision and vocation and the Spirit will guide you to the specific sphere.

ac – there are people who are officers who probably shouldn’t be, and people who aren’t that should. Equally, there are people who are officers who don’t know how to live out their true calling in the context of what officership has become. I am one of them. I know many others. The tide is turning, but goodness knows if the wave will just break on the sands of the institution of if we will truly become, again, a tidal force for God for the effective spreading of the Kingdom throughout the world. Challenging times.

Advertisements

Thinking out loud about leadership (7) In conclusion…


The best way I can think to sum up what I’ve been saying here is to point to the model of the body of Christ. We’re not made up of individuals, we are in community together. We are supposed to function as a body, as members of each other. I really want to emphasise this in case the only think that people take from this series is ‘he’s got a problem with authority.’ I can see that happening because to some degreee or another, most people reading this will have something of themselves and their lives invested in some kind of leadership, either giving or receiving.

Under Jesus, we have everything we need as community to discern what the Spirit is saying. Under him, our pastors, teachers, apostles, evangelists and prophets will function. Under him authentic spiritual leadership will emerge in the context of community in the same way it does in the trinity, the great Three in One, where they agree together in perfect community. We have the call to be the body on earth…that means to learn the rhythms we see in our Almighty God.

You know, one of the questions I caught myself asking the other night was ‘is this Army?’ At first, I stopped myself because in a sense I’ve determined that is not going to be the most important question, so I put it out of my mind. However, my mind then turned to something I’ve often read before and often shared in preaching and teaching. At the beginning of Catherine Booth’s Papers on Aggressive Christianity, she writes this:

I WAS thinking, while I was reading the lesson, that, supposing we could blot out from our minds all knowledge of the history of Christianity from the time of this Inauguration Service–from that Pentecostal Baptism–or, at any rate, from the close of the period described in the Acts of the Apostles, suppose we could detach from our minds all knowledge of the history of Christianity since then, and take the Acts of the Apostles and sit down and calculate what was likely to happen in the world, what different results we should have anticipated, what a different world we should have reckoned upon as the outcome of it all. A system which commenced under such auspices, with such assumptions and professions on the part of its Author (speaking after the manner of men), and producing, as it did, in the first century of its existence, such gigantic and momentous results.

We should have said, if we knew nothing of what has intervened from that time to this, that, no doubt the world where that war commenced, and for which it was organized, would have long since been subjugated to the influence of that system, and brought under the power of its great originator and founder! I say, from reading these Acts, and from observing the spirit which animated the early disciples, and from the way in which everything fell before them, we should have anticipated that ten thousand times greater results would have followed, and, in my judgment, this anticipation would have been perfectly rational and just. We Christians profess to possess in the Gospel of Christ a mighty lever which, rightly and universally applied, would lift the entire burden of sin and misery from the shoulders, that is, from the souls, of our fellow-men–a panacea, we believe it to be, for all the moral and spiritual woes of humanity, and in curing their spiritual plagues we should go far to cure their physical plagues also. We all profess to believe this. Christians have professed to believe this for generations gone by, ever since the time of which we have been reading, and yet look at the world, look at so-called Christian England, in this end of the nineteenth century! The great majority of the nation utterly ignoring God, and not even making any pretence of remembering Him one day in the week. And then look at the rest of the world. I have frequently got so depressed with this view of things that I have felt as if my heart would break. I don’t know how other Christians feel, but I can truly say that ‘rivers of water do often run down my eyes because men keep not His law,’ and because it seems to me that this dispensation, compared with what God intended it to be, has been, and still is, as great a failure as that which preceded it.

There was a woman firmly embedded in the Christendom model, yet you was able to look with honesty and say – hey, this isn’t working. If we had gone on as we started out, we’d should be in a different place.

Now, I know that its not as simply as just looking at Acts and mimicing. Yet, the Acts and the letters chart for us how people began to live out the Jesus life. We see a body functioning and spreading the gospel like wild fire around the world. Catherine’s response is that its time for fire.

Early Army documents and history show ingenius adaptation, taking on whatever form would win the world for Jesus. I believe that we need to do the same. I don’t imagine for a second that the Booths anticipated a burgeoning clerical episcopal system, although their is no denying they set in place a hierarchical structure.

But here is another thing I noticed and its with regards to officership and its progression. Major Harold Hill in his book referred to earlier, charts this well, but we see a dramatic shift in officership. The way I see it at its largest is in something as telling as the length of an officers stay. Early in the movement we had a whole bunch of itinterant officers, travelling light, staying for short periods of time giving challenge and direction to a particular setting. Officers typically hung around for between two months and two years…something quite similar to Paul’s apostolic pattern. There tasks were to open corps, open outposts, preach the gospel to everyone. Each officer would bring something maybe new, ingenious. Ingenuity was prized in officership. Novelty was prized.

And what happened in corps, leadership wise? Well, the key leaders were the local officers for pretty much every aspect of corps life. If there was no officer, no problem because the locals would continue the mission, plant the corps, hold the open air meetings. They had visitation, pastoral care, training, instruction sowed up in the primitive Army system. The officer was simply the one trained and sent along as the cherry on the cake, to inspire the troops in the fight.

Look at where we are now. Somewhere along the line our officers have become the doers of significant amounts of our ministry in the Army, disempowering soldiers and local officers. There are very few corps in the territory that can survive well without officers. We have officers staying longer because the function of the officer has changed from apostle/evangelist to that of primarily pastor/teacher. We have assumed that the main function of leadership, and of officership, are to pastor and to preach/teach. You can get away with that and do little in terms of mission. I wouldn’t say I’m a non-caring person, that I don’t get involved in peoples lives and pastor in that way, but neither do I believe that is should be the primary function of the officer. The Army ‘system’ of old ensured that all that was taken care of, especially in the Ward System (army’s cell system).

Friends, I am arguing that the local corps should function as a body. Officer leadership should function apostolically. I am arguing that leadership should be discerned and identified locally, and that when an officer (apostle) comes along side, he works alongside to inspire, equip, challenge and mobolies the local corps in their mission. I am arguing that we need to think carefully about authority in the context of our structure, especially if it remains as it is and doesn’t recognise or ever do anything similar to what I’ve proposed here (which its unlikely to just on my writing). I am arguing that the current system of officer leadership is not sustainable and we need radical shifts in thinking and acting, not to save the institution, but to realign ourselves with the purposes for which we have been raised up…to be a significant movement for the salvation of the world.

Friends, I firmly believe the hype in that I believe that we have in our DNA, the apostolic genius (which I’ve written about elsewhere – search this blog for it) but I also believe that certainly in my territory, it lays dormant. And you know what? The lights are going out all over the territory and all over the European area because we are too slow to change. We are dying on our feet. There are, of course, glorious exceptions, but on the whole, its a bleak picture. We must wake up. We must move and act now. We must show levels of flexibility that we’ve never shown before because our new ‘theatre of war’ demands that we become a different machine entirely.

Friends, I plead with you who are still reading and who don’t think I’ve lost the plot entirely, please see the urgency we face. We don’t face it alone, the rest of the church that remains unwilling to adapt is suffering the same heamorraging.

Einstien said that ‘the kind of thinking that cause the problem is unlikely to solve the problem’ yet we adopt the position of ‘more of the same, but better’ and we don’t always realise that will never win the day.

Can we at this time wake up and realise the challenge? Will you, any leaders reading, be able to cast aside just for a moment any sense of contempt you may hold for me or what I’ve said and ask yourselves the questions?

I am considering all these things, reflecting upon officership, my leadership thus far and how it must adapt significantly for the future.

God help us all.

_____________________
end note: please feel free to comment or email me for clarification on any point. I’ve done a lot of refering to scripture without necessarily referencing it. If you can’t find it for yourself, please ask and I’ll try to help.

Thinking out loud about leadership (6) Authority

I am someone who, like almost everyone else, has been under authority, had authority, shared authority and, on occassions, rebelled against authority! I guess its one of those things that’s part of our lives and we all react differently too it and act differently when we have it. There are, of course, different kinds of authority. I’m sure you’ll recognise these types of authority and may even be able to think of some more.

Positional Authority – where you have been given a position of authority by an organisation.
Moral Authority – authority which comes out of the substance of your life.
Spiritual Authority – when God speaks through you and people recognise it to be God using you.
Special Authority – based on an expert knowledge of something (science, bible, cheesemaking, law etc)
Relational Authority – where people respect you because of the nature of your close relationship to them.

Now, I ask myself, “as an officer, what type of authority have you exercised?” Probably most of them at one point or other (although I’ve no idea what I’d be an expert in!) I’d say that many a time, however, I’ve defaulted to Positional Authority when really I should have been leading from a different place. Is positional authority all bad?? Not entirely sure, but its certainly a leadership that comes more from what your organisation has given you rather than from who you are as a person. If you only lead like this, it will be poor leadership, I imagine.

Neil Cole contrasts a picture of leadership in the film, Braveheart. Where William Wallace is talking to Robert Bruce (the true heir of Scotlands throne) and he encourages Bruce to rise up and lead the people, throwing in that if he did that, then he’d follow him too. The contrast is clear. One man has all the position and title (Bruce) but the other has all the authority (Wallace). Leaning on a title is poor, leading a cause because it has first inspired you is an entirely different thing. This is a good example of relational authority, but take it into a Kingdom setting and the better, by far, model is spiritual authority.

So, what happens with authority in officership and in organisations like The Salvation Army? I’ve previously noted the hierarchical structure. You know, we have soliders, local officers, non-commissioned officers (envoys etc), officers. In officership, you have Lieutenants, Captains and Majors etc, but we also have the leadership levels. Corps/social officer, DHQ officers, THQ officers, TCs, Zonal Officers, the Cheif of the Staff, and the General. Whatever way you look, you have that triangle.

Let me ask a question. Where does Jesus come on that model? Does he come above the General? Well, of course he comes above the General…he is the Lord. But what I means is ‘is he the next one up the leadership chain?’ Well, if he is, then it means that I have a lot of levels to go through before I can understand the will of God and know what he wants of me. Now, of course, we have direct access to Jesus…we are under his authority, aren’t we? If we claim that simple statement of Christian doctrine, ‘Jesus is Lord’, then it truly means that. Its a revolutionary statement. Now, many a time there is no conflict in that with our every day existence as officers. Yet, I dare to suggest that there may be occassions when there is conflict.

Could there ever be the case where the Lord commands me to do something that the Army won’t allow? When asking myself that question, I really have to explore my answer. Lets say I say ‘no, the Lord would never command me something the Army wouldn’t allow.’ I could say, if its the Lord’s will for me to be in the Army, he knows I’m in it and he know’s I will follow what the Army says, so the logical conclusion of that thinking is that no, the Lord wouldn’t command me to do something that the Army won’t allow because I’m in the Army. Sound plausible?

But what if I answer yes or even maybe? What if I say that answering ‘no’ to that key question automatically implies that because our leaders are Christians in authority ‘over me’ automatically implies that everything they say is directly down the chain (at whatever point the decision is made) is what the Lord would will? Friends, I believe that is wrong and in dangerous ground. We all recognise that men and women make mistakes, poor calls, misjudgements. In saying this, we are also making the assumption that leaders ‘above us’ are always in tune with the perfect will of God and that nothing could happen that God wouldn’t set in place. Hmm. Frankly, my experience of my own leadership decisions and sometimes the decisions of others lead me to believe that its not always the case.

I believe this issue most comes into play in the life of an officer when it comes to the appointments system. It is here, in this sphere, that the Army exercise the most authority over the life of the average officer. The decisions made at this level, albeit with a little bit more consultation these days, are decisions which are crucial ones. Sadly, my life in the Army so far has shown me that there are a fair amount of good, but also a fair amount of bad ‘moves’ made when it comes to this aspect. When they are right, they are great. When they are wrong, they can be devastating not only for the officers and their family, but for the corps.

I’d like to question whether it is right for officers to blindly offer The Army this right to have that kind of authority over the lives of men, women, and families. Even if it’s not offered blindly, an officer is still subject to it and there is an air arising certianly in the UK Territory where its still frowned upon to either a)refuse or b) suggest that the appointment made has not been the right one, for whatever reason. Alongside that, there is also the issue of how the Army responds to consultation processes. Its perfectly possible, having indicated a desire to go to an inner city appointment in a major Scottish city, that you’ll be sent to rural Oxfordshire. What then does the officers sense of calling to an area mean?

Let me give another example…different officer. This one is testing what he senses might be a call to another nation and is pondering whether to go offer to go. He mentions it to leaders locally, and to someone in that territory. A request is made to the TC of the home territory asking if the certain officer could be made available to go to the other territory and the TC says ‘sorry, but we need good officers here’ without so much as speaking to the officer considering the call. In that scenario, do we assume that the TC is right, even although he has never so much as spoken to the officer concerned? Certainly, if he had spoken to them he might find out that they were still exploring the possibility and not ready to go. Equally, he may have discovered that the Lord had so laid it on his heart that he was ready and willing to respond. The point is, our system allows for this decision to be made without consulting anyone about it. You’ll just have to trust me in assuring you this is a real and recent scenario.

Let me bring it home. Leaving aside everything I’ve said about how officership might/could function and just looking at the present system, how would I respond if the Army or someone in it was asking me to do something I really felt I couldn’t do? And what if I was so convinced that the Lord was leading me in a certain way and the Army said it couldn’t happen?

I realise these questions probably raise more questions than offer answers. But think about it this way….how did we get to the place where these things were an issue in the first place? I’ve already suggested that there is very little evidence and justification for this sort of hierarchical structure in the New Testament. When we look at, say, Peter and Paul….two ‘high ranking’ apostles we certainly notice that in their relationship there were times when you might have expected Peter to ‘pull rank’ on Paul where instead they simply go away with a difference of opinion. And there are many times where Paul alludes to his apostolic authority, but claims that he’d rather not use it…in fact he’s not really bothered too much about the title anyway…he’d rather lead by example, by persuading, conversing, even pleading and begging the folks around to his way of thinking. When Paul sends a person here or there, I doubt very much if it was ever rooted in simple positional authority as an apostle. Authentic spiritual authority is ‘from alongside.’ We get this from Jesus, who ‘being in the very nature God…’ – you know the rest.

You know, Paul said ‘follow me as I follow Jesus.’ There are some people in my life I’d follow wherever they went…I’d be content to follow them as they follow Jesus. There are many people I’d follow. I’ve also been priveleged to have some people follow me like that…certainly not something I take for granted, but something that is, actually, incredibly humbling and a real blessing.

Just maybe, following Jesus more closely involves sometimes cutting out a middle man here or there. Just maybe, there is something wise about following a Jesus who never really held an institutional position in his life, but yet who lead from the very core of who he was in direct link with the Father through the Spirit. Just maybe.

Thinking out loud about leadership (5) Officer recruitment


So…in this emerging alternative view of officership, how are officers recruited? What are they recruited for? Answer: they are not recruited.

If we go with officers functioning as apostolic overseers or as apostolic workers, these people would be functioning primarily out of an apostolic gifting, spirit given and spirit annointed. If they’ve got it, they’ve got it. These people will emerge from the local context. Study of the scripture suggests that Paul spent a significant amount of time in the church at Antioch in a teaching role (probably unpaid)…maybe as much as 14 years before he set of on his first apostolic journey. In this time, he would have experiences truly organic grass-roots Christian community functioning together as a body. Remember, this was all new to him as a former teacher of the law…having said that, I can hear a good Jewish friend whisper in my ear that it may not have been as alien as you first think because outside of the temple ministrations, Jewish life was centred around the home and the family, so Paul and others would be bringing that dimension into their experience as a new covenant community.

Why did they send Paul out? The simply recognised that Paul had what it took to be an apostolic planter. You see, Paul’s credentials as an ‘original apostle’ was founded upon his having been, seen and met with Jesus….this was a requirement for the initial twelve + Paul. So, as he argues several places, he had a right to be an apostle in that sense but he rarely appealed to it. He refused to ‘lord it over’ and spent much time, pleading, urging, begging with regards to asking people to hear his words and advice. He wanted the people to respond not to the position that had been given institutionally (even if by Jesus himself) but towards their sense of the Spirit speaking in him…his spiritual authority. The question does remain, however, whether it was really just that the twelve+Paul were given that spiritual authority and not that institutional authority anyway (maybe our Christendom minds assume some degree of institutional model?)

Anyway, my point is that Paul spent time in a local expression of the church and he emerged as one who had been equipped to begin function apostolically (as opposed to just ‘being’ an apostle). The body sense the Spirits equipping of these men for this task and so they laid hands on them and sent them out. This is one of the only places where I see anything akin to ‘ordination.’ And like I say, it had a different posture, doctrine, outcome and ‘fruit’ than the model we have today.

How were they trained? They were trained in the body. We have no reason to expect that the early followers of Jesus stopped doing the Luke 10 stuff….you know, going out in twos around the area and seeking out people of peace, eating, remaining, getting to know, sharing the gospel, healing sick, casting out demons etc etc. They were already planting small churches as a regular part of their discipleship. All that was happening now was that these men were being sent further into uncharted waters, largely. They were being sent beyond their Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria to the ends of the earth and Jesus promised they would. Also, the purpose may have been slightly different. Whereas before they may link people up to the Antioch church, albeit in smaller places, they would still be in the vacinity largely of Antioch doing what Paul then expected the people to do after he had planted small nucleus of people in cities and then considering the work done. He would plant, someone else would water and the growth would come as the disciples spread out organically into the surrounding ‘suburbs’ and outlying country areas.

This model is a model of growth and multiplication. I’d suggest that recruitment of people for leadership is possibly a method of subtraction, especially in the cases where people are recruited from on part of the kingdom at its expense in favour for another part of it. Ideally, from what we see the scriptural pattern to be, these sorts of things (not just apostles, but any other mininistry of the body) arose out of a)necessity (ie deacons serving tables etc) or b) need (eg ‘we need to do this in response to the Holy Spirit. Ministry then came from the sense of what people sensed should happen and if it was a spirit thing, he wouldn’t urge a thing that wasn’t doable.

Because we feel we need to recruit officers for every corps so that we have our clergy in to manage all the places (without which many places would function extremely poorly…and sometimes even with officers do the same….again, confession mode) we are happy to rip people out of their natural context when actually their pastoral skills, teaching skills, etc belong to the local body. As I say, unless there is an apostolic calling, they should be hanging around contributing to the body, in work in either regular work places or in heading up particular agencies to acheive a certain thing. (An aside, here, on this point: Paul and his tent making….its actually suggested that Paul actually made prayer shawls that Jewish people wore to pray. He made tallit…little tents…which were prayer shawls. When Jesus talks about going to your room and closing the door to pray, he is really saying ‘get under your prayershawl and pray! Please, check this out..google it.)

So, to make it clear, people with ministry giftings would only leave the local when the purpose was apostolic. So, what if the the church in the next city needed a pastor because there was no-one gifted? Well, Paul would teach what it was all about (like he does in Ephesians 4), teach them to desire spiritual gifts (like he does in 1 Corinthians) and if there is an issue, he may send in front of him or leave behind other apostolic workers (distinct from apostles) to fill the gap until such times the body was functioning fully. Again, a ministry of multiplication, not subtraction.

So, the officer would learn his theology, ministry and practice in the context of the local corps which is functioning as a body. There would be a sense that he/she/they should be sent out to plant further that their own city. They would be release and supported from the believers who were releasing them for multiplication and from corps they would plant in proportion to what they could give. If you weren’t called to function apostolically, basically, officership wasn’t for you. As William Booth said, officership is the default call….its if your not called to anything else (to stay behind as pastor, teacher, shepherd, evangelist, deacon, elder, local overseer, butcher, baker, hair dresser, bin man, school teacher, prison warden, businessman, newsagent, journalist etc etc) then it may just be you’re called to do the aposlte thing and function as an officer.

This does away with the training college where they, in effect, train pastor/teachers and not apostles. Its only necessary to do this because a) we’ve adopted forms that require an upfront sermon and a pastoral crutch person in a community and b) we have a clerical model that needs a cleric; c) we’ve contracted out local ministry in all the fuctions to outside persons we need to pay to come to live with us (current day officers, youth workers, community managers etc etc) and so we limit the local body in its function etc. I could go on…but you are intelligent people to work out the other consequences of this thinking.

Make sense?

Again, let me just add the disclaimer that I realise that a) I may only be seeing part of the picture and b) it would be highly difficult for the Army to transition to this.

What is my response to be in the light of the challenges?

Thinking out loud about leadership (4) The officer as ‘apostolic overseer’


I sigh a sigh of relief as I move on from discussion of what I consider to be a devilish doctrine of clericalism to promote and, maybe even to some people, introduce the concept of officership as ‘apostolic’ in function. Let me introduce here, again, my model from the second post in this series which can be found here.

If you follow my picture here to its full conclusion, you will come to the realisation that I am advocating that no corps/Christian community should have full-time paid leadership. New corps and corps that are small enough to adapt quickly to this may be able to adopt early, others may take longer. But why? I hear you ask?

Having already said that the presence of clergy is both unbiblical and detrimental, I’d also repeat that its unnecessary if the whole body is functioning under the Lordship of Jesus, facilitated by a full Ephesians 4 ministry within the body, with designated ‘overseers’ or ‘elders’ just keeping guard as watchmen on the walls, not over and above, but alongside…potential body guards, if you like.

If the body are meeting as that, and engaging missionally in their contexts, we have a healthy and growing body…maybe even a multiplying body as more of the body are released to establish new nucleus of people to gather under Jesus’ name.

Friends, this is where officers should come in. Officers should be able to function over a given geographical area either as apostolic workers (like Precilla and Aquilla) who prepare the ground for the apostle to plant, or as the apostle who plants, stays for a period to equip those who gather in those first stages all the while equipping them to carry on when he has gone.

Think of a catalyst in a chemical reaction. From my limited scientific knoweldge from Standard Grade chemistry, a catalyst is something which promotes a reaction between two or more substances without it, itself, being used up. So for all you non-scientific bods out there….it gets the thing going, creates the response but then gets out of the way.

We see this in the new testament, especially in the apostle Paul but equally in the others. Paul’s stays in a place would be as short as maybe a few months and as long as a couple of years. He moved from city to city, establishing ‘as an expert builder’ and laying the only foundation for the church, which is Jesus Christ. He draws people to gether, shares the gospel message of the Kingdom, teaches the people how to function and once they’re started they are left to it. He then keeps contact with them, somtimes through an appointed local person, writes to them, visits them as needed. That was their role. Paul himself said that he wanted to continue moving on into areas where the gospel had not been preached and established.

Consider too how Paul saw this work to be a success. At one point in his ministry, he was able to say he had completed the work of the gospel in the entire Asia Minor region (modern day Turkey) because he had established a small group (like in the picture above) in every key city. Considered the work done? How on earth? because he had left behind all the DNA needed for the body to spread out, establishing and carrying the work to the rest.

You will find that the apostles were the only people who received payment for their ministry. Actually…the only others other than the apostles who seemed to be ‘paid’ were the widows. In order to receive this, they promised to give themselves to prayer, remain unmarried, and be over 60. Getting back to Paul, he would still often forgo this privelege of payment even although he could claim it and instead himself still chose to ‘work hard amongst them with his own hands.’ In other circumstances, we find that he would refuse money from the church he was currently with, but gladly accepted it from other churches who could afford it so as not to be a burden. We find no record until well into the Christendom mode of elders, pastors etc etc being paid for their work.

At this juncture, I wish to raise the issue of money…that sacred cow. You will be hard pressed to find much reference to tithing in the new testament and in the early church. And even if you did, and where you do find reference to giving, it is for a particular purpose. It was to support the itinterant apostle and to feed the poor, orphans and widows. It also made sure that non amongst the early church were in need. Good news to the poor means ‘you ain’t poor anymore’. It was a relational giving….anything and everything was given not to pay local pastor/preacher/teachers but to support those in need.

Incidentally, with the rise of the Christendom model, and the emergence of large temples and structures and systems, we see the rise of teaching from the Old Testament on tithing in order to support the priesthood (the kind of priesthood I’m suggesting we don’t have). I have to confess here too that I’ve taught and held the opinion that all salvationists should tithe as a biblical mandate. I here confess that I believe that to have been a wrong understanding of this doctrine and practice. The New Testament doesn’t set amounts, it sets the reasons we give…out of love, out of joy and out of gratitude. It sets a destination….the apostles, the poor, widows and orphans. The early church had no cumbersome structure to support. I ask, have we re-instated the OT tithe because we have replicated the OT priesthood?

What are the implications of this? I guess you could say that I am advocating that paid officership in every corps be abolished, both because it has little foundation in scripture and because it is not sustainable in the longer term. I am advocating that we should take officers out of the permanant positions of corps work and give those who are gifted in that way apostolic oversight in cities. What about the rest of the officers? If they are pastors, evangelists, teachers then let them function in the body as that. If we insist on still paying them, let us release them into ministries of chaplaincy, community development etc etc utilising the giving of the body which has been given for those sort of purposes in a meaningful way. They don’t need to be full time in a corps at all, other than to function withing their gifting along with the rest.

Friends, I realise how alien all this sounds. I’ve not even got a clue if any of it makes sense in the way I’m describing it. I believe that what I’m advocating would take much change, transition and movement. I’m not naive enough at all to believe that very many people would agree with me. I’m not naive enough to believe that it will ever really become a reality off the pages of this blog certainly where the Army is concerned. But surely one can live in hope.

Friends, I love The Salvation Army and I believe in us. But I also believe that The Army may continue to function as a big old institutional machine when all the resources really needed to function as an advancing mission force have become so diminished. A quick look at the stats (it needs to be a quick look before you need to start taking prozac) shows that the Army in Europe in particular is in massive decline….remember, where Christendom is fading fastest? Its time now to become lighter an leaner for those in the position to do so and to begin the turn-around now for the places where change needs to take place.

But friends, please hear my lack of hope and sense of heartbreak as consider how I fear the Army will not adapt sufficiently at this time. And hey, I’m not just talking what I’ve outlined here. We don’t seem to be adapting sufficiently to the current challenges and we’re digging our heads in the sand. It keeps me up at night, breaks my heart and causes me simply to make a plea to you good folks to even just think about what I’ve written.

I too, need to make my response to this challenge in relation to the Army. My first response is to say ‘please, Lord Jesus.’ That is also my second, third and fourth response. Join me?

Thinking out loud about leadership (3) Non-clericalised leadership


Now, having said what I’ve said in the previous two articles in this series, I now move on to something which sits on the nest of these. I propose to you that the concept of clergy should not exist in The Salvation Army. I want to present the problem and an alternative in this post. I have written some of this before, but is key to my thinking at this time.

A greater treatment of this subject has been carried out by Major Harold Hill in his book “Officership in the Salvation Army : a Case Study in Clericalisation” and I recommend it to all who see this issue as important, and especially to those who don’t see it as an issue.

This thesis attempts an historical review and analysis of Salvation Army ministry in terms of the tension between function and status, between the view that members of the church differ only in that they have distinct roles, and the tradition that some enjoy a particular status, some ontological character, by virtue of their ‘ordination’ to one of those roles in particular. This dichotomy developed early in the life of the Church (mainly at the beginning of the onslaught of the Romanising of Christianity) and can be traced throughout its history. Jesus and his community appear to have valued equality in contrast to the priestly hierarchies of received religion. There were varieties of function within the early Christian community, but perhaps not at first of status. Over the first two or three centuries the Church developed such distinctions, between those “ordained” to “orders” and the “laity”, as it accommodated to Roman society and to traditional religious expectations, and developed structures to defend its doctrinal integrity.

This has happened throughout the Christian church as a part of the Christendom model, and post-Christendom, we find ourselves in an interesting place. Certainly in the Army, there seems to be an adoption of the clergy/laity model.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with personally recently is to do with my complete angst against clerical and priestly officership. One of the things which has become really apparent in recent years is the heightened sense that people see officers as priests, professional clergy. In Scotland in particular, which has a strong Presbyterian culture, there has been the exhaltation of the role of the minister which then actually dis-empowers the ‘laity.’ I’ve always been for the restoration of that ministry back to the people.

In many Salvation Army situations the world over, Salvationists have been fundamentally and systematically raped of their role as the people of God by an over-powering, un-biblical, and un-Salvationist mindset and regime of officer-priests. Disempowered to the stage that it is very possible that this generation of Salvationists don’t know how to take back the privilege of being co-workers with Christ. The sad thing is that this has often happens under the ministry of godly officers who’re trying to follow God’s sense of calling to service on their lives. I, as I’ve already confessed, have been party to this in the past. I’ve had a vested interest in the survival of this denomination and to the preservation of officership because of what it gives me.

Clerical and priestly officership at its worst removes from the people the mission of the Army and thats which I suggest that a non-clerical officership is the best way forward for our movement . We are an Army run almost entirely by officers, many of whom are godly, hard-working, self-sacrificing people and who do what they do from a deep sense of the call of God on their lives to serve. When soldiery has the concept that the officers role is to perform this priestly ministry, they then become simple recipients of ministry done to them instead of co-missioners. You know, almost every reformation the church has ever had has had anti-clericalism as one of its roots. Every revival of the Christian church has involved the empowerment of the people of God, taking the mission out of the hands of the ‘clergy’ into the hands of the people as mentioned above.

The Salvation Army system and structure was born in almost complete rebellion against clericalism and the evil division of laity and clergy. In dreaming up the Army, the Founders (I include William, Catherine, Bramwell, Railton etc etc), created a system where every soldier was a missionary. This is why when you read something like Os+Rs for Soldiers its like reading a manual for ‘ministers’ – because that’s almost exactly what it is! Local Officers and Officers were simply appointed as leaders of those soldiers to co-ordinate the battle. It wasn’t that William Booth was attempting to ‘abolish the clergy’ but to abolish the laity and turn every man into a missional person. This is not a far cry from the missional sending of Jesus, sending out the 12, then the 72 then the 120, they every disciple unto the ends of the earth. Jesus fans out this missional living from himself, as true prophet priest and King, into Peter’s phrase as a whole nation, royal and prietly. Thats you and me.

This pattern of officer-priests where officers do the vast majority of the ministry is not sustainable in mission terms, given the decreasing number of people offering for the priestly officership model that is so predominant in the west. I firmly believe that officership applications will increase significantly when we shake of this idea of priestliness.

I know that you will realise that the word laos, from which we get laity, simply refers to the people of God…all of us. When we go down the road of creating laity and clergy, we create a breed of super-Christians, professional Christians. Clergy is a bad word, a swear word…and actually, so is ‘laity’ when used by someone purporting to be ‘clergy.’

I fundamentally believe that officership is more to do with function than it is to do with status/office/position. I believe an officer’s role is to lead and co-ordinate the mission and ministry in a corps. That involves primarily identifying, training and releasing the pastors, teachers, evangelist, apostles and prophets (cf Ephesians 4) to their God-given role in building up the rest of the body. Yes, the officer has his own fight/ministry role too, but his/her main role is to mobilise his fighting force, to act as co-ordinator, mission team leader if you like, alongside the rest of the soldiers. I’m a soldier first.

Even the ministrations of a corps should never be officer-centered. The preaching, the worship leading, the testifying, the bible teaching should be for all and by all. The closest I’ve come to this in my short officership so far was probably towards the end of our time in Pill with the introduction of the Ward System whereby not only did pastoral and teaching ministry begin to be shared, but where the mission of the Salvation Army corps was basically handed back to the soldiery on a plate. Where the work was needed was in helping folks to then know what to do with the mission of a corps! That’s our successors tasks in Pill and I believe they will be doing that well.

If The Salvation Army is to survive, we must get the work of The Salvation Army out of the hands of officers, back into the hands of the soldiers. You must understand that I’m not being anti-officership here, but I am being anti-priest/anti-clerical. I believe that officership can be a powerful thing…so long as it does what its meant to do.

If you are an officer reading this, can I appeal to you to

– rid yourself of your priestly trappings if you have any;
– refuse to be a priest at every turn, invest your life in giving away leadership and ministry to the people you’re called to lead;
– think seriously about whether you’re in officership to function as a leader or because you have been misled by a doctrine of unbiblical, unsalvationist and apostate priesthood that takes its cue’s from Romanism and Old Testament Levitical priesthood models more than it does the model of Jesus and the Apostles.

One of the questions that I am asking now is whether the Salvation Army wants an officer who refuses to be a priest. I still do not now if they really do. I totally reject that my calling is higher than that of any of my soldiers, past or present.

I say this in the context of recent months where official minutes have been issues saying, for example, that only officers can dedicate children and make soldiers in Salvation Army ceremonies. Why? Only commissioned officers can conduct weddings, whereas Envoys are not entitled to do so…not because of any position of the law, because the Army could chose to facilitate that ‘status’ for envoys which would allow them to function in that way.

This is a life and death issue for The Salvation Army. Its one of those things we need to be hotly getting to grips with both as officers and soldiers. Please forgive me if this post has more destructive than constructive. In my next post, I want to carry this idea together in much more positive light as I share a possible model for helpful, biblical and sustainable officership in the future as non-clerical ‘catalysts’ for mission and ministry. Hope you will tune in!

Thinking out loud about leadership (2) Shape and Structure


So, having got the confession and the negative out in the open in where I’ve not been my best as a leader, I want to begin sharing how I see leadership. I will start by stating that I’m saying this in response to how I see things taking shape in the world around us and the ways in which I, as a ‘leader’ need to respond and adjust appropriately. I don’t, however, have the full picture. There will be some folks who will see different sides. And, indeed, there will be people in different contexts for whom what I am saying will be a challenge and almost impossible due to the ways we have constructed how we do ‘church’ in our movement.

First, let me begin with two pictures. The first image is the one you can see on the left at the top, here. Its just a random clip art image from google images of a typical organisational structure. It would be very easy, using a chart similar to this, to plot our the chain of command in The Salvation Army (or any company with a CEO, for that matter, or any other church by and large). You’ll know too that this chain of command was adopted early on in the movement in our days as a mission. Even before the ‘Army thing’ came along, Booth was in command and there was something of a structure under him. This was the absolute best way of getting things done in Booths days. All the conquering armies, governments and organisations led by this model.

In fact, there were little other models available apart from the ones which relied on countless committees. I can understand why Booth wanted to minimise these. Booth, utilising this model, charged the Army through the world. It was effective, however I guess its fair to say there were more than the fair share of casualties (especially amongst his children) for those who wouldn’t fall in line. This is the war model. Makes sense for a Salvation Army. OK….I think you get all that. Let me turn to my next picture.


I couldn’t really find one to adequately describe what I’ve picked out from a reading of the New Testament so I pulled this rough picture together on a simple program. Let me explain.

Imagine each larger circle as a group of believers in a location with Jesus at the centre. The smaller circles are individuals joined together. Jesus is the head of the body, each part of the body relates to him and receives instruction from him and responds together just like our natural bodies receove instructions from our brains. In that sense, Jesus as the head of the body is the leader to whom everone else responds. In the group, led by Jesus, there are different individuals with different giftings. Some gifted build the body up by teaching, pastoring, evangelising, and maybe a soul with a prophetic ministry…everyone working to build up each other. We also see from the new testament those who are among the church, ‘overseers’ and ‘elders,’ who are to “keep watch [looking out] over your souls” (Heb 13:17). They are scanning the skies looking for incoming missiles (heresy, false teaching) at the same time looking for ways forward. They are looking out for, not ‘lording over.’ There is nothing in the scripture to suggest that these functions were heirarchical in nature, just the body functioning together under the head, Jesus.

You will see the white dots floating yet linked to the smaller groups. These are itenerant apostles. The groups look to one or two of these…they may have had a hand in planting the group, will have spent time ‘laying the foundation as an expert builder’ before moving on. When they come along side the groups, inspite of their apostolic ministry, they don’t come alongside as one over and above, but alongside. Some of the churches may have had an apostolic worker left behind by the apostle to continue the building work in some settings until the church is ready to be left alone. Some churches will have apostolic workers (as opposed to apostles) in them for a season in advance of the apostle arriving to lay the foundation ‘properly.’ (See Paul’s relationship to Precilla and Aquilla and then Apollos). The apostle basically establishes the DNA of the body amongst a group gathered around Jesus which is then replicated at each point.

Now, the second is what I am advocating. Firstly because it bears closer resemblance to scripture and secondly, because there is something important about it that people are only starting to realise today.

Decentralised organisations are expanding at a tremendous rate. They tend to be bound together by common values and purpose. They are closer knit and when attacked, they spread out further and become stronger, making it difficult to quash them. The are fluid and mobile. The picture you can use to contrast these models is that of the starfish and the spider.

There is a book which explains this principle better than I can, but here it is in brief. The Spider has a head and 8 legs. If you cut off a spiders leg, providing he doesn’t lose too much fluid, he will eventually grow back a leg which is attached to his body & head. If, however, you stand on his head, the whole thing is dead and suffers badly. The first picture about is the spider model.

The starfish, however, is different altogether. There is no head and each ‘leg’ has the same organs in each, the same parts. When you separate one part, you actually get two starfish because it has everything it needs to be a full entity. I will come back to this in another blog, but the point I am making here is that each leg of the starfish contains all the dna and information needed to be a starfish where as the spiders leg is just a leg with no heart.

I’ve heard it said that we need the command (spider) structure in the first picture because we are at war so that there is a clear chain of command. However, I don’t think that is as potent as it may first seem. Rather than point to a modern example of Al Qaeda terrorist cells, let me share another story I picked up from ‘The Starfish and the Spider.’

Take the Spanish Army of the 16th century. They conquer the Incas and the Aztecs by marching in, cutting off the big cities and capturing and killing the leaders, Atahuallpa and Montezuma respectively. They take down the civilisations in two years.

Then take their assault on the Apache indians (their next target). Apaches weren’t structured the same as the other civilisations. They weren’t centralised, didn’t build towns and even if they did, they were such that if you took it down, they would just move out and settle somewhere else. They also had a shared political government. The only ‘leaders’ identifiable were what were called ‘Nant’ans’ who were cultural and spiritual leaders (Geronimo was one). As soon as the Spanish tried to kill these, others just rose up. They were important to inspire the people, but not indispensible because others could carry the story (the history of the people). if the Apaches decided to attack a Spanish settlement, they only had to talk about it in one place, spread the idea around, and you’d get local initiative acting spontaneously. The Spanish couldn’t beat it.

The Apache’s held out 200 years against the Spanish and were only conquered when the Spanish gave them cattle and farms. This automatically created a heirarchical structure and they they started to fight among themselves which led to their own destruction. Therein lies a tale.

When you consider the early church, we see the effects of this decentralisation. Persecution send the church out, sent them deep. You couldn’t kill it, it just grew like virus. Every person carried the story, the virus. The underground church in China is the same. Its outlawed and largely leaderless in the conventional sense yet inspite of that it grows because Jesus is Lord, the body function together and ‘pastors’ are working in apostolic roles, encouraging the small cells of believers.

Another picture. The institutional structure is like a train travelling on a set of tracks previously laid down but perhaps going a place where no-one wants to go or needs to go, all at great speed. The relational network structure is like a group of people out for a walk. They are ultimately slower, but they are more able to respond to the nuances of the terrain and able to go where the train can’t. Picture Jesus wandering around Gallile with a band of twelve! The point is that you gain flexibility and fluidity.

As Christendom crumbles, when the money isn’t there to pile into the massive stuctures we have set up around us (including paid ‘clergy’, buildings, programmes etc etc), we run the risk of collapse and we see this in our Army. If you take lack of money, increasing lack of heirarchical leaders (read officers) the whole structure begins to crack. The way to deal with this is not to stick our heads in the stand and hope that post-Christendom blows over (because it won’t). We need to re-evaluate and realign ourselves with a sustainable model which just so happens to find more root in New Testament as opposed to the Christendom clergy model.

The Army needs to be a leaner and meaner movement if it us to navigate the future. Corps need leaders who can help navigate the people through these changes at the level appropriate to the corps. For those of us in situations like mine (almost starting again from scratch), we need to adopt a new model from the start, and build these qualities into the nucleus for effective expansion. We need to prepare for the future now…but can we? More than that, will we?

Thinking out loud about leadership (1) A confession

I want to start back here at Army Renewal in confession mode. I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership. More specificially leadership I’ve given and leadership that is the current ‘flavour’ in the Army at the moment. I’m going to spend a few blogs exploring leadership, because it is key for our movement in these times. I have a conviction, which may be slightly controversial to some, about how the future of leadership will need to look for the Army. I also have a conviction that our current modes of leadership…ie, what it has turned into, is currently moving counter to where we need to go.

What I want to do, however, after this brief confession (which will follow shortly) is rather than focus on the negative I see in the current leadership modes and structures, I want to paint what I believe it should be in order to paint a different image. I will then contrast that with what sometimes happen and leave you good folks to make the conclusion.

The confession: although I may have made some good leadership decisions and seen some good things come out of my leadership, I acknowedge and confess that as a whole my leadership has been poor so far in my officership. To be brutally honest, in many senses I feel it should disqualify me from being a leader at all. Am I being overly hard on myself? Perhaps, however I recognise that there are many times where I could have led much much better and hurt much fewer people in the process.

What have I been doing? Well, I write this here not to make excuses for myself, but to put out one of the main reasons I’ve discoved I’ve been leading poorly. I recognised that I have become an institutionalised leader. For so long, the perpetuation of the ministry of The Salvation Army has taken priority over being a catalyst in the Kingdom. I will bring out those contrasts in posts to come. But please hear my confession as brother and sisters.

I have allowed my dependance on The Salvation Army for my living (they house me, clothe me, feed me, transport me, pay me) to shape my identity (and therefore my security and significance as a person) instead of being who I am in Christ. In many circumstances, I’ve put the Army before Jesus. I’ve fallen into the trap of perpetuating the Army, bolstering and promoting officership and even officership covenant as a means of ensuring denominational survival in order that my ‘profession’ is safe and that there is a future rather than for what they can be under God’s Kingdom economy.

I have confessed before the Lord the many times that I’ve put the institution before Him. I’ve begged that he would forgive my idolatry for allowing something to take his place, and I’ve asked him to lead me forward. Friends, I don’t yet know what that ‘forward’ looks like. However, here I am seeking to learn from my mistakes. In fact, mistakes only remain mistakes when we don’t learn from them.

Institutionalised? You may or may not know that I spend a bit of time in prison as a chaplain. There, as I’ve been ‘ministering’ to the men, I’ve learned something very important. I’ve learned from observation, conversation and a good few books that seem to refer to the film, The Shawshank Redemption, that the walls of a place can get inside your head. I meet men there so dependant on the prison walls that within an hour or so of being out of prison, they are already planning how to get back in. Its where their identity, security and significance is found. Life is too scary outside the walls.

Inside the Army I may have my own sense of importance, my rank, my role, my position, how people see me. Take me outside the Army, if all I’m relying on is that, I’m literally nothing. I’m unemployable (I have little skills other than constructing a three point sermon) and a bit of a social mis-fit because I have few friends who aren’t my friends because I work with them in some capacity. Contrast this institutionalisation with what we have in Jesus. He says that if we know the truth, the truth will set us free. If our identity, significance and security is in Him, we do indeed live a full life which sets us free from the constructs and limitations of the boxes we end up finding ourselves in.

A couple of days ago, I posted the message translation of Paul writing to the Galations about his own institutional law-bound days. Thing is, there is every liklihood that Paul went on to keep the law as a Jew (many of them did) but in Christ he would have seen the true value in it but yet there he is very careful to point out that to go back to slavery, to miss the point, is almost unthinkable.

For me, my key task in these days is to reinstate Jesus back at the Lordship of my life. That process actually invovles laying down a few things. It also involves a shift in priorities and focus. it involves all of me coming in line with all of Him.

Friends, I want my lesson to be something which maybe you can learn from. Its why I’ve felt so strongly that I should ‘come out of hiding’ and share it. Maybe you have found yourself making the same mistakes, whether you are an officer or not. Explore the walls in your life. Look at your heart, ‘test yourself and see if you are in the faith’ said Paul to the Corinthians (2 Cor 13:5). Take the road to reJesusing your life…putting him back on the throne to the extent that there is no doubt in your own mind whose you are. As you do that, you’ll recognise that to follow Jesus actually means leaving behind everything. Luke reports Jesus saying “26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27). Sounds a bit tough..wife, children, brothers, sisters, mother father? Hate them? Salvation Army? Hate it?

Our love for Jesus and our abandonment to him, in other words, should our love of those other things seem like hatred because he is the Lord. It means he is the point. It also means that everything else takes its place in line behind Jesus and his Lordship.

God help us.

Back

The recess was shorter than expected…the time was all I needed really for a perspective on some of the things I have been thinking through. I want to share with you a few things that have been on my heart and mind for some time now and wil begin doing so later.

Thanks for your continued visitation of this blog whilst it has been off air and thank you for listening. I hope that in the weeks to come there will be something which will cause you to think and re-evaluate a few things.

in Jesus
Andrew