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.