|The World for God!|
I never read a good book just once. I was revisiting the middle of the three books in ‘One for All’ by Knaggs and Court that I recently reviewed as I was particularly struck by a few things the first time through. ‘One Thing – Win the World for Jesus’ is a really engaging little volume. You can read it in one sitting but it presents no small challenge or empty rhetoric.
I love any book that has a chapter called ‘How?’ Its fair to say that there is a good reason to suggest that Salvationists will know why we need to Win the World for Jesus. However, in some situations, there needs to be a dreaming of what it means, what it will take and how to set out on the journey.
Knaggs and Court suggest ways of Salvation Army mission units might begin the advance. Here they are with my comment on them.
- New corps. Planting new corps and new churches is a solidly proven way of winning the world. Army history is littered with the proof of this method over the years. In its earlier days, up until the late 1890s, the Army planted new corps at a phenomenal rate and masses of people were saved, discipled and deployed. In our nations today, there are plenty of communities with no Army mission taking place, but more than that, there are many communties where there is no evangelical witness. So, there are two things here I think. There will be areas where the niche of Army mission is needed and these should be identified and people sent. This could be done up and down the nations too, and the Army can become determined, like the apostle Paul, to plant the gospel on no-one’s foundation but the one he lays (Christ) as an expert builder. There are just too many corps not giving birth, too few officers and soldiers being released to plant.
- New cells The first criticism of the first point, planting new corps, will in many cases be finance and personel. Some church planting methods are cluttered and complicated. They can be expensive too. The concept of the multiplying cell, or the small missional community, is mission dynamite. Most corps can work up leaders to lead a small group of others. With the right input and freedom, these can develop and allow their Salvo mission DNA to infuse them with the passion and desire not only to meet behind closed doors, but in creative community together in a given locality. Soldier/local officer led mini-corps springing up everywhere – a key to the advance in these days where the culture of ‘come to us’ attractional mission is losing its effectiveness greatly.
- New congregations We are slowly recognising the backwardness of God only being ‘open for business’ on Sunday mornings between 10am and 12pm. Our society isn’t built around Christendom values and weekly patterns and hasn’t been for a very long time. Society is 24/7. The good news is that Sunday morning is no more sacred than any other time. So yes, we can engage with the familes for whom Sunday is the only day off by gathering people on a Monday night instead. We can engage the cafe culture with late evening cafe church at the local Starbucks (other coffee brands are available). We can engage pretty much anyone we want at any time if we have the vision. We live in a global society, but one which is increasingly becoming tribal and sub-sections of society appear in an amazing variety of shapes. Each tribe needs to be reached and brought into relationship with others.
- New types of corps Professor John Drane talks about ‘the McDonaldisation of the Church.’ I think if any people got close to McDonaldisation, it was probably the Army. Gone are the days where you can go to any corps, in any city or town, in any country around the world and be able to feel as if you had just walked down the road from your home! Praise God that the things that unite us are our values and patterns more than our physical shape, appearance and style. We need all sorts of expressions of corps life to meet the needs of the communities they serve. One size doesn’t fit all. Thats not the missionary method being applied here. This needs to be heralded from the top of a flag pole – different communities need different approaches and different way of being. Those also need different ways to be held accountable, measured and developed than with the tools you want to measure everything else by. Creativity needed!
- New networks. I think I’m the point in case for this one. My circumstances at the moment mean that my main connection with the Army is online. I work for the Methodists in a full-time post. There is much to do in harnessing the new world of social networking and social media. It is in that sense that Knaggs is my territorial commander and Court is my DC. Initiatives like iSalvos connect people around the world in creative ways (or it did….what happened there?) But beyond the world of social networking, there are the physical and social circles that we meet in which may only very rarely have any ‘Christian presence’ with in them. Mission is as key there as anyone else. Its so important that we allow folks freedome to invest in pursing relational networks with others. Don’t question their holiness because they are on the football sidelines with their children of a Sunday morning but praise thier commitment to radically invest in the lives of others. Thats not a get out clause, but its what will happen when innovation and passion takes over….things will take shape and we’ll need to adapt.
- Candidates Knaggs and Court outline the need for officers. I agree this needs to happen but I also suspect that officership will need to change shape to in some ways to ensure people that they won’t get swallowed up by the corporate hairball (See ‘Orbiting the Giant Hairball’ by Gordon McKenzie) Noland picks up on the need for giving people more space in another part of the trilogy, but I think this is particularly the case when it comes to officership. This is no ‘free for all’ – officers need to relate to the Army, but more creatives need to do that (we all need to do that) by orbiting rather than by being those who add to the hairball. Sorry if you don’t get the analogy….the book is worth reading!
- Missions teams. They talk about the emergence of mission teams in territories as sort of SAS groups to mission-whack areas as some sort of specialists. It was helpful-ish, but only to the extent that it inspired the local and left a legacy. Mission is not the work of specialists, its the work of every disciple and so yes, every ministry needs to become a mission team (band, home league, youth, etc etc)
- Corps-focussed chaplaincy. This is about coming alongside our communities, offering presence, a listening ear and practical service. Youth organisations, prisons, fire, police, local authority etc etc etc. I think there are two ways you can do chaplaincy…you can do it from a position of empire where by you turn up and just do the traditional Christendom thing of being nice and pastoral….or, we can come alongside as the prophet speaking from the outside of a thing to the very heart of it. Salvationists have been fantastic at this for ages and often present a less threatening presence than ‘clergy.’
- (and 9b, lets call it) Corps-focussed social programmes & social programme focussed corps These, in my mind, shouldn’t necessarily appear separately. The aim is surely integrated mission with the division between evangelism and social action isn’t carved out, but co-exist in a complimentary relationship in the context of community. I can see, however, that in terms of adaption, the two entities – corps and social programmes – may need to make the shift to integrate the other aspect. However, certainly when starting from scratch anywhere, we would want to aim for seamless joints.
- Conversions. In the simplest term, we’re talking about people who repent, believe and follow Jesus. In more complex terms, we’re talking about the ways that people engage on a whole journey and clinch the deal on the way. But, in both cases, the fruit is passionate followers of Jesus. Changed lives. Jesus-shaped lives. The world can’t be won without it.
So, 10 (11 really but I joined 2) great areas needing much investment of energy and creativity. There is one more thing I want to say though.
I do believe that there is a massive difference between triumphal imperialism and incarnational Jesus-centred mission. When we talk about winning the world for Jesus, we want to create a radical alternative expression of life in the Kingdom of God, not the strange complexity of church-state relationship. Yes, we want to see the Kingdom come in every which way. But if we learn anything from the last 1600 years, we learn that you can’t just call a nation Christian and expect to come out with a pure, Jesus following, passionate body of disciples. At best, there is more freedom and acceptance for Christians in the public square. At worst, you can create nominalism and a church that has to compromise to much to get on with the state. We need to separate the imperialism and power games that led to the creation of Christendom and recognise that we have and are part of an alternative Kingdom which even when realised on the earth, continues to stand as a powerful contrast to the kingdoms of the world. More about ‘post-Christendom’ elsewhere on the blog.
So, lets win the world for Jesus..with Jesus…and through Jesus!