So, as The Salvation Army we’re pretty visible…or are we? Its weird that lots of Salvos doen’t always dig the visibility thing. I don’t want to judge their motives, but you have to wonder why people, Salvos especially, wouldn’t want to be visible when you have a mission to do. Lets not get into the ‘fashion’ aspects of uniform….I mean, I’m talking the whole gambit of visibility here – everything from high collar to Army t-shirt n jeans.
The last year has been weird in many respets in that I’ve worn uniform very little (although I have tramped through the streets of Newcastle in a Street Pastor uniform). Totally weird for me – at one point I hardly owned any clothes that weren’t uniform. I’ve entered the ‘invisible’ Christian world and it has been interesting to say the least.
The first thing I really notice is that no-one talks to you. Not really. Its tough to strike up conversations without a context. I’ve also noticed that its very easy and tempting to remain anonymous in the neighbourhood where I live and even where I work in Gosforth. Thats weird….usually a year in a place I’d have established myself as a presence locally. I’ve noticed also that because I’m not ‘dressed up’ I really don’t have anywhere to go! When you’re a turasaiche (traveller, vagabond, nomad) like me, you have to have strategies to strike up relationships quick.
Of course, much mission strategy is founded upon relational and missional type approaches these days….this is all fantastic, I mean, I encourage that ….people should be in significant relationships with independents (those living independent from Jesus). I encourage all the long termers in this community to focus on that as a priority. Yet, it is foolish, entirely foolish, to put all our eggs in one basket. It also creates a rather limited focus of outreach other than relational. Read me, I’m not dissing relational at all….but I don’t think it will win the whole War of Love. If this is true for my work context, its certainly true for Salvationists.
At the end of the day, we have a gift of visibility and a credible ‘brand’. What are we doing with it? People are generally positive (if not bemused) by us. Whilst the days are for us, is it not prudent for the Kingdom to be using this gift to its absolutely greatest advantage? It was seeing a uniform in the street that started me on the tracks of exploration into the Army and within a few weeks finding Jesus.
The other thing I note is that no-one in the last year has tried to ‘evangelise’ me other than the JWs. Even local Salvos who had no idea who I am, at least in the initial months, made no attempt to talk to me inspite of hanging round to test em out (sneaky, I know). I include in that sitting on a park bench near an open air. I was offered a songsheet but no conversation or other engagement. But hey, it was happening! Those guys were there doing the stuff, regarldess of the confidence of the folks doing it.
In one way, all evangelism is relational….sometimes we just have to find ways of striking up relationships quick. I mean, it we take the gospel seriously and don’t get misled by people who try to downplay the urgency of the gospel message by taking away the penalty of sin, regadless of where our starting point is in evangelism, its crucial they get to hear eventually and that probably will only come with a follower of Jesus initiating a conversation. People get silly and say ‘you can’t treat people as projects.’ Who is? At the end of the day, we are co-workers with Christ – he sends us into the field to make disciples of all nations…..who is to say that the people we engage aren’t the ones a) who are more ready for the seed of the gospel to be planted and b) are who God has been actively drawing to himself and getting response from.
Lets use every positive thing we can to be visible, available and ready to engage folks. Our Sally suits are one of the best tools we have when we fill them with hearts of compassion and zeal for the Lord mixeed with great love and grace.