The Other General

I had the opportunity, yesterday, to go and listen to General the Lord Dannatt, Baron of Kewsick, GCB, CBE, MC, DL (former Cheif of the General Staff – Head of the British Army) talking on the topic of ‘Leadership in troubled times’.  The first thing that was striking was the vibrancy of his faith and the power of his conversion testimony.

But the wisdom poured out in his 40 minute lecture on several aspects of leadership and a disciplined life were very inspirational.  Here is a whistle stop tour of his words…very quotable!  The stuff below on mission command is, I believe, especially helpful. (All quotes in italics, other text is mine)

On salvation:  

  • “Kneeling at the foot of Christ’s Cross is the recruiting office where our spiritual journey and duty begins. This is where our spiritual pilgrimage is focussed and where the real challenge of spiritual warfare begins.”
  • “surrender is the end of fighting and the beginning of peace.”

  • “hearing is one thing, doing is another, and what Christ wants from us is full commitment and not a half-hearted compromise. I have been down that track and it does not work.”

On discipleship:

  • “Jesus managed to get people to follow, not out of curiousity, but with confidence in him.”
  • “Following his Father’s plan and doing what he had to do cost Jesus Christ his life, but his belief and confidence in his Father’s plan led to Him opening up the way to peace and purpose in this life – and life beyond – for those who also are prepared to put their trust in Him.”

On leadership:

  • “a good leader, stressing the adjectives as well as the vowels,  needs absolute fitness, complete integrity, enduring courage, daring initiative and undaunted willpower. To these, add three other prerequisites: knowledge, judgement and team spirit.”
  • “I first came across leadership as a subject to be considered formally while I was a cadet at Sandhurst.  It was treated differently to other subjects that we studied.  For leadership discussions, we did not sit in the classrooms; instead we sat around in armchairs in the company bar and we were asked for our ideas, as opposed to just being told what to do and perhaps what to think.  I believe that immediately sets leadership apart – it is a personal, an individual and an intuitive thing.”
  • “No matter how clever the plan and how good the leader’s ability, unless there is a really strong capacity to lead, then successfully promoting followship is quite another challenge. To arrive with no one behind you is a very lonely experience, and many a young officer has only been followed out of curiosity.”
  • “The motto of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is “Serve to Lead”. Christ, in his lifetime, is a very clear example of that maxim. When Christ washed his disciples’ feet, he was doing the most menial and humble task –and by serving his disciples he was earning the right to lead them. He would ask of others nothing that he would not do himself.

  • “It is my experience that a life which is obedient to God, committed to Christ and open to the Holy Spirit sustains and guides in these turbulent times.”

On mission strategy:
  
The General outlined a comprehensive Mission Command strategy for executing any mission.  He defined the three levels as ‘Strategic, Operational and Tactical.

Strategic:  this is where the big thoughts are thought.
Operational:    “sits between the Strategic and the Tactical, and  which is the level that sits between the ideas and the action – it is the level which turns the ideas into action, and in my book that is the level which lifts the mediocre to the exceptional”….”It is at the Operational level where the General or the Captain of Industry does his real work, and where an End to End plan is formulated to transform the original idea – the Big Idea – into success on the battlefield.”
Tactical – “where the rubber hits the road”…”the tactical level is about delivery and action”

 The General then spoke of how leadership needs to function in each phase:

“Three components to what we call Mission Command, all of which hinge around the leader:   

  1. Strategic the Commander/the Leader needs to think through his problem and convert his strategic goals into the front end of his Operational or Campaign Plan, and this results in him clearly setting out his Intent. He needs to have applied sufficient analysis and intellectual rigour so that he can set out to his subordinates or his employees his statement of what needs to be done and his overall intentions as to how it is to be done. This, I suggest, is more than just a rather wishy-washy Vision Statement.   
  2. Operational:   in a non-prescriptive way, is to separate out the tasks that need to be done and delegate them to subordinates along with the necessary manpower, equipment and financial resources to carry out those tasks. But he doesn’t tell them what to do – he tells them what they are to achieve; this is output or outcome focussed, not input focussed. 
  3. Tactical:   this is where the process can go wrong – having delegated the task appropriately, he needs to supervise the execution of those tasks – not in a way that stifles the initiative of the subordinates to whom the tasks have been delegated, but in a subtle way, remembering that while tasks can be delegated, responsibility can never be delegated – the buck always stops with the boss.”

Further quotes on leadership and mission command:

  • “On God’s instructions he [Gideon] endorsed an amazing Concept of Operations, deploying his tiny force at night – a force equipped more like the Regimental band and Quartermaster’s Department than crack troops! The result was that 135,000 Midianites were defeated, with 120,000 casualties. This was a fantastic victory stemming from obedience to God.”
  • “The Father wants us to use the abilities that we have been given to work to bring peace to the lives of individuals, whether we are doing so as a leader at the Strategic or Operational levels, or as a fighter at the Tactical level.”


Hope you enjoy chewing all that over!

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Corporate Holiness

Let me just clarify a point on what I said yesterday.  Its not that anyone has questioned what I wrote, but more that I don’t want to be understood when talking about being not being worried about the health of the Army.

What I mean by that is a preoccupation with our own survival and wellbeing in the sense of maintaining the movement and bolstering it either with finance or in some other way.  Health as in wealth, and health as in institutional ‘security.’  I don’t want to be misunderstood as saying that health, wholeness and holiness are not crucial.

Of course, holiness is an ultimate priority and this we should be concerned about.  You know, in some quarters the love has leaked out.  Both amongst officers, local officers and soldiers, there can be lack of depth and spirituality that comes from purity of heart and a close walk with God.  Its not hard to tell the spiritual atmosphere of a place…either a corps, a band, a youth councils, whatever it is….you listen to the conversation.  This isn’t to say that people can’t chat about regular day to day fun ole things.

But are you in a place where the Lord isn’t just named but where he is at the heart of the people?  Do you earnestly seek after God?  Are you trusting him to keep you holy and ‘in the faith’?   Are your hands clean, is your heart pure?   And what about prayer….is there a deep connection with the Father through the Son by the Spirit?  And what about our heart for the lost?  Has our commitment to the lost been lost in our lack of commitment to prayer and in hearing the heart of God in the world?

I say it a lot these days:  ‘its and issue of the heart’.  I used to think that little song in the song book was a bit trite: “If you’re heart’s alright, you’ll do.”  Still not convinced I like it…but actually, it alludes to something very crucial.  How is our spiritual heart? 

Finally….a word about connection spiritually with others.  Friends, if we can’t muster up some kindred hearts around the place, even Booth encouraged us to find those whose hearts are fired after the same passion, to join hands and ask the Holy Ghost to come.  Its so crucial that you keep your coals in the fire, otherwise you will not last and you will grow cold.

Let’s ask God to continually warm the hearts of the Army….lets pray for hearts baptised with fire and ensure we are looking at our own lives too.  Let’s not lose our vision and calling to be a holiness people.

Charism

I float around a fair few ecumenical circles these days.  Its a whole pile of fun, revelation and….well, sometimes just plain bizarreness!  One of the common mantras of the ecumenical scene is that any sense of different emphasis or any hint of denominational perspective or loyalty is negative.  I agree to the extent that there should be nothing which builds hostility and division.

However,  I think that if there is an insistance that every Christian community is monochrome, they miss the point on this one.  Moreover, often the claim is that they have to leave their own ‘path’ and join theirs in order to be one.

Jean Vanier, a Frenchman and theologian, speaking of a particular Christian community, says this:

“These people have been called together to be a sign and a witness, to accomplish a particular mission, which is their charism, their gift.” 

General Bond articulated a few days ago the international mission priorities for the whole Army.  It is a fantastic description of what our ‘particular mission’ is.  And friends, its not until you serve in a different part of the universal church that you realise exactly how particular that mission is.  There is definetely a ‘charism’ that is Salvationist with regards to mission that isn’t seen elsewhere.  I see this clearer now than I’ve ever seen it.

But here is the challenge:  in the context of days where in many places the Army harks back to churchy identity (with pastors and churches and services etc etc) I believe that there is a risk of us taking our focus away from our ‘charism.’  Its not that all the trappings of Salvationism are the charism, its not about bands and uniforms etc.  However, there is a real risk that the more we start to take the lead from the churches and their mission (for example, the church growth movement, the mega church movement, the Natural Church Development movement etc etc) the more we lose sight of the vibrancy of the mission that we have been called to.

How can this be?  Simply because the focus of the Salvation Army is not the Salvation Army.  The focus isn’t the health, size or wellbeing of The Salvation Army…nor indeed too much introspective navel-gazing preoccupation with ourselves.  The focus and mission of the Army is outward facing.  We are to exist as a permanant mission to the lost.  The mission of God is our rallying point.

Over the years, I’ve heard it said that its no longer appropriate for the Salvation Army to be a mission to the lost because as we’ve matured, we’ve had to necessarily develop a more predominantly pastoral ecclessiology.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:  YUCK!  I mean, I could try and find more sensible words, but to be honest, who wants to be part of a Salvation Army church?  There are tonnes of places out there who do the pastoral model of church a whole lot better than we do.  Seriously!  There are tonnes of better pastoral focussed churches which mean that if you want to go somewhere and be fed and cared for by a pastor week by week, they’ll happily welcome you and make you spiritually fat.

We’re made to fight  We’re made for the last, the least, the lost.  We’re on a mission….a ‘community in mission’ as Phil Needham describes us.  You don’t come to the Army to get fed until you are spiritually obese.  You come and get trained up, filled up and then sent out on mission in the world to save it.

You know, there is no place I’d rather be at all than back in the Army as an officer.  Do you know what dogs every thought about returning?  A Salvation Army fixated on a pastoral Christendom model of church with all the clerical trappings.  It doesn’t fit the Army….or certainly the Army’s charism as opposed to what the Army is slowly becoming. 

It has taken me years to process this stuff you know and to figure out whats going on.  From my very earliest days there is something inside me which has kicked out at a purely pastoral model of officership. Why would you want a model of officership that focuses purely on one aspect of leadership gifting to the exclusion of apostles, evangelists, teachers and prophets?  Every missiologist will tell you that if you have a movement led by pastors, it will stagnate.  Why?  Because you’ll have no apostles to develop strategic advance, no prophets to call us back to the Word and to our mission, no evangelists to get people saved and so you’ll have no-one to pastor or teach!!!

If you are an officer and a pastor, God bless you.  We need you a lot.  Let there be no mistake in that.

But listen to this:  “If you aim for ministry, you never get to mission, even if you intend to do it. However if you aim at mission, you get ministry as well, because ministry is the means by which you do mission.”  – (Alan Hirsch, missiologist)

Reality

Let me take a break from visions, hopes dreams, ideals and aspirations to take a reality check.

Sixteen years ago on this day, I knelt at a Mercy Seat in a little Salvation Army corps and my new life in Christ began.  From the Christmas of 1994 until October 1995, my interaction with Salvationists at Irvine and at school changed my life.  Big time.

In the week leading up to Sunday 17th October 1995, I had called up my corps officer, Major George Collonette, and told him that I thought I should be an officer.  He did tell me I’d got it round the wrong way and that I should be a Christian first.  Fair enough, I thought.  He told me that Sunday was the time.  I mean, looking back on it, it seemed strange.  You don’t have to wait to be a Christian….but I’m not being critical here, because what happened the following Sunday is etched on my mind.

The evening meeting began and I was already sensing that ‘this was it’.  I was so desperate.  I had come to the end of myself.  My life at the time was so empty and I was struggling inspite of the love and care these Salvos had already started to inject into my life.  The Major preached on…..I don’t know what.  All I knew was that when he gave the nod, that was the time to do the business.

I knelt at the Mercy Seat and I poured out my heart to the Lord.  Billy, the CSM, was the ‘midwife’.  I’m eternally grateful for his careful and supportive love at that time.  He was clear and helpful.  The ‘process’ was thorough.  He helped me understand that Jesus could cleanse my sin and heal by brokenness. 

When I got home that night, I felt such a sense of relief….God was doing something, but I was fearful of what it would mean in the context of my family where Christian stuff just didn’t happen….at all.  There were going to be challenges in folllowing Jesus in my setting big time.  I cried out to God again.

God responded.  I remember laying on my bed and sensing something akin to electric current flowing up and down my body.  I remember hearing amazing music, so musical, so perfect.  This went on for hours.  Even thinking of that time, I can hear echoes of the sound.  God knew what he had to do in my life.  Since that day I have never, ever, been in doubt that God is real and that his work in me was true.  My life literally changed overnight.

Today, 16 years later, I led worship at a Methodist church where I preached on Ephesians chapter 2, outlining the spiritual transaction that must be made as we go from darkness into light.  One of the testimonies I heard afterwards is that one of the women left ‘feeling like a new woman’ after the service.  And so, the work of God continues.

I don’t want to glorify my sinful life as a youngster, nor do I want to dwell on my challenging past….but I do want to point out a few things:

1.  Godly Salvationists invested in my life and planted the seed of the gospel.
2.  Godly Salvationists were equipped and prepared to make disciples and knew how to do it, from the birth process all the way through to weaning me off milk and onto the meat.
3.  You, too, can be the person that God uses not only to bring change to one life, but to start a chain of events which impact more and more people with the gospel.

The key to the Army being the Army is to never lose touch with the transformative power of the gospel when the Holy Spirit applies the blood of Jesus to a sinful heart and then fills it with perfect love.  I’m thankful that I got saved in a place where they kept it real.  That is true Salvationism.  Lets get to it.

Exploring the Vision

Have you had a chance to read the vision the General presented today?  Have you watched the videos on youtube (2 x 15mins)?  Watch them first then come back to this blog for my take.

Part 1:  http://youtu.be/Ab00SGY0vUE
Part 2:  http://youtu.be/LkQK9XaGsdc

So, for what its worth, my little blog here at Army Renewal wants to shout a big hallelujah and amen to the stating of this vision today.  There is little that is new, but so much of it just draws out the crucial and essential heart and DNA of the Army that we passionately need to see Renewed.  I started this whole blogging thing about 7.5 years ago, convinced that renewal needed to happen, that there needed to be clear missional and adventurous leadership at the top and all the way down to the most recent convert.

I want to just affirm each section of the vision and weep a tear over every commitment because I long to see the Army being like this.  My comments are in italics.

The Salvation Army’s International Vision

ONE ARMY: We see a God-raised, Spirit-filled Army for the 21st century – convinced of our calling, moving forward together  – let us all be convinced about who God has called us to be!

We will

  • deepen our spiritual life – God grant it!  A Salvation Army which sells is people short of full salvation (and I mean it in the second-blessing entire sanctification message that it is) isn’t The Salvation Army.  We were born with a passionate spirituality.  Today many people couldn’t explain what it means to be holy – I see it on the social networks all the time and the concept of holiness is a mystery.  We must first experience it afresh and then testify to it and preach it.  Not just holiness, but a rigorous gospel of salvation centered upon the person of Jesus and every other spiritual disciple exercised to boot.
  • unite in prayer – Come on! As with many things, the Army was doing half and whole nights of prayer long before the 24/7 prayer vision came forth….its why that 24/7 has seemed so natural to the Army….its in our DNA.  Prayer is the boiler room of the Army, its our Holy Spirit fuel pump.  Bring it!
  • identify and develop leaders – Our desperate needListen, we already have a healthier culture of training leaders from young ages like no other situation I’ve seen but we’ve got a way to go.  We gotta get rid of the clergy-laity thing…its an insult to the whole people of God.  We need to make leaders of all people….whether you’re going to lead the Army, a Territory, a DHQ, corps, band, young people’s group, toddler group, hostel or whether you’re going to lead in your workplace and in your family, we need to be developed.  Our mission stations equip people to lead others towards their potential in Christ.  We need to recover the very heart of spiritual leadership – and recognise that professional development doesn’t necessairly equate to leadership development.  I could say more, but please Lord, we need renewal in this area.
  • increase self-support and self-denial – Open the purse strings, Lord!  This needs to happen not just with Territories supporting other Territories and Commands, but corps supporting corps.  There are loads of mission situations (like our corps at Torry for example) which was poor as anything…not only that, not real potential for raising it without hugely diverting from vast amounts of the mission.  Lets not use money, or lack of money, as a threat….lets resource mission generously and sacrificially.

ONE MISSION: Into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means

We will

  • emphasise our integrated ministry – Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, Lord!  God doesn’t have two missions.  He has one mission and it is the ‘healing of the nations’ and all that encompasses.  Mass redemption is the plan.  Founded on Jesus, Kingdom Ministry. Anything else isn’t authentic Salvo mission.
  • reach and involve youth and children – I’ve been really big on this one recently.  My current situation outside the Army just doesn’t see the potential of children and young people to be radical disciples of Jesus.  The Army has the heart and the vision – it just need released, resouces and infused with the passionate DNA of all thats true to Salvationist calling and mission.  We need to act on our convictions.
  • stand for and serve the marginalised – Oh Lord help us! You know, we’re neglecting the poor.  I mean, I know the Army does lots of stuff for people…but the poor are no longer ‘our people’ because so often we’ve opted to choose forselves a people more like our middle class selves.  The Army doesn’t make sense in the suburbs….we’re made for the streets and the darkest alleys.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met Jesus there.  Its where we belong.
  • encourage innovation in mission – I could cry at this one.  If I ever failed in my officership, its because I just couldn’t help but believe that the Army just weren’t willing to see change.  Easy to say with hindsight I should have had more patience.  In her video, the General states that the answer in every mission board should be ‘YES!’ unless there is a good reason to say no.  She admits that so often its a resounding ‘NO!!!’ until you can convince them 5 times why it should be a YES!  This is true in my experience.  You know what, in our leadership and discpling, its so important that people begin to learn not only from success, but from their errors on the way…..we shouldn’t be failing not having tried.  We should be trying, adapting, reassessing, venturing out all the way…..finding our own Nos on the ground instead of in the boardroom.  If something is true to the Army DNA, calling and mission, the answer can only be YES! and AMEN!

ONE MESSAGE: With the transforming message of Jesus, bringing freedom, hope and life

We will

  • communicate Christ unashamedly – Jesus all the way! One of my heart issues (as opposed to pragmatic or mission issues) that lead to me leaving the Army is that I’d fallen into the trap of making it about something else other than Jesus.  Other things became more important than him, especially when I was trying to respond to the demands of ‘man’.   My time out has been a radical refocus on Jesus that I needed outside the context of the Army to help me see the Army in the right perspective to Jesus.  This is valuable friends.  But I think many of our mission centres need this, our officers, and our soldiers too.  Jesus is Lord!
  • reaffirm our belief in transformation – God dragged me from the pit and changed my life entirely…he broke the cycle of generations of my family with no hope and no salvation.  If he can do it for me, he can do it for anyone.  We shall be changed!
  • evangelise and disciple effectively – a fresh vision of Jesus will fix this.  As will a re-shifting away from clerical officership.  The whole Army mobilised!  We need to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples! 
  • provide quality teaching resources- you know, we need to have ways to fire the vision that God has given to us….not the vision that he’s given to Hybels or Schwatrz or even Cole or Hirsch.  Sure, all these brothers and sisters can teach us and help us.  Of course we consult them and use their teaching to our advantage.  But I believe we have a specific charism and calling under God and we have to explore that and know it in our head as well as our heart.  We need to know what we’re about and infuse and enthuse our people with a vision thats bigger than our own blinkered back yard and beyond looking whats happening in our neighbours back yard and thinking it will work for us.  There is some good Salvo flavoured resouce starting to flow again in the Army…..we need more.   


So…..thats my initial take.  I hope you can hear my heart on this.  I love that this vision has been expressed in this way and in these tangible and simple terms.  This is the kind of vision that sparks vision AND action.  As a soldier, even a soldier in full time ministry in another denomination, I long to have this vision as the vision for my life.  Its what I’ve been trying to sing to for years.  There are so many echoes here with what Knaggs and Court wrote in ‘One for All’.  You gotta find this for yourselves and give your lives to it to the Glory of God in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ by the sanctifiying and purifying power of the Holy Spirit to propell us to action.  Lord, bring it!

The General’s Vision

General Bond has issued the following vision statement.  Great stuff.  I can happily sign my name to that.  A few things I want to comment on…will post them at some point soon.  Here goes for the vision:

The Salvation Army’s International Vision

ONE ARMY: We see a God-raised, Spirit-filled Army for the 21st century – convinced of our calling, moving forward together

We will

deepen our spiritual life
unite in prayer
identify and develop leaders
increase self-support and self-denial

ONE MISSION: Into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means

We will

emphasise our integrated ministry
reach and involve youth and children
stand for and serve the marginalised
encourage innovation in mission

ONE MESSAGE: With the transforming message of Jesus, bringing freedom, hope and life

We will

communicate Christ unashamedly
reaffi rm our belief in transformation
evangelise and disciple eff ectively
provide quality teaching resources

Why community isn’t enough

We all crave it.  We all crave significant connections at deeper levels…especially when it comes to living out faith.  I mean, there are some who avoid it, but hey, thats a matter of the heart.  In my view, when we connect with God we automatically have the desire to connect with others.

But, we’re not commanded to go into the world and build community.  Indeed, there is no real scriptural injuction to build community at all…not in and of itself.  No, Christian community is not just built on relationship, it is centred around Jesus.  It is that unique connection to Jesus that automatically creates community.  Our response is to make space for it, celebrate it an embrace our brother and sister.

It’s not enough, though.  Community won’t save the world.  Jesus can.  Community might show Jesus to the world…in fact I think that we can only show Jesus to the world if we do it together….I in myself am not a complete picture of some of the stuff Jesus is doing.  But its not even enough just to ‘show Jesus.’

Community has to become communitas.

“Communitas is an acute point of community. It takes community to the next level and allows the whole of the community to share a common experience, usually through a rite of passage. This brings everyone onto an equal level: even if you are higher in position, you have been lower and you know what that is. “

Communitas is where those that make up the community are filled and bound to the spirit of that community.  For the Army,  its no rite of passage which creates it, but it is the infilling of the Spirit which indwells and then propels people into mission.  We can share it equally with soldier and Commissioner.  Our common experience is to engage together to win the world for Jesus.

So, a community which has communitas will not rest at simply being community.  It will roll up its sleeves and respond to the world around it.  Neither will it spend all its energy focussed on itself….it will have its focus on others because this is why we exist.  It won’t simply rely on the power of community to do the talk, it will harness the power within it, the very Spirit of Jesus, to fuel it and fire it up.  This will move us out of the comfort zone and resting on our laurels to every sphere of mission…together.

Listen to Alan Hirsch as he speaks to the heart of everything that is Salvationist:

Come on!  Comrades of the world unite! 😉

Choice

I was having a blether with a colleague earlier, talking generally about ‘the will of God’ for our lives and the future of our ministry.  It brought me again to a thought that has been formulating in my mind over this last year or so.

I’m coming to believe that to find yourself in the will of God is comes through choosing what God has chosen.  I have just been aware of the massive things God seems to orchestrate in our lives to get us to go to places and situations which, left to our own devices, we’d never do.  I am coming to a place, with regards to understanding where he would have me, where I really must begin to chose what God has chosen.  To resist that is, in a sense, futile.  Now, I think God does bless all sorts of plan Bs, Cs, Fs, Ps and Zs, but even then, there is a path to be discerned and walked upon.

Having said all that, it doesn’t make it easier to discern what God’s path necessarily is, but it does bring clarity in the whole process of discerning what things might be your will and decision in comparison with what God has chosen all in the hope that by the help of the Holy Spirit, a discerning community and through much prayer, we might come to the best decisions possible.

I’m still learning to chose what God has chosen.