The King’s Own Army

It has been an interesting year here at Army Renewal.  Since picking up blogging here again in the last 5 months, there have been more hits than in the previous 7 years combined.  Part of that will be due to some changes in technology, but I hope too that there is something of worth in what I continue to write.  I genuinely desire to see the Army renewed, re-captured by its vibrant spiritual and missional DNA and forging ahead to win the world for Jesus.

The thing that continues to hang in the air is my part in it.  We’ve been warmly welcomed by a local corps here and are able to engage with them, although my other Kingdom commitments  in this season of life make it difficult to invest fully there.  But I have to say, in the words of a Salvation Army chorus ‘Just where he needs me, my Lord has placed me’ and it is clear that the larger part of my Kingdom commitment will manifest itself amongst the Trinity community, which I will lead more hands on from February for a season.  So, I continue to be fully engaged with a very different detatchement of the King’s Own Army.

In my Christmas stocking, I received ‘Road to Missional’ by Michael Frost – a prophetically challenging book that urges those who play at mission to delve deeper and fully engage.  One of the challenging things it presented was the idea that when one claims Jesus as Lord, one automatically signs up to advance the Kingdom and extend the rule of God.  I was reflecting on the fact that this isn’t always the case in our Christian communities…many folks just ‘join’ churches and nothing further.  Yet, this happens in The Army too as an insiduous form of membership pervades the movement.  This is something relatively new to The Army, though.  Converts were traditionally quickly enlisted in the mission in a variety of ways.  Soldiership was never a destination, it was the beginning of the journey.  Both in the Army and where I fight day by day, this issue is crucial.

I believe more and more that the renewal of the Army lies within the rediscovery of this kind of active, missional soldiership.  By this I mean those who allow the Kingdom of God to entirely reorient their lives when the Lordship of Jesus is established, propelling them OUT into the world to make disciples.   This takes our fight outside the realms of what we do in the Army hall in ‘Salvation Army sanctioned’ activities, to the every day encounters of our lives.  It moves our Salvationism beyond uniform wearing, tithe giving and musicianship to the life-long, front-line, everyday warfare of love.  The Kings Own Army, in every shape and form, can no longer afford to be content to call people with steeple bell, but to march out and announce/flesh out the Kingdom where people are.

I also believe that the renewal of the Army will simply be a by product of a movement which seeks above all to be true to Jesus and to make his fame known among the nations.  We live not for ourselves…this is not about The Army.  Those who seek to save their lives will lose it, but those who seek to lose it will find it.  This is the Kingdom paradigm.

So, thank you for re-tuning in to Army Renewal in 2011.  I’ll continue to blog through 2012 as the Lord leads.  May God bless you with Kingdom vision for the fight on your front.

in Jesus

Andrew Clark

Advertisements

Books 2011

Here is my annual rundown of books I’ve read in 2011 with a little * to ***** rating thing.  Reading is a life changing activity…furnish your mind!

(A link here to 2010’s books and here to 2009’s books)

Radical Holiness for Radical Living – C Peter Wagner ***

‘One for All’ – J Knaggs & S Court  ****

The Jesus Creed – Scot McKnight **

Missional Small Groups – M Scott Boren ****

Missio Dei Breviary – Missio Dei ****

High Street Monasteries – Ray Simpson ***

Punk Monk – Andy Freeman *****

Follow – Floyd McClung ****

Right Here, Right Now – Ford and Hirsch ***

Worship and Mission After Christendom – Krieder & Krieder ****

History of Scotland – Neil Oliver ****

The Provocative Church – GrahamTomlin ***

The Passionate Life – Breen and Kallestad ****

The Naked Anabaptist – Stuart Murray *****

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith – Rob Bell **

Barefoot Disciple – Stephen Cherry ***

The Fry Chronicles – Stephen Fry **

Leadership in The Salvation Army: A Case Study in Clericalisation – Harold Hill ****

From Eternity to Here – Frank Viola ***

The Testament – John Grisham ***

Finding Sanctuary – Christopher Jamieson ****

Finding Happiness – Christopher Jamieson ***

Clusters: Creative Mid-sized Missional Communities – Mike Breen and Bob Hopkins ***

Books 2011

Punk Monk by Andy Freeman

Here is my annual rundown of books I’ve read in 2011 with a little * to ***** rating thing.  Reading is a life changing activity…furnish your mind!

(A link here to 2010’s books and here to 2009’s books)

Radical Holiness for Radical Living – C Peter Wagner ***

‘One for All’ – J Knaggs & S Court  ****

The Jesus Creed – Scot McKnight **

Missional Small Groups – M Scott Boren ****

Missio Dei Breviary – Missio Dei ****

High Street Monasteries – Ray Simpson ***

Punk Monk – Andy Freeman *****

Follow – Floyd McClung ****

Right Here, Right Now – Ford and Hirsch ***

Worship and Mission After Christendom – Krieder & Krieder ****

History of Scotland – Neil Oliver ****

The Provocative Church – GrahamTomlin ***

The Passionate Life – Breen and Kallestad ****

The Naked Anabaptist – Stuart Murray *****

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith – Rob Bell **

Barefoot Disciple – Stephen Cherry ***

The Fry Chronicles – Stephen Fry **

Leadership in The Salvation Army: A Case Study in Clericalisation – Harold Hill ****

From Eternity to Here – Frank Viola ***

The Testament – John Grisham ***

Finding Sanctuary – Christopher Jamieson ****

Finding Happiness – Christopher Jamieson ***

Clusters: Creative Mid-sized Missional Communities – Mike Breen and Bob Hopkins ***

Schitzo

I live in a rather complex state of existence at the moment.  Something somewhere between the ranks of The Salvation Army and ministry in the Methodist Church.  Life changes for me yet again at the end of January as my colleague moves on to pastures new and as I fill in significant parts of his ministry alongside the tasks that are mine. 

I’ve started blogging more regularly at my other blog with an Army flavour.  Appears to be going well according to the hits, higher than they’ve ever been.  But again, over there I blog about an Army that doesn’t really exist in my territory.  When we try to engage locally, in real time with real people, the picture feels as heavy and, quite frankly, non-sensical as it always did.  Its not the Army I’m in.  Sitting in a meeting, playing in the band and singing in the songsters just doesn’t float my boat.

Its stupid really.  I know what seems to make sense at this time.  God is using me where I am in a significant way, not just where I work, but around the city. ‘Just where he needs me, my Lord has placed me.’  No-one, in these circumstances, would be thinking about going back to the Army.  But we have offered to go back….it wasn’t enthusiastically received, but I hadn’t anticipated it would be.  The experience has just led me to ask again and again, ‘why are we even offering?’ 

Yet, all this stuff is a false dichotomy.  I’m not a Salvationist in one place and a Methodist in the other.  We live our lives as covenanted soldiers and the only bit of my officer covenant that aint easy to do is the bit that says to actually be an officer:   I love and serve him supremely, I live to win souls and make their salvation the purpose of my life, we care for the poor and the needy, clothe the naked, love the unlovable and befriend those who have no friends, and we maintain the doctrines and principles of The Salvation Army.

There is no conclusion to this post…its confusing because I don’t know which way to go.  It doesn’t make sense.  However….I trust God implicitly and know that he will make his way clear.  The reality is that there is precious little time to engage with the Army locally…however, the Army are not the only band who fight the Salvation War.  So, until such times as it makes sense, I fight as a soldier on a different front. Prayer appreciated.

You can do it

Railton ‘invading the USA’ with his Hallelujah Lassies

One of the big revolutions of The Salvation Army that we don’t often think about is the way that Booth’s movement, under God, set about changing the rules about who gets to take part.  Booth was raised up in a movement called Methodism which itself had been the largest single explosion of equipping and releasing the ‘non-clergy’ into various ministries.  You see, John Wesleys people, through the Methodist class system and through the training up and releasing of ‘local preachers’ began in a real way to take Christianity out of the hands of the elite and into the hands of the people.  Yet there were still limits to this – the theology of separation between ordained and lay were still alive and well (and still is within Methodism).

Along comes Booth… a Methodist clergyman but one who revolutionised the whole concept of involvment in ministry and mission and took it a step further.  To Booth, who was leading a soul saving mission rather than a cumbersome ecclesiastical affair, it was entirely plausible that everyone got involved.  So, you could become a Salvation Army officer or missioner without a formal education.  You could be one regardless of your upbringing or social class.  Gone was an elite middle-class clergy caste.  This was a priesthood of all believers because you see, even the soldiers were commissioned to mission both as local officers and as soldiers.  The difference was availability and flexibility.

The soldiers who would risk poverty and hardship became officers and relied on God for their every meal and penny.  The other soldiers, still as active in ministry and mission, worked and contributed financially to the work in a larger way.  You see, the soldiers and local officers were the constant in the early Army.  They were the leaders, the missioners, the continuity.  The officer?  She moved around every couple of months to fill gaps, to plant new corps, to create added interest, to develop aspects of work.  So, you had a strong local base ‘complimented’ and not reliant on an officer.  Everyone got to play.

Have we lost the sense of ‘you can do it!’ in our Army today?  Have we built into the mindset of soldiers that there are things best left to the officer?  You’ll know that my belief is that we have.  But its not only that we’ve created the division, its that we’ve lost a sense of risk taking.  One of the most creative examples of missionary vision of late was during Knaggs time as TC in Australia where they pledged to start a new corps every week….even the cadets got to play!

The early Army soldiers and local officers were free to expand the work in any such place.  They were invited to have spiritual meetings in their workplaces, their homes, on their own streets.  Many of the corps in the UK were started not only by officers, but saved folks from towns where the Army wasn’t present.  They’d simply start the Army where they were.  This, too, was the story for the opening of the Army in many nations and continues to be the story in massively expanding territories today.  Exponential growth that arises from the Army of God being released to be a Jesus movement.

I expect that I’d have a lot of questions coming my way if I opened the Kingston Park Outpost.  As a former officer I’m probably viewed with more suspicion than your regular enterprising soldier. 

I will never forget Gowans giving a congress full of people permission to go and start the Army in their front room.  He told them “if anyone asks them ‘On whos authority?’, tell them the General said.”  As an officer, I’d have been over the moon if a soldier or local officer came and said to me ‘I’ve started an outpost.’  It would be living proof to me that the pioneer spirit was alive and well within the ranks of what must be one of the most spectacular army or ordinary people the world has ever seen.  Our recapturing of this fundamental piece of DNA is crucial to recovering the vitality of Army mission.

If the retired General’s word isn’t good enough for you, listen to Jesus who calls you to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations – immersing them into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  His call is loud and clear:  everyone gets to play!  Jesus is the one leading the advance.

Booth’s Neo-Monastic Vision

Andrew Bale posted this vision below of William Booths from around 100 years ago.  I knew it existed but have never got my hands on it.  It makes for fascinating reading and speaks very much into how I sense the calling of God upon my life.  He speaks, basically, of a neo-monastic order within The Salvation Army working for renewal and increased effectiveness to the regular work of the Army.  It deserves wide reading.

Maybe its time it came about.

____________________________________________________

Do not limit the possibilities of the future. God has many ways of fulfilling His purposes towards the sons and daughters of men. Here is one, of which I dreamed a dream. The one I am going to mention came to me when thoughtfully wondering, as I so often do, what The Salvation Army of the coming years was likely to be.

In this vision I beheld many things that were novel and fascinating, but nothing that took greater hold of me at the moment than the one I am about to describe. Perhaps the superior interest it excited in my feelings arose out of its intense practicality. It seemed all so natural, so possible, so fruitful, and the results so desirable, that I came almost to feel that the thing was not a dream, but an actual occurrence, literally happening before my eyes.

I thought I was looking at The Salvation Army in its varied future operations, and while I looked I thought I saw a new body of Officers suddenly start into existence. In many respects they strongly resembled the comrades with whom I am familiar to day. In other respects they appeared strangely dissimilar.
I will try to describe them, and while I do so you will be able to judge of the probable usefulness or otherwise of such a class, the possibility of creating it, and whether you would or would not like to belong to it, if it were created.

As I looked at this new people, they appeared to manifest extraordinary signs of earnestness, self-denial, and singleness of purpose; indeed, they had every appearance of being a reckless, daredevil set. On inquiry, I found that they described themselves as “Brothers of Salvation” or “Companions of the Cross of Christ.” They went forth, two and two, strengthening each other’s hands, and comforting each other’s hearts in all the work they had to do, and all the trials they had to bear. They seemed to welcome privations, and to revel in hardships, counting it all joy when they fell into diverse persecutions, and facing opposition and difficulties with meekness, patience, and love.

As I looked, and looked, I wondered more and more, for I observed that they had voluntarily embraced the old-fashioned vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience. These vows I observed, further, were regarded as only binding upon them for a term of years, with the option of renewal for a further term at the expiration of that period, or of being able at that time to honourably return to the ordinary ranks of Officership.
As I looked at these new comrades, who had as it were suddenly sprung out of the ground, I saw that they wore a novel kind of uniform of simple shape, but very pronounced, and displaying very prominently the insignia of The Salvation Army. They were evidently proud of their colours.

And then I saw another thing that was peculiar about this new Order – I do not know how else to speak of it. I saw that they refused to accept any money or gifts for themselves, or for their friends, or, at most, not more than was necessary to meet the very humble wants of that particular day; while I saw that they were pledged not to own any goods of any kind, save and except the clothes they wore.

And then I saw that they were great wanderers, continually travelling from place to place, and that very much on foot, as this gave them the opportunity of visiting the hamlets, cottages, farmhouses, and mansions on the way, and speaking to the people in the streets, market squares, or other open spaces on week-days as well as on Sundays, as they passed along.

I saw that they assisted at the services in The Salvation Halls wherever they came, always working in friendly co-operation with the Officers in Command; visiting the Soldiers, sick or well; hunting up backsliders, and striving to promote the interests of every Corps they visited, to the utmost of their ability.

I saw that they visited and prayed with the people from door to door, in the great cities as well as in the villages; talked to them in the streets, trains, or wherever they had opportunity, about death, judgment, eternity, repentance, Christ, and salvation.

I saw them in my dream addressing the workmen at the dock gates, at the entrances to public works, in the factories at meal hours; indeed, they were talking, praying, and singing with whomsoever they could get to listen to them, singly, or in company wherever they came.

And as I looked, I saw their number, which was very, very small at first, gradually increase until they reached quite a multitude. And the educated and well-to-do, charmed with this simple Christ like life, swelled its numbers, coming from the universities and the money­making institutions and other high places.
Do you ask me about their support? Oh! I answer, so far as I could find out in my dream, they never lacked any really necessary thing, having all the time what was above all and beyond all in worth and desirability – the abundant smile of God, and a great harvest of precious souls.

(International Staff Council Addresses 1904, General William Booth, p144-147)

Definition

“The Salvation Army is a revolutionary movement of covenanted warriors exercising holy passion to win the world for Jesus.”  



OK….so thats not the ‘official’ definition of The Salvation Army but its a good one that is closer to our founding vision.  In my heart, its the Army I’m in.  Any other definition just doesn’t work for me.  I won’t give my life to anything less. 

This week, the United Kingdom & Republic of Ireland Territory launched a new website.  I have to say it looks much sleeker and fresher than the previous incarnation….but then thats not surprising considering it had been up there for nearly 10 years, I reckon.  Initial reactions to the site very positive…..that was until I got to reading detail and started to read of an Army Church which, as one mate described, was almost ‘Anglican’ in tone.  In other words….very parish churchy.  At that point, my eyes begin to glaze over.

Thing is, the tone of the website fits quite well with the vast majority of corps in the UK&I.  With some glorious exceptions, we’re mainly quite pastoral and settled as a whole.  Why is this?  I think its because not only are we missing the heartbeat of the Army, we’re missing the heartbeat of what it is to be Christian. 

When I look in the New Testament, I don’t see a settled, pastoral church.  I see a covenanted community on a Kingdom mission.  How did Jesus managed to raise such a movement?  I had the opportunity to hear a guy called Mike Breen a few weeks ago in a leaders thing in the city here.  He pointed out the fact that the key themes of the Bible are Covenant (which is about relationship with God an others)  and Kingdom (which is about representing the King in every sphere).  

When you look at the call of Jesus, you see both interplaying with one another.  He issued an invitation – ‘Come follow me…’ – an invitation to covenant relationship.   But he didn’t leave it there.  It wasn’t just a ‘do ya wanna be in my gang.’   He invited his disciples to step up to the challenge to extend the Kingdom, to represent the Kingdom and take hold of the Kingdom forcably.

I want to suggest to you that The Salvation Army will never be a revolutionary movement of covenanted warriors exercising holy passion to win the world for Jesus unless we take a leaf out of Jesus’ book.  Jesus had no concept of a pastoral mode of church…his followers were ones who were destined for persecution and hardship, suffering but success as they stepped up to the massive challenge to ‘make disciples of all nations.’

Let’s get practical though:  how does the transformation begin and what can the consequences be?

  • Well….we start with invitation.  You see, most people need to re-hear the call of Jesus to be his followers and to follow him so that the dust from his sandals kicks up in our face because we’re following so closely.  Its about imitating Jesus….being a disciple/apprentice/son.  Issue the call…call people to follow.
  • Secondly, once we’ve invited, we don’t let people forget we’re on a mission.  Call people to it, sing it, celebrate it, talk it.  More than that, give people the chance to step up and get their feet wet.  I’ve been so blessed over the years to have witnessed many great Salvos rise to the challenge that I as their nutty officer called them too.  Not everyone will of course, but there are some who have a knowing in their knower that there is more to the life of discipleship and more to the life of a soldier than just turning up to play in the band.

 The flip side, of course, is that for many, their devotion will be tested.  If they’ve spent years only listening to an invitation and a ‘I’ll get involved when I can’ mentality, then when you call them to sell their possessions and buy the field with the treasure of the Kingdom in, they’ll be hesitant.  Some will walk away.  Thing is, we need as leaders to learn both sides of that call….invitation AND challenge.  It’s by invitation that people are won but its challenge that turns them into warriors.

Come on folks…the world needs us to toughen up a bit, get in training, hear the voice of Jesus to mission instead of maintenance, relationship instead of membership, fighting with love instead of flaunting with ecclesiastical tendancies. 

Follow.  Fight.  Win the world for Jesus.  How is the war on your front?