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?