Army

Over these last few years, around 3 years in fact,  I’ve been increasingly building relationship with an emerging church planting movement (emerging in the developing sense, as opposed to the theological sense) led by a guy with a clear apostolic ministry called Peter Farmer. 

Mission Britain promotes simple church, organic church planting, pioneer evangelism and training up people for the gospel.  One of Peter’s key heroes is William Booth and the work of the early Army.  He is convinced that we need to see an army rise in the UK to advance the Kingdom and take the gospel to re-evangelise the nation.   I happen to agree with him.  The kind of army he is talking about is a flexible, mobile army with clear missional intentions to win the world for Jesus by utilising strategic planting tactics.  He has the UK split up into regions and he travels to encourage, train and draw together those interested in stepping out of the regular churchy culture and to galvinise around mission.  He is training up planters, trainers, pioneer evangelists, prophets and prayer warriors. 

The irony isn’t lost on me. 

I thoroughly believe this nation needs a people who sense the call to arms in the sense of engaging in creative, strategic mission and to see a viral pattern of outposts on every street corner.  William Booth would have been delighted that someone is taking up his vision to have a barracks on every corner at last.  Is it really so different to seeing a simple church, a small missional community, in every viable community?  And whats more, viable here doesn’t mean ‘able to support an officer and fund a building’ because this is a viral, organic movement…a people movement.  Its an army where everyone is commissioned for the advance, where everyone is a regular and the Lord Jesus Christ is Commander in Chief…a band of brothers and sisters united around one mission.  An army whose enemy is ‘the strong man’ and whose weapons are prayer, love and radical commitment to Jesus and his instructions as our King.

For all that I am still in the inherited church at the moment, my life’s calling is in this direction.  Its a calling that I couldn’t work out in the other Army.  Maybe its a wineskins thing, you know?  You don’t put new wine in an old wineskin else the old on deteriorates.  Maybe, I don’t know.  I still have hope in some places that The Salvation Army can recover significantly, and in fact I see it in some places round the world, praise God.

Meanwhile, another salvation army is rising.  Its Commander in Cheif has issued the call to arms and the warriors are taking their place in the field.  I’m watching it take shape, watching God recreate a dream and a vision and its very exciting.  There will be other warriors in your community…we can link you up, enlist and train you for the mission.

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Re-Shuffle

So I’ve decided to round thing off over at my other blog, which is really a Salvation Army focussed blog, for the time being.  I’ll be blogging more regularly here.  This blog has been host to my ‘non-Sally-Army-specific’ stuff for the last couple of years and charts the bumpy road of recovery since leaving the Army.  Some of it has been a bit heart-on-sleeve as I’ve mentally processed all that stuff but I’ll be changing the pace here. 

There will be the odd personal reflection, but mainly I want to be writing about:

  • life as Jesus-centred missional discipleship
  • church as Jesus-centred missional community
  • and anything else that fits with it!

I hope you’ll tune in.

Grace and peace,
Andrew

Wrapping up…

Wordle: Army Renewal Wordle
This is a wordle produce from the content of Army Renewal blog over these last 7 years (Click on it for a larger view)

Given recent developments and closed doors, I think the time really has come now to round off things here at Army Renewal.

Thank you to those of you who have tuned in to this recent resurgence of blogging over these past six months and thank you to those who have extended your friendship through these pages.  There are around 7 years of archive to trail through if you are interested.  The blog will remain online for the forseeable, but for now I’ll be concentrating my energies elsewhere as far as blogging is concerned.

My ‘personal’ blog is at http://turasaiche.blogspot.com and thats likely to be my main blog although I’ll let you know of any blogging developments elsewhere should they arise.  Bye for now.

blessings,

Andrew

One life

On my facebook a couple of days ago I simply wrote:  “sometimes you just have to smile, be generous with grace and move on content that you’ve done all you can.”  Thats my own conclusion of what has been another strange conversation we’ve tried to have with the Army in recent months on issues surrounding officership and our possible return.  They didn’t say no, they simply stipulated ‘conditions’ that are so entirely impractical for us, that it would mean leaving my job.  We really couldn’t read anything else into it other than ‘no thank you.’   I won’t bore you with the details. 

So thats my intentions….to smile, be generous with grace and move on content that I’ve done and offered all I can, even against what seemed to be my better judgement.  I can’t in all good conscience simply sit in the meeting, play the baritone and sing a good tenor line.  Its not mission, its not ‘Army’ and its not being true to the calling upon my life.

We only get one life.  I have to say that was the under-girding thought that was at the base of my leaving the Army.  What I was doing, in the shape of corps officership, stopped being the thing that I’d wake up and want to do.  Thats not necessarily because my own vision of what that was is necessarily askew, but that my vision for officership just wasn’t going to fit in with the way things seemed to be in the Army and rightly or wrongly, as I heard the seconds ticking away, I wasn’t going to waste time. 

I still don’t want to waste time.  We’re both aware that we left the Army to pursue a particular vision.  We thought for a brief snapshot in time that we were going to be able to live out what we were leaving officership to do whilst we were still in Aberdeen….everything seemed to come into place and then it was made more or less impossible by a few things.  Yet, I think the vision remains.  Its what I think we’re still pursuing.  We are on the constant journey of seeing how.

Whether we find a meaningful way to be a part of the Army in the future will determine the life of this blog, really.  I’ve no right to speak into something I’m not able to be a part of.  Will keep you posted on my thoughts on that front.

In the meantime, we value your prayer.  We’re content and committed to Trinity here for the next 9 – 18 months during their interim period without a pastor as I step in to provide leadership.  Beyond that we have a few options to explore as we seek people to partner with as we fulfil what God would have us do….exciting times.

No Frills

There are still some days that come when I’d still be quite happy to see any form of formal church a long distance away.  Thats not to say that I don’t appreciate the place I work or the other people I fellowship with.  I know that churches gather their traditions over the years and a fair deal of ‘stuff’ gets added to the ‘hairball’ of the ecclesiastical protocol.

For me, the over-riding question is mission.  What serves mission and what brings us closer to the possibility of making the kingdom tangible in our day.  I have my dream, my vision of what I long for that to be and it rarely has the tangledness of the established church of any sort.  I have no hesitation to adapt my measures to any situation if it means mission can take place, even ‘play the games’ of any organisation I’m linked to.  Its still tiring though and every now and again you just have to sigh a big sigh and plod on.  I firgure that if I’m really committed to the principle of ‘adaption of measures’ then there is little I’d do to pass up the opportunity of sharing Jesus with people.  Its what I signed up for. 

But yet, some days I’d happily walk away, disappear of the map and immerse myself in a community somewhere for the rest of my days. God knows the desire of my heart and I trust him to bring it to pass.

Resolutions 2012

I found these on Shane Claiborne’s facebook page and decided I liked them so much that I’d adopt them my self. 

12.  Do something really nice – that no one knows about. 
11. Spend more money on other people than I spend on my self.  Love my neighbor as I love myself.  And love myself as I love my neighbor.
10. Laugh often… especially at advertisements that try to convince me that I must buy more stuff in order to be happy. 
9. Learn a new life skill – like carpentry, pottery, or canning vegetables.  Teach someone else I life skill I know how to do. 
8.  Love a few people well, remembering that what is important is not how much we do but how much love we put into doing it.
7.  Write a letter to someone I need to say thank you to.  Write another letter to someone I need to ask to forgive me. 
6.  Track down a critic or someone I disagree with and take them to lunch.  Listen to them.
5.  Compliment someone I have a hard time complimenting… and mean it.
4.  Choose life.  Do something regularly to interrupt the patterns of death – do something to end violence, bullying, war, capital punishment and other mean and ugly things.
3.  Pause before every potential crisis and ask “will this matter in 5 years?”
2.  Get outside often and marvel at things like fireflies and shooting stars.  And regularly get my hands into the garden… so when I type on the computer I can see dirt under my fingernails.
1.  Believe in miracles.  And live in a way that might necessitate one.

What if….?

None of these thoughts are particularly new, probably neither to you nor me.   In lots of ways these are the ‘what ifs’ which keep me up at night and the ones that create in me disatisfaction with the place we’re currently in; the things that motivate work for transformation.

  • what if we followed Jesus as earnestly as we worshipped him?
  • what if we took Jesus at his word?
  • what if we emphasised his life and teaching as much as his atoning death?
  • what if we majored on the resurrection as much as the cruficixion?
  • what if we viewed the crucifixion as restorative justice rather than punitive vengence?
  • what if Jesus didn’t just die to appease our guilt?
  • what if the politics of Jesus guided our interaction with society?
  • what if the headship of Jesus was more prominant in our church than the headship of men or women?
  • what if we took peace more seriously than ‘just war’?
  • what if we explored questions rather than pose answers in our evangelism?
  • what if it was a radical, uncompromising, unconventional, provocative Jesus we shared with the world?
  • what if we understood the need for deeper transformative learning rather than intellectual assent to prescribed truths?
  • what if we realised Jesus is interested in more than our spiritual lives?
  • what if we recognised that Jesus is interested in more than what we do ‘in church’?
  • what if ‘church’ was round the table as opposed to round the pulpit?
  • what if ‘church’ was open participatory rather than monopolised by the few?
  • what if membership was usurped by discipleship?
  • what if we took up our cross more regularly than we took up our pew?
  • what if we focussed more on relationship and less on regiment?
  • what if we were as potent scattered as we are gathered?
  • what if we sanctified public places as much as we open up our ‘sacred spaces’?
  • what if Jesus doesn’t endorse as much of our Western lifestyle as we think?
  • what if we adopt the message that got Jesus killed rather than the one that raises little objection?
  • what if we gave according to the Spirit as opposed to the law?
  • what if we were more ready to eat with bankers, refugees, druggies and ‘wasters’ as much as we are willing to dine with the fine?
  • what if we held our possessions lightly and our homes as places of sanctuary?
  • what if the whole body of Christ was mobilised instead of the ‘called’?
  • what if we integrated our secular and spiritual lives?
  • what if faith were as alive at home as it is ‘in church’?
  • what if we took seriously the capacity of children to be disciples?
  • what if we took seriously the potency of teengagers following Jesus?
  • what if old men would dream dreams and young men would see visions?
  • what if we recognise that Jesus profoundly disturbed the distorted position men held about the place of women?
  • what if we said ‘lets do it’ rather than ‘what if’?

Walk

So what is it with The Salvation Army that means that I can’t walk away?

This is a question I’ve asked myself time and time again.  I’ve already mentioned the whole covenant thing, I made promises to God.  But yet its not the bare fact that promises were made, its the vision behind the promises that I can’t move away from and that I’m determined to live out in my life regardless, preferrably in a likeminded community.  My frustration of years has been the extent to which the vision even seems popular, or more importantly, shared by others in the Army.  Now as I share these things, I’m really trying to describe the Army vision rather than the current reality.  Keep that in mind….

Here are the things which keep me inspired and which continue to shape me:

– daring pioneering is at the heart of authentic Salvationism.  Literally wed to no previous plan.  It was a fresh page on the history of the church.  Mission today requires fresh page action.

– shared covenant.  In short, you should know that the other person signed the same agreement as you.  This is valuable for accountability, shared mission and for creating ‘cymbrogi’ – a Celtic term which means ‘Companions of the Heart’.  Those who share a similar vision or journey, bound together and committed to it.

–  passionate spirituality.  You could often hear and smell a Salvation Army meeting.  It was raw passion.  Prayer was real, worship was full, preaching was powerful, transformation possible and holiness attainable by grace. 

– ministry by all.  Every soldier was a missioner.  The priesthood of all believers was fully activated.  There was nothing that was the sole reserve of the officer-leader.  Everything was up for grabs, everyone got to play.

– strategic leadership.  Early officership was apostolic and itinerant.  It was about planting new stuff, seeing developments, keeping things fresh.  The local ground was led by local officer ‘elders’ who led brigades of soldiers into battle against the world, the flesh and the devil.  The five-fold ministries were released.

–  good news for the poor.  The vision of Isaiah 61 was fleshed out, the gospel was being preached to the poor.  Blind eyes were seeing, prisoners were being relased, the captives set free.  It was a liberation Army.  Justice and salvation were symbiotic.

– planting movement.  Faith was grown where life happened.  Outposts, corps, societies, cottage meetings, open airs, factory meetings….you name the place, the Army had an expression there.  It was a missional movememnt before the word became trendy.

You’ll notice that NONE of this stuff need be consigned to history.  This is all stuff that much of the church is just rediscovering.  And ironically, all the radical church planting, mission-renewal conferences and talks I’ve sat in during recent times have applauded the early Salvationists and held them up as courageous examples of what we need to be doing in our day.  Its not just Primitive Salvationists who think there is something to this thing.

This is the Army I see and continue to pray for.  Truth be told, its what I want to work for, even in spite of ‘the way things are.’  Its what the world needs.  Its key to the advancement of the Kingdom.  We are possessors of this great Kingdom heritage.  It needs to be unleashed.

Kingdom Vision

Booth’s grand vision for world transformation

One of our great Salvation Army legacies is the fact that for Booth, whilst the salvation of the individual was vital, his vision of salvation was always wider.  It was man-kind embracing, world embracing.  Booth actually believed that the world could be transformed, that society could echo heaven, that the Kingdom could come.  One War Cry editorial from the 1890s that I glimpsed at training college had an image of a Salvation Army flag flying from some well known public buildings in London.  He believed in world domination.

At first glance, this would make him seem somewhat crazy.  However, I’m not sure that the flag just represented the Army to Booth.  It wasn’t about the Army.  It was a Trinitarian symbol, it was about the Kingdom and the Lord Jesus, his rule and reign.  His wife Catherine prophesied that she believed the Army would play a significant part in the winning of the world for Jesus, echoing the words of Jesus in Revelation 11:15.  It has been written elsewhere that like many men of his era, Booth was a pre-millenialist.  In short, he believed that the world would become better and better, ushering in a golden age where Jesus would reign.

Whilst I’m not so sure of that particular position, I am particularly interested in a wide salvation.  Not in the sense of universalism.  But in a salvation that sees beyond a ‘scalp claiming’ approach to misson and evangelism.  If we see Christ’s work purely as a personal ‘pie in the sky when you die’, we miss out half the plan for those who follow the way of Jesus.

Jesus message was about the Kingdom.  It was about forming glimpses, firstfruits if you like, of that Kingdom here on earth.  You see, many people can be won by our persuasion and preaching.  However, the world will become transfixed and entirely captured by a vision of that which is yet to come…Kingdom community.  You see, if you win a soul and don’t place him in community, he can’t engage fully in the Kingdom mission he has been saved for.  We don’t form community for community’s sake, however.  We form community becuse of Jesus, and because he designed us to fight more effectivly in community because that is how we can manifest love.  We’ll be known as belonging to Jesus for the love we have for one another.

It is these communities of the Kingdom, these corps of Jesus followers that should show everyone that another world is possible, another world is coming.  I don’t know whether Jesus will return to a near perfected world or whether he will step in at our greatest moment of strife…I do know, however, that he wants the Kindgom fleshed out in the here and now.  That is worth fighting for.