I left ministry in The Salvation Army in 2010 after almost a year and a half of serious reflection on the idea ‘what is the church?’ Quite simply, I went to an event and it filled me with such horror and, well, pain, that I was thrown into a deep search within myself. I wrote several blog posts at that point, an exploration of the shape of church and leadership which eventually led me to leave that form of ministry forever…or so I thought.
At the time, as we left The Salvation Army with literally nothing but the clothes on our back (in fact, all the clothes said ‘Salvation Army’ on them somewhere), we couldn’t fulfil our vision at the time. In the end, I found myself back in church. I fought tooth and nail against God and myself about what on earth was going on. I fought my new role all the way, especially so when I ended up leading at Trinity, but I did make a peace with it. I learned that there were good things in every flavour of church, and maybe some of my more radical views were tempered, at least if not changed.
So what was the problem? I was and am convinced…utterly convinced…that the community of Jesus’ followers is the most radical, challenging, prophetic and powerful agency on the face of the planet. We posses, among us, the life of Christ. Transformative. What I couldn’t cope with was how much of the inherited traditions in church had somehow inoculated people to the power of the gospel, the potential of Kingdom life and the potency of a Jesus movement that our country so badly needs. I’ve also become aware of how even a radical movement like The Salvation Army (which appeared on some lists as a reason to be sent to an insane asylum in the late 1800s) could be come so stuck in its own ways and miss the whole point.
Fast forward to today. I’ve now been leading churches outside the Salvation Army these last 6 years. That’s plenty of time for reflection, but you’ve no idea how difficult it has been to sit on the deep knowledge that something else could start to be worked on…when God puts something on your heart, its usually because he wants you to do something about it. But you know what? There are books I’ve had to hide on my bookshelves…there are people that I haven’t been able to look in the eye. There are friends who, every time I see them, remind me of the deep seated conviction that when you have a vision of something different, you gotta do something about it.
I’m happy for the whole rest of the church to exist and do its thing…there is still grace there, God still does his stuff. But there are folks who just cannot rest and be at peace unless they at least begin to flesh out the possibility of something different.
So, as I try and revisit some of the hard thinking I did 6 years ago, and move towards fleshing some of it out when we get back to Newcastle, I thought I’d start a blog series to record my reflections. Would be interesting to hear your views as I go.
There must be another way…something else must be possible…