Renewal of the Church?

Ideas-Make-or-Break-Your-BusinessAs I prepare to begin my MA in Mission (Celtic Mission and Spirituality) course in the autumn of this year,  I’m starting to think towards the big D….the dissertation.  Although I haven’t had any formal conversation with the college yet, my current thoughts are to make a study of Celtic New Monasticism…in particular, what role it may or may not have in the renewal or reinvention of the church for post-Christendom UK.  I’m convinced that the renewal of the church will come from a form of new monasticism, just like Bonnhoeffer was.  I was convinced of that in my Salvation Army days, and am equally convinced now.

What is clear to me is that even some of our most successful churches in the UK are running on ‘Christendom-shaped’ paradigms.  Professional staff, audience of worshippers, programme based, etc.  When this works, its fine.  But by and large, it isn’t working because it takes a huge of effort to pull it off.  I know this full well….I’m at the helm of trying to make a church like Trinity tick.  There is still a place for this form of church, of course, but it is fading.  I’m not being pessimistic, just realistic.

People protest – ‘the Lord will build his church!  Why are you saying it is failing?’  I think we need to understand, again and again, church is people – the body of Christ.  Church is NOT our structures, ways of being and doing.  The people of God will continue to grow and form the body of Christ.  The question is, what does the body of Christ look like for our generation.

On Wednesday this week (18th June) I’m going to publish a short vision document.  It is an idea, a hope, a something that has been with me for a long long time but which is coming into maturity and also into sharper focus.  I’ve sung  General Booth’s line ‘The revolution now being…send the fire today.’  Now is the time to have a stab at it!

Please tune in!!!

The Model Officer

I’ve just come back from officers ‘retreat’ which was a good few days. Several things were helpful: the rest, the fellowship, the conversation, the good teaching by Majors Peter & Val Mylechreest. It was also good, like I said before, to reflect on stuff a year on from some pretty serious conversations we had at the last event re calling, officership etc.

One thing that came through strong over the few days was the ‘model’ of officership that was being discussed as if it were pretty much the only one. Officership was defined on several occassions as pastoring, preaching and administration.

Now, my ministry includes all of that, all of that is necessary. I’m better at some of it that I am at others. But as surely as the Lord lives, surely officership is much more than that.

It is, of course. Isn’t it?

The Model Officer is Jesus. And he wasn’t so much a General, as a regular captain who, at every turn, refused any title or position of authority thrust upon him all for the sake of what his Father taught him to do. Jesus was a pastor, preacher, apostle (as in sent), teacher and evangelist. He was the model officer. He came to invite us to follow him, to do as he did and be as he was and is. An Isaiah 61 ministry like he announced in Luke 4.

I don’t have a ministry. Mission is God’s, its part of his character, part of his purpose and as part of that he sends us like he sent Jesus, like Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. When I ‘do’ ministry its rubbish. When I do God’s ministry, I’m a co-worker with him and he does things that I could never imagine.

I am tired, in a sense, of self-introspection when it comes to ‘ministry performance.’ Coming up for my five year review, I’ve filled in a myriad of forms and questionnaires about my ministry. Now, I know that accountability comes in, and I am all for that, 110%. But since when has the mission of God all depended on me? or on you?

To me, officership is about being released from regular employ to seek to emmulate my Rabbi, Jesus, who has called me to follow him and do what he does, to learn from him in listening to what the father is commanding today. That will involve a pastoral conversation, and evangelistic conversation, a fight for justice and standing for the oppressed, it will involve leadership of God’s people in how we engage with the mission of God, it will involve bringing light on the teachings of the Word too.

I’m not the Messiah (you’ll be glad to know), I am not called to give my life as the sacrifice to pay for the sin of Torry, but I AM called to learn from Jesus. I’m called to live for him, like him, through him and with him that the world might see Jesus in me. Its all about doing the will of the Father, empowered by the Spirit in the fashion of Jesus.

Its not just officers who are called to live like Jesus like this, of course, not saying that at all, but what I am simply saying is that those of us who are called into leadership in the Army, this is where I believe we must start.

I’m waiting for someone to ask me how much my ministry looks like the ministry of Jesus.

Clerical Clarification

Greetings friends.

So, some have taken offence at my post on clericalism. Its too important too delete, but as usual these things can always be communicated clearer.

Let me just communicate again in a very short sentences what I was saying:

– It was a post in favour of soldiers of The Salvation Army throught the world, and a dream that they might again be release to be soldiers. I consider myself a soldier first and and officer second.

– It is an appeal to officers to release their soldiers and to engage in training of them

– It was a post of anger in the way that sometimes people are not released or equipped for spiritual ministry by the people who are set aside to identify, release and train soldiers for ministry which then results in a consumerist church

– It is a comment on a world-wide issue for The Army which needs to be discussed, and indeed since the post the salvosphere has been adding their thoughts to the discussion…this is healthy.

– It is a comment on what God is calling Tracy and I to model in our officer leadership

– I mentioned Wick as just one example among many where soldiers haven’t always been released, utilised and trained for ministry. It appears that some have taken offence at Wick being mentioned as an example of a place where the above things have perhaps happened. If it was perceived as a denegration of these good folks, it has been percieved wrong or communicated wrongly on my part. There are very few examples of corps where every soldier has been trained and released in ministry so I could have chosen any location but at the moment Wick is my context.

The trouble with saying something difficult is that we all come with our own prejudices and opinions and occasionally they clash. For everyone who agrees with one opition there will often be two who disagree. Isn’t it good that we live in a world where we are free to discuss and disagree without censorship?

I’m confident that the position I set out expounds a more biblical view of leadership within the people of God. You’ll appreciate how it might be impossible for me to climb down for this position, but this post is hopefully a clarification and an ‘apology’ (as in a defence) for the points needing clarifying.

The flip side is the people who have responded to say the post articulated where they find themselves in their own corps. Bless you and may God make a way for the laos of God in your situation to be released. The lost are the very first people who need this to happen.

Blessings, friends.

Andrew C

Clericalism


One of the things I’ve been struggling with personally recently is to do with my complete angst against clerical and priestly officership. One of the things which has become really apparent in recent years is the heightened sense that people see officers as priests, professional clergy. In Scotland in particular, which has a strong Presbyterian culture, there has been the exhaltation of the role of the minister which then actually dis-empowers the ‘laity.’ I’ve always been for the restoration of that ministry back to the people.

In many Salvation Army situations the world over, Salvationists have been fundamentally and systematically raped of their role as the people of God by an over-powering, un-biblical, and un-Salvationist mindset and regime of officer-priests. (Oops, was that a bit strong?) Disempowered to the stage that it is very possible that this generation of Salvationists don’t know how to take back the privilege of being co-workers with Christ. The sad thing is that this has often happens under the ministry of godly officers who’re trying to follow God’s sense of calling to service on their lives.

Clerical and priestly officership at its worst removes from the people the mission of the Army. We are an Army run almost entirely by officers, many of who are godly, hard-working, self-sacrificing people and who do what they do from a deep sense of the call of God on their lives to serve. When soldiery has the concept that the officers role is to perform this priestly ministry, they then become simple recipients of ministry done to them instead of co-missioners. You know, almost every reformation the church has ever had has had anti-clericalism as one of its roots. Every revival of the Christian church has involved the empowerment of the people of God, taking the mission out of the hands of the ‘clergy’ into the hands of the people.

The Salvation Army system and structure was born in almost complete rebellion against clericalism and the evil division of laity and clergy. In dreaming up the Army, the Founders (I include William, Catherine, Bramwell, Railton etc etc), created a system where every soldier was a missionary. This is why when you read something like Os+Rs for Soldiers its like reading a manual for ‘ministers’ – because that’s almost exactly what it is! Local Officers and Officers were simply appointed as leaders of those soldiers to co-ordinate the battle.

This pattern of officer-priests where officers do the vast majority of the ministry is not sustainable in mission terms, given the decreasing number of people offering for the priestly officership model that is so predominant in the west. I firmly believe that officership applications will increase significantly when we shake of this idea of priestliness.

I know that you will realise that the word laos, from which we get laity, simply refers to the people of God…all of us. When we go down the road of creating laity and clergy, we create a breed of super-Christians, professional Christians. Clergy is a bad word, a swear word…and actually, so is ‘laity’ when used by someone purporting to be ‘clergy.’

I fundamentally believe that officership is more to do with function than it is to do with status/office/position. I believe an officer’s role is to lead and co-ordinate the mission and ministry in a corps. That involves primarily identifying, training and releasing the pastors, teachers, evangelist, apostles and prophets (cf Ephesians 4) to their God-given role in building up the rest of the body. Yes, the officer has his own fight/ministry role too, but his/her main role is to mobilise his fighting force.

Even the ministrations of a corps should never be officer-centered. The preaching, the worship leading, the testifying, the bible teaching should be for all and by all. The closest I’ve come to this in my short officership so far was probably towards the end of our time in Pill with the introduction of the Ward System whereby not only did pastoral and teaching ministry begin to be shared, but where the mission of the Salvation Army corps was basically handed back to the soldiery on a plate. Where the work was needed was in helping folks to then know what to do with the mission of a corps! That’s our successors tasks in Pill and I believe they will be doing that well.

If The Salvation Army is to survive, we must get the work of The Salvation Army out of the hands of officers, back into the hands of the soldiers. You must understand that I’m not being anti-officership here, but I am being anti-priest/anti-clerical. I believe that officership can be a powerful thing…so long as it does what its meant to do.

If you are an officer reading this, can I appeal to you to

– rid yourself of your priestly trappings if you have any;
– refuse to be a priest at every turn, invest your life in giving away leadership and ministry to the people you’re called to lead;
– think seriously about whether you’re in officership to function as a leader or because you have been misled by a doctrine of unbiblical, unsalvationist and apostate priesthood that takes its cue’s from Romanism and Old Testament Levitical priesthood models more than it does the model of Jesus and the Apostles.

One of the questions that I had to ask my leaders over these last few months is whether the Salvation Army wants an officer who refuses to be a priest. Thankfully, they do.

This is a life and death issue for The Salvation Army. Its one of those things we need to be hotly getting to grips with both as officers and soldiers.

Thus endeth!