Articles of War

As soldiers we cut a pretty big covenant (read it here). Covenant is becoming pretty big these days in the wider church…there are neo-monastic missional orders springing up all over the place. For example, the Order of the Mustard Seed originally began by the great Moravian prayer warrior, Count Zinzendorff and more recently revived through the 24/7 prayer movement, of which The Salvation Army has been a big part. This is all great stuff…its a great emphasis on the fact that God calls us to sign up to live our lives missionally where God has placed us.

The difference between the Army and both the ancient and the new monastic orders, I guess, is that we go on to provide a place that people can continue call their spiritual home when they’ve got saved through the mission we carry out. In that sense, we become the place where people live out their Christian lives as part of the body, or where they journey with us to explore Christian life and faith. Thats fine.

The Articles of War are a rule of life, a covenant. This is not the document we say that one must be able to sign in order to become a Christian. The path for that is simple repentance and faith in Jesus…no document necessary! This is a document that all who sense the call to live as covenanted soldiers of The Salvation Army sign. Clear distinction.

As a Salvation Army in the UK, we’ve largely lost sense of the radical call of soldiership because we’ve confused it with being a part of the body of Christ. In trying to be inclusive, we’ve concluded that the standards of soldiership must be lowered, and thus we have a soldiers covenant which can mean everything and nothing at the same time.

When my son was too young to become a junior soldier, he asked me “well what can I be now, dad?” My reply was, “son, you can become a Christian, a follower of Jesus.” Friends, this is the place we begin, its where we always belong, we are always followers of Jesus. And hey, you can be a great follower of Jesus without being a soldier. Yes, its true. In many ways, we are doing our job when people come into the Kingdom and become followers of Jesus. Let me clarify, this is the priority.

However, we also want to call people to soldiership. Why? because at the core of our movement should be this covenanted, missional, out-reaching, extravagangly loving, sacrificial, and disciplined people who have heard the call of God to ‘sign up’ to the covenant we make and keep with God. Its a path of obedience, of duty, obedience, simplicity, and sacrifice. If every soldier lived out the covenants they sign, the world truly would be a different place…it really would.

Soldiership is a set of vows we take, like the monastic friar, brother or sister wherein we chose to live the radical expression of Jesus-following I mention above. Not everyone will be called to take these, but its a fairly good thing to suppose that it may just be that those God choses to win through us would be the ones he might call to become soldiers and become part of the covenanted community.

But hey, if they don’t, they already belong amongst us a) because they’re saved already or b)becuase they are journeying with us as they explore faith. I’d argue, on those grounds that Adherency is yet another red herring on the landscape of The Salvation Army. Its a form of membership that we don’t really need. Why? because we should be the kind of community where you belong anyway. Where your turning up instantly makes you ‘one of us.’ This is radical hospitality. From that position of belonging, you may hear the call to soldiership, to take on the covenant. Church membership is a legacy of Christendom which has increasing irrelvance. What is relevant, is maintaining the covenant community at the heart and mission of The Salvation Army in the form of its soldiers. Covenant is the glue of The Salvation Army as it gives us our common purpose.

I’m not naive. I know that many of our corps are far away from this model. I know that in many places, soldiership has been so operated that it has presented itself as an insiders club. Believe me, I’m as much apposed to this idea as I could possibly be.

How do we deal with this? We simply must find ways of encouraging each other and keeping each other accountable to living out our covenant individually and as a covenanted community. We need to cultivate a culture where people are open to being asked ‘in what ways have you fleshed out your covenant today?’ The easiest place we can do that is in the recruits class, but more than that, it needs to be build on trust with existing soldiers.

I really believe that grasping the distinct nature of our covenant will be the glue that will keep the Army from further fragmentation. Not because that by doing it we’ll ‘keep the numbers up’ or ‘halt the numbers decline’ but because we’ll solidify the Army at its heart…either that, or we become Samson without his hair…we will lose our inner strength and it will all come tumbling round about us!

Affirmations #9 Covenant

9. I believe that covenant is the only hope of avoiding the international fragmentation of The Army within 20 years.

Firstly, let me say that there is a load of good writing on covenant floating around…armybarmy and Journal of Aggressive Christianity in particular. So I’m not going to present a case here.

I’m simply going to testify that its God’s grace that has kept me in covenant with him as a soldier of The Salvation Army and as an officer. I fail at times, but God restores. He loves our turning towards him at every step.

On the international front, its certainly true to say that our common covenant is a glue and a strenghthener. Fragmentation is happening in so many places, not just internationally but internally in each Territory. Voices pulling all over the place.

When you actually look at the nature of our covenants, they’re all about Jesus, his purpose and our response. There is hardly anything about it that we shouldn’t embrace and there is diversity in unity too.

Covenant will halt fragmentation because it will call us back to our covenant making God and to ‘Jesus as Lord’ at the centre of it all. See, you simply can’t be a nominal salvationist if you take your covenant seriously! If its rejected, we’ll get all sorts of splinters.

Check out your soldiers/officers/junior soldier covenant today and by the grace of God seek to live it out.

Back! (…..I hope!)

Well, thankfully it seems like internet is behaving if ever so briefly. So, here goes for the first post in about a month…takes a while to get back in the swing of things after such a long gap!

Its been fun adjusting to a new style of ministry again. For example, other than when covering at other corps (twice), I haven’t preached since July; ministry is now very much at the ‘coal face’ and not ‘back at the barracks;’ I’m finding great benefit in having the opportunity to be fed by others (yes, even outside the Army!); I’m engaged again, along with the Street Pastors initiative, in street work which is life and soul to me; I’m back at the ‘easy’ stage of just making mission happen instead of trying to cojoul others to do it…you get the picture. I guess there is enough going on to overshadow the tedium that accompanies some of what has become officership.

Our small team here at Torry seems to be coming together fine and people work so hard. They respond so well to leadership and are just so willing to do what they can to build the kindgom. This is no ‘yes Captain’ mentality though, this is people who see a need, hear a solution, who critically engage with it before giving it a jolly good go. I just have to salute them…good practical salvationism. We’re a motely crew, but I reckon God smiles on us.

When I think over the last year, two years perhaps, I’m looking back at a shaky road. Its has no doubt been a time of much testing. I hope I’m at this end of it much stronger. I apologise to those who have been affected by my ‘testing’. I’d also like to apologise to those who’ve heard words of ‘retreat’ from me with regards to all I’ve taught and spoken in regards to covenant (soldiers and officers). I’m sorry to those who’ve thought of me as someone firm and grounded but have struggled to see me shake a bit. I have struggled, and you no idea how much I’d rather it would have been different, but I’ve seriously struggled to see how I fit into the Army. Yet all along, I know exactly where I should be. I’m in it ’till I die.’ That is as firm as I can get.

There have been some big health things for me, mentally, physically and even spiritually. There have been challenging theological things to work through. There have been loyalty issues, covenant issues, and all sorts. I’ve learnt to thank God for those…we must. They make us who we are.

Having ‘been through the water’ I’m feeling much more on solid ground. You’ve no idea how much I hope that ‘normal service has resumed!’

blessings
Andrew

Vision


I went to the doctors a couple of weeks ago to have a medical done so that I can drive our minibus here at the corps. I just, only just, passed it because my eyesight, without my glasses on, is only just on the required figure.

“Your vision is only just good enough” said the good doctor.

In my heart, my vision is huge. The struggle, with any vision I think, is how to get it out of the heart, onto the paper and more importantly, into action. I’ve spent these last months since end of July doing very little other than trying to listen to the Lord. The enemy has intercepted some of this time with annoying distractions such as health and other stuff, but its been a valuable time of listening to God and to others in the community.

I’m going to start speaking hypothetically here, because although we have a few firm plans for development on our Torry front, we have still so many gaps. What I’m writing now is certainly what might be how Torry and our work here looks, but its mainly what is on my heart as a Salvation Army officer and how I see ministry.

I guess, in terms of values and ‘ideology’ my framework is very much that of the 614 network although, as you’ll see later, when it comes to methodology I may differ in vision slightly. The 614 network hinges on the passage of scripture in Isaiah 61, but verse 4 specifically

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

In that context of the city, we want to be making plans to give people a hope and a future…not just for heaven, but here on earth (cf Jeremiah 29:11).

Rebuild, restore, renew, plans, hope, future.

Discussions are already underway in Torry becoming 614 Torry to identify ourselves with that theological framework. The netork is quite diverse in expressions of corps, although there are two or three who are what you could call ‘primitive salvationist’ which is much of where my mission ‘pattern’ lies. There are, of course, strong cross overs in any ‘stream’ attepting to capture the essense of The Army.

Primitive Salvationism is ‘charismatic-flavoured, mission-focussed, heroism.’

“charismatic-flavoured…”
– its about operating in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit; fully open to all the the Holy Spirit might accomplish in and through us, believing on Him for more, being free to engage in mission as the Spirit enables!

“…mission-focussed…”

– it is about recovering a heart for the lost and a passion for the gospel. It is about the desire to move beyond maintaining the status quo to being driven by our God given mission.

“…heroism!”
– it is about recognising that we are to be voices for the oppressed and suffering as well as being lifters up of the fallen. The world is in the grip of hell…we are sent to the rescue!

In very practical terms: committed to evangelism, outpost planting (through initiatives such as mmccxx to see corps/outposts started in 2000 cities in 200 countries within 20 years), strong commitment to prayer, focus on authentic Christian community by building cell/ward corps, incarnational ministry to the poor, with a strong commitment to training up covenanted warriors to engage in the fight.

With all that as my own personal sort of ‘vision for ministry’ there then simply comes to the questioning as to how the Lord wants to see it in the front I’ve been deployed to. Thats the exctiting bit. Its where the tyres hit the runway!

So, there you have it, my vision for my officership…this is what God has been forging in my heart for these last 13 years as a Salvationist and I thank God for it. If I could keep sight it it more clearly, I’d do better, but by the grace of God I’ll win!

(Credit to Lieutenant Peter Lublink at pointful.ca for the artwork used here)

On Covenant and Officership…

I reckon that most people who know me well would know that I am very unlikely to resign as a Salvation Army officer. There are tonnes of reasons for this. This posting also offers some added info to the last post because I’m picking up that people are perhaps getting unclear messages from my cryptic ramblings!

SOME ANSWERS

1) I’m covenanted to stay to the bitter end. Like I posted several months ago, words from George Scott Railton: “I intend carefully to instruct my children that if at any time they see The Salvation Army a wealthy, respectable concern, the majority of whose “soldiers” simply go where they please to attend its’ “ministrations,” leaving the godless undisturbed to perish; and if they see another set of people, however they may be clothed or despised, who really give up all to go and save the lost, then they must not for a moment hesitate to leave the concern their poor old dad helped to make, and go out amongst those who most faithfully carry out what the founder of the Army laid down in his writings and acts, may God preserve them from such a day by keeping the Army free from the love of money and ease” – George Scott Railton, An Autobiography, Full Salvation, Jan. 1, 1894. Whilst I might discourage my children from battling with a dinosaur in favour of joining the people God has raised up to take our crown, I myself am committed to being ‘poor old dad’ trying to be faithful.

I’ve always had the ‘you can’t change it from the outside’ mentality. That’s not to say that I’ll just dig my head in the sand and pretend things aren’t like they are. Its much more about poking your head above the trench. This is much more about what is going on for us just now.

This thing for us just now is about the Salvation War, its about advance, its about Kingdom growth, its about how we best serve the lost in our communities, its about how we best meet the needs of soldiers, its about strategic deployment. Its about wanting all those things to be happening effectively. Don’t get me wrong, whilst I may be frustrated with The Salvation Army, its fueling my Bill-Hybels-like ‘holy discontent’ to get engaged further in ‘Army renewal.’

Where thoughts about ‘life outside officership’ are coming from are probably from misplaced fears that the Army won’t want us. It is in this circumstance that we have to have ‘de-mob’ thoughts although we 100% want to be avoiding that sort of circumstance altogether. Got it?

2) If I resigned I’d have no clothes to wear.

3) In spite of the general spiritual and missional state of the Salvation Army in my territory, I believe that even if God has taken his hand off the Army ALL IT TAKES IS THAT WE RE-DIG THE WELLS OF OUR FOREFATHERS TO BEGIN WALKING IN OUR BIRTHRIGHT. This is why Primitive Salvationism for me isn’t an aesthetic thing.

We have wells of soul-saving, saint-growing, humanity rescuing, prayer warrior-ing, spiritual warfare fighting, world changing, society transforming and world winning to undig. Re-digging these clogged wells takes work, sweat and, to be honest, tears.

4)As Captain Stephen Court points out at armybarmy.com, and as I am fully aware, the difference between Booth and the New Connexion and me and the Army could well be covenant. I too can find no example of any sort of agreement that Booth would have entered into in his ordination into the New Connexion. That, however, doesn’t meant to say there wasn’t one and that Booth didn’t break it. I’ve no evidence to support or deny whether Booth was in covenant with the NMC…perhaps if you can find some, we can share it.

However, that aside, covenant is why we’ve not jumped ship and the reason why thoughts about life outside the Army simply become a joke between Captain Tracy and I!!! I won’t be making the choice Booth made unless I’m left with no choice as I outlined before.

The only siginificant parallel that can be made in that instance is one of calling.

5)To resign would discredit the input I’ve put into the lives of officers, local officers, and soldier’s I’ve served with. Covenant is about trust, not only with God, but with each other. I’d never want to make my breaking of covenant anything of an excuse for others to do the same. Its an integrity issue. I’ve taught covenant heavily. If I broke it willingly I’d discredit all that I’ve ever stood for and render myself ‘without a song.’

I don’t want anyone to ever doubt that I can be trusted in the war.

So, there are five reasons I am very unlikely to resign.

A QUESTION
However, I’d like to throw out a gambit (if thats what you do with a gambit) and ask a question that I’d like to hear responses to.

The question is in regard to the people of Israel and the example that they are for the church. You know that many a time they, as a people, broken covenant with their God. There was always a faithful remnant to the true purposes of God. Many a time, faithful Jews were carried off into exile with their unfaithful Jews and stayed in covenant to God whilst out of the land and out of the temple. The mind jumps to blokes like Daniel. They were a spiritual Israel in a time when there couldn’t be a physical Israel.

My question is this: If it could be possible that Yahweh has lifted his hand or his hand or his glory in some way from The Salvation Army (in my context), is it possible for some to remain faithful to him outwith the land and the temple (i.e the Army as it is recognised)?

I’d dearly love the answer for this to be no, but my thinking is pretty much coloured by the Old Testament references to people faithful to God in spiritual terms when they were somehow prevented physically.

This is a sincere question, I things its one that we primitives especially have to discuss. I’d be interested to hear your responses…answers on a postcard (or, much easier, just his the ‘comment’ button!)

Give us faith for souls


The Lord has laid on my heart that we should aim for 10 new soldiers and 20 junior soldiers by Christmas 2008. What does this involve? It will involve deeper discipleship and decisions for some of the people on our fringes, it will involve soldiership being portrayed in a different light for some, it will involve, mainly, prayer love and evangelism.

Most people would say, especially in the UK, that numbers don’t matter. My last DC, Cliff Bradbury, used to say that you count what you value. When I say 10 soldiers and 20 junior soliders, what that is interpreted as is ten converted men and women in a covenanted discipleship process and 20 children doing the same.

I have some friends who’d say this aim is too low. I’ve some that say its unobtainable. But yet this is what I feel the Lord is saying. Now, either God is sharing that he knows that 30 will sign up this year or whether he is just trying to help us raise our game, I don’t know but I’m looking forward to the process!

When you break it down, it is one adult becoming a soldier about every 5 weeks, not even one a month on average.

Children, we’re talking about two a month on average. That’s simply 2% of the children who attend our weekly JAM Club. Seems like my faith should be higher when it comes to children!

Like you, I’m not interested in scalp hunting, number crunching, bums-on-seats counting nor money either. However, I’m passionate about people finding and serving Jesus as covenanted warriors in The Salvation Army though.

What souls is God laying on your heart?

Misrepresentation

I read this on Eleanor Burne-Jones’ blog, and I have no way to contact her directly so will do so here. She writes this:

So far as I understand it, and I am still trying to get this clarified, as a soldier in the Salvation Army I have no right to be discipled, mentored or directed to some active service by my officer. I can be kept out of active service indefinitely, with no reason given to me in writing, with no right of appeal, with no grievance procedure if I feel I have been unfairly treated, and with no procedure to follow if I wish this to be reviewed. When this happens to soldiers we are simply expected to sit and let it happen. That seems to be the cultural assumption?

It is sad that that is her experience at the moment, however, this is not how it is supposed to work at all, by far. I don’t know the specific circumstances, but offer this response here seeing as there is no way to do that on her blog.

– Firstly, in orders and regulations for Officer, an officers is charged with the responsibility for the development and employment of his soldiers in the fight…second only to evangelism, it is his/her key task.
– Secondly, it is the corps officers ‘privilege’ to ask the soldier to take up or lay aside a task and soldiers are encouraged to accept this decision, however, if you are being kept out of service for an issue that appears to be a disciplinary one, then the divisional commander should have been invovled in that process.
– Thirdly, assuming a soldier has a valid case, the soldier always has the right to contact the divisional commander to explain the position. The divisional commander is ultimately responsible for discipline and will intervene in any situation if he considers there to be an injusice, either against a soldier or an officer.
– Fourthy, s reminder that inspite of church being the church, it will always always have a human element to it. When we become soldiers, we agree to show the spirit of Salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution….that is valid for ocassions such as this…it is something we all have to do at times, even our Lord had to do it! God is our defence and ultimately he will vindicate us if indeed we have a case to be vindicated. He is good all the time.

Sorry you are being misrepresented Eleanor, but clearly the Army’s processes have been under-represented to you. God bless you as you seek resolution. May it never detract from the keeping of your covenant and in serving Jesus wholeheartedly.

blessings
Andrew

More on Soldiership

Back in May 2004 I wrote the following on soldiership…it relates well to the last post.
____________________________________________________

So Major Chick Yuill was talking to us about Leadership yesterday. We were discussing the whole post-modern effect and how it impacts on people’s ideas about joining things and being committed to things. Obviously in The Salvation Army, our membership lines are pretty strong, to be a soldier is to enter into covenant with God, to live betrothed to those promises. Dilemma?

I agree that people are not joining up quite so much these days. We have the sort of half-baked membership form of adherency, which now thankfully at least has a declaration of faith. That’s not to look down on adherents, I am sure the system has its benefits somewhere. But, perhaps it is time we looked at seeing membership/soldiership through different eyes it will give a different light.

In the UK, being a soldier basically is summed up as those people in the corps who are “Christian,” feel able enought to put aside drink, alcohol etc. and so enter into “full membership”. If that is all that soldiership is about, then I don’t want soldiership and I dont want to be part of a church where that is the whol deal. Soldiership is more than that.

Soldiership, by its very definition is tied up with relating to the army. A soldier relates to the army, its structures, orders, and a military soldier goes to the war, not necessarily because he is passionate about that war or what it stands for (listen to some soldiers in Iraq at the moment!), but because it is his duty and his job…his chosen vocation. No wonder, when it comes to somethign as rich as our spiritual lives that people in the post-modern culture don’t want to relate or be associated with that.

The thing that came to me as we listened to Chick was images of young men and women in little boats climbing up huge military vessels making peace protests and environmental stances, young Palestinians daring to throw little rocks at huge armoured tanks, a group of people standing outside a famous department store protesting about animal fur and all the other stuff like that.

So, whats the difference? What makes post-modern people do stuff like that? Well, its clear that they relate to the cause and not to the struture built up around the cause, but, of course, because of the cause, they attach themselves to the organisation which is passionate about the cause.

I’ve heard someone say that whilst the soldier relates to the Army, the warrior relates to the fight. Geoff Ryan comments that when he took The Salvation Army to Russia, he thought he was talking something rediculous into a culture that was absolutely tired of military and fighting and uniforms and all the rest of it. But, the Russian people were attracted to it….The Salvation Army and all its imagery had come to them and replaced all their old pictures and given them a new one. Communism had been a negative, The Salvation Army, its ideals, its fight, its self-lessness and its transforming message caught the imagination.

Captain Gordon Cotterill in his URBANarmy blog makes comments about a tired military metaphor. I totally agree that when we look at some elements of salvationism today, then it is tired…very tired. However, what is it about the “cause” that makes ranks of post-modern men and women sight up and risk their lives doing things like climb Big Ben in order to protest against war??

Soldiers relate to the Army…Warriors relate to the fight. I guess the adventure is to start promoting soldiership as an adventure, as holy heroism, as dedicated to the cause. But what of The Salvation Army? It can only be the richer because instead we will have soldiers who relate to the war as opposed to just the army. We will have adherents so caught up with the vision of what it means to be a soldier/warrior that they won’t want to stop at adherency.

We need a culture that is, as Chick says, “fuzzy at the edges”, people need to feel comfortable about coming and sharing with us, but we need, as he went on to say, to be “solid at the core.” Actually moving into being part of the church, being ‘baptised’ into it is the sage where there is commitment to discipleship and all that follows. WE NEED TO STOP MAKING SOLDIERS WHO ARE NOT WILLING TO BE DISCIPLES AND BE DISCIPLED. We cannot afford to have a two tiered membership, there seems to be no biblical or scriptural presidence for this. You are either baptised (enroled?) into the fellowship of the church, signifying that you have left your old life behind and starting a new one and now enterong the covenant of discipship, or you are not, or…at least you are committed to working towards it.

But what about our additional “requirements” for membership? Drinking and smoking, taking drugs? Bg issue, perhaps for the next blog, but I want to say that surely common sense and a good look at society shows us the dangers of all these things. Chick Yuill talks about making those elements voluntary…perhaps there is something in that. But, my point is that if people are engrossed with the bigger vision of knowing Christ, serving Christ, winning others to him like I did when I was converted, then the drink issue pales into significance and we will discover the absolute power of God to deliver us from those things! Are we the ones who “are of little faith?”

Well, thats it for now…
yours in the fight
Andrew Clark

Insomnia Attack

Now…you can normally jig a merry dance around me when I am asleep and I’d be none the wiser. I normally sleep like a baby (whatever that means!). But here I am at 3am wakened. I’ve been asleep for three hours, but then Ben wakes and moans about something, Tracy gets up to check him, Ceitidh is rumbling around, I’m awake and my throat is sore and in need of some water and a Strepsil…not to mention a touch of indigestion from some lovely duck fajita’s from Chiquito’s from our celebration of Tracy’s birthday last night!

And, of course, even the smallest hint of awakeness encourages the brain to engage the possiblities that lie in the certain envelope which will be landing on the doorstep in about 6 hours time!

Where could we be going?
Who will be coming here?
Will it be a joyous revelation or an ‘oh dear, lets pray!’ ?
Will we have the joy of seeing our children having a good Scottish education or will I still have to continue to work out why on earth Church of England Schools bother to exist?
Will I be picking up daisies in the countryside or will I be picking up used needles with a sharps box in an alley way behind the hall..or both?
Will I be lounging around in the luxury of a newly built hall or frantically trying to hold an 1800s citadel together?

So many questions. But there has been a, what I suppose you could call a prayer, going round in my head for the last couple of weeks. I think it is a methodist sort of liturgical thing (which is an unusual thing to be floating round my head) but I’ve always liked it nonetheless:


The Methodist Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

..and Amen!!!!