Its into Christmas carolling season. I’m a serial caroller. Would do it every day. Its good ‘presence evangelism’ and its proclamation. Its one of the Army’s prime times for cultural relevance for those of you who are into that sort of thing. Important aspects of evangelism that feed into the over all chance of people giving Jesus a though this Christmas. Make the most of every opportunity.

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There is nothing more important than mobilising and employing soldiery in the fight. Here at Torry, our active soldiers are more like partners in the war, but I know the reality that is that in many places many soldiers feel disatisfied with what ministry opportunities there are. My response to that as a soldier was always to create opportunities for myself, but have to say I’d much rather have been doing it within the set up of my local corps. Soldiers…are you engaged? Officers…are you doing what you can to release every soldier?

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Some of you will want to be keeping a note of Russell Rook’s new organisation, Chapel Street. You can look it up on facebook and at their website due to be launched in January. The idea behind the name is that they want to help take the ‘chapel’ to the ‘street’ by promiting community regeneration. ChapelSt.org

I’m all for it. I think The Salvation Army is for it too…or is it? Of course it is…lets get on with it.

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What is the distinguishing mark of our community service? It has to be Jesus. If Jesus isn’t in it, lets either stop it, or lets realign ourselves around him.

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If you know anyone who is looking to re-locate and plug into a missional setting in a certain disctrict of Scotland’s third city, let me know 🙂

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Andrew

Blog feast

Now, seeing as I’ve been on a forced blog fast, allow me the indulgence of having a blog feast. The main blog for today is the one before this, but let me just chuck in a few bits from recent weeks

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I attended an event (which shall remain nameless) recently which contained a great preach in the AM for folks to be born again…great, powerful, would have responded if I weren’t born again already….only the preacher forgot to tell the audience how to be born again. Oops. Repentance and faith.
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On Spiritual gifts…I used to be a ‘you get one or two and your stuck with them’ man. Not now. Spiritual gifts are an arsenal at our disposal which we can (a) pray for and (b) be given as God determines…ie, gifts of grace. In other words, we’re not limited to one or two or even three. You can heal, prophesy, speak in tongues, interpret, have words or knowledge or wisdom as good as the next man. God wants you ministering in his power, not your own. There are several keys in the scripture to support this view as opposed to the more traditional view on spiritual gifts. If you’re interested, drop me a line.
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Hey…Christmas is a coming. Make the most of it in your outreach and in your opportunites to serve and bless the poor. Hannukah is also almost upon us…friends, please remember to pray for Israel, especially in light of recent attacks against them by those who seek the ruin of all peace.
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Here is a hint…start praying Luke 10:2 everyday at 10.20 – that the Lord would send labourers into the vineyard (especially our corner). Couple of hours later, pray for the General. Not a bad idea at all.
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For those of you in the UK (not sure they do international orders), can I encourage you to ‘google’ ‘Lifewords’? Formerly Scripture Gift Mission, this organisation produce excellent little booklets and scripture portions that can be received free and given away for free. As a charity, they do appreciate donations to keep the ministry alive, but God bless them for placing accessibility of the word of God above profit.
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Do your corps activities/ministries/social events/gatherings exclude the poor among you due to pricey choices of venues/activities? Lets be careful, inclusive and just.
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A William-Boothism: “I must assert in the most unqualified way that it is primarily and mainly for the sake of saving the soul that I seek the salvation of the body.”
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The Grand Church Tour continues..

I was able to continue on my ‘Grand Church Tour’ this morning with a visit to the United Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)…don’t forget the continuing. The service was attended by around 50 people, mainly ederly with only one or two younger faces. The minister was cheery and his sermon was biblical, Jesus centred, although I couldn’t help wondering if it were over the heads of the faithful gathered. I was slightly concerned about his apparent satisfaction with the downfall of Todd Bently, regardless of what one’s thoughts are on it, and wondered where concern and grace were in that, but nevertheless, another part of the jigsaw of the church in Torry.

The whole purpose of these wee visits has, yes, been to make contacts with leaders and churches in the area. But, to be honest, the question on my mind is ‘what is it about the church that means it is not reaching the community effectively.’ The over-riding question that has plagued me over this last month or so of exploration are ‘where do the lost find faith here?’ I’ve tried to put myself in the position of one without faith and asked..what would it feel like to turn up here with no clue of Christianity other than what your average Brit would. I’ve asked the ‘how would my mother cope’ question and I’ve played the conversation over in my mind as I can recall what her comments would be!

I confess that I’ve struggled to make sense of Christianity as presented by the myriad of expressions of it that I’ve experienced over the last weeks. I’ve struggled to relate what I’ve heard expounded from the pulpit to my daily life. I don’t say these things as specific attacks or negative comment on the specific churches because I recognise that up and down the country much of the church, including the Army, is in the same place.

I have one more congregation to visit. I can guess already what I’ll find, yet always hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

So, in Torry, there are (including the Army) 6 congregations. They can muster around 300 believers on any typical Sunday morning in a community of 12,000 and it has to be said that that maybe as many as a half of them drive from wealthier areas outside Torry to come back to church in what would have been there home community before they got wealthy and moved out. That looks like about 2.5% of the population fronting up at church on any particular Sunday, and half of that living in Torry. Thats a big change from Pill, where we estimated that 1% of the population were Salvationist, let alone Christian! Even if 100% of the 2.5% of Christians attending church in Torry are saved, which is what I’d hope, its appears to be bleak.

What does this mean for us? It certainly means that the harvest is plentiful. If you follow the logic of the statistic that suggests there should be a church for every 1000 of the population, we’re certainly well below that in the area. It certainly gives us much to think about in terms of accessibility, about how and where we present the gospel, about what we do and don’t give our energies to and about how we put flesh and bones on the incarnation of Jesus to Torry.

On a personal level, it presents me with further questions about how the structures, ministry and function of your average Salvation Army corps cope. I ask myself, yet again, are we flexible enough to meet the challenge of our community? To be honest, more questions that there are answers. But then, Torry isn’t your average Salvation Army corps and there are so many promising signs about our wee community that are surely embryonic of more hopeful things to come.

Yet even we struggle with the cumbersome load of programme beyond our limited means which ultimatle leads to a sacrifice on the great task of winning Torry to Jesus. The age old problem of programme vs relationship and programme vs mission is as real here as in a corps many a times its size.

I did not anticipate at all that the personal things that challenge me about officership would be absent or would cease to exist simply because of a change of location. The continual challenge for me, and for any officer in The Salvation Army today is to what level are we committed to the lost and to reaching them. To what extent are we willing to throw of church shackles and identify ourselves as a permanant mission to the lost. In modern parlance, to what extent are we a missional body of people.

The jury is out.

Flash Back

I was looking at some reports the other day on child poverty in Scotland and came across this picture. Immediately, I recognised myself. No, its not actually me, but all at once a whole flash flood of my childhood came rushing back at me.

You know, it was only as I grew up I realised how much of my childhood was not only less than normal, but harmful. There are some scars that are slow to heal even with the most Gentle Father administering the ointment. And you know what? I don’t think my mum knows what she has done because she herself is still so damaged by the life and lifestyle she has had.

I’ve gone through a whole period of years of forgiving my mum, and I truly have. Its probably why I can love her now where before I never could. Every time I speak to her on the phone all I hear is her pain. She’s still living the hell that I’ve been rescued from. And what’s more, without repentance, faith and trust in Jesus, her hell will continue in ways unthinkable.

I come back to my question of a few weeks ago. Who is reaching the likes of my mum? How many of our corps could welcome her with open arms, just as she is and believe in the gospel enough to believe she can change by the grace of God? What will we do (or not do) to reach a person like my mother.

There were, sadly, Salvationists in my early life who pronounced their benediction on my salvation before it even began. To some, I was too troubled, too far gone, a risk, a threat. I thank God, however, for the Jesus-hearted folks who invested their time, love and heart in the likes of me.

The thing that troubles me with some evangelism today is again from the church growth school which says that a church should go for the people they are most like. The place where that falls down is that God has done a good job on generations of us in the church and we’re often middle class, educated and comfortably well off. Who is there then to reach the poor?

Will the real Salvation Army please stand up.

God at work in Zimbabwe

News snippet from the ‘Zimbabwe Salvationist’ this month:

138 Soldiers Enrolled At Glen Norah

HARARE CENTRAL—The Spirit is at work in Glen Norah. Although the corps has been going through a period of rebuilding and transformation, many people in the community received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord through the corps’ evangelistic activities last year. Majors David and Joyce Mukoti, retired officers serving as pro-tem Corps Officers, report that they enrolled 138 soldiers in 2007.

“We are grateful to God for his mighty work in Glen Norah Corps,” says Major Friday Ayanam, Area Commander.

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Seems like we need lessons.

The church my mother goes to…


My Mother and I at my sister’s wedding

Couple of weeks ago I was talking with my divisional commander about ‘church.’ It all started with a conversation about my mother. Now, my mother does not go to church. The reason for that is simply because she isn’t a Christian. More than that, my mum is a product of some tough life experiences, she is what you can call a diamond in the rough. I say diamond because she has some great qualities surrounded by a whole load of rough stuff.

The other reason my mother doesn’t go to church is that she’s grown up with the idea that people who go to church think they are better than her. One of the ‘characteristics’ if you like of people from places like me and my mum is that in spite of having nothing, you don’t let people look down on you. Her experience of people who go to church is just that. The reason that might be is because, as I say, she can be rough.

Back to my conversation with the DC…I was saying to him that I think the ideal church would be the church that my mother would join. You see, the kind of Christian community that my mother would join would be the kind of community that could look past a person’s culture, character, guarded emotions, language, general manner and outward appearance and see the need at the heart and be willing to refuse to let the outward dictate who is worth bothering with.

The thing is that my mother is not unspiritual…she’s been to spiritualists, tea-readers, mediums, woman’s masonic groups and all the rest. The problem with my mother is that there has never been a church bold enough to embrace her. Part of this is a geography thing…the only evangelical church in our village is a very middle class Brethren assembly. The other part of it is that the vast majority of churches aren’t ready for my mother.

But don’t lets fall into the trap of thinking my mum is some sort of extreme monster. No, she is fairly typical of many women in the town I grew up in and actually a bunny rabbit compared to women her age I encountered during our time in the East-End of Glasgow.

William Booth talked about the submerged tenth. I’m not so sure that poverty is the measure of that ‘submerged’ people today…its more likely accurate to describe the submerged as the people that church culture has totally lost contact with. What’s more, I reckon that the figure is much more than a tenth.

Where else should The Salvation Army be but in the places where the submerged live?

Good Friday Witness

A little snippet of our united churches Good Friday walk of witness and open air. The baptist pastor (carrying the cross) and I arranged the event…the first ever to have happened in Caithness apparently! There was a howling gale blowing, as you might be able to tell, but we’re used to that in Caithness.

We had hail and snow before we stepped out of the church to assemble…it was completely dry for the march and the open air service. As I said the ‘Amen’ of the benediction of the open air service, the snow began again. Nice one God!

We have good support from across some very diverse churches in the town. Baptist, Salvationist, Church of Scotland, Free Church, Independant, Episcopal, and maybe even a Roman Catholic or two.

The preacher is the Rev William Wallace (!!!) who is a local Church of Scotland minister.

Enjoy!

(PS…check out my skill on the bass drum!)

McClung on Militant Christianity


Floyd McClung is the great modern day church planter, missioner and apostle. Tracy picked up his book, ‘You see bones, I see an Army’ last week in Wesley Owen. His teaching on the Father Heart of God has started a Jesus revolution in the lives of many, he has trailblazed churches across the world. Now nearing the age where one would normally expect to retire, McClung has recently moved to South Africa to help explode redemptive communites through the entire nation, beginning with the poor. Someone give that man a set of eppaulettes! You just get the impression that this guy has lived out this writing instead of just waxing lyrical about it like many books seem to do when it comes to mission.

His assertion is that the Jesus revolution will come around through five key elements:

1) Simple church – small networks of people seeking to encounter and share Jesus where they are, both among their networks but reaching out to those who are not in their immediate network.

2) Courageous Leadership – those daring to break the church out of the existing mould, destructing the church and setting it free. Strong word, destructing. Its painful, messy and rarely easy in a long established setting of any kind. Just in case any Wickers are reading….no, its not my plan…rest easy! But then, it comes down to measuring how effective we can be in the form we currently are and assessing if that will do the job of winning the lost.

3) Focussed Obedience (sounds a bit like covenant) – about remaining faithful amid distraction and staying the course. Timely. He suggests that spiritual shallowness, plateauing, negative inner vows (‘I will never…’), unclear vision, the myth of financial security, frantic pace of life and conventional churchianity will be the main challenges to obedience.

4) Apostolic Passion – funnily, Captain Stephen Court was talking about apostolic passion over at armybarmy.com this week. Worth a look. Here, McClung absolutely suggests covenant and harnessing our passions into exploding Christianity wherever it can be exploded.

5) Making Disciples – that is, disciples who will be disciples and not just church-goers…the only way to sustain the Jesus revolution.

Classic quote from the opening chapter:

“Without knowing it they [China, India, Central Asia, and South America] are breaking out of small definitions [of church] the rest of us in the West hold dear. The ‘rest’ have a message for the West: church is not an institution but an army.”

Fantastic. The rest of the church want to be an army and The Army wants to be a church. The thing is that McClung could almost be describing the call and pattern of the early, hopefully modern, Salvation Army. We’ve got the opportunity to cause a Jesus breakout in so many places if we’d only dare.

In my own life I’m fundamentally challenged about how this is happening (or not) in my part of the world…and how I, as an officer respond to that need. God gives us a bucket full and over-flowing of grace to comprehend these things.

If you haven’t already sold your bed to buy my other book recommendations, this is one to sell your bed for.

‘You see bones, I see and army’ by Floyd McClung. I’ve only just skim read it, but its well worth diving into!

Get Praying

Started off our door-to-door prayer ministry this afternoon. The basic idea is that we make contact with people in their homes and ask if they want prayer for anything. Tracy did some prep last week and delivered a copy of the War Cry to one of the streets in the town. I followed on today with some more info and with a prayer request card.

This card basically indicates that we want to pray for them, and to feel free to write a request on the inside of the card. We’ll pop back in a few days an pick them up. If they don’t respond, that’s fine. If they do, that’s better. If they don’t want prayer but want something else, that’s good because we’ll end up praying anyway! Its a simple way to connect people’s felt needs with God’s desire to reveal himself to them using us as the catalyst. Maybe even an opportunity to nurture their ‘unfelt need’ – salvation.

People are spiritual, most people have an openness to things. Up here, we have an interesting mix of spirituality. We have ‘folk Christians’, new agers, pagans, out and out atheists, spiritualists, freemasons, and a whole bunch of people into the occult. Christianity gets a bad name in many places because it is often ‘unspiritual.’ I can’t help but see the link between this and God sending a bit of a charismatic nutter to Wick.

The weather up here doesn’t always lend itself to outdoor evangelism, but I’m going to get kitted up for a street prayer booth tomorrow and see how we go!

Uprising Thoughts

I’m very much enjoying soaking in ‘The Uprising’ by Captain Stephen Court and Olivia Munn. Its a great read, full of depth, revelation, challenge, teaching, blessing, salvationism…pretty much everything I enjoy in a book. Its interactive, conversational and direct all at the same time. Its written for teens but I know several people in 20s – 90s who’d love it and who need it. Its revolutionary stuff.

More than that, it moves me. I get tired of books which leave me stuck rigid in my chair. I had that experience the other day when I picked up Bill Hybels’ new offering, ‘Just Walk Across the Room.’ Its not a kinda book I normally would pick up…its one of those that put all of the church’s evangelistic eggs in the basket of friendship evangelism. The only reason I picked it up is because there is a little course attached to it that I thought might be helpful for some of the quieter souls in my soldiery by ways of encouraging them that they can do something.

Anyway, as I pick it up, I realise all of a sudden that I’ve read this book before, at least 10 years previously. I remember reading ‘Becoming a Contagious Christian’ by Hybels very early in my Christian life and it was something that was actually full of good stuff…still is really. Because I’d enjoyed BACC so much when I was younger, I read it several times, often dipping into it. So, you’ll understand I was familiar enough with it to spot the same basic plot in his new book. I don’t reckon he figured someone sitting down with the two books and being able to spot the same formula, same pattern but different words approach. If you can plagerise you’re own work he’s done a good job.

Now, of course, its the same author, he’s bound to have similar thinking as himself! Thing is, all he’s pretty much done is said that other methods of evangelism (outlined in his old book) are pretty much useless and sold his hat to go with the friendship evangelism. So, I put the book down feeling disappointed and a bit robbed that I’d just forked out ÂŁ8 for a book which has had a previous existence in a much better book that has all the good bits still in. It just reminded me so much of the evangelistic fads that come and go and how fickle the church can be.

In contrast to the Uprising, there is a call, not just to holiness, but holiness in action, loving the lost, saving the lost, caring for the poor, resting in Jesus to supply us with what we need and responding in simple obedience as perfect love fills us an moves us with compassion. Court and Munn haven’t come up with a new plan. They’re re-digging old wells and coming up with material which would keep you well fed for a long time!

By the way, I’m not being paid to say these things about the nice book ;o) But still, my recommendation still stands: sell your bed and buy it!