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!

Fishing

So, I mentioned a few posts back the whole junior soldier and senior soldier thing. 10 senior soldiers and 20 junior soldiers. To be more exact, we’re especially talking 10 adults and 20 children saved…whether they reach soldiership during the course of the year is not quite as important, so long as they’re saved and recruits.

God’s really confirming it for me and my faith is building alongside the prayer. Growth has been slow here at Wick in recent years, conversion growth that is. All you Wick readers, are you praying already as we prepare to launch this vision in the new year?

Report of Our Current Strength
I’m not sure exactly the reasons for lack of growth in recent years, I don’t want to offer any conjecture, but to put it bluntly, apart from transfers in (that doesn’t really count as growth, but I’ll tell you we’ve transferred 5 in), we’ve enrolled 2 soldiers since 2000 and lost at least 9 that I can make out due to promotion to Glory, backsliding etc. An overall loss of 7 soldiers in 7 years. The transfers in dull the reality, I suppose.

Of our 41 soldiers, 7 aren’t able to regularly attend due to health or having recently backslidden in the months running up to when we came here. Of the remaining 36, there are possibly 6 who are under 60 years of age. Of that remaining 30, maybe about 10 of them are between 75 & 80+. In that 36, there are varying ranges of engagement with the mission of the corps.

As for Junior Soldiers, well, we have…wait for it….none. Yet, we have 200+ children on our JAM Club registers, all hearing the gospel every week. In that regard, our problem is integration, discipleship and sustainability.

As I’ve blogged before, we do have a history of major revival with 500 people seeking the Lord in the space of around two months. We’ve also had subesequent ‘mini-spurts’ of growth. A salute to Captain Grace Gordon for one particular season during her time here.

So, that’s where we are at the moment. Here’s hoping that by the time this date comes round next year, we’ll have good things to report for the Lord. People like to quote the old phrase ‘its God that does the saving.’ I say thank God for that, but we do find in the New Testament the idea of ‘going out to save people’, especially from Paul. Jesus spoke too about ‘catching people.’ Jude speaks about snatching people from the fire. I’m all for it. It simply means bring people to the Saviour…taking our part in the process. The fish won’t jump into the net by themselves. ‘We don’t wait until people want to hear about Jesus, we go to them otherwise we’ll be waiting a long time'(to paraphrase Catherine Booth.)

Our methods? Do as much as we can, to the most we can, in the best way that we can, in order that we might reach but some. If it falls into that category, we’ll be doing it in 2008! You recognise that here in Wick, ALL evangelism is friendship evangelism, no matter what you do, because nearly everyone is in some form of relationship with us. Here in Wick, we don’t carry out our mission in isolation from being an integral part of the community.

The Lord has confirmed prophetically that he is bringing a harvest out of season for us. Its out of season because we’re not ready, it doesn’t seem possible, I’m still just sharing the hope and dream, but I feel some sort of move in my spirit.

Now…where did I put my fishing net…

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?