Evangelism is not a dirty word

In the times we are in, there has been much that has demoted evangelism to the bottom of the pile. Many people are reluctant to share faith because of the culture of the society we’re in, such as the culture I described yesterday. Some thing that because the church isn’t a norm in society, because we’re pluralistic and multi-cultural, and because the world doesn’t readily except the gospel that everyone once had a knowledge of, what we must do now is just make friends and hope the gospel shines from us. I understand that conclusion.

However, there is an alternative we must consider. You know, especially here in the UK, there are more and more people who have no idea of the gospel story. I make reference to the supermarket Sainsburys who last year put out a press release in support of the sale of all their Easter eggs, stating that they had a commitment to sell them due to them being a celebration of Christ’s birth! Then re-issued the statement stating that it wasn’t, of course his birth, but his death. Then, for a third time, they re-issued a statement and confessed that it was in fact in celebration of his resurrection that they were selling the eggs! People don’t know the story of Jesus.

I think that much of our evangelism has had the purpose of getting people to come to church. Again, I state that ‘church’ as an institution, and as a place you go and have services done to you by the professional clergyman and where you don’t have to buy in further than chipping a few quid into the collection plate are over. If churchianity is indeed coming to an end (please God!), then the people who will be Christians are those who are totally sold out to Jesus and many of the people who have some notion that they should attend church will do so no more on cultural grounds. As things get tough in the world with regards to being a Christian, the tactic of getting people to front up to a service on a Sunday will be useless.

Why? Because church is not what happens on a Sunday or Wednesday night. Its not somewhere you go. Church is something we are..and…there is only one church. The word churches shouldn’t really be in our vocabulary because there is but one body. Someone once said that Jesus is coming back for A bride, not a hareem.

So, if evangelism is not to get people to come along to our church empires, what is it? It is the good news of the Kingdom of God, thats what it is. Jesus preached everywhere that the Kingdom of God was at hand. There is an alternative way that you are invited into, a different world, eternity beginning here and now where the charactistics are righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Where the first are last and the last are first etc etc. The entry point into that Kingdom is through repentance and faith in the key character, Jesus, who steps into history of the human being and provides the keys of escape from our corrupt society and our corrupt lives into this other Kingdom.

We have the incredible opportunity to begin to tell the story, God’s story of redemption. Remember when two disciples were walking along the Emmaus road? They didn’t recognise the Jesus that walked with them, they were caught up in the shock of all that had happened, but Jesus brings some context to what they’d just experience by taking them to Moses and the prophets! Have you ever noticed that? Jesus talks to them about his own significance in the context of history….he tells them the story that they’d maybe never considered.

In any case, we have a load of people who don’t know our story (including Sainsburys!). And here is our chance to present not a ‘come to our church’ gospel but welcome to the Kingdom…come, taste and see the beauty of it…come live it with us and we live counter-culturally to the world we are in through the gateway of the cross, death and resurrection of Jesus.

We have the opportunity not to bring people to church, sit them in a pew and leave them forever unemployed in the salvation story of the world. We can invite them in and have them taking part straight away.

We are a salvation people….this is our speciallity. Getting saved, keeping saved, and getting others saved. And when we’re saved, we’re saved to save (and serve too).

Join the Army…be a soldier…enter the adventure…live out the Kingdom and invite people to join you.

A few thoughts on ‘Brigades’

I wanted to publish that section of the 1930s Orders and Regs for Corps Officers for a few reasons. Firstly, because it seems to me that it contains much of the 1914 Orders and Regs for Wards, the Army’s prototype cell groups derived from Wesley’s class system. Secondly, because they are a great picture of living intentionally in a mission mode.

Now, of course, it is a document of its time. Sometimes we have challenges looking at documents like this and so automatically dismiss them of no value, but there is treasure in here to be mined.

Here is the basic concept, as it was then. You have a corps. You assign each person, everyone from I suppose convert/recruit/adherent to soldier/local officer to a brigade. Some of those brigades may already be in existance and if thats the case, great (eg band, songsters etc) and the ones that aren’t involved, you create on for them.

These people are given leadership by a Brigade Leader, who is in essence, a mini corps officer responsible for pastoral oversight, and employment in the salvation war. The brigades get assigned to a part of the corps district and focus on that area for outreach, community work and for gathering together as a sub-expression of the corps.

Pastoral care happens (and not just as the corps officer). Mission happens. Evangelism happens. Serving the poor happens. Total mobilisation happens.

I’m thinking of places I’ve seen this in operation. I have to say that the Ward System we initiated at Pill was an attempt at this…as I say, I can identify much of the 1914 O&R for Wards in that 1930 reg. Wards had within them a ‘brigade’ system, but here we see the other way around. I’m guessing the wards were seen as maybe too difficult to set up alongside existing systems like band etc, and so they update the whole brigade idea.

Anyway, yes, we tried this in Pill and although the corps have now re-named and gone down the ‘cell’ route, I think much of the same essence is still in existence, praise God.

Other systems I’ve seen currently have to be at Holy Trinity Brompton (large Anglican church in London, home of the Alpha Course), who have what are called Pastorates. These are, in essense, ‘Brigades’. They meet together (maximum of 40 people) for worship, bible teaching, encouragement, pastoral care under two leaders, male and female. They meet in geographical areas across London and I understand several of them have gone on to either adopt dying churches or form their own under the umbrella of HTB. They produce a little booklet called ‘Pastorates’ and its available from HTB. HTB is certainly a church that many seek to emmulate.

Of course, there are still soem brigades active in the Army, but I’m not sure if there are entire corps where this brigade approach is operating.

This to me is about total mobilisation and involvement of the whole corps in mission and in mutual support, care, nourshment, sharpening and encouragement of each other. None of the 80/20 thing where 20 percent of the people do 80 per cent of the work. In that sense, these are wholistic small groups, if you’re in NCD language.

I still maintain that this could be an effective pattern for mission if viewed through a 21st century lens. As Major Stephen Court says, these Os & Rs have not been tried and found wanting…its more that they have been deemed irrelevant and therefor not tried. I think, in fact, he is offering $1000 AUD to someone who tries this system and can prove that it doesn’t lead to growth!! We have a very small corps here at Torry, but we’re using this as a pattern as we build, albeit from a very low base.

Anyway, have a think on these things. Could it help any cell groups/house groups you currently have? Could it develop your surviving brigades (songsters, band, corps cadets/youth group, Home League)? Don’t like the terminology….well change it if you like. I’d simply love to see a day with a greater mobilised soldiery, a less one-man-band officership and a steady increased influence in the lives of our communities in which we live.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this concept. Not particularly interested in ‘can’t see this ever happening in the Army’ – more interested in comments on the effectiveness, or otherwise of the system. Also, there is also a danger of using surviving brigades (such as band or songsters) as a bench mark…don’t be distracted by the narrowness of these groups, and think wider to the other aspects of them.

24/7 Prayer


Its official. Confirmed. I am very likely mad.

Here at Torry we are due to embark on a 24/7 prayer week at the end of August. I have to say that fundamentally is just being obedient to what I feel God is asking of us at this time. Thing is its a prety huge thing but so is the battle we face here in Torry. Although we suspect that some people will come from other places to support, and thats great and desirable, the challenge for us is to re-introduce a rhythm of prayer into the life and mission of the corps…something that isn’t an obvious part of the fabric of our community here.

We’ll be praying like never before out of sheer necessity. Out of a desire for something to shift in our wider community. Out of the need to seek the Lord of the Harvest to raise up labourers for this corner of the vineyard. Out of a heart felt, empassioned desperation to see this place change and the Kingdom to take a stronger foothold.

We see death at work daily on our streets. On the faces of the people who live here, on the children, the adults, the elderly and the youth. We’re surrounded y prisons of addiction, sin, godlessness, fear and hopelessness. Our local authority are good at making our community look pretty and presenable, but at the heart there is a cancer that is eating the vitality out of everything. Our community doesn’t need plastic surgery, its needs complete transfusion and transformation from death to life.

We might be crazy, but we need God. We won’t stand by and let the enemy have his way any longer. Things must change.

While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight-I’ll fight to the very end!

Prayerful and missional living with a passionate persuit of justice and all that the Kingdom will bring is the answer for Torry.

Affirmations #8: Salvo Identity

8. I believe that The Salvation Army is a revolutionary movement of covenanted warriors exercising holy passion to win the world for Jesus.

This is the dream.

revolutionary = world changing
movement = not static or declinging, holding light to structure that limits and forging on
covenanted = trust…we trust God, he trusts us, he releases the Kingdom
exercising = doing the stuff
holy passion = take a look at Jesus and follow him
win the world = we set our aims high…118 countries and counting.
Jesus = the point of it all.

There is a lot of rediscovering, praying, educating that needs to take place for this to begin to happen, its a tough climb, and as I said in my last post, the key to becoming this is to look to Jesus.

I’d say that anything other than this affirmation is not really salvationism, so we’ve no option but to press on and make the vision a reality.

Affirmations #7 New Army


7. I believe that God can do something unprecedented with The Salvation Army.

I believe God can, but will we let him? Where does the future of the Army lie, how will God do his new thing? What will it look like?

I believe God will be able to do something withus when we get a fresh glimpse of Jesus, when we take our eyes off of ourselves and look to the author and perfector of our faith, the beginning and the end, our Commander-in-Cheif.

Unsurprisingly, there was a quote that caught my eye in Alan Hirsch/Michael Frost’s new book “ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church”. He says this:

“For Salvationists to rediscover the fire and fight within William Booth…is valuable. But, when there is something fundamentally wrong in the basic equation of faith, then it is time to recover a vital and active sense of Jesus: who he is, what he has done for us, the way of life he laid down for us to follow. His passions must become ours.”

Primitive Salvationism (read Booths salvationism) was empassioned by Jesus. Read any work of any Booth and you’ll see how much Jesus was Lord of The Salvation Army. He must indeed become this again. I don’t currently believe every aspect of our Army today is under His lordship. He will do something new in us when we rediscover Jesus.

Going back to what I said a few posts agi, our Christology (our understanding of Jesus from the scripture) should shape our missiology (what we do) and our mission should inform our ecclesiology (what shape we are as an Army).

The extent to which we are a Jesus Army (not The Jesus Army) is the extent to which God will do something new amongst us.

Firm


A couple of days ago Stephen Court blogged a list of nine affirmations he found somewhere on someones blog, I think. He didn’t quote, so I can’t either. Here they are:

1. I believe the doctrines of The Salvation Army;
2. I believe that we should (and can) be holy;
3. I believe that we should (and can) win the world;
4. I believe that lots of people are going to hell forever (some who never got saved, and some who lost their salvation);
5. I believe that signs and wonders and prophetic and deliverance will play a big role in winning the world;
6. I believe that charismatic cell-based Christian communities are the most effective means of accomplishing mission today;
7. I believe that God can do something unprecedented with The Salvation Army.
8. I believe that The Salvation Army is a revolutionary movement of covenanted warriors exercising holy passion to win the world for Jesus.
9. I believe that covenant is the only hope of avoiding the international fragmentation of The Army within 20 years.

They are an excellent summation of salvationism. I’d want to add something about our call to the poor – the lost the last and the least, but otherwise great. Actually, they are in essence a good summary of all the good stuff that has been coming Stephen himself for the last decade, its the emphasis of every faithful salvationist and I hope that people would hear those things under my ministry.

Those nine little sentences evoke hope, faith, vision and joy and are just an excellent reminder of what I, as a Salvation Army officer, am about.

In this last year or so, you’ve probably noticed, I’ve had some serious doubts and concerns, not about God or my faith, but about my calling and more specifically, my calling as a Salvationist. No doubt they are from the enemy, trying to divert me off track. However, God – gracious, faithful and merciful as he is – has used this last year in a serious time of solidifying and confirming…not to mention shaping and refining. I maybe needed it again just to confirm that resolve of my heart.

I am sincerely in a place today where I can thank God for it all.

Like Stephen said when he posted them, there are some who don’t sign up to this for whatever reason, either through ignorance or through determined objection, perhaps. We can’t always do much about the determined objectors, but there is certainly great purpose in teaching and instructing those who just haven’t heard salvationism described in these ways.

It is my hope, over the next nine blogs, to take each statement and just give comment. Hope you’ll tune in and wade in with your tuppence.

Primitive Assertion!

Much of life, at the moment, is about getting on with it, thankfully! I certainly don’t say that in any negative sense. As I head off to officers ‘retreat’ tomorrow I’m very much aware that I am attending as someone in a very different situation than last year, where I was regretably doubting whether I would be able to continue in officership. That all seems somewhat distant although thats not to say that there are not some things I’m working on seeking to influence or change for the better in our movement.

Primitive Salvationism for me is about rediscovering the bold pioneering spirit of this movement. Its about adapting from anyone’s book if it works. Its about passionate and fresh spirituality. Its about pentecostal daring, with full empowering by God and annointing by the Holy Spirit. Its about the empowerment of ‘everyday’ people in the work of God. Its pertaining to the origins, living to our birthright and celebrating our heritage, yet not becoming entrenched in dead traditionalism.

Essentially, the word ‘primitive’ shouldn’t have to appear there at all. Salvationism should be like that, full stop. This is not always a reflection of our state though, especially here in the UK. Thats not to say that people don’t get saved in the myriad of expressions of Salvationism. God has his way of working in spite of us, of course. It is to say though, that we all often (myself included) need to trace ourselves back to our source to rediscover the power and potency and spiritual vibrancy of our salvationism.

A year on, I’m even more convinced of the essential return to primitive salvationism. There may still be some who will ridicule the very idea, but then that is simply big adventures in missing the point!

God bless The Salvation Army! God grant us a double portion of your Spirit than that which you placed upon the hearts and shoulders of our forebears and may we prove ourselves worthy of the calling God has given us by his grace.