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!!!

Revolution

Commissioner Joe Noland (blog listed to the right) has a very poignant quote at the head of his blog. It reads:

“The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution”

– ( Hannah Arendt, historian and philosopher.)

I’d say thats a fairly solid peice of truth right there. I think of it as true in terms of the church and its history. After the scandal of the Jesus movement within Judaism, after the feirce persecution of the church and its rapid growth, when the revolution was won, it then became the establishment. It also became the persecutor and the inspiration for many a subsequent revolution, which in turn sparked off more.

I think of it in terms of the Army and its history. We read of old Booth, in his great song pleading that ‘the revolution now begin’. His generation kept the flame burning well and…well, you know the history.

Today, revolution is a byword for rebellion or for some other brand of ‘renegadism’. In our 21st century living, there is no place for the upstart to ‘affect our lives’ with the quite seeds of dissatisfaction. However, a reflection on the word itself just give us different light. The implication that springs to me from that word is the simple need to keep the wheels turning, to keep it moving. Moving is better than stop altogether.

I think there are several revolutions we need within The Salvation Army.

We need a discipleship revolution…rediscovering the power and potency of soldiership as an expression of living and active discipleship.

We need a worship revolution…where its not about style or decade, but of heart intention, adoration and sheer awe of our great God.

We need a mission revolution…where corps are at pains to transform more lives, more communities with salvation and all that means, not being content just to keep the house in order.

We need a prayer revolution…storming forts, establishing Kingdom strongholds, releasing Kingdom power and presence in our lives, our corps and our world.

We need a holy revolution…where we become less like the world, yes, but where we have many more people who believe that holiness isn’t maturity but a living reality for all those who would be obedient to the voice of Jesus.

We need a justice revolution…we need to befriend the friendless, clothe for the naked, feed the hungry serve the cause of the widow and the orphan in their many forms.

In short, its a Jesus revolution we need.

Its been said before, in many different ways. I’ve no idea if I’ve the ability or strength to spark more than a match. I’ve no idea if I’m yesterdays revolutionary just settling down, tomorrows revolutionary winding up or today’s conservative kicking against the trend in the eyes of the world.

This one thing I do know, however, is that I love Jesus. That is the one and only way to ensure you don’t stop revolving!

Squeezing Out the Holy Spirit

Stephen Court mentions on his blog today that in some parts of the world, today is Mother’s Day as well as Pentecost. He reckons that Mother’s Day would win 2:1 in most preaches in Salvation Army corps today.

Here in the UK, we don’t have Mother’s day today. Our mothers day is a tiny bit more historically based in tradition surrounding the releasing of servants back to worship at their mother church in the lead up to Easter so we don’t have it today.

However, today has also been designated as Candidates Sunday in the UK. In tonnes of ways, today is a strategic day for candidates Sunday being the week after Roots. I know I had the privilege to pray for several people at Roots who were entering training or commiting themsevles to officership as they responded to God at the appeals. Lets pray that there has been a tide of response to be leaders in the Army, its highly important. Sure, any response to the call to officership will no doubt be Holy Spirit led so there is a link.

I am wondering though, like Stephen, how much of the Holy Spirit got in today. If ever there was a key celebration to recognise, it is the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church. Its as significant as Christmas and Easter but we wouldn’t think of holding candidates Sunday then. At Wick, we focussed our attention on Candidates Sunday a couple of weeks ago to free up today for Holy Spirit preaching.

As someone who places a significant emphasis on spiritual renewal and the work of the Spirit as a nutty primitive-salvo, I am disturbed sometimes by the lack of freedom Holy Spirit has amongst us. Salvation Army prayer meetings after the sermon (or the response time, if you like) have all but disappeared from some corps. I’ve been in several meetings over the last few years where the officer or whoever gives a good preach but then dives straight for the benediction.

It can be a job too to see spiritual gifts actively in operation in Salvation Army corps too. Sometimes even in spite of much teaching on the issue, where it exists, there can still be a lack of co-operation with the Spirit in these areas. I encounter now and again a cessationist view in the Army that says the gifts of the Spirit are not for today…anyone holding that position in the Army will indeed be one who as a serious problem not only with scripture, but with the pentecostal wackiness of the early Salvation Army and the rich heritage of teaching, exhortation and prophecy in the tome’s of our history.

There are glorious exceptions to all these things, but we need to be fire people again. I quoted Booth twice this morning in my message:

“Let others whose blood is fired and whose hearts are melted after the same fashion join hands with you. Make a Mount Carmel of some ante-room, or barracks, or kitchen and offer yourself up as a sacrifice, body, soul and spirit, and believe and wait until you receive the Holy Fire”

“And, first and foremost, I commend one qualification which seems to involve all others. That is, the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost. I would have you settle it in your souls forever this one great immutable principle in the economy of grace, that spiritual work can only be done by those who possess spiritual power. No matter what else you may lack, or what may be against you, with the Holy Ghost you will succeed; but without the Holy Spirit, no matter what else you may possess, you will utterly and eternally fail.”

God, may it sink in more and more.

Heavens like brass

I’ve been in tears a lot recently. Not sad tears, but passionate ones. Every next second I’m awake the burden of the Lord lays more heavily on my heart as I continue to have my ‘burning bush’ experience with Him. He tells me he is using me to do something, I say ‘surely not me’ and He replies ‘of course, its you I’m talking to, isn’t it?’

I’ve just been to the UK Territorial Congress were only 3 or 4 people out of around 2000 responded to the call to ‘rededicate themselves to the Salvation War.’ That brought me tears. There were maybe 12 or so who had responded to a call on a different subject, but only 3 or 4 responded publically. The Commissioner invited people to come and be changed from glory into glory, to see Jesus, to live to please God and let our glory shine as we fight in our Salvation War and only a handful responded. Sure, people may have responded in their seats, but when the calls was to be bold and step forward as an act of spiritual declaration and intention, I struggled to understand why there was no response.

I came face to face again with something that reflects the spiritual temperature of the Army in Scotland and the UK. The ‘notion’ that resounded loud in my heart was simply ‘the glory has departed from this gathering.’ The response was spiritually flat, there was no or little glory to be had, sought or found in that prayer meeting after the message. The heavens were like brass and I cried out silently to the Lord. I was stuck to my seat, I couldn’t move and the response I wanted to make myself just sank into the pain of the lack of response from the 3/4 full hall.

Don’t get me wrong, there had been some good moments in the congress. The morning message was powerful and the response was good, but it was led, immediately, by the African Salvationists from Manchester Central corps who as soon as the call was given, responded to Jesus. I believe it would have been a tougher meeting if the Lord had not used those brothers and sisters to lead the way.

I just have had to spend the time coming to terms with the spiritual climate of the territory once again. To be honest, I briefly questioned whether I should remain an officer in this movement. To be even more honest, its not the first time I’ve considered it in this last year, but the one thing that keeps my is my covenant. However, even that can be difficult to work out in the context of the Army.

But no, no, no. I will not forsake my calling to the lost and to the Army. Instead, I’ve re-signed it. They lost and the Army both need saving! My heart is for the renewal of God’s Army, that he would restore to us the joy of our salvation that comes from humble repentant hearts before him. My heart is for the hope that when God has done that work, he will then move us in our compassion to seek and save that which is lost.

I must simply grasp the nettle of what God is asking me to do. He is asking me to speak words that people don’t want to hear from a kind of person like me and the only reason that I’ll do it is because God has promised to go with me and speak for me and because God has shown me again and again the ‘plight of my people’ and I’m moved to respond.

God gives us grace

Andrew

PS Keep praying for General and Commissioner Clifton

Ichabod?

From armybarmy.com/blog (see right):

General Gowans drops this bomb: “They started taking care of the corps instead of taking care of the lost and the Lord took their candlestick from its place. The glory has departed.”

Can it be true? How do we rectify?

PS ‘ichabod’ is Hebrew for ‘the glory has departed’

Reflection 2 – changing roles

Having just posted about an hour ago that I wasn’t going to be blogging as regularly, here I go again.

I am sensing a change in myself that I am so relieved about. I’ve had this before…I had it when I went to training college. I am going to try and explain it because maybe there is someone out there who has experienced it too and wondered if you were the only one…

I suppose its that feeling of transition, spiritually. When we moved from Dennistoun to college, my role dramatically changed. From frontline East End of Glasgow work to the setting of the college was big. Within a few weeks at college, my role had all of a sudden changed from battler, fighter, change agent, destroyer, social worker, evangelist to that of encourager, equipper, builder-up-er…and yes, friends, pastor! People would have loved this in Pill I am sure, but it wasn’t what we were called to do.

Right now, I feel a similar type of change. Pill has been a bitlike battler, fighter, change agent, destroyer with a little bit of positive building stuck on the end! God has been so clear already that he is not appointing us to do the same for the Wick Corps. The call is ‘building and expansion.’

Here are the things that are coming through very strongly for me in my prayers of preparation for Wick, in addition to my generic callings to preaching holiness, full salvation and prophetically calling the Army to spiritual renewal, the marginalised and to mission-focussed heroism:

renewal facilitator! Sounds similar to the generic, but in ways that we’ve seen some refreshing in Pill, I believe we will see more in Wick. I’ve got a strong sense of calling to really minister to the wider body of the church in Caithness (which is the county we are in). This is the response to praying through the prophecies God has spoken to me. God is moving strategically in Wick in preparation for his new day.
evangelist. I will be spending much greater proportions of my time in Wick with the unsaved. I’ll finally be returning to my first love…sharing the gospel. I have a wonderful pub round to do, tonnes of children’s work in schools, youth work to pioneer and a HUGE district to work in! My corps district is probably about a 10th of the size Scotland!!!!

The upside to all this, is that I won’t need to be so tough…well, perhaps not in the same way as here! What a sense of relief that is for me personally! As well as the spiritual change, there will be the simple practical opportunities to learn from your mistakes. Praise God that he teaches us.

I thank God for every minute we still have here in Pill…we still believe we have been right for the times – and this is still the time!

Pray for us, will you?

JAC now out!

Snippet from the new Journal of Aggressive Christianity, which is out now at armybarmy.com. The interview here is with General Eva Burrows (R).

JAC: Please comment on the state of aggressive Christianity in the 21st century.
How relevant is primitive Salvationism?

EB: I respond positively to the term ‘primitive Salvationism’. To me that refers to the original, elemental, pristine qualities of our early Salvation Army — the spontaneous joy in the faith, the zeal for soul-saving, the willingness to risk everything for Christ, the audacious attacks on the strongholds of Satan, the readiness to adapt, the relevance of the message, the strong social conscience. These are qualities for all centuries from the first to the twenty-first. Through the Holy Spirit we must reclaim them as we enter the twenty-first century.

Report from Officers Advance

So…we had a good time at the Officer’s Advance. Twas led by Commissioners John and Betty Matear, our Territorial Leaders. I found them to be very refreshing. Commissioner Betty, in particular, impressed me. Here is a woman who has a very strong and powerful ministry. Previous TPWM’s in the UK haven’t been quite so dynamic.

Anyway, they spoke about a lot of things mainly focussed on confidence (in God, in mission, in grace, in prayer, in worship, in hope etc). One of the sessions, Commissioner Betty encouraged the officers to dream of what it would mean to claim and live out the DNA of The Salvation Army.

You’d be surprised to know that I didn’t say a thing. I was really interested to listen to what would come from the other officers in the Division…to see what concepts are flying around. I could see the commissioner trying to urge them on, dream bigger, see wider. It is what we need to do, isn’t it?

Anyway, going through my mind is was the definition coming from the primitive voice: The Salvation Army is a group of covenanted warriors exercising holy passion to win the world for Jesus. I suppose that has become my vision in the way that I want to lead my people to think…its a tall order, but God is able.

On another note, I was blessed to watch tears from the eyes of the centre manager of a social service centre as she pleaded with the Lord to send revival to her centre, as well as Christian staff and workers. Lord, answer that prayer! It is wonderful to hear that coming from social services…interestingly, she isn’t a salvationist.

So…next week I’m off again…to the Officers Continuing Development week at Sunbury Court. I may post while I am there, but just in case I don’t, I’ll put in the caution that there may not be any posts until Thursday.

blessings
Andrew

What do we tell our children?

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.

This quote gives me a lot of heartache. It contains a sentiment I struggle with personally every day. Now hear this, I’ve not given up on the Army at all…I believe their can be change and I don’t reckon I’ll ever leave the Army. I’d hate the day to come when I have to say that to my children. But then, if we’re honest, the day when we need to be saying that to our children is probably now…apart from the fact that I know that we can change if we are brave.

I don’t care whether or not the thing called The Salvation Army dissappears or not, but I definetely don’t think it is right for the spirit of Salvationism to dissappear, because at its heart of it is a raw, aggressive, passionate expression of the Christian faith which is so invigorating and inspirational. The sad thing is that many of our children (certianlyin the UK) have never been exposed to it.

I thank the Lord for the youth revolution in Canada, inspired by the War College etc, and, to an extent I’m thankful for the Neo stuff going on in the UK, but I really call out to God for his new day for us. I’m desperate for God’s new day. I also know that the kind of leadership that needs to be given by officers for that new day to come around is painful leadership.

I can’t really draw any conclusions from these thoughts, just to say that, after so many experiences in this past week, I’m desperate for God’s new day for us.

Andrew

Announcing the immanent publication of…

Just a quick announcement of the immanent publication of my second book, ‘Salvationism Out Loud!’ It is in the final draft stage and should be available late February (just working on the final cover design!). It will be priced round about £6. Its a collection of thoughts and musings on and around Salvationism. Writtend to stir thoughts, challenge conceptions, all that…

My first book, “Who would have guessed?” (my testimony) is still available for £3.50 plus postage and packing.

I do have another short volume in the wings, still needing some editing, of some more academic works…it may, or may not see the light of day!

Anyway, if you want a copy of any of these two books, let me know.