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.

Affirmations #6 cell-based community

6. I believe that charismatic cell-based Christian communities are the most effective means of accomplishing mission today

I have to say that I believe this is true with all my heart. I think there is a place for larger gatherings, absolutely, but for the real nitty gritty, week-in-week-out Christianity, face to face accountability, study, worship, prayer and pastoral support its the way forward. So yeah, benifts in all those areas big time. Also, a small group working together in mission is effective.

We get hung up about leadership. Good leadership is important, and it does need to be a facilitating leadership, but small groups help the leadership challenge the church is facing today. Basically, mission isn’t sustainable if the church is led by a priestly class…thats not how the body of Christ was designed to function.

How many people do you know think they can lead a mega church? How many people do you know who think they can lead a congregation of 100? How many people do you know who think they can lead a church of 50? How many people do you kno who think they can lead a group of 10? How many people do you know who can help facilitate a group of 3? See, as the numbers get smaller, more an more people think ‘yeah, no problem.’ The smaller the number the more flexible you can be and the easier it is to gather people to form the basis of a larger body of people. You see, the more complicated the form of ‘church’ we run, the more complex the leadership, training and theological education needed to keep the thing goin. We are currently doin our own heads in because we’re working with a model of church that isn’t cutting it and becoming more and more difficult to sustain.

In our corps, we have just started our 4th small group. Call it what you like. Our cells meet weekly. We then meet monthly for celebration, encouragement and to impart larger vision of who and what we’re about, with all the cells plus a few more invited for good measure.

Salvationists need to re-discover our pioneering spirit in the area of church planting by planting small outposts all over the place. It doesn’t need any money, doesn’t need a building and doesn’t need a theologically trained, highly skilled leader to lead.

Here is a great link to get you started. http://www.all-nations.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=37&Itemid=48

Also check out simplechurch.co.uk – simple church is a newish phrase to describe these simple expressions of being the church which is taking an identity of its own, currently.

Books to read: the section on Wards in SA301, available at armybarmy.com
‘You See Bones, I see and Army’ by Floyd McClung
‘Organic Church’ and ‘Search and Rescue’ by Neil Cole
‘The Forgotten Ways’ by Alan Hirsch

You can do it! Lets start winning the world for Jesus using the best known strategy in history…plant churches, loads of em, small ones, everywhere.

A Five Step Strategy to planting

Get ready for some stuff thats so simple and relatively uncomplicated that it might just blow your mind!

Floyd McClung offers five simple steps for planting. As we build the Kingdom we need simple and biblical strategies for doing that all emcompassing task of making disciples of all nations. Here is what he suggests:

1) Pray. This is not just a five minute “Lord, we fancy doing this, will you bless us?” thing. This is specific prayer, warfare prayer even. This is praying up a storm for the lost…tying up the strongman to get ready to plunder his ‘treasure.’ We pray as we walk, we pray fervently, all through the night and at ‘all times.’ We pray for God to send us divine appointments, people with whom we can say, yes, thank you God for placing me on that persons path. Pray for the community, ask God for his heart for it. Pray for effective means of discipling and building the Kingdom. Pray that you’ll find the ‘people of peace’ Jesus referered to and that you can start building with them. Pray.

2) Meet. This is a MASSIVE plea for Christians everywhere to get out of the church, away from all the stuff and get out amongs people. Remember, you’ve prayed earnestly that God will give you divine appointments…now we have to put that into action and go where God leads. Get out of the cloisters, debunk from the barracks, go AWOL from the band practice and maybe even step away from over indulging in ‘fellowship.’ Fellowship happens better when we’re engaging in God’s plans anyway!

Build your relationships with people, your oikos (as the bible calls it…literally, your household). Build this stuff expectantly. I can already hear the screams of ‘oh, thats so un-authentic…you can’t make friends just to make them potential Christians.’ Well, if you have a problem with that, take it up with Jesus. He had no problem with this stuff AT ALL.

As an Army, a great way to do this stuff is through serving. Here in Torry, although we are going ‘under the fence’ in lots of ways we are also stepping up in simply meeting the needs of people. We can be a literal help to people, it brings us into relationship. Understand, we help them whether or not we ever even get round to mentioning God, but we build relationship with them through serving them from a heart of love.

3) Make. Yeah, make disciples. Invest in people. Notice in Matthew 28 we’re told to make disciples of all nations…well, the evangelism process is part of discipleship. We notice well that none of Jesus’ disciples that he called were asked to accept him as Lord and Saviour before they could follow him. It certainly was part of it later on though, and lets not miss that out. But lets focus on making, investing, and speaking into peoples lives that we meet.

We become like a person introducing a friend to our Friend. One begger telling another where to find bread. All that stuff.

Floyd points out that Jesus gave us 7 ‘discipleship’ commandments, and when ther right time comes, we introduce this stuff:

1. repent and believe
2. be baptized with the Holy Spirit
3. forgive
4. give
5. pray
6. gather with others
7. make disciples of all nations
(build this in early as part of their DNA like someone helpfully did to me….it doesn’t leave you, you know!)

Oh…and remind them that there is a cost to following Jesus.

4) Gather.
Yeah, get people together. Pull the ones together who are seeking spiritually, those who are open. This is the beginning of things. Again, don’t necessarily wait for them to ‘say the prayer’ or somesuch thing. Food is a great way to do it…people love to eat together. And get this, Jesus said that where two or three are gathered in his name, he’s there. This is Jesus’ bare minimum for ‘church’…two or three. From that minute, you’re on your way. It begins with gathering, although you’ll feed into that as you go.

An example is our youth ward/cell/group/gathering. They’re not Christian young folk. But we’ve gathered them, they are interested, and the discipleship process has begun.

5) Multiply. Resist every temptation to contain your gathered group. Set if free. Build in the concepts of expansion right from the beginning. Train people up as you go, give away leadership bit by bit…all part of the discipleship process. Develop people step by step. Then, like Paul, you’ll be able to move on quickly to start afresh!

OK, so along the way there are going to be issues and complications….sure, thats life. But keeping those five in mind just give you pointers for planting your outpost in your living room or you gathering at the cafe or the pub/restaurant. Get stuck in, fight like a warrior and lets get the job done.

Try it…its probably dynamite!

Changing Shape, Changing Mission

The shape of our corps changes from tomorrow…the first key shift as we usher in our ‘Under the Fence’ strategy (see below).

Last Sunday was our last weekly public meeting based on the old ‘build it and they will come’ paradigm. From tomorrow, we throw ourselves wholeheartedly into being a cell/ward corps. We’re calling our wards ‘Life Groups’ and we’re multiplying them throughout the community and beyond.

Our little band of 5 who’ve attended our Sunday evening stuff up until now will form our first Torry group. Two weeks ago we established our youth cell with a group of interested teenagers from our drop-in which is going well so far. We have a little group which draws women from our lunch club which will take on cell format loosely. We have a group looking to start in the outlying area of Mastrick as an ‘outpost’ as we have soldiers up there and we are now making firm plans to start something a couple of miles down the road in a town called Stonehaven, another ‘outpost’.

Beginning the first Sunday in March, we will hold monthly celebrations to bring the groups together for a meal, worship and to just be a bit of glue to hold things together.

We are a corps of small groups who happen to have the occassional meeting, rather than a corps with meetings who happen squeeze in small groups. The difference is subtle but significant. The aim is to put discipleship to the forefront, to increase our reach and effectiveness and to build up a significant group of people before moving on to stage 2 of the strategy.

I know you are praying with us. We’ll keep you posted.

Welcome to 2009 at Army Renewal

Happy New Year to all! Unfortunately, it’s been a rather cold/flu/infection-filled start to 2009, knocked us all for six, but we’re all gradually gaining strength again!

January is about getting down to the business at hand. We begin with sharing in strategy discussions with DHQ in the next week or so as we begin to communicate how we see things develop here.

Stage one of the operation, as already indicated on these pages, is the establishing of some small groups/cells/wards and the development of a monthly gathering of those groups. In larger terms, our vision is to build a vibrant faith community that reflects the neighbourhood in terms of its make-up. This is the exciting bit. We’re wedged to no-ones plan or design other than the direction of the Holy Spirit…we’re out to reach people with the gospel, disciple them as soldiers, and help them engage in mission with us.

Our current strength stands at two active soldiers plus ourselves. What can I say, we can only grow!

I hope you’ll join us in our advance here in prayer and by joining us for regular updates!

News on the advance

Blogging/emailing/general contact with the world at large has been rare over this last while mainly because my internet connection has been down…one case of broken mobile internet modem dongle thingy. The joys of technology!

Kids Alive
The war is progressing well on this front at the moment. Our new mid-week ‘Sunday School’ type kids club is getting off the ground well and we’re getting good numbers. The kids who came along to the previous incarnation of the club have responded well to all the changes, so thats great. As well as having them on a Tuesday at club, we go and visit them at home on a Sunday afternoon, leaving behind a Kids Alive magazine or an activity sheet relating to our themes. Getting kids saved at an early age can save a lot of problems later on…I speak from experience here…I wish I’d followed Jesus since I was born! In January, we’ll be inviting some of the kids to Junior Soldier classes and see if they’ll covenant with us to love and serve Jesus.

Street Pastors
In other news, I’ve been training over these last four weeks to join up with the Street Pastor project in our city…Street Pastors ‘patrol’ the city streets on Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm – 4am. I’m looking forward, very much, to hitting the streets with the team. It does strike me as something in the fashion of the Army, this whole project, but I suppose if the Army aren’t doing it…however, its a fantastic project which is supported across 5 or 6 denominations in the city. it must please the heart of God no end.

Under the Fence
So, we’re on the way to building up our network of small groups/wards/cells/outposts. We’ll, things are underway with two potential outposts, with our Torry base already established and with the beginning of a youth cell in Torry coming up after youth councils next week. 7 of our young people from our drop in are attending youth councils…prayers please!

God is good.

‘Blood and Fire’ Now Available

My book, ‘Blood and Fire’ is now available here for £6.99 in book form (plus postage) or as a £4 download, all from Lulu.co.uk.

Downloading will save the environment as well as directing 100% of the sale amount to the work of The Salvation Army in Torry as well as saving you a few quid.

Just in time for Christmas!

The book is a reflection on the potency of The Salvation Army’s war cry, Blood and Fire, and a hopefully accessible treatment of how what we believe about salvation and holiness should impact our mission. I hope, at least, it will be helpful. Many of you may also be interested to note that it contains, as an appendix, the Ward handbook we issued in Pill when we launched the system there.

Thanks in advance to all of you who will buy yerself a copy and support the mission here.

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!

Reflection 1

I hope you can forgive a bit of a quieter blog over the next little while! The next three weeks for us are packing as well as tying up odd ends at the corps. Then we are taking our two week summer holiday. Then its our farewell weekend, then we are off to back to Scotland! I do intend to blog, but it will be fewer and further between I’d imagine. I’ll be offering (for my own benefit more than yours!) some reflections on the last 3 years of ministry over the next couple of weeks.

The ‘goodbyes’ are still ongoing really. Last night was our last corps council, which was fine, until I decided I’d read a few verses from the first chapter of Philippians as my pray for the CC….I just about go through it without a tear, although my voice wobbled a bit! Saying goodbyes are difficult. We’ve been on such a journey, a real spiritual battle too. Every difficult day has been worth it though to see the things that are happening in the corps now.

Our ward system is still going from strength to strength. We’re still seeing a 500% increase (that’s not an exaggerated figure) attending our midweek discipleship programme since we started our Ward System. Hallelujah. We have five active wards, ranging in active attendance between 3 and 12 with one Ward almost ready to multiply before the end of the year.

But more than that is the spiritual impact. People are gaining confidence in praying both in a group setting and in public. People are interacting more in the hall and in fellowship outside too. Each ward is also beginning to get to grips with some active outreach…and a couple of Wards are considering utilising the Jesus Video Project, delivering a copy to homes in their Ward Areas.

People are being effectively pastored by a willing (most of the time!) and able team of pastoral leaders, and trained by a capable group of bible teachers. This corps could function in pastoral care and discipleship without an officer. Is this not part of our aim as corps officers? To train, release and equip soldiers for ministry. Sure, they will all say they’ve got a bit to go yet, but so do we all and they are doing a great job.

The Ward System will continue to bring health and growth to Pill. One of the reasons I am convinced of this is because, unlike some things, I haven’t had to drag it into reality. It has a life of its own which I have the opportunity simply to hold together through the ward leaders meeting.

In a sense, it would have been great to have been here to see how it develops, but I will be delighted as I watch from a distance the advance of the Kingdom in Pill!

Glimmers of hope

I wish Brengle was wrong. (No, not my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Brengle, I’m on about Commissioner Samual L Brengle). When I look at that quotation it makes me want to weep because I see it. Although there are always glorious exceptions to the staus quo, Brengle’s words are living themselves out today. I’d challenge anyone to write a post about how this isn’t true…I’d dearly love to be writing it myself!

However, I’ve seen this week some beautiful glimmers of hope. I’ve been visiting our wards. Wards are like cells of a cell church, in case you didn’t know.

I’ve been struck by several things:
– competent local leadership..some of whom are new or only recenly re-acquianted with leadership in the church
– spirit-filled worship
– beginnings of true honesty in spiritual things
– deeper fellowship starting to emerge
– nearly 30 people regularly turning up for bible study, prayer, fellowship…something never before known in this corps
– ministry by all members
– the beginnings of missional thinking as wards explore outreach brigades
– young people casting out demons and praying for healing
– people becoming aware of the reality of corps life that they were unaware of before
– people being able to voice their very first ‘public’ prayers in the context of a small group
– being personally ministered to by my own people.
– a particular young person taking so much initiative in one area it blew my mind

If I thought hard enough, there may well be more. If you asked our corps people, you may find more. And this is all happening in the midst of what has been a difficult time of late. This is happening as we’re saying goodbye to things like songster brigades and all the fallout of that. This is happening as we, personally, are gaining strength after being ‘taken out’ by enemy and suposedly ‘friendly’ fire.

We give God the glory. But we do ask for an increase in love…not just blaise love, or tokenism love, false love, or love-because-we-must-love, but deep and authentic love.

But what about that telling phrase he uses at the end:

We shall still recruit our ranks and supply our Training Garrisons with Cadets from among our own Young People, but we shall cease to be saviors of the lost sheep that have no shepherd.”

How true it is that we must increase our effort in saving lost sheep. How important it is that we manage to raise up some officers who don’t come from the ranks. How important it is we raise up officers from within the ranks! I praise God for a few hopefuls in our corps in this area. How important it is that we recruit warriors and don’t ust make members.

Lord, do not cast us from your presence or take your spirit from us. Restore to us the joy of our salvation and then we will teach sinners in your ways.

(Psalm 51 in the bible according to my memory).

What we must do with these prophetic words of warning is to pray the opposite in. We must ensure that we always labour against being what we have become. We don’t see the words as doom, but see them as hope from God who was able to see the potential danger. We take them to heart, accept them, repent and begin living in the opposite spirit to that which prevails amongst us. Lord help us!

Amen! Blood and Fire!