We were so overwhelmed on Sunday with the people who responded to the message. Several knelt in re-dedication at the Mercy Seat and a large proportion of the corps signed a covenant to strive to build God’s temple, His Kingdom where we are. God was really good. We had some people renew their relationship with the corps after long absences and the hall was full in spite of people being on holiday.

Particular soldier, both he and his wife do not keep well, haven’t been around for ages…so grateful to have the opportunity to visit them soon after a long absence of meaningful contact. If we can’t keep the people we got, there is sumthing wrong. Sure, personalities clash and all the rest of it, but we sign in covenant to be true to each other as well as to God. I’ve always advocated open and honest relationships and I hope that honesty and integrity will be key here. Praying for complete restoration in that situation.

I just thank God he has given us the privelege to be here.

yours overwhelmed

Andrew

Well, we’ve had a good chance to get an rough idea of what happens in the corps through the week. All I can say is that our “hunch” has been confirmed and we have a bit of a rocket that is waiting to go off…there is soooo much potential in this corps.

We’re really looking forward to our first Sunday. Praying that God will move in a mighty way.

yours in Jesus

Andrew

So, Commissioning has come and gone, we’ve left William Booth College and have moved to Pill, on the edge of Bristol. Something my Corps Sergeant Major shared with me when he came to visit has stuck with me so far in our few days here. Apparently, the area where our quarters is situated is nicknamed “the pit.” This area is seen as being a dumping ground of the local authority for troubled families, single-parent families, families cheating the system somehow. God is just so good in giving us the opportunity to dig in the pit for gold. It may mean getting mucky.

We had the opportunity today to see a lot of the residents of Pill as they turned out for one of their annual summer community days. It was a happy occassion, but looking beyond the festivity there were the 13 year olds wandering around with cans of beer, smoking cigarettes with next to nothing on…is there gold there? I am sure there is.

The church was sadly invisible in the community today. How can we keep God under wraps?

yours in the fight

Andrew

So, I’m in it for good now. Signed my officers covenant on Tueday…Saturday is the public commissioning. I knelt at the Mercy Seat for a good while…something deep inside me asking “what on earth are you doing?” but being drowned out by the voice of God just cherring me on that day.

I reflected on the time I gave my life to Christ. I reflected on how far God had brought me. I reflected on the time I knelt with Tracy as a 16 year old and committed ourselves to officership, and I reflected on kneeling on our wedding day. I just wanted to lie down on my face during that service. I felt so priveleged that God had called my to service in this way.

The covenant clearly did not mean to much to some of my fellow cadets and that saddened me a little. But, for me, I have a sense of completion, yet a sense of begining too.

What kind of officer will I be? What will God do?

My son, Benjamin, has recently been watching the movie Shrek on DVD. We are now all very familiar with it, we can all say the words and know whats coming next (not to mention have a giggle because we know a funny bit is coming up!). But really, there is one moment in the film, a song actually, that has been in my mind for the last little while as we have watched it. It has really spoken to me. Here it is: –

“I’ve heard there was a secret chord

That David played and it pleased the Lord

But you don’t really care for music do you?

It goes like this – the fourth, the fifth

The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled King composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you

She tied you to a kitchen chair

She broke your throne, and she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

Maybe I’ve been here before

I know this room, I’ve walked this floor

I used to live alone before I knew you

I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch

Love is not a victory march

It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

There was a time when you let me know

What’s real and going on below

But now you never show it to me, do you?

And remember when I moved in you

The Holy Dark was moving too

And every breath we drew was hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above

And all I ever learned from love

Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you

And it’s not a cry you can hear at night

It’s not somebody who’s seen the light

It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah”

Ok, maybe the theology isn’t that great, and maybe not Christian, but what really spoke to me was the concept of a broken hallelujah. The idea of King David strumming out his hallelujah in spite of his sin, in spite of the enemies of his kingdom and of his soul. It reminds me that to live the victorious Christian life, that on the days when you can’t fly a flag on the marble arch, we can offer our broken hallelujah…the victory in that lies in that we praise God through our situations as opposed to feeling neglected, rejected and forgotten by God. He is so faithul and I am so thankful and enriched by those times when I have cried that broken hallelujah, from a broken me to a faithful God. I think its called singing through the rain.

yours

Andrew

So Major Chick Yuill was talking to us about Leadership yesterday. We were discussing the whole poat-modern effect and how it impacts on people’s ideas about joining things and being committed to things. Obviously in The Salvation Army, our membership lines are pretty strong, to be a soldier is to enter into covenant with God, to live betrothed to those promises. Dilemma?

I agree that people are not joining up quite so much these days. We have the sort of half-baked membership form of adherency, which now thankfully at least has a declaration of faith. Thats not to look down on adherents, I am sure the system has its benefits somewhere. But, perhaps it is time we looked at seeing membership/soldiership through different eyes it will give a different light.

In the UK, being a soldier basically is summed up as those people in the corps who are “Christian,” feel able enought to put aside drink, alcohol etc. and so enter into “full membership”. If that is all that soldiership is about, then I don’t want soldiership and I dont want to be part of a church where that is the whol deal. Soldiership is more than that.

Soldiership, by its very definition is tied up with relating to the army. A soldier relates to the army, its structures, orders, and a military soldier goes to the war, not necessarily because he is passionate about that war or what it stands for (listen to some soldiers in Iraq at the moment!), but because it is his duty and his job…his chosen vocation. No wonder, when it comes to somethign as rich as our spiritual lives that people in the post-modern culture don’t want to relate or be associated with that.

The thing that came to me as we listened to Chick was images of young men and women in little boats climbing up huge military vessels making peace protests and environmental stances, young Palestinians daring to throw little rocks at huge armoured tanks, a group of people standing outside a famous department store protesting about animal fur and all the other stuff like that.

So, whats the difference? What makes post-modern people do stuff like that? Well, its clear that they relate to the cause and not to the struture built up around the cause, but, of course, because of the cause, they attach themselves to the organisation which is passionate about the cause.

I’ve heard someone say that whilst the soldier relates to the Army, the warrior relates to the fight. Geoff Ryan comments that when he took The Salvation Army to Russia, he thought he was talking something rediculous into a culture that was absolutely tired of military and fighting and uniforms and all the rest of it. But, the Russian people were attracted to it….The Salvation Army and all its imagery had come to them and replaced all their old pictures and given them a new one. Communism had been a negative, The Salvation Army, its ideals, its fight, its self-lessness and its transforming message caught the imagination.

Captain Gordon Cotterill in his URBANarmy blog makes comments about a tired military metaphor. I totally agree that when we look at some elements of salvationism today, then it is tired…very tired. However, what is it about the “cause” that makes ranks of post-modern men and women sight up and risk their lives doing things like climb Big Ben in order to protest against war??

Soldiers relate to the Army…Warriors relate to the fight. I guess the adventure is to start promoting soldiership as an adventure, as holy heroism, as dedicated to the cause. But what of The Salvation Army? It can only be the richer because instead we will have soldiers who relate to the war as opposed to just the army. We will have adherents so caught up with the vision of what it means to be a soldier/warrior that they won’t want to stop at adherency.

We need a culture that is, as Chick says, “fuzzy at the edges”, people need to feel comfortable about coming and sharing with us, but we need, as he went on to say, to be “solid at the core.” Actually moving into being part of the church, being ‘baptised’ into it is the sage where there is commitment to discipleship and all that follows. WE NEED TO STOP MAKING SOLDIERS WHO ARE NOT WILLING TO BE DISCIPLES AND BE DISCIPLED. We cannot afford to have a two tiered membership, there seems to be no biblical or scriptural presidence for this. You are either baptised (enroled?) into the fellowship of the church, signifying that you have left your old life behind and starting a new one and now enterong the covenant of discipship, or you are not, or…at least you are committed to working towards it.

But what about our additional “requirements” for membership? Drinking and smoking, taking drugs? Bg issue, perhaps for the next blog, but I want to say that surely common sense and a good look at society shows us the dangers of all these things. Chick Yuill talks about making those elements voluntary…perhaps there is something in that. But, my point is that if people are engrossed with the bigger vision of knowing Christ, serving Christ, winning others to him like I did when I was converted, then the drink issue pales into significance and we will discover the absolute power of God to deliver us from those things! Are we the ones who “are of little faith?”

Well, thats it for now…

yours in the fight

Andrew Clark