Archives for category: Mission

I am a little sad this evening.

This afternoon I pulled off the shelf my copy of Kennon Callahan’s Small, Strong Congregations:  Creating Strengths and Health for Your Congregation.  It is a book I used for several years in Chicago as an instructor of men and women preparing to become Salvation Army Officers.

I needed it today for a project I am working on. The project deals with how we can determine whether or not local Salvation Army units are being effective for our part in the mission of God in the world.  Missio Dei.  Determining so will help us also determine how to wisely invest resources.

Curious.  Where in this world is Dr. Callahan these days?  Google.

I found this information at the Mission Leaders Network site –

For nearly 30 years, the Seminar for Pastors and Key Leaders has gathered persons come from all over the United States and from Canada for learning, sabbath and conversation. 2017 will be the final week-long gathering at Callaway Gardens.

This final week-long gathering took place last month in Georgia.

This makes me a little sad.  I’ve been an advocate for what Callahan has discovered and shown the Church, including not a few Salvation Army folks, about what it means to be God’s people in mission in His beloved world.

Years ago Gail and I led a Salvation Army unit on Chicago’s westside, the Chicago Temple Corps, at the corner of Madison and Ogden.  Our eight years there was certainly one of our most memorable life experiences.  We were greatly helped by Dr. Callahan’s Twelve Keys To An Effective Church.  Thank you, Ed Homer, for bringing it to us.

Even if Kennon L. Callahan does not conduct another seminar, write another book, consult with the next discouraged minister, many of us, including myself, understand that mission is not about ourselves, but others.  Not receiving, but giving.  Not sitting in a religious facility, but going out into the world to share what we have received from God, to give and share with others.  Amen.

That’s why I’m only a little sad.  Callahan

 

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I like the freedom here … I actually like how screwed up it is. I work every day to help fix Detroit, but if we ever complete the job, I’ll find somewhere else to go.

The alley.  The building.  In the neighborhood where I served 6 years.  The picture’s from a year ago when I had some time to revisit while Gail was speaking at a youth conference near Detroit.

The man who likes Detroit freedom is Matthew Naimi and I know what he means.  It’s the way I felt during my days in Detroit.  I felt as if the city’s screwed up condition was liberating.

Sure, there were times it was absolutely frustrating.  Dozens of tires dumped on my lot, and before Mr. Clay could arrange for someone to haul them away here comes a city inspector who ticketed us for the tires.  The fight would have cost more than the ticket.  We paid the ticket and we paid the hauler.  I wonder where he dumped them.

What I found liberating was that there were no rules.  The rules don’t work in Detroit, East St Louis, west side Chicago, Gary and countless other screwed up places around the USA.  No they don’t.  And because they don’t, you are free to.  The screwed up places have been abandoned by the rule makers.  They make the rules, but no one’s playing by them.  So, they take their ball and go home.

Naimi understands the downsides of being in the largest American city to declare bankruptcy.  He also knows Detroit is a good place for someone like him.  Who sees SCREWED written all over a city.  And loves working every day to help fix such a messed up place.

Dumped tires.  Sure, frustrating.  There are worse things.

Gail really likes this quote from one of our long-gone Generals of The Salvation Army, Arnold Brown –

The frontline of The Salvation Army must always run through the agony of the world.

Where the brick wall ends in my photo is a small indented area which held our dumpsters.  One night I opened one to shove in cardboard boxes and as I did a rat jumped up, ran along the cardboard, my arm, down my back and disappeared into the night.  I don’t like rats, for eight years killed big ones with a stick in Chicago (another story).  I would have bad dreams about rats; some peripheral movements still put me into heightened alertness.  But that night, the lightness.  As it ran across me.  Filled me with wonder.

I think Mr. Naimi is the kind of person who looks for the frontline.  Read more about him and others in Hanging a Shingle in Detroit.

I think some of you are also frontline people.  These days, I’m looking for people like you, who look for the frontline.  If you’re that kind why don’t you drop me a note.

To be sent back into the world is one of the critical realizations a true Christian must experience.

Lately I have been using Robert McAnally Adams’ Christian Quotation of the Day for my morning devotional guide. Today’s from H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture ends “for they are forever being challenged to abandon all things for the sake of God; and forever being sent back into the world to teach and practice all the things that have been commanded them.”

First, do human beings respond as God calls them to Him? If so, do they then go as commanded into the world?

But then, where? and what exactly are we to do? These are the questions of centuries of church distinctions and theological search.

To be sent back into the world is at least as challenging now as ever. There hardly exist any places today that allow us to use a one-size-fits-all approach to mission. All the cities of the world fill with diverse cultures. Increasingly, the old monocultural approaches to mission carry at least a whiff of exclusivism, and more often reek of bigotry.

People and their cultures hardly stay where we expect them to be. We turn around and there they are. Surprise! showing up in places they’re not supposed to be.

So, the call to be sent back into the world “to teach and practice” is challenging. Languages, foods, social conventions, histories, and all else used to be the specialized training of missionaries which the church then sent off. Now, urban Christians live next door to those once living far off. The battery of tests once administered to determine if a person qualified for mission experience don’t seem to mean much. Whether or not we qualify, the mission field now opens to us all on our block.

This changes the church’s curriculum. How should it look? Cultural competency, recasting again our understanding of Christ’s command to love, and a new commitment to mission that chooses to serve others as it continually rejects self-serving absorption.

“As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” Jesus prays to his Father (John 17:18). Jesus calls us to him. And then, beckons us, with a gesture of the hand and a smile, to follow him: the man for others.

A year or two ago I sat at the lunch table following a retirement program for Salvation Army officer friends.  No question, previously retired officers were heavily represented there.

At our table was a recently retired officer couple who served at THQ quite a few years.  A good part of their experience was in serving and traveling overseas, usually in places of danger and challenge.

Our conversation turned to the U.S. military.  Family members in harm’s way.  But then, she mused, it’s a shame that Salvation Army is not much involved (at all?) with helping returning servicemen and servicewomen find work.  Job training.  Placements.

Not long after I opened a Central Connection to see “Donut Day hits 75 years”.Flood Victims Receive Help

Today it’s not donuts.  It’s jobs that are needed in America.

Over the last few years I’ve listened to Army leaders, officers and employees, moan about how we need a new “symbol of the selfless service provided by the Army to those who’ve fallen on hard times”.  We are concerned that as the generation vanishes which remembers us for the donut and coffee freely given, there will be no new generation deeply moved by our selfless service.  If it’s so, the brand loyalty will also vanish.

Meeting human need in His name without discrimination is mission as much as preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In fact, when we conduct mission, it should be difficult to distinguish two distinct parts.

The little boy with five loaves and two fishes.  What can so little accomplish?

No detailed outline, or standard operating procedure for corps to deal with returned military personnel, jobless in the community.  Instead, you will see and notice, be very bothered by it, and then in those haunting words of William Booth ‘do something’.  You will use imagination, initiative and chutzpah.  You won’t be a lone ranger but engage your soldiers, advisory board and the Army’s friends in your town, and quite likely make new friends in leading the Army to do its best to meet this human need.

Do something.  That’s mission.

I am about to try go to sleep for the night in Istanbul.

The past 24 hours have been mostly sitting. In O’Hare terminal 5. Ten hours onboard a Turkish Airlines jet traveling east.

It is no exaggeration. Airline seat space is claustrophobia inducing.

But here we are. Now stretched out after an hour’s stroll with thousands of mostly in their twenties Turks near our hotel in the Taksim neighborhood. North of the Golden Horn. West of the Straits of Bosphorus. In Europe a half hour boat ride from Asia.

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I have never been here before and will likely never return. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be with a small group of colleagues to learn something about Turkey, what the New Testament refers to as Asia Minor. We will see archeological sites and hear local guides as well as a traveling expert. We will listen to them tell us about Christianity’s early start in what is now a predominantly Muslim land.

Ephesus. Pergamum. Tarsus. Thyatira. Miletus. Early Christianity was an urban religion. Much has been made of how the Christian faith benefited from 1st century Greco-Roman cities connected by roads, commerce and government. Our first generation of missionaries were essentially urban ministers.

Tonight we walked among thousands of Istanbul’s young people. And I am not sure that there really is much difference between them and Chicago’s urban young adults, or Tokyo’s shrinking population of young, or London’s rapidly diversifying. Or any other large global city where urban people are largely yet unpersuaded that there really is good news in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Is the Christian faith one with good news for people of the cities of the world?

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We returned home this afternoon from a few days on the road.  This morning we were with the Salvation Army in Warsaw IN.  Lieutenants Esteban and Karen Pommier are the corps officers.  The chapel was comfortably filled and their three young sons were among several young children present this morning.  We enjoyed sharing fellowship and worship with the corps.

Yesterday we crossed over into Ohio to meet with Leroy and Lillian Chambliss for lunch at La Rosa’s in Englewood, a suburb of Dayton OH.  Leroy is the pastor for Stillwater at the YMCA, a United Methodist missional congregation that meets in and serves families and staff at the YMCA.Leroy and Lillian Chambliss  2  February 2013

I think Pastor Chambliss’ situation is very much like our Salvation Army Kroc Centers.  We talked over pizza and then visited the Kleptz YMCA where the congregation meets Sunday mornings.  Gail and I can see how our congregations in the new Kroc Centers can become similarly missional.

Pastor Leroy is also a trained Kaleidoscope Institute Associate.  I met Leroy last fall when he trained Salvation Army leaders at the Kansas and Western Missouri Division’s Multicultural Retreat.

Friday we left Chicago early and the roads were decent considering the Thursday night snow.  US 30 across Indiana was the messiest but by the time we turned south pavement was much better.  We arrived in Marion IN at lunchtime to meet with Lieutenants Jason and Dana Bigelow who are corps officers for the Salvation Army in this small city north of Indianapolis.  It’s home of Indiana Wesleyan University.  IWU spring break is early March.  Twenty-four of its students will then travel with the Bigelows to New York City for a week of urban mission work at the Harlem Temple Corps.IWU

Jason and Kelly Pope will work with the Marion mission team in projects and seminars.  It’s a busy schedule but rewarding and full of learning about urban ministry and how the Salvation Army serves in American cities.

Lieutenants Bigelow are also the parents of six week old Noah who will accompany his parents.  An urban mission baby!

What would William Booth say to Christians today? He’d tell them that we’re all sinners in need of God’s grace, and to get working.

Governor Rich Snyder hasn’t yet officially received the report but it’s looking more likely that the City of Detroit will be taken over by the State of Michigan.  Experts believe it’s “inevitable” that an emergency financial manager will need to take over for the city to help it avoid a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy.

If the state takes over, what might happen to Detroit?

  • Travel down the road to financial credibility.  The city’s current credit rating is abysmal (two months ago Moody’s again downgraded Detroit’s credit rating) and needs to improve drastically if it is going to be able to conduct business.  Detroit over the past ten years has spent one billion dollars more than it has taken in.
  • Cut even deeper into its services.  This painful topic is certain to become part of the state’s financial management.  Unions and city employees will resist, residents will suffer.  But there doesn’t seem to be an alternative.deserted Detroit
  • Deal with the reality of a smaller city.  Detroit now is a third of the size of 1950 Detroit.   A quarter of a million people have left since 2000 and by some estimates a thousand continue to leave each month.
  • Unexpected help appears …

Pastor Harvey Carey believes that Detroit churches now have an opportunity to be of real help to their city.

This weekend I heard Pastor Carey of Detroit’s Citadel of Faith Covenant Church say this several times.  His read of Detroit’s situation is that things are not going to get better if the city is depending on the resources of its government.  This is now a time for God’s people to step up to the need of Detroit.

There was a time like this when another great city declined and fell.  And when those days came it was God’s people which stepped up.  A reluctant church leader named Gregory stepped up to the needs of a city unable to deal with violence, an epidemic, care of its poor.

Gregory by default became acting leader of the city.  He restored its public safety, established food distribution, rebuilt the city’s aqueducts and defenses.

AD 590.  Rome.  Pope Gregory I.  Gregory the GreatGregory the Great

Gregory was reluctant  to accept.  Lead a crumbling city?  After his unwilling election Gregory (if nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve) wrote the emperor in Constantinople requesting that his appointment not be confirmed.  His letter was intercepted.  So he became bishop of Rome and served his city well.

Detroit and many other American cities need servant-leaders willing to serve their city well. Even men William Boothand women who are reluctant, uncertain.  Pastor Carey told us to stop whining.  Just go.  And, recalling the words of William Booth, do something.

Pastor Harvey Carey of Detroit is with us this weekend at Wonderland Camp.Harvey CareyRegeneration 2013

 

 

 

Over 400 young adults ages 18 – 29 are here for the annual Regeneration Conference.  Regen draws together many Salvation Army people for an annual rendezvous.  This weekend Regen is led by Pastor Carey, worship leader Sandra McCracken (Nashville) and spoken word artist Blair Linne (Washington DC).  I detect an urban sensibility to the Regen lineup.

Last night Pastor Carey told us how his Citadel of Faith Covenant Church deals with neighboring crack houses.  The men of this Detroit church go camping.

A hundred men.

Tents.

Campfires.

Roast hotdogs.

Sing kumbayah.

In front of a crack house.

You can guess what this does for business.  That house shuts down.  The campers move on to the next crack house.  That one shuts down.  Etc.  Pastor Carey told us it is effective.  Wise as serpents, harmless as doves.abandoned house 2

Pastor Carey also said to us Salvation Army people gathered from throughout the Midwest that abuse is inevitable if the church doesn’t know its purpose.  To wit, as the salt of the earth, the light of the world, we (the church) are of no use if we just stick in our buildings, our churchy circles.  We become of no use.  Useless.

Mission is to go and to give.  The church finds its purpose by going into and giving to the world.  Salt and light.  By virtue of its nature the church brings transformation to the dark places, the dull places.

This morning Pastor Carey spoke about the nature of the church as Ephesians 5 describes husbands and wives, Christ and the church.

But we really liked the Pastor’s camping story.  Kumbayah and campfires.

Our table at Cracker Barrel this New Years Day morning.  Urbana 12 in St Louis closed at midnight.  Headed back to Chicago we stopped for breakfast.

Cracker Barrel New Years Day breakfast

Gail’s purty smart.  Enjoying my grits I watched her leave only two tees in the game board.

Yesterday in the America’s Center Gail also talked with the youth ministry department head of a small Christian college in Ohio.  The professor is interested in the Good Soil Initiative sponsored by The Salvation Army.  GSI is in the process of placing youth development workers throughout the Midwest.  This professor is seeing possibilities for his students finding their place in GSI.Good soil initiative

GSI hopes to create a good fit of youth development workers in underserved communities.  That’s practically anyplace you find a Salvation Army corps.

Throughout the week Urbana delegates stopped by exhibit 617 to find out about GSI, Servant House, Temple Houses, STOP-IT, Promise Initiative, mission trips, camps.  And about Salvation Army.  2,000 of those delegates are also now wearing bright red Salvation Army scarves.  Many more stopped by to ask questions and learn a little more about us and our mission of preaching the gospel and meeting human needs.

We have hope that we’ve sown good soil at Urbana 12.

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Majors Bill and Sue Dunigan were back in the Midwest, this time on duty at Urbana 12.  They spoke to delegates about Salvation Army opportunities in urban ministry and particularly about the Servant House which they have opened in Camden NJ.

Dunigans New Years Day 2013This morning in St Louis I took this picture of Bill with son Matt as they were loading their minivan for the drive back east.  It’s always great to be with the Dunigans and we wish them the best as they pioneer another urban ministry initiative.

Last night Bill shared about the need for self-care of urban missioners.  Ministry is always stressful but even more so when in urban settings.  Bill takes time to be outdoors, biking and hiking.  Solitude restores balance to his life.  Bill and Sue live right where they serve in Camden.  Some people call it incarnational.  It’s the kind of intense ministry living that requires time apart and away from its demands.

Buses arriving soon to take Salvation Army delegates to the place their lunches are made. This is today’s setting at the America’s Center

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