2012

March 7

The Army’s apostolic mission is to those outside the church, those on the margins, those the world sees as socio-economically useless. Does our mission extend to any others? Yes, inasmuch as they are involved in this mission, our mission. Just as Catherine Booth went to London’s upper-middle class West End on behalf of William’s work in the inner city East End.

Musing: is there any other mission than an apostolic one?

An essential element of ministry in the apostolic mission: “They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10)

March 18

I am now reading Kennon Callahan’s The Future That Has Come and I am convinced sorely that what he describes is so. It just rings true. And it eerily describes what I hear talked about these days in leadership circles of the Salvation Army. Remember the few times in the gospels when Jesus knew what people were talking about, what was in their mind? Callahan’s words have that quality.

He compares ‘institution’ and ‘movement’, tells us ‘institution’ as the model for the church is over, and that the time has come for ‘movement’ to become our identity.

Seven paradigm shifts have taken place, Callahan calls this a ‘megadigm’. One is the shift to movement. Another is commitment to compassion. And it is this which is very difficult for us in the Army to grasp.

Commitment permeats the Army culture, doesn’t it? Officership. Soldiership. The corps. ‘cartridges’. Local officership. In short, loyalty to the Army, to the ‘institution’. The problem is that in the 21st century commitment no longer (did it ever?) draws us. Callahan says compassion draws people. Compassion, with community and hope rounding off the top three attracting qualities of a movement. These three motivate people. This is the 21st century.

Callahan doesn’t discount commitment. Or ‘reasonability’ and ‘challenge’. These are also ‘motivational resources’. But it is compassion, community and hope which are the prime motivational resources of the church for the 21st century.

I’ll continue later …

March 22

It’s not ‘come join our Army’. That doesn’t work anymore. It’s ‘come join our mission’. Take a look at Canada’s The Dignity Project, an attempt to reframe the Army in terms that speaks to the future that has come.

The question: can this Army change it’s tune?

April 10

In response to sharing charts, statistics of decades of declining numbers of soldiers and religious meeting attendances for the Salvation Army in the Midwest …

Jason,

… yes, they are sobering. Commissioner Baillie was like a person beating a big bass drum on this issue.

It haunts me, but I think we are in error by rushing to try and make more soldiers, etc. My intuition is that the more we focus on this, the less effective we become in precisely growing. My gut feeling, supported by some evidence and by what others like Callahan say, is that we need to focus on the mission of the Army. Instead, we have created a heresy mission. We operate as if the mission of the Army is to grow the Army. Heresy.

By going into the world and giving in Jesus’ name, completely counter-intutitive, we will be living the life of Christ who on the cross draws all men …

May 24

This quote from John Wesley is good. At what cost are we willing to preach the gospel? Even, gasp, setting aside our religion?

I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange
way of preaching in the fields, of which [Whitfield] set me an
example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately)
so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that
I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it
had not been done in a church.
… John Wesley (1703-1791), entry for March 29, 1739,
Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, v. I, London: J.
Kershaw, 1827, p. 177
See the book at http://cqod.com/b/r3079

June 12

What is the shelf-life … of the Salvation Army? how long are we of any good as a movement to the world, perhaps Paul’s metaphor of earthen vessels … Certainly something of Bonhoeffer when he asks whether we are of any use, to God, to the world. If we have been compromised ethically. At what point do we become obsolete?

June 23
Two voices, Bonhoeffer and Callahan, say something about mission and the church which make very clear that the mission of any local congregation, by that I mean to include Salvation Army corps, is not to grow.

Growth is another totally different thing. And growth can be a good thing. But when we unknowingly substitute it for mission (and this I fear is what is happening in too many places), it is idolatry. I cannot put it less strongly. This idolatry is a masquerading of love for self, call it ‘the corps’ or ‘the Army’ if you wish, as love for others. It does not and cannot ring true when we attempt to serve and speak to the world. The world and it’s people can smell it. “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Leaped on, mastered by the world, overpowered, we then flee naked and wounded because we have pretended one thing but in reality are humbug. We then nurse our wounds, blame the world and retreat into a ghetto of religiosity. No wonder that corps and congregations languish, shrivel. We deserve so when the mission has become a matter of self-preservation and survival.

Bonhoeffer: “During these years the Church has fought for self-preservation as though it were an end in itself, and has thereby lost its chance to speak a word of reconciliation to mankind and the world at large … But the day will come when men will be called again to utter the word of God with such power as will change and renew the world.”

We are called to preach the gospel and serve the world in the power of the cross, its weakness and loss, thus allowing the world and it’s people to know the genuine Jesus. And then let the cards lie where they will. Not Rambo Jesus. But Christ suffering, crucified, dead and buried. From such a Christ come life and hope.

Callahan: “I greatly admire The Salvation Army. They focus on the total people they have served in mission … Some other congregations’ and denominations’ theology of statistics reveals a theology of surviving. The Salvation Army does the mission for the integrity of the mission. The Samaritan and the innkeeper take no thought of what is in it for them.”

September 26

September 23 quote at Christian Quotation of the Day:
In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.
Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961), Markings, tr. Leif Sjoberg & W. H. Auden, (q.v.), New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1964 (post.), p. 122 See the book at http://cqod.com/b/r3403

And from CQOD today …

How utterly opposed to the thought of Jesus Christ is all asceticism, all religious isolation and retreat from the world. His aim was not to get his followers out of the world, but to get them into the world. Society, not solitude, is the natural home of Christianity

Maltbie D. Babcock (1858-1901), Thoughts for Every-day Living, New York: C. Scribner’s sons, 1901, p. 42 (see the book; see also Matt. 11:15-19; Luke 5:29-35; 7:31-35; John 2:1-2; 12:2-8; Acts 14:1; 18:9-10; 19:8; 28:30-31; more at Jesus, Social, Solitude, World)

These express significant elements of mission. Babcock especially presents a theme Bonhoeffer would later write of in his letters from prison, that the religious interpretation of Christianity was no longer tenable in our world come of age.

November 13

What we think of as ‘Sunday’ is not the mission of a corps.

By ‘Sunday’ I refer to what comes to mind to any regular church going person. The Sunday morning experience. Pews, or maybe comfortable chairs. A building, often with stained glass and the finest materials that can be afforded. Organ, praise band, a gospel choir, Sunday school before or after. Worship, as it means singing, standing and sitting, wafer and wine. Traditions.

The Salvation Army revivalism tradition of a meeting and an altar call? It is not of this age as it was in Finney’s early 19th century.

A certain corps officer has written of viewing the corps building as a headquarters, and with this I agree. Headquarters for our work, our ministry as directed by our mission. And if the building is our headquarters, so also our ‘Sunday’. It is the place of gathering in the name of Jesus to do the things which his gathered people are to do. But only inasmuch as it makes us of any use to the world God so loves. If we sing, pray, chew the wafer, drink the wine, count the attendance … and are useless to others, then our worship is also useless. Isn’t that the issue when Amos says –

I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:21-24)

‘Sunday’ is more so the ‘arcane discipline’ described by Bonhoeffer. The things that matter to Christ’s which makes them of use to this world, in this world.

Preaching the gospel really cannot take place ‘Sunday’. It may be that the street corner preacher we’ve lately made fun of is far more effective than our ‘Sunday’. Just compare our head counts of who hears it.

December 1

Salvation Army, as we do the most good are we making the least difference?

We give away more toys, food, nights of lodging, etc than the guy next door in America’s vast neighborhood of charitable organizations. Overhead? Fortune magazine commends us on our slim margin of cost; business people understand us. Doing the most good.

But what difference are we making?

What we do, and we are good at it, is to keep doing what we’ve done before. And that’s okay, as long as the world doesn’t change.

We have been trained to think in terms of service. We can give someone daily bread or a night’s lodging. We don’t think in terms of service that makes a difference.

Now in our busiest season, it’s likely next month’s reports will show Salvation Army has done more good than previous years. We are tuned, wired to give more away, not less. We are wired to ask the American public for more and we believe that the best way to steward it, be accountable for it, is by doing more. Give more.

Dr. John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, likes to share this illustration. He describes a river from which we are pulling drowning people as they float past us. Then we have a flash of insight: how are these people ending up in the river? Go up stream to find out and do then something about that.

Dr. Perkins says we can and we need to find out why people are drowning, hungry, without a home, without a safe neighborhood, credible schools, access to health care. We need to find out why when you look at people and they look at you, you see eyes with dying hope, little faith, great pain. We can see life fading. Death near. That is why we present the gospel in word and in action.

So, a choice. Do the most good? Or do we make a difference?

December 11

This morning I am really taken with –

“Everything that has been suppressed by success will eventually rebel.” (Nietzsche)

Bonhoeffer’s notes cite this for a section of his Ethics where he discusses responsible action, that a person is to act in “accordance with reality” yet must avoid what Nietzsche describes as a “servile attitude toward the facts”.

Responsible action cannot necessarily justify “success on principle”. It does not retreat “from wherever the pressure is greater” and certainly does not make the mistake of judging “the expedient as being in accord with reality” (Bonhoeffer).

What we like to celebrate as success, what we efficiently accomplish, what others around us applaud … are we guided by such? Rather than by reality?

I believe we face danger when we do things successfully but the thing is of no use. It does not address the reality of the situation, the need.

Mollified, we then pass by on the other side of the road (Luke 10:31).

December 31 at Urbana

Doing the most good is fine. But doing more good is trouble. What we consider the most good may only be more good.  One is qualitative. The other quantitative. Ecclesiastes come to mind with it’s vanity refrain. Empty hands when full of lots of less than meaningful stuff.

For instance the way Army does Christmas. More good is an increase of toys and food distributed, along with an increase of money raised.

Most good is, as one officer this week mentioned to me, making kettles an economic opportunity for those with limited capacities yet who are gifted in other ways.

2013

February 1

Institution is mission incarnate.

February 25

Let me present a rather pessimistic scenario.

If I am a corps officer (ordained minister) in charge of a corps (congregation) which has a very small, let’s say under twenty, Sunday worship meeting attendance, in spite of my dogged work to prepare and present a worship experience of the highest quality after some time I will begin to falter because this small worship attendance will not mean much in terms of the overall work the Army does in that appointment.  If all else is doing well I will discover other aspects of my ministry meaningful and fulfilling.

As a result, the Sunday worship aspect will not attract much of my energy and effort.  It will tend not to improve and will likely be tepid and uninspiring to persons who may visit.  Though it will continue to be not uncomfortable and unsatisfying as a religious exercise for that small worshiping group.

This is a danger faced by many corps officers, one which I feel needs to be guarded against.

A way to deal with this danger?  Begin to abolish the separatation between Sunday church experience and the weekday ministry of the Army.  Create and direct Sunday worship and discipleship to challenge and help our Sunday people see no seam between the presentation of the gospel and the meeting of human needs.

The God I worship on Sunday needs to be the God I hear say “when I hungered and thirsted …” and “pure religion is this, to care for widows and orphans”.  As well as the God who says “to keep oneself unspotted by the world”.

Perhaps this means for the Salvation Army to make a return to the Holiness meeting, the place in our week we recall John Wesley’s favorite holiness text.  “Love the Lord your God with all … and your neighbor as yourself.”

Amen.

March 9

Last weekend we conducted an eight hour consultation with Steve and Ketsia.  Intense, productive, exhausting.  We were ready to not think or talk between sessions!

Here’s two of the drawings that helped us work out and express the interplay of mission for Temple Houses, the corps and their Benton Park neighborhood.  It’s a dance, a trinitarian perichoresis –

consultation with Diaz February 2013 (2)consultation with Diaz February 2013 (3)

May 2013

This is an old article but as I’m cleaning out my mail I wanted to keep it to help us When Clean and Unclean Touch.

It starts –

Recently, a young couple started coming to our church. They’re very likable. They married a few years ago on the other side of the country, then migrated west to our town, and visited several churches until they ended up in ours. Both take their faith seriously. Both are seeking a place where they can worship, serve, grow. They want a loving and Christ-centered environment in which to raise their daughters in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Both are women. Linda and Rita are lesbians …

2014
January 16

This morning’s Christian Quotation of the Day sent a bit of Barth.

It adds fuel to the fire of talk Gail and I are having these past weeks on the true nature of mission. We understand the mission of the church, and particularly for Salvation Army corps, to be directed to others. Not toward self-interest, i.e. ‘we need a larger group of people in Salvation Army buildings on Sunday mornings to sing, pray, wear blue suits, etc … hallelujah’.

Others? William Booth said it. So did Bonhoeffer, And Barth. Among many others.

So again, here’s that subject of being of use to the world.

” The community does not speak with words alone. It speaks by
the very fact of its existence in the world; by its
characteristic attitude toward world problems; and, moreover
and especially, by its silent service to all the handicapped,
weak, and needy of the world. It speaks, finally, by the simple
fact that it prays for the world. It does all this because this
is the purpose of its summons by the Word of God. It cannot
avoid doing these things, since it believes.”
… Karl Barth (1886-1968), Evangelical Theology: An
Introduction, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1979, p. 38
See the book at http://cqod.com/b/r4134

When we say our mission is to preach the gospel, that is to speak it, Barth expresses how action-based our words are to be, even speechless words.

By existence, attitude, service and prayer we speak. Showing up, relating to, helping and basing our worship on this mission to others Barth says are our ‘words’. Where? Where religion would least be expected, that is, where the powerful and privileged would never show up. For whom? Others, that the agenda of the world has no listing, no interest, no intention, no place.

January 25

“I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18 NIV). This morning’s CQOD passage. I like Charles Ryrie’s ticket analogy; seems to pass muster, and I don’t detect any Moodyism in it.

Salvation Army people argue about the Army’s Mission Statement, whether it is a one-mission or two-mission mission.

Does it help us to understand mission as expression of faith? And if so, then it could be that faith in action, whether it be to speak/preach/etc (that is, the vocative action) is a species of “what I do” ala James, just as is social service/personal love-in-action/etc.

To Army people, ‘preach the gospel of Jesus Christ’ usually carries with it a special distinction, making it a higher order mission, or higher order part of the mission. I don’t believe it helps to have this view. I don’t minimize vocative action, but elevating it has dangers, per Jesus’ sheep-goats warning in Matthew 25.

Understanding preaching as vocative action also helps us understand the Spirit’s centrifugal force seen in Acts which spins out and away the provincial 1st century Palestinian Jewish Christians from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and ‘to the ends of the earth’.

Which helps Gail understand how best to optimize the current window that has opened for mission-effectiveness, talk which seems to be rising from and for Salvation Army people to go out and to give. In short, mission.

March 6

I hold with Robert K. Greenleaf’s definition of the servant-leader. But, now I have a formulation which is christological: He leads us to serve others.

Something said triggered the phrase yesterday morning during the St Louis prayer breakfast sponsored by CBMC. Mark Whitacre spoke to us of his whistleblower experience as an FBI informant in Archer Daniels Midland. Actually, the ‘others’ part came this morning.

As a follower of Christ, to what end? In service of others. It is a salvific service (John 3:17), service also with a point. Our service leads others to the One who brings eternal life by His action, His servant-suffering.

March 13

Is Matthew 9:35-38 prescriptive or descriptive? I’m not sure this really is the question, but it helps us approach this piece of NT mission statement carefully.

I see the critical part to be “he saw … had compassion”. Because “they were harassed and helpless”. The mission is predicated on human need. The world is in need of salvation (John 3:17). God’s love is base from which a look at humans and their need proceeds.

Jesus contextualizes the mission by going out to the 1st century Palestinian urban world to teach, proclaim and cure. Because Jesus loved and looked, he then acted. SA does the the most good. Are we doing so per love and look? SA commits itself to be “motivated by the love of God”. Thus, our expression of mission distilled in preaching the gospel and meeting human need identifies the imperatives (addressing the gospel and human need) but gives us a necessarily wide arena of preaching it and meeting it. It is a wide arena we scan. As we scan it changes. Time, conditions change. East End street meetings served William Booth. Many places today, not so us.

The changing arena challenges us to innovate, as did William.

Was God’s love in Jesus Christ an innovation? It challenged the powers and structures of 1st century Palestine. William Booth and 1880s Great Britain, too. Sheffield riots and all else. And it does so today in our CMPC, DFB, STEPs and all other structures.

Today’s CQOD started today’s entry; here it is:

The Company of Jesus is not people streaming to a shrine;
and it is not people making up an audience for a speaker; it is
laborers engaged in the harvesting task of reaching their
perplexed and seeking brethren with something so vital that, if
it is received, it will change their lives.
… Elton Trueblood (1900-1994), The Company of the
Committed, Harper, 1961, p. 45

May 31
All This Talk About Sunday Morning

[my first draft; likely to be posted elsewhere after a going over]

Gail and I have been discussing the question of the future of Salvation Army Sunday mornings.

At present we observe a hybrid. We see it comprised of traditional SA Sunday practice (a few brass bands, Red Song Book, wearing of uniforms, etc) with wishful aspirations for the ways which seem to bring measurable success in churches (seeker service, praise and worship, sacraments, etc).

But the latter approach seems to be dust to those who have gone down that road. To wit, Hybels and Willow Creek. And the former, only sustainable in a decreasing number of places where a sort of Salvation Army religious ghetto life and practice has lodged, creating the critical mass needed to perpetuate itself. Often through intermarriage, closed social circles, cultic practices.

So, what is the way forward?

Seventy years ago this month Dietrich Bonhoeffer sent what essentially is a sermon to his closest friend, Eberhard Bethge, for the occasion of Bethge’s son’s baptism. I believe that Bonhoeffer’s thoughts partially open a door for us to glimpse an answer.

We could propose an answer which begins with realization that “we too are being thrown back all the way to the beginnings of our understanding”. That what once worked, or seemed to work in a culturally established Christianity, Christianum imperium, world without end, “is so difficult and remote that we hardly dare speak of it anymore”. That now, per a recent conference with top Army leaders, it appears that we are primarily fighting only for self-preservation “as if that were an end in itself”.

The answer is that “we can be Christians today in only two ways, through prayer and in doing justice among human beings.”

I see a Sunday morning in which prayer centers all else as supporting cast. And that our Sunday morning is pleasing to God only as it correlates to the doing of justice in this world He loves.

Sunday places the world before us, prepares us for the road running through it, teaches us to pray ‘thy will be done’ in it. Sunday morning for Salvation Army people may be a Sabbath rest but only as it makes us of use to the world God so loves.

Sunday morning is only good as it creates us as a new humanity doing good in the world, good in its widest sense of abundant, everlasting life. We go and give a good word, a good work. The mission of God. Amen.

June 8

I don’t know much about Roland Allen but his quote used today by CQOD is another witness stepping forward to join Bonhoeffer’s ‘others’:

The Spirit is Love expressed towards man as redeeming love,
and the Spirit is truth, and the Spirit is the Holy Spirit.
Redemption is inconceivable without truth and holiness. But the
mere fact that the Holy Spirit’s first recorded action in the
gospels is an expression of redeeming love should cause us to
suspect a teaching which represents His work as primarily, if
not solely, the sanctification of our own souls to the
practical exclusion of His activity in us towards others. It is
important to teach of Him as the Spirit of holiness; it is also
important to teach of Him as the Spirit which in us labours for
the salvation of men everywhere.
… Roland Allen (1869-1947), Pentecost and the World,
London: Oxford University Press, 1917, included in
The Ministry of the Spirit, David M. Paton, ed.,
London: World Dominion Press, 1960, p. 27-28
See the book at http://cqod.com/b/r4180

July 20

Mission takes place via servant-leaders.

I have strong feelings about this term. That it is best described for our times by Robert K. Greenleaf. If the urban mission is to happen it will be by servant-leaders. A few thoughts here about what servant-leadership is and isn’t.

The servant does your will.

The leader either gets and makes you to do their will.

The servant-leader? Seeks God’s will for others. Sees what could be, and does what is needed for it to take place. For, as Greenleaf is certain of, the servant-leader is servant-first.

The servant only? There is no change, it is serving action which sustains a status quo.

Leader only? The same, the only variation being that it is the status quo world as realized in the leader’s interior kingdom.

Servant-leader? change, for it is now the will of God, the realization of the kingdom of God. Even when it is such a tiny start. Leaven. Mustard seed. Transformation, renewal, restoring as it once was to become again the created wholeness of the beginning. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

Servant-leaders are needed in urban settings. The systems of cities call out to be challenged. So that all will have a place in the 21st century’s dawning Urban Millennium. Including the marginalized and the vulnerable.

It is only in this way that shalom will come to the city. To those who are the least. And to those who may suspect contrary to appearances that they are not the most. Cities can become places where we really need each other.

October 9, 2014

I see ‘mission’ in this old gospel song verse.  Go and give.

Jesus came!–and came for me.
Simple words! and yet expressing
Depths of holy mystery,
Depths of wondrous love and blessing.

Holy Spirit, make me see
All His coming means for me;
Take the things of Christ, I pray,
Show them to my heart today.
… Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879), The Poetical Works
of Frances Ridley Havergal, New York: E.P. Dutton &
Co., 1888, p. 167
See the book at http://cqod.com/b/r4266

November 4, 2014

Another strum on the mission string:

“As our life comes to maturity we discover to our confusion
that human ears can pick up from the Infinite many incompatible
tunes, but cannot hear the whole symphony. And the melody
confided to our care, the one which we alone perhaps can
contribute and which taxes our powers to the full, has in it
not only the notes of triumph but the notes of pain. The
distinctive mark therefore is not happiness but vocation: work
demanded and power given, but given only on condition that we
spend it and ourselves on others without stint.”
… Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), The Life of the Spirit
and the Life of Today, E.P. Dutton, 1922, p. 225
See the book at http://cqod.com/b/r4386

2015

October 5

Driving last week to Minnesota, this –

  • Mission is not a matter of what … when … where
  • Mission is a matter of who … why … how
  • (of course, there are caveats)
  • The ‘what-when-where’ are servants of ‘who-why-how’
  • One more observation:  Jesus in the NT Gospels focused on ‘who’

October 24

A good test of mission and of genuine repentance:  are we others-focused or self-focused?

I fear that many people seek to hear God solely as a device for securing their own safety, comfort and righteousness. 

For those who busy themselves to know the will of God, however, it is still true that “those who want to save their life will lose it” (Matt. 16:25). My extreme preoccupation with knowing God’s will for me may only indicate, contrary to what is often thought, that I am over concerned with myself, not a Christlike interest in the well-being of others or in the glory of God.

    … Dallas Willard (1935-2013), Hearing God, Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999, p. 33

See the book at http://cqod.com/b/r4602