Archives for posts with tag: 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



Lest we forget during this busy holiday season, and especially for Salvation Army folks –

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”  ~ Mother Teresa

This quote came via David Tooley at THQ; thanks, Dave.

This morning’s St Louis Post-Dispatch online has a two-sentence story of yesterday’s fire in the 3400 block of Arlington Avenue in north St Louis.

And looking at this photo of firemen in their full outfits perched above flames brought to mind Gary Busiek and a team from our St Louis Euclid Corps, busy Thursday aiding firefighters with cold water from a Salvation Army emergency canteen.

It’s been hot this week in St Louis. Firemen don’t need to be dressed head to toe in metal and heavy insulated suits, hovering over a fire in 100+ degree heat indexed weather.

I couldn’t help but also think of several houses ten miles to the south in the West Benton Park neighborhood. They are Salvation Army houses where about a dozen young adults live in a missional community.

Those houses could be empty and at risk just as was the house on the 3400 block of Arlington Avenue. But they’re not.

They are home to men and women living and serving in a neighborhood where human need exists. Need for mentors to young people, serving hungry people. For an urban farm to astonish, inspire and train city folk in possibilities. For hearing the good news of a God who opens his hand in this world of urban and rural neighborhoods, revealing and giving salvation.

That’s a far better use for old yet beautiful St Louis houses than as roasting pits for firemen.

For more information about Temple Houses on Arsenal Street visit the Temple Houses link

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.

For several years I’ve been using Clairefontaine for my journals.  ClairefontaineThis one is ready to stow in my box, joining its comrades.

I browsed.  The beginning of the year 2012.

Eberhard Bethge describes Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s use of metanoia, repentance.  Any real encounter with Christ is one in which Christ takes us by the shoulder and turns us around.  To face our fellow human beings and the world.  metanoia wards us away from religion’s dangers of inwardness, privilege.

There is a poem by George MacDonald about the reluctant urban missioner called by Jesus to a noxious city.  Reluctant, yet repentant.

Do you suppose there was any reluctance on the part of NYC firemen, paramedics, policemen entering the WTC on the morning of September 11?  Was there a moment when a veteran placed a hand on the shoulder of a rookie, to guide up the stairs?fireman in stairway 2

Bethge writes of Bonhoeffer, refusing invitations to remain safe in America, in England, to escape from prison.

The missio Dei, God’s mission, shared by God’s people, is aptly described in the Gospel of John.  God gives his Son.  God sends his Son.  And the reluctant Son turns to the world, travels on the road, to the cross.

Mission to the people of this world so-loved of God calls reluctant missioners to repent.  To heed the unseen, unfelt hand of Christ taking us by the shoulder and turning us around and into noxious places, up many flights of stairs.  Into George MacDonald’s city.  Into disturbing urban scenarios.

We may not bring much along with us.  But, there we are.  Isn’t that the point?

We just got back home from loading the minivan with stuff.  Tomorrow morning early we take our stuff to St Louis to set up for the Army’s exhibit at Urbana 2012.

Every three years Urbana takes place and The Salvation Army is there with an exhibit booth.  We hope that some of the tens of thousands of college students will see us, stop, talk.  Why?

We’ve been talking about that for some weeks now.

We are probably not going to do anything radically different from what we’ve been doing for decades at that exhibit booth.  But what concerns us is whether there’s a place in the Army for a young adult who wants to make a difference in the world.

Are we looking for Urbana delegates to be interested in the Army, or interested in the mission of the Army?

People are at least as interested if not more than ever in spiritual life.  But organized religion has not been doing all that well in North America.  Young adults now have greater interest in doing something about poverty and injustice.  But not necessarily by joining an institution.

I think the great challenge is to present our mission, then let young people discover that Salvation Army might be a place God is calling them to preach the gospel and meet human needs.  Rather than try to persuade them to first love the Army then go find something to do in it.  The first approach is focused on mission.  The second, on the institution.  Sure, the institution is important.  But the institution serves the mission, not mission the institution.

What would be one of the most effective ways to demonstrate mission?  People.  People of the Army who are engaged in mission like many of our Soldiers or Officers or Employees or Advisory Board Members … We confess that too many of us are merely enamored of being part of an organization where we can dress up in uniform and march around.  Uniform and marching can be part of mission.  But too often that’s all many of us think is the Army.

Or that doing ‘church’ defines the Army.  If we think so, that just puts us back where we were before we were kicked out of churches.

Perhaps the best defining moment in Army history is one Christmas over a century ago when William Booth allegedly sent a one word telegram to every Officer around the world.  One word because that’s all he could afford.


When young people at Urbana see that others mean more to this Army than marching around in uniform, more than desperately trying to be ‘church’, more than a reputation as America’s favorite charity, then God may call them to an Army as a place for them to make a difference in this world that He so loves.

That’s our job this week in St Louis.

In my mailbox (the one sitting in my office) was a copy of the Winter 2012 Leadership Journal (a real paper and print artifact).  “The Outreach Issue:  How service projects actually introduce people to Jesus.”

Do they mean church people helping non-church people and in the process introducing Jesus to them?

Or that church people are introduced to Jesus as they go out to offer a cup of water, visit in prisons, feed, clothe?  (Matthew 25:31-46)

Drew Dyck, Managing editor of Leadership, cites Clark Blakeman’s concept of ‘biblical symmetry’.  Blakeman uses this concept to “remind ourselves that just ‘doing’ isn’t sufficient … the more common problem is for people to fear that the doing is empty, just padding people for a more comfortable journey to hell.  For them, we work to show that proclamation is insufficient apart from the demonstration of the gospel.  We’re pushing both sides toward biblical symmetry.”

I always grow uneasy when people speak of mission as two things even if they combine them.  In our Salvation Army we struggle with this.  The official mission statement is “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination.”   Almost all the time I hear and read our Army people differentiating, distinguishing between two things.  Even attempting to balance.

Drew Dyck then says “to achieve this biblical symmetry some congregations (like mine) need to be challenged to open their mouths and share the gospel verbally.  Others need to be challenged to extend a hand of compassion.  All need to do both.”

I think there is a problem with this statement.  We are supposed to maintain symmetry?  We’ve watched the tightrope act.  Lot’s of falling off during practice.  Most people give it up.  Only the gifted and persevering make it across Niagara Falls.  Not many.

The problem?  “congregations need”, “other [congregations] need”, “all [congregations] need”.  Mission is not to be defined by my need.  By yours.  By ours.

In Matthew 25 we read of that good and faithful servant “blessed by my Father” who unknowingly meets the need of persons who are not part of my congregation or your congregation or anyone’s congregation.  Our God is pleased when we live for others.  Christ, ‘the man for others’, Bonhoeffer’s favorite christological title.

When we live responsibly in this world, as it alternately sinks and rises, bobbing on its voyage through an ocean of history, we are to follow Jesus who gave his life for this world.  We go into that world.  And as we do, we encounter others who need water and bread, comfort and help, a good word as well as the only word that brings salvation.  The word which speaks to us and compels us to “come, follow me”.

But it is their need.  Not my need.  It isn’t symmetry.  It is others.

Mission Parking Space is a place I’ve created to discover and work the subject of ‘mission’. 

Join the discussion!

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