Thursday, March 1, 2018

Salvation Army Leaders - I Have to Change...


I was not ready for this word from the Lord.

And you might not be either.

I preface what I'm about to say with this:
Have you ever had to endure discipline? Maybe you made a wrong decision or you said something offensive and you had to apologise. We've all been there. Discipline from someone holding you accountable is painful and humbling.

The writer to the Hebrews sums it up well. In the start of chapter twelve he writes that first of all we should throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1b). Then the chapter continues by highlighting the importance of God's discipline in your life. Check out these verses:

'Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as his children.' (12:7)

'God disciplines us for our good.' (12:10)

'No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.' (12:11)

Now, if you're still reading (because no one likes to talk about discipline, let alone read about it on a blog), I'm about to tell what I feel God is saying to me.

The words have come from hanging out with many different ministry leaders and other pastors and teachers in recent days. One moment was at a wedding sitting on a table chatting with other Christian leaders. One moment was listening to a leadership podcast. Another moment was listening to a great leader of an effective church speak on leadership.

Here's what I feel like the Holy Spirit has said to me in recent days:
'Pete, your leadership style is not always conducive to producing a flourishing church.'

Come again Lord... That can't be right?! Are you telling me, I'm not leading well? That I need to change?

I felt a little rebuke. Not a huge one, but like a father disciplining his son. A nudge that says, 'You realise you could change your behaviour and be more effective?'

You may wonder what I'm talking about.

I spent a few hours this week buying skewers to hold together chicken burgers, and a plastic tub for a new ministry. Last week, I spent a few hours in the hardware store buying a new broom and double-sided tape. We needed to purchase these items, don't get me wrong, but the truth is this: When I'm running around buying items for ministry tasks, I'm not doing leadership. Let's not beat around the bush friends. I may be doing nice tasks, but I'm not leading. I'm not empowering someone. I'm not casting vision. I'm just busy doing nice things.

The fact is, I work in the ministry far more than I work on the ministry. It's powerful when you grasp the difference. Salvation Army leaders, dare I say, work tirelessly in ministry, but we don't work on building the ministry. We spend too much time on pragmatic tasks, than we do on developing leaders.

See, failure to operate in a way that identifies, trains and releases leaders into ministry will always cause my ministry to be small. The ministry is like a small tree in a pot; that tree will only grow to the size that the pot allows. In that modus operandi I can only do as much as what my own time and energy allows.

Think about The Salvation Army more generally. The pragmatic nature of Salvos has caused us to neglect leadership development, which has been at the expense of the growth of our movement. We then have had to shift our theological position of 'size', in order to justify to the Lord that we're not doing as bad as what we think we are. I believe (and you know by now, these are personal opinions), that our hands-on approach to serving the lost has not been coupled with an intentional desire to train up people for the work. We have neglected that. At least from a personal perspective, I feel the Lord saying, 'Right, Pete, it's time for your to invest in building leaders! You can do ministry until you fall asleep at night, but unless you raise up other leaders for this work, you are just a one-man-band trying to be a Messiah!'

We must fundamentally shift how we view ministry as leaders. We need to be comfortable with the idea, that as leaders, often we need to spend more time in teaching, leading and empowering ministry leaders, than actually doing the ministry. I am happy to debate this. I think, irrespective of the differing views, discussion on this is worth having. We spend too long doing pragmatic things at the expense of leadership development, which ultimately is at the expense of the growth of what we do.

Maybe the fear is that we are not being true to Salvationism, if we step too far away from the front-line. I understand that. We need to model servant leadership. Jesus washed the disciples feet. He multiplied the bread. He healed the sick. Though he also, sat in the Synagogue and taught. He regularly took the 12 disciples aside and explained what the parables meant. There was a balance in the ministry of Jesus between just doing ministry, to actually training up 12 disciples, who after the resurrection would take on the leadership of the early church!   
When we are doing kingdom work, we should see that work flourishing and multiplying. When we don't see it flourishing and multiplying someone needs to ask some critical questions. But no one likes accountability or discipline right? Also, being nice and happy to leaders, is not necessarily developing leaders. Having coffee with leaders is not necessarily building them up or increasing their performance. Sometimes we can simply become busy touching base with people, with very little intention about growing the person's capacity and maturity in Christ.

Sometimes we can even keep someone in a leadership position long after the ministry has outgrown their capacity, simply because it's too difficult and painful to have a conversation about the reality of such matters.

Lastly, the way I spend my week, is not always directly related to my heart for God to transform people's lives. That is, often, if I'm honest, my time is taken up on things that do not add direct value to the kingdom of God, but that I find easy to do. I am challenged to consider what I should do differently to move beyond mediocrity and embrace focused, passionate, intentional leadership that seeks to empower generations to lead the mission of The Salvation Army forward.

There you have it. The discipline of the Lord is gentle, but loud in my spirit. I must change the way I lead. And I say that, because failure to do so will cause me to miss the flourishing and growth that God so intends to provide.

I have to change.

What about you?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Salvation Army has two options in 2018!


Something is happening! Can you sense it? Are you ready for it?

I love when I can share a word I feel on my heart, that is pertinent to the lives of many within The Salvation Army. I am sure you are aware, these are my thoughts from a personal perspective, and I share them with you, because I sense there is an element of the prophetic in what you are about to read. So read with an expectation that God is about to speak to you, and watch what happens!

I believe we have two clear options in 2018 for The Salvation Army. 

Two options. Not three. Not four. But two options. 

In 2018, we can either:


Go with me for a minute. 

To accelerate is when activities, development and progress moves forward at a faster rate than previous. To coagulate is for something that was fluid to become rigid and solid, like a blood clot.

The Salvation Army globally has awoken to the need for rapid change. The world is seeking our opinion on theological topics we used to brush under the carpet. Political systems are calling for greater accountability on how we work with and support people who are vulnerable. The changing landscape of faith in some countries, is causing The Salvation Army to consider the way it lives and expresses its mission in the world. 

And there are only two options. We can't sit on the fence. The Salvation Army will either accelerate into the plans and purposes of God, or we will coagulate and dissipate into the annals of the local Salvation Army Training College library.

I know people are affected in varied ways by change and restructures and decision-making, but I want to lay my cards down and say: I'm pleased with 2017.

Let me backtrack to 2015 and 2016. I think over 2015 and 2016 God was pruning The Salvation Army. You know the scripture in John 15? Jesus says he is the true vine, and his father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in us that does not bear fruit while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes even further, so it would be even more fruitful. 

You know the illustration of the rose bush. Well, we have a few in our garden, and let me tell you, the more you prune, the better the results in the longer term. Watch out when my wife starts hacking at those branches, because there will be nothing much left after she finishes! Though, you just wait and see. New growth happens beyond what you would expect because of the severity of the pruning. 

There was pruning in those couple of years. And there still is pruning (the pruning hasn't stopped).

Fast forward two years to 2017, and we had a year where we became increasingly aware of the fragility of a movement that needed focus. So we continued to prune, but this time with intention and focus, believing that doing such things, would be to the betterment of the movement. This was good. There were some rocky moments, but the realigning of our focus to kingdom work was surely pleasing to the Lord.

Now we find ourselves in 2018 and I feel the Holy Spirit saying:

"ACCELERATE! Allow me to take what you have and accelerate it!"

This is exciting. I think we are past wanting to curl up, shake hands with the devil and wave a flag of surrender. We entertained the idea a few times, but then we thought, no! God raised up this movement, so it's time to move. Move back to the places long devastated. Move back to the poor and the broken. Move back into communities with the love of Jesus and bring hope to a world that needs to be brimming with light and love and salvation!

We are sick and tired of considering what The Salvation Army looks like when its irrelevant. God knows we're ready to live, love and fight to transform this world with the love of Jesus. So we are going to spend more time anticipating who God is going to heal, believing in whom God is going to save and serving the one that God calls us to serve.

We have pruned. We will continue to prune. But God is going to bring the increase. The faithfulness in pruning of years gone by, and the focus on God's kingdom moving forward will cause The Salvation Army to bear fruit, much fruit, fruit that will last (John 15:16). 

I'm ready for 2018. 

I'm ready for the soldiers to get out of the proverbial trenches of biscuit eating, nice choruses and fellowship lunches. I'm ready the people of God to take the good news of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to a world in need. I'm ready for a movement to celebrate what it is good at, instead of constantly bemoaning where it failed. I'm ready for a collective of Salvos who cheer each other on when others succeed. I'm ready for a faith-filled, Spirit-filled, dynamic, passionate, Jesus-centered, God-focused army that seeks to reconcile the world back to its creator.  

It's time to accelerate. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Leaders Do This One Thing Frequently


As we embark on a new year, one leadership axiom is ringing in my ears.

See for most of 2017 I spent time recruiting volunteers and empowering volunteers to make a difference in the world. This, on the surface seems admirable. The problem is, all I was doing was delegating tasks.

Whether you work with volunteers or line-manage employees, the truth is you can only do so much if you just delegate tasks to others.

Here's my thought: We must train and develop leaders, not just give tasks to followers.

We effectively need to delegate authority, not just responsibility. When you delegate authority you empower someone to be a leader.

That is surely one of the ways we can maximize our leadership effectiveness in 2018.

God bless.




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