Friday, September 30, 2016

Confronting the Brutal Facts of The Salvation Army


You are in for a ride. If you are reading this, brace yourself. Following on from a blog a few months ago called, Why The Salvation Army is in Decline and What we can do about it, I want us to continue our thinking about where The Salvation Army is and what God has in store for it. Though to move forward into a dynamic future one must first confront the reality of where they are.

Let me sidetrack for a moment (and stay with me):
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been in the top job in Australian politics for just over 12 months. That's long enough for the Australian public to demand he show something for his time. Australians want results. Leaders cannot simply provide nice catch phrases like, 'Jobs and growth' and 'I'm so excited about the future.' Leaders must deliver change. The same sentiment goes with President Barack Obama, who had a great approval rating when he first won the election to become President of the United States. People do not just want charismatic rhetoric and inspiring sound-bites on vision, they want action.

Here's my point: It is not enough to simply state that God is going to do great things in the future of The Salvation Army. Forgive me; I've said that 100 times. It is great to say [and I will continue to say it], but without coupling that with the brutal truth about where we are, and how we've got to where we are, pie-in-the-sky vision casting won't cut it.

Now, I'm all for vision. I'm all for gathering a crowd together and unleashing my best efforts in rallying the troops and calling people to action. I am just worried.

I am worried that if we don't step further back and have a deep hard look at ourselves and then make the subsequent difficult changes that need to occur, The Salvation Army will simply coast along, finally crystallizing into a warm and fuzzy historical artifact that we talk about in museums. 

Jim Collins in Good to Great says we need to 'retain faith that [we] will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.... and at the same time... confront the most brutal facts of [our] current reality, whatever they might be.'

The Australia One Project that seeks to unite two Salvation Army Territory's is leading the way in creating necessary change to forge a new future. The General of The Salvation Army has initiated an accountability movement that aims to embed accountability within our movement.

This is about confronting the brutal facts. See Adam Couchman's 'An exercise in self-deception.'

Now, let me stir you up. If you're still reading, this whole subject intrigues you. Let me lay it on the line for you today and confront some brutal facts (and maybe acknowledge some elephants in the living room) of The Salvation Army.

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Confronting the Brutal Facts of The Salvation Army

1. We no longer make the salvation of people the first purpose of our lives. There may be a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, maybe we are caught up in the endless administrative burden of ministry, and can create a legitimate excuse for why leading people to Jesus just doesn't happen (or atleast does not happen to the degree it did 100 years ago). Secondly, maybe we have lost the art of leading people to Jesus, have not been good at it, and have subsequently built for ourselves a theological framework that conveniently excuses us from such ministry. Thirdly, maybe we no longer have a hunger for souls that the revivalists once had.

[God, send the fire! We long for a great outpouring of your Holy Spirit, that would equip us and empower us to be witnesses to the ends of the earth. May we lead many to the foot of the cross, that they might find fullness of life in Christ!]

2. We have allowed fear to cripple us. Call it a demonic spirit of fear if you like. Jesus needs to deal with this in us! You may ask, what do we fear in The Salvation Army? I'm glad you asked. Firstly, we fear making any great changes that would cause The Salvation Army to become less than what God raised it up to be. We fear losing our identity in the process (that's why we hold on to band concerts, and attempt to revitalize timbrel brigades - because if we can just make things like they used to be, we'll start being successful again). Change need not water-down who we are as a Salvation Army. Good, Spirit-led change may in fact revitalize us to become a movement that reaches heights we never even dreamed of in years gone by! Thirdly we fear we won't have the resources to do that which God wants us to do. We spend too much time seeking after funding in the process. Money follows mission. Let's keep it in that order. The Lord will provide.

[Lord Jesus, we command the spirit of fear to leave The Salvation Army, in Jesus' name. You have not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and self-discipline. Empower us by the Holy Spirit to walked courageously into a new era of opportunity to see great spiritual outcomes in the lives of the people we minister to.]

3. Our organisational structure has become burdensome. 'No dah,' I just heard someone say. Thanks for your intellectual input in this discussion. You should write blogs like me. I believe Salvation Army leaders are confronting this reality; at least in the Australia Southern Territory they are. The challenge is for leaders with the influence to do so, to make the difficult changes that need to be made to make decision-making agile and quick with a foundation of trust in the transaction of decisions. Enough on that, I'm boring myself.

4. God is not finished with The Salvation Army. That's the brutal fact. Though, I believe, even globally, God is taking The Salvation Army through a refining process. It's difficult and even somewhat painful. We know though, the story of the vine and the branches in John's gospel (John 15:1-17), where Jesus, 'cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful' (15:2). We have become a bloated Army. We have expanded things that should have been cut off years ago, and mistaken pruning for failure. Allow God to prune in you, and in The Salvation Army as a whole that which God wants to prune.

[Lord, we give you free rein to prune us, to chop off things that dishonour you, and rid us of egocentric behaviour that causes us to fail to humble ourselves. Ignite in us a new season of personal, spiritual growth. Re-ignite a Salvation Army that we believe you will use to fulfill your mission in the world. In Jesus' name!]    

Let me finish with these words. We must confront the brutal facts and all the while remain absolutely convinced that we will prevail in the end. Keeping those two concepts together will do us good.

If you believe this article may be helpful to others, please share it. Thanks. God bless.

Please note, the opinions on this blog represent my personal views and do not necessarily align with the views of The Salvation Army.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Why I Quit Salvation Army Complaining.


I like to have a whinge. I mean, don't you as well? Someone cuts me off in traffic and I struggle to stay holy. Someone pushes in at the supermarket and I'm praying for the gift of patience.

And let me give you some other examples. You are going to love this one... The Divisional Commander sends another email with three important action points. The Public Relations Department need your involvement in a fundraising initiative. Someone in the Corps broke their toe-nail again, and it's an emergency.  Someone didn't show up to a rostered-on ministry opportunity. So-and-so let you down again.

We have reason to whinge. Sure. We could justify it. Each of the reasons push our buttons. We feel validated in having a good ole' gossip session with another colleague. We feel justified in complaining about the Corps Officer behind his/her back. We could list 10 reasons why I should be allowed to whinge.

Though, here's my point:

The world doesn't change, when we spend our time whingeing about it.

Revival doesn't come in the midst of cynicism and bad attitudes. It's ushered in, in the midst of passionate, prevailing prayer meetings, couple with innovative, dynamic, Christ-centered mission.

The Salvation Army won't reform and be shaped into God's ultimate design with coalitions of mediocrity gathering around the water-cooler.

Wow, I'm hitting on a nerve here.

I've decided to take a different path. Maybe it's the path less traveled. Now, I'm no saint, but I've just woken up to something recently.

Administration exists. Quite often for good reasons.

We minister in a broken world. Get used to it.

Life is difficult. Not everyone has time to stroke your ego.

The Lord never said ministry was going to be easy. The Lord simply promised he would be with you in the midst of it.

The prevailing culture is not going to stir you up to think outside the box. Most likely the culture is pushing you back in it.

We live in the tension of a Kingdom-here, but a Kingdom yet to be grasped and realised in its entirety. That's why there's still hurt and pain, sickness and untimely death. We live in a world, where we cry out for God's Kingdom come and God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I sense at times, we have unknowingly fostered a culture of entitlement, where everyone wins, and everyone gets what they want. Then, ones world comes crashing down when they collide with a culture that has high expectations of them, that holds them accountable and calls them to a life that puts others above themselves.

I need to be reminded, and Salvation Army, we need to be reminded: Quit complaining.

Now, maybe I sound like I'm complaining and thus become somewhat hypocritical in my writing. Forgive me. I just long for The Salvation Army to go deeper, further and higher. I long for God to challenge me and this movement to grow up IN Christ.

A great move of God came in the early Salvation Army. I like to think it came because prayer meetings were overflowing, people were absolutely sold-out to helping broken people and preaching the gospel, and early Salvationists stay focused on transforming the world for Christ. 

I'm drawing a line in the sand. I will no longer say, 'I'm busy.' Or, 'I'm tired.' I don't want to groan about another leader. I don't want to compare others, criticise others or speak ill of others. I will no longer swim with the tide of communal cynicism and pity parties formed in the wake of the latest annoying 'thing.'

I quit Salvation Army complaining.

Jesus is coming back soon.


'In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them. Hold tightly to the word of life, so that when Christ returns, I will be proud that I did not lose the race and that my work was not useless...' - Philippians 2:14-16 (NLT).

 (These writings/thoughts do not represent the official position of The Salvation Army)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Why Apathy is Killing the Church


Why Apathy is Killing the Church

It's easy to be disillusioned with the global nature of everything ranging from politics, the environment, economics and terrorism.

On the political front, Britain doesn't know what lies ahead following the Brexit vote, Australia barely knows what politician to vote for and the U.S.A. could be heading towards its first orange President.

Environmentally, the climate is changing faster than the global leaders are willing to change, and no one understands how switching off their lights and using organic vegetables makes any difference.

Economically, first-world countries are looking like third-world countries with lip-stick on, and no one knows how to bring any particular country into a strong economic position.

When it comes to terrorism, we feel helpless in the fight against ISIS and others, and can't reconcile a belief that moderate Islam is moderate and that is distinctly different from militant Islam.

Even the Olympics cannot go ahead without the threat of violence and disease!

We are confused as a people and Christians are in the midst of that confusion.

We wonder whether we can do anything to actually make a significant difference.
Though, this is where we need to be reminded of an old quote attributed to Edmund Bourke, 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.'

It is unacceptable as people of God to throw our hands up and merely swim with the tide of indecisiveness and apathy. We must follow the ministry of Jesus that ushered in the Kingdom of God. Let me remind you, where the Kingdom of God is, there is hope, joy, peace and purpose. Where the Kingdom of God is people are reconciled, creation is drawn back to its creator. That Kingdom is found through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Therefore we have something to do: To love, to give, to preach, to befriend, to house, to help, to encourage and to smile.

Though it appears at times, that apathy is at risk of killing the church. Why? We look around at the global picture and it appears glim. Instead then of mobilizing, we fall asleep. We prefer to stay within the safety of the confines of our church walls and homes and fail to embrace the unique opportunity the Lord has given us to create history.

In fact, in the midst of economic uncertainty and political disappointments, God is healing the sick like no other time in history. Prayer meetings are springing up in churches. Evangelical gatherings are still witnessing hundreds of thousands committing their lives to Christ. Remember, in the last days, God will indeed pour out his spirit upon all people!

So, we must do something. We cannot give up or give in to God's calling for us to change the world.

And let me say, the churches that will grow in today's context are churches that embrace ambiguity, learn to live in chaotic times, release innovation and empower courageous leadership irrespective of the swell of uncertainty around them. 

As I say to employees, soldiers and friends of The Salvation Army in my local context, 'Fire up!' We say it to each other. Don't allow circumstances drag you down, but pray in the power of the Spirit and allow God to change the circumstances.

Don't allow apathy to kill your church.

Fire up. Do something.


Benjamin Franklin once said, 'If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.' I aim to do both. 
If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.
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