Thursday, July 5, 2018

One day in THQ and I'm converted

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The clock ticks 8:25am and half of the desks are full. Computers going tap, tap, tap in the background. Staff sitting in little rooms on conference calls. The kitchen staff are making minestrone soup (and for some reason they're only charging $3!). The photocopiers are already spitting out leaflets that means someone needs to plant some more trees. The I.T. department are answering calls. People are writing on whiteboards. Someone's recording a video for an up and coming production.

Then there's meetings. And a couple of more meetings. And another meeting. There's a plethora of items to discuss. Great productivity! I find a quick moment to grab a coffee. International roast. Ok, that wasn't positive.

Production plans. Strategic plans. Resource plans. The best laid plans. Lots of plans.

This is THQ.

Salvation Army Territorial Headquarters.

It's all happening. It's hard to describe, and I honestly don't know why I feel so energized.

I'm choosing to park my own previous cynicism and pessimism into the parking lot of history. See, the last couple of days I have witnessed an energy and passion about the mission of The Salvation Army that I didn't particularly expect to come from where it has. Forgive me, but some of you know what I mean. Perception is different to reality. The reality is, I see many people absolutely committed to transforming the soon to be Australia Territory into the best it can be. Some change and project management staff are working mighty long hours, with an amazing attitude, totally committed to producing the systemic change that The Salvation Army desperately needs to see.

For the sake of the Kingdom of God.

I am gobsmacked by the number of staff who may or may not have a faith in Christ, who are like pocket-rocket-change-management-gurus who love what The Salvation Army stands for, and who we are. Sometimes they love it more than Salvationists who have supposedly signed a Soldier's Covenant! They get the mission. They are for the mission. And they want to see The Salvation Army succeed.

There is no us and them. There is no pretention. There is no talk about 'who's better than who'. There's just paper flying everywhere and more PowerPoint slides than I've had chicken dinners. And I've had a lot of chicken dinners.

So, I have an opportunity for the next few weeks. I choose to support the change work that is being done in the national transformation of The Salvation Army in Australia. And, I feel like there's a fire in my spiritual belly to do what I can, with the time allotted to me, with the current capacity I have, to make a difference and play my part. (I have a 4-week secondment to learn and support the transition process - and I'm grateful for the opportunity).

I can see God truly doing a new thing through this movement. I see a picture of Jesus literally holding up The Salvation Army with his victorious right hand!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Salvation Army does not belong in a box!

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I was asked to contribute an article to the Journal of Aggressive Christianity in recent days. The editor Major Stephen Court challenged me to write and express my views. Here's the article I wrote and I think it's worth the couple of minutes to read:

God bless you.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Greatest Speeches Ever Recorded at a Salvation Army High Council

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I would love to be a fly on the wall at the gathering of the 2018 High Council of The Salvation Army. Despite the fact that a fly would probably make too much noise and only live for a fraction longer than a duration of the High Council, it would be a great opportunity!

While I'm clenched to the roof of the Hotel, I would hear leaders of the global Salvation Army wrestle with the big issues of our movement. I would hear well articulated speeches that cut to the heart of the core of what matters. I would witness the sacred privilege of reflective prayer and consideration to the very will of God in these days for The Salvation Army.

The Chief of Staff Commissioner Brian Peddle has called together 111 qualifying officers to convene as the High Council, beginning on 17th May, 2018 at the Renaissance Hotel in West London.

Salvation Army friends, it is time to believe for God to descend on the High Council like a dove, and bring wisdom, revelation and insight into the will of God for our movement. We pray that God would look upon this High Council 2018, as God did on the baptism of Jesus, and say 'I am well pleased.'

Before the High Council 2018 begins, I thought it would be good to consider speeches given by nominated and successful Generals of The Salvation Army in previous High Councils. It is in these well considered words of leaders that we glean something of the passion, and focus that drive The Salvation Army forward.

General Frederick Coutts started his 1963 High Council speech by saying, 'I would apply to the office of a General a saying of John Quincy Adams concerning the Presidency of the United States - that it an office neither to be solicited nor to be declined. I have not done the former, and happily the decision on the latter rests with the High Council.' (Larsson, 2013, p. 95).

He continued with three aims if elected:
The first would be to confirm the faith of the Army in its divine mission...In the second place, to confirm the faith of the Army in its place and function in the church universal...
We must spell this out for people - particularly our young people - so that they may understand that they have no need to seek elsewhere for the essential grace which can be found within our own walls, nor can any churchly blessing make them more truly members of the heavenly kingdom than they are by faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. And spell it out for our officers as well so that nowhere will any of them - woman or man, single or married - be received as any other than a minister of the gospel, 'as poor, yet making rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (Larsson, 2013, p. 95)
The third place would be, 'to confirm the faith of the Army in the integrity of its own government. This calls for informed leadership...especially when, as with our structure, a General is both the source of authority and the final court of appeal. This means that he must be free from the very appearance of partiality and never allow any domestic conversation to interfere with, much less take the place of, the counsel of his appointed officers...' (Larsson, 2013, p. 95).

General Jarl Wahlstrom speaks of spiritual leadership at the 1981 High Council. As John Larsson highlights in his book Inside a High Council (2013, p. 96), General Wahlstrom says:

Leadership in the Army must first and foremost be spiritual leadership...A spiritual leader must have inner balance, and it is important that his leadership is equally balanced... There must be an adequate balance between the desk and the pulpit...A Salvation Army leader must promote the balance between the Army's evangelical and social work...Further, he must strike a balance between sound conservatism and courageous new thinking...  
Hear some of the visionary words of General Bramwell Tillsley before he was elected as General at the 1993 High Council of The Salvation Army:

I long for an Army whose motto is 'holiness unto the Lord'... I long for an Army open and responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit...I long for an Army that will serve in the spirit of the Master...I long for an Army that will remain true to its principles, no matter what the cost... I long for an Army that has a deep appreciation of its young people and that encourages them to find their full potential in Christ...I long for an Army committed to prayer and the ministry of the Word... I long for an Army that is international in its outlook and recognises its responsibility to the whole world... I long for an Army whose cardinal reason for existence is to bring glory to God (Larsson, 2013, p. 97).
As we listen in to the events of the 2018 High Council, we seek that God would continue to raise up visionary, passionate, wise leaders, women and men, who can fly the flag of redemption right across this globe. While we minister in our own local contexts, we share the same Soldier's and Officer's covenants. We are united behind the same international mission statement.

[Here are some of my thoughts during the 2013 High Council, with the election of General André Cox.]

What an exciting opportunity this High Council affords The Salvation Army. Let me explore General John Larsson's own words communicated at the 2002 High Council, that resonate with me some 16 years later:

In this process of renewal I believe we are also recovering the vision of what the Army is meant to be. We are rediscovering the genius of the original vision. That is essential, for in some parts of the world we have been through a time of lack of confidence in ourselves. Everyone has thought us to be wonderful - everyone except ourselves! And there have been - and remain - pressures for us to become pale imitations of other churches and movements. I would aim to encourage the renewal of confidence in the unique contribution that the Army was raised up to make.
The Army is a force, not a flock...It is a force that is visible...A force with a mission to the whole person...A force with a genius for inclusion and releasing of potential...A force with a special mission to the disadvantaged...
I believe that God is powerfully at word in our midst to renew our passion for mission. I believe that he is at work to renew our vision of all that he wants the Army to be in the 21st century. My main focus would be to seek to encourage that process of renewal by every possible means (2013, p. 99).
I may not be able to be a fly on the wall at this historic 2018 High Council, but I sure do pray that when God sees all that transpires, God would look at The Salvation Army and say... 'I am well pleased.'

Please keep the High Council delegates in your prayers, in these days.

God bless you.

Please note: The International Salvation Army 'website will also carry regular updates during the High Council, and a live stream of the announcement of the new General as it happens. As much notice as possible will be given of this broadcast via IHQ’s social media channels @SalvArmyIHQ on Twitter and @SalvationArmyIHQ on Facebook.'  

Much of the content of this blog post can be found in John Larsson's 2013 book, Inside a High Council



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