Tuesday, November 24, 2015

One Reason Why People Don't Go To Church - Christians are Judgmental

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My post 10 Reasons Why People Don't Go To Church struck a chord with many. The first reason I gave for why people don't go to church is because, frankly, many think Christians are judgmental, negative and critical. I want to ask you, is it true?

One young lady once said, 'I don't like working in the cafe on a Sunday, because that's the day the Christians come in.' I had to double check that what she was saying was true. She wasn’t making it up. I wish she was. She was adamant. When the ‘Christians’ came into the cafĂ© in which she worked, they were demanding, picky, negative and demeaning. I was thinking I could argue and say, ‘Well, that’s just your perception of Christians.’ I could have argued that point, the problem was, however, that her perception was an accurate view of reality.

We have all seen the bad caricatures of Christians in secular media; depicted as outdated and irrelevant people, wearing weird clothing. Well, this lady’s view of Christians was true. In this particular incident, Christians were negative and rude. Now one desires to defend the Christian faith, and its poor representation, but at times, one must simply admit, that these followers of Jesus let the team down.

Sometimes Christians are very judgmental; sometimes we simply appear to be so.

Let me clarify for you, before you move on to washing your car, making dinner and putting the kids in bed. People of Christian faith are regularly making moral judgments about what is going on in their reality and in their world. 

Though one must surely distinguish between being judgmental and making judgments. 

See, to make a judgment is to merely discern the appropriate action to a particular problem and to form an opinion. Being judgmental is technically one who is simply making a judgment, but is usually used with a negative connotation; that is, ‘someone is being judgmental.’

When a Christian makes a judgment that need not mean she is being judgmental in the negative sense. For instance, I recall a time a few of us were sitting in a local fast food restaurant and we were chatting about leadership. Then we got on to the topic of allowing people to become Christian ministers, and the process in which that happens. The topic got quite heated as we discussed what really mattered in the scheme of things when it came to ordaining someone for Christian ‘Full-time’ Ministry. Then some blurted out, ‘Well, it’s not our place to be judge!’

I thought about this for a moment. Wait a minute, it is someone’s place to make a judgment. Say Johnny Smith puts his hands up to become a Clergyman, after some of his previous professions hadn’t gone too well. He’s out of work and sees an opportunity. Now, I’m not saying Johnny shouldn’t be able to become a Priest, but the fact is, someone needs to make a judgment call at some point. Should Johnny be able to become a priest? It is not judgmental in a negative way, to go through the right processes, of prayer, background checks, psychological testing, interviews and the like to make a ‘judgment’ about Johnny’s capacity or otherwise to do the job he feels called to do.

Christians make judgments. Well, we all make judgments. We make decisions on whether we will buy that new jumper, or wear the old one in the cupboard. We decide if we’ll take out that loan or not, and we decide whether we’re going to eat out and cook at home again for another night. Employers make judgments about employees. Politicians make judgments about new policies. Farmers make judgments about how they’ll prepare their crop. Dancers make judgments on their choreography.

The issue then, is not that Christians make judgments or are judgmental (in the strict sense of the word), but there’s something else at play.

Could it be that what infuriates unbelievers the most, is not so much that Christian’s have a say about a particular topic, but rather it’s the content of what they say that annoys them. So, it’s then, not so much that Christians make judgments but it’s what they find to be so important in life that drives others crazy.

Let me go down this rabbit warren for a moment. Most people, in secular democratic societies today are big on free speech. You have a right to speak your mind, and you have a right to a particular ideology. You have human rights and that affords you the luxury of choosing which way you lean politically, creating your own view on the environment and making an opinion about the latest music.

Though you have a right to speak what is important to you, that doesn’t mean people are going to like what you say. Often when someone hears something that challenges their foundational belief system, one feels offended and taken-aback. That’s when you hear, ‘Stop being judgmental.’ 

Wait a second: If your belief system is challenged, the other person may not be intending to be ‘judgmental’, but is probably just them making particular comments about the aspects of the beliefs to which they have a different view.

So there’s a difference from being negative and judgmental to offering up an opinion that runs in stark contrast to the one listening.

Here’s the challenge for communities of faith today. Our views and forthright opinions that we express in church communities can come across as judgmental to those listening. That may not be because we are purposefully being antagonistic, but rather, that what the listener is hearing, is so at odds with their own world-view, it appears judgmental and harsh.

How do we deal with this issue? Is it simply the work of the Holy Spirit to convince those that hear what we say has validity? Does that then mean it doesn’t matter how forthright we share the message of Christ and the Kingdom of God to a yet-to-be-Christian?  

If we head down the track that it is entirely the work of the Spirit to convince someone of the credibility of the Gospel story, then we excuse ourselves from any part that we play. One has to admit, we surely play a part. We are responsible for:
  • What we communicate to others 
  • How we communicate that message to others
  • How we conduct our day-to-day lives
  • How we express compassion to another
  • How we respond to negativity ourselves
  • How we introduce aspects of our faith story with an unbeliever

It is the role of the Holy Spirit to guide people into all truth[i] but it the role of the believer to creatively and compassionately live out and proclaim a message of hope to the world. Christians cannot abdicate their responsibility to be salt and light in the world, and cannot shirk from the accountability God puts on us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.[ii] 

People would surely seek to be part of churches if they were places that overflowed with respect, love and compassion and were communities that acknowledged people are on a journey of discovering the truth of God. We must show respect and love in the process.


I don't mean to judge, but Christians can be negative, pessimistic and judgmental. We need to show another way. 

The way of Christ.


[i] John 16:13
[ii] Micah 6:8

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What John Wesley said that is IMPOSSIBLE to Ignore

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In the 18th Century, John Wesley preached to thousands of people, and became a prominent religious teacher, whose actions prompted the beginnings of the Methodist movement. He is mainly known for his teachings on holiness, and the privilege of believers to live holy, sanctified lives before the Lord.

There was something John Wesley said that is impossible to ignore!
In an English society that was becoming increasingly individualistic in outlook, Wesley said that there is no holiness without social holiness. Now what did he mean by that? I have never really understood the gravity of this statement until recently.

He meant, that when someone lives a holy life, the impact is not just on the individual, but on society as a whole. A holy life affects the community at large.

Think about the Christian politician who is challenged publicly by a journalist about their faith in Christ. We have heard the response numerous times before, ‘My faith is between me and God, and is private matter.’ This sounds cute and safe, but what is actually being said is, ‘My faith is between me and God, and won’t affect anybody.’ Wait a minute, how is that even possible? If I am a Christian and I walk through the supermarket and someone falls over and hurts themselves, does my faith matter? One would suggest that if I have any depth to my relationship with God, then I would feel compassion on the person who has fallen and desire to help them. My faith has a social impact. Now, that’s not to say people who aren’t Christians don’t help people in need, far from it (and many are better than Christians), but it is clear that a relationship with God changes the way we interact with society. Social holiness is about lives committed to Christ, that impact society, by virtue of what God is doing in their lives.

So back to the politician. Say she needs to make a policy decision about asylum seekers. If she truly is a follower of Jesus, she would surely request the wisdom of God in formulating that policy. That would not be unreasonable to suggest. Now, go with me for a minute. If the policy is created and communicated to the society at large, her faith has not been private, it’s made a wider impact. You  cannot have holiness without social holiness.

You may think your faith is private and you may want it to be private, but what God does inside of you, impacts others. In fact, it should. If what God does in your life does not impact others, then go back to God in prayer and ask why!

Let me labour the point a little further. Your faith cannot just be a thing that is ‘between me and God.’ This is a cop-out and dare I say a response made in fear of the repercussions of what a public faith would mean. Irrespective of how overtly you communicate what you believe, your actions will show society the depth of your belief. You cannot divorce your faith from its impact upon society.
An interesting passage is found in Leviticus chapter 19. Have a look at verse 1-2:

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”   

This is gold. The Lord effectively says to Moses, ‘Quick, get EVERYONE together, I want to tell them something!’ God doesn’t pass on a message to a select few, but God wants everyone of the people of Israel to hear what is about to be spoken. Then the challenge comes, ‘Be holy!’ The reason you are called to be holy, is because God is holy and you are called to reflect the image of God. God is holy, therefore you should reflect holiness.

Now, that’s not simply the end of the story. As you may well know, if you’ve fallen asleep reading the somewhat repetitious laws outlined in Leviticus, you see that holiness has some expectations attached to it. Amidst laws around forgiveness, sickness, sexuality and personal renewal before God, we see this pearler just further on from the passage in Leviticus 19:1-2 that we just looked at:

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God (Lev. 19:9-10).

Let me recap. God challenges the people to be holy, as God is holy. Then, out of that holiness, when you’re gathering your produce from the farm, leave some for the poor. You see what happened there? Individual holiness affects society. When you are holy, these are the things you will do: you’ll look after the poor. 

Your faith affects others!


As John Wesley said, there is no holiness without social holiness. Your depth of relationship with God affects others. Will it affect others for good?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Getting Our Hands Dirty - Guest Blogger - Captain Scott Strissel

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“While we have been standing UPON OUR DIGNITY- WHOLE GENERATIONS HAVE GONE TO HELL- if the Bible is true, how much longer shall we stand there” - Catherine Booth


Dear Salvationists,
 
Our hearts need to be broken once more for those we serve and love.   It can be easy to become jaded by this work.  It is dirty work.  It is hard work. 

Service and love should always walk side by side.  We don’t simply hand a homeless man a cup of warm soup because it is “our responsibility and obligation”, no, instead we do it because we care for that man.  It is not just a duty to perform and then we are on our way, it MUST go deeper!  God’s prevenient grace came to us even when we did not deserve such a gift.  He came to our level and poured out upon us such a lavishing love – His One and only Son Jesus Christ.  This is why we serve.  This is why we put on our uniforms and go out into the streets of our communities. 

Secondly, we serve a Mighty God for the purpose of bringing others to Him!  The Salvation Army Mission Statement says this:  “
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

Never discount the work of the Holy Spirit in this vital salvation mission!  He can and will transform the worst of sinners.  He will change lives!  What He requires from us is to get our hands dirty.  He longs to have “dirty Salvationists.” 

What do I mean by “Dirty Salvationists” you ask?  What I mean is that we have to go to the places where the lost are located.  We were once lost until we came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Since we accepted that saving, we should be willing to go to those places where the lost and dying are still chained to their sin!  It might not look like a church, where are must go and reach those who are hurting, but the places that Jesus went didn’t look like a church either! 

Didn’t someone, long ago seek YOU out?  Did they not take the time to come to your level, to roll up their sleeves and get dirty so that we might be cleaned?  I recall countless of godly examples of Salvationists who embodied Christ to me while I was still ignorant in my old ways of living.  Their kindness and love showed me what it meant to be like Christ.
With that being said, we cannot be afraid of those “dirty” places.  Those places where the “unclean” or unsaved reside.   We cannot cower within our corps buildings and expect people to come to us.  We have to get our hands dirty by accepting this important work that the Master calls us to.   This work first begins within our hearts.  Are we prepared to say to Christ, “Use all there is of me for Thy purpose”?   This statement can be deeply impactful on our lives.  It places God’s priority over ours.  It clears the various barriers of “self” away so that we might be Holy and then do Holiness in our lives. 

Catherine Booth once said these very profound and I believe prophetic words,
It is a bad sign for the Christianity of this day that it provokes so little opposition. If there were no other evidence of it being wrong, I could tell from just that. When the Church and the world can jog comfortably along together, you can be sure there is something wrong”.

Today, it is very easy for the Church to simply ignore sin and its effects on people.  I don’t wish to meddle or prod here, but the easy road is often taken because we don’t want to point out immorality in our world for fear of criticism and loss of popularity.  The sad thing is that many within the Church are more afraid of what the world will say rather than what God will ultimately say. 

Salvationists, if we aren’t willing to get our hands dirty…if we aren’t willing to stand up for those without a voice in our communities…if we aren’t willing to be sent out by God anymore because we are fearful of critics and hatred, then we have truly lost what it means to be a Salvationist. 

So let us roll up our sleeves.  Let us become dirty Salvationists who are willing to get on our knees in prayer for the drunk who loiters on “Army property”.  Let us throw off the fears of public condemnation and worries of how it may be perceived – and live out our calling within this Mission as Salvationists and as Christ-followers!   Jesus went to people where they were…shouldn’t we as well?

______________________

Find more from Captain Scott Strissel at Pastor's Ponderings




Monday, September 28, 2015

Spiritual Breakthrough in Difficult Times: The Dam Walls are about to Break!

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Spiritual Breakthrough in Difficult Times

"Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse, wouldn't quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out. Gentlemen, as of this moment, I am that second mouse." - Frank Abagnale Sr.

We're about to churn some cream into butter.

Sometimes we feel like we've fallen into a bucket of cream and we can't get out. We're stuck. 
At times we feel like we’re in a season of drought. We sense we're in a season of incredible challenge and growth. It's painful. It hurts. But the season is there for a reason.

I want to share a message with you, called, ‘The Dam Walls are about to Break!’

God at times can be the one who leads us into the desert. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. He spent 40 days in the wilderness, then, he came out of the wilderness full of the power of the Holy Spirit.

This desert experience can do a few things:

It realigns our focus on what matters.
We need God more.
We cry out to God more.
We establish a foundation on God rather than self.
We develop an understanding that without God we are nothing.
We are caused to rethink what we value.
We begin to value prayer over programs.
We start valuing each other more than ourselves.
We appreciate gathering together to support one another.
We realise that we can’t do it through our own strength.
We say things like, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!'

If you’re looking to get out of a time of drought, I’ve got some good news for you.

One of the sure fire ways to get out of a time of drought is through prayer and repentance. Now, don't tune out just because I've given you a couple of answers and you can tick it off the list. This is crucial.

There is power in repentance.

In the Old Testament we see a common picture of the importance of repentance. In the lives of the Israelite people we witness a circular kind of journey. The Israelite people were known for being blessed by God, but then would begin to sin before the Lord. Then the Lord would rebuke them, the Israelites would repent and then obey, and then they would be blessed and so it goes on. A circular kind of journey was at play:

Obedience -> Blessing -> SIN -> Repentance -> Obedience -> Blessing


Let's have a look at an Old Testament Scripture.
Leviticus 8:36 says, ‘So Aaron and his sons did everything the Lord had commanded through Moses.’ 

Leviticus 9:1-7 – ‘…Moses called together Aaron and his sons and the leaders of Israel. He said to Aaron, ‘Take a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a whole burnt offering, both with no physical defects, and present them to the Lord. Then tell the Israelites to take a male goat for a sin offering for themselves and a year-old calf and a year-old lamb for a whole burnt offering, each with no physical defects. Also tell them to take a bull and a ram for a peace offering and flour mixed with olive oil for a grain offering. Tell them to present all these offering to the Lord because the Lord will appear to them today….

 ….Then Moses told them, ‘When you have followed these instructions from the Lord, the glorious presence of the Lord will appear to you.’

[They then approached the altar and presented the sin offerings]

Leviticus 9:22-24 – ‘….Then, after presenting the sin offering, the whole burnt offering and the peace offering, [Aaron] stepped down from the altar. Next Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle, and when they came back out, they blessed the people again, and the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to the whole community. FIRE blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When the people saw all this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground.’

The Israelites presented sin offerings to God, and then the Lord’s presence came upon them.
They spent time in repentance and THEN the presence of the Lord came.

See here's the thing: Quite often Christians today want the presence of God to bless them, then they'll start being obedient. "Well God, if you start working in my life, I'll start doing what's right." You see, it doesn't work like that. We are called, to present ourselves before God in repentance, then the presence of the Lord will work in a greater measure.

If we flip over now to the New Testament we see that Jesus Christ spilt, ‘his own blood, and with it he secured our salvation forever. Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ritual defilement. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our hearts from deeds that lead to death so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins…. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.’ – Hebrews 9:11-15

So it is through Jesus that we lay down our sin offerings. Our prayers of repentance are offered through Christ. 

Don't underestimate the power of prayers of repentance. Remember the words of Jesus, ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’

In the drought, we pray prayers of repentance. We humble ourselves. We get ourselves right with God. We say prayers like, ‘God forgive us.’ ‘God, sorry for the times I got it wrong.’ Dare I say, we should always position ourselves to pray like that, but in times of a spiritual drought, such prayers are even more crucial.

Prayers of repentance are what mature Christians say. We read in Luke 24:45-49 [After Jesus had risen from the grave], 'Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”'

In a spiritual drought: PRAY. Spiritually dry moments are where we find ourselves in a place where we need to seek God like never before. No holding back. Prayer is not just a good idea in spiritually trying times, but when you’re in the drought and desperate to get out of it, you see prayer as essential!


Prayer [David inquired of the Lord]:

Check out this Scripture. This is gold:

‘When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek out David; and when David heard of it, he went down to the stronghold. Now the Philistines came and spread themselves out in the Valley of Raphaim. Then David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” So David came to Baal-perazim and defeated them there; and he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like the breakthrough of waters.” Therefore he named that place Baal-perazim. (2 Samuel 5:17-20).

The breakthrough that David is speaking of, is like when a Dam breaks, and the water rushes out. You know, the walls of the dam have been holding the pressure of the water for a long time and when the dam gives way there is breakthrough. Prayer causes the dam walls to break!

How about this: ‘God responds to His people to accomplish His purposes if they will come to Him and seek His strategy for the breakthrough they need.’

David prayed. And God answered. David inquired of the Lord. Now, the word he used in this passage was Baal-perazim, and this means, ‘Master of the breakthrough.’

You need to understand, God is the master of the breakthrough!

You may be in a spiritual drought, but the dam walls can break at any time.

Watch out devil, because what you intended for harm, God is going to use for good.
Prayer and repentance precedes a revolution.

It's time for you to churn some cream into butter.

Don't give up. Don't backslide. Don't run. 

Get ready!

God is the master of the breakthrough. 

Through prayer and repentance, the Lord will take a drought and make it a harvest.

He’ll take lack and made it abundance.
He’ll take anxiety and replace it with boldness
He’ll take uncertainty and replace it with belief
He’ll take hopelessness and the replace it with Hopefulness
He’ll take sin and replace it with holiness
He’ll take tears and replace it joy
He’ll take sickness and replace it with a healed body.

This is the truth. Jesus is the King of Kings. Jesus is the first and the last. Jesus is the ALPHA and the OMEGA. He is the name above all names. He is the Lord of the harvest. He is our peace. He is our deliverance. He is our salvation. He is our Hope. He is our joy.
In him is forgiveness. In him is purpose. In him is joy. In him is righteousness. In him is LOVE. In him is the well spring of living water.

In JESUS’ NAME!!

THE DAM IS ABOUT TO BREAK!

Through prayer and repentance, walk out of the wilderness and the drought with your head held high.

And may you say, God we did it! We made it! We conquered this season!

When you get knocked down, you get up again.

Say to your situation:


I declare a harvest. I declare a new season. I declare a new thing. I declare, God, all the best you have for me. I declare those dam walls to break!  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Greatest Dilemma in The Salvation Army

3 comments:


The Salvation Army has great challenges ahead. In a recent post I mentioned that we were on the cusp; of a new era of Spirit-filled, dynamic Salvationism that will change the world like never before. I believe that. Though with every significant shift in organisational life there is always a difficult transition period.


I want to suggest what I believe is one, if not the greatest dilemma in The Salvation Army today. 

Now, I've written about challenges facing The Salvation Army before. Some of these include:



  • Financing the work of The Salvation Army from a global perspective. Much of the first-world funds the third-world. How do we ensure longevity of Salvation Army ministry in places where finances are hard to come by?
  • The ability of The Salvation Army to adapt its methods in an ever-changing society to fulfil its God-given mission, while retaining the unique personality of The Salvation Army and the fundamentals of its belief system.
  • Pressure to conform The Salvation Army's theology to more inclusive, relaxed theologies, that potentially 'water-down' or compromise its core beliefs.

In an article entitled 9 Reasons Why I'm a Salvationist, I highlight one fascinating aspect of Salvation Army life. Let me recap for you, if you haven't read it (or if you fell asleep before you got to number 3).


This is what I said:


Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 3 – We integrate the work of evangelism and social justice. We don’t separate the two and place them in two different buildings with two different line managers and never the twain shall meet. No. As William Booth said, they are like Siamese twins. As I wrote in a recent blog post, ‘When the gospel is only about the salvation of souls we deprive Salvationism of the fullness of the work of Christ. When the service of God through The Salvation Army is only about cups of cold water to those in need we can let people go spiritually thirsty. Captain Andy Miller III in his new book Holistic Hospitality says, 'The way in which people understood [the] balance between what is social and what is spiritual was an issue in the beginning of the Army and is still an issue today.' He mentions that in some points of The Salvation Army's history we had 'dynamic holistic missiology'.’ 


Now, here's the premise of this short article: We haven't always got the balance right between evangelism and social work.


This is one of the greatest dilemmas facing The Salvation Army. What does it mean to have social work and evangelism integrated? What does it mean to be balanced in this way? 


When our social work separates itself from evangelical foundations, we end up with work that devoids itself of eternal matters. When our evangelical fervour fails to care for the whole person we can treat people like numbers and statistics.   


But we have convinced ourselves that it's alright to do social work without evangelism. We have found nice arguments to suggest that this is ok. Maybe it is. Though maybe we end up stifling effective Salvation Army ministry because we don't offer the whole gospel. 


Let me be provocative for a moment. I don't think at this point in our history, (generally speaking) that we are struggling with an over emphasis on evangelism at the expense of social work. I think part of the imbalance has been a lack of soul-winning, and the fact that even that language grates against some is testament to the fact that what I'm saying holds true. We have lost one of the arts of Salvationism, and that's leading people to Christ and more so, making disciples of those people. We have continued great social work, and we have done it well, and do it well, but in the process evangelism has taken such a back seat, that we're frightened to bring it back out to the front seat alongside our great social ministries. 


We must be partnering with God in the work of the whole mission of God. To allow fundamental aspects of who we are as a Salvation Army to fall by the wayside causes us to be less of who God calls us to be.


It is a dilemma in The Salvation Army. 


God help us.



Friday, August 14, 2015

This Blog will Shake the Foundations: We are a Salvation Army on the Cusp...

5 comments:

A cusp can be defined as, 'a point that marks the beginning of a change.'

The Salvation Army is on the cusp. Maybe you sense it, maybe you don't. I might suggest that the reason you are even reading this right now, is that you agree to some degree that what I'm saying resonates.

Let me suggest to you right now, that The Salvation Army is on the cusp, not just of a new season, but the cusp of a new era. We are on the cusp of a revived Army, a focused Army, a praying Army, a soul-saving Army, a courageous Army, a risk-taking Army and a Spirit-filled Army. There is a sense that we are reclaiming the DNA of a movement that has at times been sleeping while the world passes on by.

I'm not meaning to be controversial. One may fully appreciate the plethora of good work that The Salvation Army does globally and give thanks to God. We may also give thanks to the hundreds of millions of people in our societies that entrust us with the opportunity to help them out. Though I am saying, that at times we have retreated and become a safe movement, that has relied on the goodwill of the past to empower it for the future.

No longer can one rely on financial security or popularity for the days ahead. One must rely on Christ. In fact, John 15 says that without Christ we can do nothing. *Ouch. Thanks John for that whack between the eyes. Without Christ, and without being joined to the Father through him, The Salvation Army cannot be all that God intends it to be.

When it comes to the picture depicted in John 15, of a vine and branches, I am really of the belief that God has been pruning us the last few years. And guess what? It's painful and it hurts. Programs have at times, ceased. Funding has, at times, been cut and so on and so on. But, through this, God helps to recalibrate our direction, and refocus us on what really matters.

We need God to help The Salvation Army to go from Good to Great. Thanks to author Jim Collins for that tag line...

Here's my thought. The Salvation Army is on the cusp of going from good to great. We have done good things for a long time. We have sung good songs. We have performed good concerts. We have executed good social policy. We have been good.

Without wanting to sound too melodramatic, but it's time to be great. Now, not necessarily in great songs, and great concerts, but great in the things that absolutely matter.

We are a Salvation Army. The world needs the fullness of salvation found in Christ. Anything less is an insult to who Christ is.

So what do we do? We seek after the holiness that only comes through Christ. We seek an infilling of the power of the Holy Spirit. We ask God to help us in every facet of Salvation Army life to realign what we do, to align with the best of what God would have us do.

It's time to not be afraid to be who we are! It's time to stand! God is about to send the rain!

We are on the cusp!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Why Booing Adam Goodes has become about Racism.

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The pot has been stirred and Australia can't stop talking about it. No, I'm not referring to Bronwyn Bishop's travel expenses, though that too gets us talking. And I'm not speaking about changing the Marriage Act or whether Bill Shorten would make a good Prime Minister. I'm talking about racism. Well, more directly, I'm talking about the booing saga that has Adam Goodes choosing to sit out for a week of professional football and which has divided the Australian public.

Go with me for a minute. Remember the apology to the 'Stolen Generation'? Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stood before the parliament, during his tenure as Prime Minister and offered a heartfelt apology to Indigenous Australia. He said:
We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on....our fellow [indigenous] Australians. We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry...
The moment was February 13th, 2008. Such words were spoken because underlying the relationships between Anglo-Australians and Indigenous Australians was a bubbling discontent. Someone had to step forward and offer some leadership to help bring about reconciliation. Rudd ripped off the band-aid and tried to offer some disinfectant.

Though it is clear that some seven years later, the tension and hurt still runs deep with the inherent differences around our race. In a piece called Racism in Australia today, I wrote: 
You could liken racism in Australia to soup in a pot boiling away on the stove and occasionally someone turns up the heat and the pot overflows. Right from the settlement of white immigrants in the late 18th Century there has been racial tension, and discrimination has been bubbling away, coming to the surface on occasions.
Adam Goodes has turned up the heat.

Now, who would have thought, that something as seemingly simple as booing a footballer during an AFL match could spark up issues of race today. Some of you are yelling at the computer now, saying, 'It's not about racism!' Well, that may be true for you, but if it is interpreted as racism, does that not make it so? I mean, if you abuse someone, and a person feels abused, surely you don't get the luxury of pointing out that you 'felt like abuse did not occur' and then automatically that becomes true. That's as petty and pathetic as when I was in high school and someone punched me in the arm, and I said that it hurt. The reply came, 'That didn't hurt!' But wait a minute! That's my arm, and I can tell you it hurts! Don't tell me it doesn't hurt, because you're the one inflicting it upon me!

Maybe, it was not about racism when it all started. Sure. I can go with that. Though, when people on social media start labelling Adam Goodes everything under the sun, we quickly realise, Australia has racism issues. And the reason the Adam Goodes thing became linked to racism, was because when someone applies the heat to Australian culture, the cracks appear, and one of those cracks is our racist attitudes towards Indigenous Australians.

The sooner we admit we have an underlying racist problem in Australia, the better. Then and only then can we truly start to do something about it.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

9 Reasons Why I'm a Salvationist

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9 Reasons Why I'm A Salvationist 
by Captain Peter Brookshaw

I love The Salvation Army. Now don’t hear me as being someone who lacks the ability to critique a movement to which I have committed to serve my life in. Far from it. But, that being said, I love The Salvation Army. Maybe we don’t say that enough. We are so ready, as we would say in Australia, ‘to take the Micky out of it’. That is we are quick to find the negative and let that be the content of our conversation. Repentance and humility is needed. Absolutely. But let me take a different approach right now.

The list I offer to you is not ’9 reasons why I chose Salvationism over something else…’ I’m not attempting to compare the mission and ministry of The Salvation Army with that of the church down the road. I want to point out ideas, concepts and reasons why I feel absolutely connected with the work of this movement.

I want to offer to you, in no particular order, 9 reasons why I’m a Salvationist. I surely should have some reasons; I mean, I had put aside other ambitions in life and sacrificed other things to become a Soldier in The Salvation Army. You may have your own list.
Here is mine. 9 Reasons why I’m a Salvationist.

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 1 –
 I want to fight to make a difference in the world. Salvationism best expresses my own inherent desires to stand tall and advocate against injustice, to work to rid the world of sinfulness, through Jesus Christ. There is an alignment between what I desire to do in my life with the mission to which God has called The Salvation Army to participate in, and that which the Lord would have us do. I’m still ok with the para-military nature of this ‘Army’. I can hold the tension between a pacifist, compassion-filled, Jesus-focused kind of ministry, with the need to fight. To water down the ‘fighting’ aspect of The Salvation Army, I believe dilutes the passionate, aggressive drive within us to combat injustice and right the wrongs of a broken society. We can reconcile a call to compassionate ministry, with a resolute commitment to speaking out against discrimination and fighting for the rights of the last, lost and the least. In fact, to not fight for such things is not compassion at all. 

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 2 – 
I have joined a movement that has agreement on foundational doctrinal statements. I don’t aim to be theologically controversial in this article. We have tried and tested doctrinal statements that provide a great foundation for the faith to which we profess. One may critique the wording and the nuances of such statements, and I welcome that, but that doesn’t alter the fact, for me personally, that such beliefs undergird my commitment to this movement. See, we believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe people can be sanctified. We believe people need justification from sin that only Jesus provides and they need the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. We believe in the eternal happiness of the righteous and the endless punishment of the wicked. The ground hasn’t shifted such that we no longer uphold the nature of God, original sin, justification, holiness, and the like. I love the consistency of theological belief across this global movement.   

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 3 – 
We integrate the work of evangelism and social justice. We don’t separate the two and place them in two different buildings with two different line managers and never the twain shall meet. No. As William Booth said, they are like Siamese twins. As I wrote in a recent blog post, ‘When the gospel is only about the salvation of souls we deprive Salvationism of the fullness of the work of Christ. When the service of God through The Salvation Army is only about cups of cold water to those in need we can let people go spiritually thirsty. Captain Andy Miller III in his new book Holistic Hospitality says, 'The way in which people understood [the] balance between what is social and what is spiritual was an issue in the beginning of the Army and is still an issue today.' He mentions that in some points of The Salvation Army's history we had 'dynamic holistic missiology'.’ See the post: Controversial Ideas The Salvation Army needs to wrestle with. I love when I witness the amazing power that happens when someone follows Christ and at the same time is finding shelter, forgiveness, food and reconciliation.

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 4 –
 I have joined a global movement. I believe we are yet to grasp the significance of having global interconnectedness. When a powerful move of the Holy Spirit impacts enough territories within the Army, it will spread like an Australian Bushfire through the entire movement. In today’s technological culture, let’s not sleep through an era in which there is so much potential. Can I be honest for moment? I am disappointed there are not more Salvationists using the platforms of social media to make a difference in the world. I wrote a blog the other day and it had 1,700 readers in two days. That’s more than my Grandma and Great Aunt. Your God-ideas can go global in minutes. Why are not more Salvationists embracing it? Why are there not more Commissioners with Facebook pages, using their God-given position and the ‘brand’ that that represents and use it to grow the Kingdom of God? Why are there not more social justice advocates with far-reaching twitter accounts? We have global connectedness in The Salvation Army. It is largely underutilized and over bureaucratized. Speak out about Jesus! Advocate for the oppressed! Use all the avenues given to you to make a difference!

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 5 – 
What grabbed hold of me when I first became a part of a Salvation Army community of faith (when I was 18), was the welcome I felt within that community. This wasn’t some manipulative welcoming that was intended to simply grab another recruit or fill an empty chair on a Sunday morning. There was something alive within the Corps that made me feel alive. People would join together every Sunday night after the meeting and go out for pizza and pasta. We would laugh until our bellies hurt and eat until our bellies hurt. I couldn’t go past the welcome that these particular Jesus-people offered. See, I didn’t receive that welcome at the local sporting club, and I sure didn’t have that kind of community in my schooling years.
Some of your hear this and say, ‘Well, I haven’t been part of that kind of welcoming community. In fact, where I was, there was only judgmentalism.’ I’m sorry if that was your experience. But, what I am saying, is that one of the core reasons why I personally am a Salvationist today is because of that amazingly warm welcoming spirit that engulfed me at that local corps. May we replicate such inclusive community in our local expressions of Salvation Army ministry.

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 6 –
 The history of The Salvation Army fires me up and still does. The explosive growth of The Salvation Army, in particular the years 1878 – 1890 absolutely grips my heart. How could God raise up a movement that radically expanded into scores of countries within years? What was it that drove a 16 year-old girl named Eliza Shirley to move from the UK to Philadelphia, U.S.A. to open fire in a new country? Why would Edward Saunders and John Gore be so passionate about this Christian mission, that in the late 1800s they stood on the back of a greengrocer’s cart in a park in South Australia and preached the gospel and offered people a meal? Why would Salvationists be praying ALL-NIGHT and even run out of room in the prayer meetings, because the facilities were not big enough to accommodate all those attending the prayer meeting? Why would Salvationists like William McKenzie be in the trenches in World War I, praying with Army soldiers, leading funerals, running out into battle with the troops and being a chaplain in such a volatile, horrific situation like WWI? What drove William Booth to travel the world to raise up such a movement?

The passion, tenacity, focus and faith-filled dynamism of such Salvationists still inspires me today. They lived for something that drove them to their knees in prayer, that called them to leave the comforts of their own lifestyles, and to partner with God with vision that sparked a world-wide movement. God, may we replicate the passion and drive of such Salvationists today.

 I think of Eugene Peterson’s version of Romans 12:1-2, ‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.’

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 7 – 
One of the reasons why I’m a Salvationist is because of what I believe God wants to do through The Salvation Army in the days ahead. This is a faith thing and isn’t related so much to what has gone before and what is even happening now (as good as that has been and is). There is a little belief that pounds on my heart that won’t go away. I liken it one of my children, sitting in the car, saying, ‘Dad. Dad. Dad… Dad… Dad! Dad. Dad. Daddy. Dad. Dad.’ The little voice is constant. I believe it’s the whisper of the Holy Spirit and the regular reminder in my mind of what the Spirit has said. The best days are still ahead for The Salvation Army. I’ve said that 37 times and I’ll say it again. It’s not that God is not doing great things now. Sure. God is. I love it. I celebrate that. I’ve heard some of the stories. I agree. That’s awesome. Though, imagine the days when the Holy Spirit is spreading through this movement in new and radical ways. Muslims are becoming followers of Jesus by the thousands. Officer numbers are increasing one hundred fold. Corps planting is hard to keep up with. Conferences are jam packed. Homeless shelters are being established like no tomorrow. We are raising up new hospitals, rehabs and communities of faith in low-socio economic areas that makes the past pale in significance.

Call me delusional. Call me crazy. I believe that when the Spirit moves afresh upon us (as we allow Holy Spirit to do that) and when we move from an institution to a movement ethos we will witness global transformation. Sometimes you have to build an Ark in a desert because you know sooner or later God is about the send the rain.  

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 8 –
 We have a radical, sold-out commitment to the last, the lost and the least. Jesus clearly expressed a leaning towards helping the poor, the outcast, the rejected and the seemingly unlovable. His first public speech, as recorded in Luke’s gospel, is one where he quotes Isaiah 61, and he affirms his commitment to preaching good news to the poor, to healing the brokenhearted and to setting the captive free. He then stirs up the crowd and suggests to them that the people of God are sent to be a blessing to more than just the Israelite people, but to even the Gentiles!
I admire employees, Salvationists and volunteers who have laid down their life to serve the most vulnerable of our communities. The stories I hear are of chaplains sitting for copious amounts of time listening and mentoring broken people. They include stories of volunteers giving lifts to people who are stranded and employees going to great lengths to encourage an alcoholic to reform the way they think and behave. The commitment I see in these workers within our movement is inspirational. I’m a Salvationist because I align the call of Jesus to minister to broken people, and see The Salvation Army as an amazing vehicle to fulfil that mission.

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 9 – We do stuff. Yes, that’s right. We don’t just sit around in our ecclesiastic structures intellectually debating controversial theological issues. We do something about that which we believe. The pragmatism of The Salvation Army motivates me. Some have critiqued The Salvation Army for not being intellectual enough; for not wrestling enough with theological ideas and concepts. There’s probably truth to that. Those with the gift of teaching should fan their gifts into flame and continue to wrestle with what discipleship looks like in a rapidly changing 21st Century. Though the pragmatic, ‘do something’ kind of culture of The Salvation Army is exciting. Someone is in need and we want to help them. Someone is homeless, we want to house them. Someone is addicted, we want to set them free. We are pragmatic to the core and that’s one reason why I’m a Salvationist.
There is always more to be said. Some of these ideas may inspire you. I hope they do. As we align our hearts with that of God’s, I pray that God truly would grant the desires of our hearts!

This article was also published in Journal of Aggressive Christianity

Pete Blogs Regularly at: www.petebrookshaw.com
Twitter: @petebrookshaw

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Memorable BOUNDLESS Moments - Salvation Army International Congress 2015

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It's time to share some memorable moments from Boundless 2015! Irrespective of whether you were there, you watched online, or you found my blog advertised on a Burger King website, you'll be inspired by these. I can't possibly encapsulate all that God is doing in these moments, but let me give it a crack!

Memorable BOUNDLESS Moments:
  1. The story of a Nazi soldier becoming a follower of Jesus and Salvationist.
  2. A Pakistani woman preaching the Gospel to a large Salvation Army crowd. Think on the significance of that for a moment.
  3. The privilege of praying with a Salvation Army officer couple. God released their burdens and hurts after a surreal moment of prayer.
  4. Young people kneeling at the mercy seat. You could sense God was moving powerfully.
  5. Silvie Paladino singing it out for Jesus. Tears in her eyes. Tears in our eyes.
  6. The General publicly declaring, "If your corps does not have a program to nurture and train youth into leadership - then shame on you!"
  7. An open air meeting outside the arena, with two ukuleles, and two guitars, singing, 'This little light of mine.' I shouted out a preach. I lost my voice. 
  8. African worship just springing up in random places. Can you dance like the Africans? Some of us have tried. Be it Zimbabwe, South Africa, or Nigeria, they have danced and praised God. I can't help but think the tremendous growth of The Salvation Army in African Countries is directly proportionate to the desire to passionately worship God and acknowledge God in all things.
  9. Boys from the Korean Boys Home playing the drums with gusto.
  10. We have spoken many times about bringing justice to the oppressed; hope for the hopeless and care and support for the needy. Help us God in days ahead.
  11. The International Social Justice Commission shared that tens of millions of children in our world do not get a proper education. #upforschool - Stand up for education here.
  12. One young lady shared to a packed stadium, that God healed her from cancer. A powerful testimony. A tough, and long journey, but she is alive to share the story.
  13. Everytime I walk past an African, I salute and say, 'Hallelujah!' In a deep African accent, the reply is immediate. The salute happens and they declare, 'Hallelujah!'
  14. The drama teams scattered throughout the United States are impressive.
  15. 'How Great is our God' in a Spirit-filled auditorium. That's awesome.
  16. Lunch at the Blind Beggar Pub, with a group of world-changers - Phil Wall, Danielle Strickland, Ian Mayhew and Stephen Court launching a way of life - INFINITUM
  17. About a dozen different times people stopped me and mentioned they were inspired by my blogging and social media work. To every social media guru, blogger and writer, understand that you are most likely having an influence well beyond the borders of your own community!
  18. "If you want to better the future, you have to disturb the present!" - Catherine Booth.
  19.  The unveiling of the Catherine Booth Statue, located in Mile End, London.
  20. Random coffee chats with other like-minded people.
  21. Praying for a elderly man in Nandos, who began a conversation because he liked my wife Jo's high-neck uniform!
  22. Praying for healing for a mate of mine outside the O2 arena.
  23. Brass bands and Timbrelists giving God praise.
  24. Unexpected conversations with people of all cultures.
  25. Five Generals in one room at once. I thought that was intriguing. General Larsson, General Clifton, General Cox, General Bond and my mate who's a General nuisance. (Shaun Featherson!)
  26. #Boundless2015 hitting 10 million hashtags of #Boundless2015! Wow! 
  27. New facebook friends, some with pages in other languages.
  28. The challenge to 'Stand up for Christ!' and to 'Call people to Salvation!'
  29. Andrew Bale shared the story - Young adult Salvationists who were sitting in late at Starbucks, and mopped and cleaned the floors for the staff at closing time, while the staff relaxed! 
  30. Numerous people from the general public asking what in the world is going on in The Salvation Army! 
  31. My wife playing the Ukulele on the porch the other night, and we end up having a prayer meeting with three people walking by (not Salvos).
  32. Australia Southern Territory people: Walking through London, looking to and fro and calling out, "Floyd, Floyd, Floyd, Floyd, Floyd!" (our TC).  
  33. The General acknowledging publicly (in a smaller gathering), that the Army needs to be in the political space, speaking up for issues of justice, informed by the Word of God and led by the Spirit. Human rights!
  34. I was personally inspired by having informal chats with people 'in leadership' (for lack of a better description), for who they are in Christ, their integrity and what they have spoken into my life this week. Thanks for the encouragement.
  35. In the women's ministry session, bracelets were given out that were made in third world countries (mudlove.com) and women prayed for each other, from different nationalities.Every product purchased from the website, provides one week of clean water for someone in need.
  36. Walking up to an African man, with a straight face and then pointing to his shirt, highlighting the food on his shirt (that of course wasn't there). Then he looked. 'Got ya!' Then he cracked up laughing. The same joke works in every culture!! #dadjokesrule
  37. The best days are still ahead for The Salvation Army. I think the General said that. Some people believe that. I do. 
Feel free to share your memorable BOUNDLESS moments!

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