Friday, November 16, 2018

When The Salvation Army Dies...

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A decade ago I signed the Officer's Covenant. What a privilege I felt in my heart, to be able to lay down my life to serve others and lead people to Jesus Christ.

That passion is still there. In fact, it is there more than ever.

See, I have such a holy discontent that we are not doing more to support people in need and see lives transformed for Jesus. I long to increase our impact upon society. I long for more people to join the cause. I long for more people to commit themselves to the ideals of the soldier's and officer's covenants.

But then this nagging feeling comes upon me.

I began to reflect one day on what would happen if The Salvation Army died. Let me qualify what I mean by that: I began to wonder what would happen if The Salvation Army lost its focus so much so that it became significantly different to the original movement that I signed up to be a part.

Maybe you have asked that question once or twice. It's not because you or I lack faith or fail to have a view that God raised up The Salvation Army, but because we don't want to see it be less than what God raised it up to be.

Recently I was walking around a large lake at a local park, praying and thinking about that very question.

'What if The Salvation Army died?'

Then I felt some words in my spirit that said:

The Salvation Army does need to die. 
It needs to die to its own image.
It needs to die to its own strategic plans.
It needs to die to its own narcissism. 
The Salvation Army needs to spend less time celebrating the mission it has achieved, and more time celebrating the source of the mission.
The Salvation Army needs to spend less time focused on how good it thinks it is, how good it thinks its forebears were, but rather point to how good it believes God is.

We need to reignite the coals of Jesus-focused, gutsy, Spirit-filled fervour, that is embedded within the very DNA of this movement. We need to re-embrace the Apostles, Evangelists and Prophets across the globe, to join again with the Shepherds and Teachers to work together to establish God's kingdom here and now.

Captain Matt Reeve quoted this recently, 'Movements start because their founder loves Jesus. They die when the movement loves its founder.' There's a tension there. One that I feel and acknowledge. We are thankful to William, Catherine, Bramwell and the team. We love their focus, passion and tenacity to raise up such a movement. We are thankful to Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit that we should be a part of such exciting times.

Though The Salvation Army didn't succeed because General William Booth always spoke about how good John Wesley was.

The Salvation Army didn't succeed because Catherine Booth chose to put Phoebe Palmer up on a pedestal.

Part of why The Salvation Army succeeded was both because Salvationists learned and were inspired by the past, but were driven ultimately by a passion for Jesus Christ.

In John's Gospel, chapter 15, we read that Jesus is the true vine, and that the Father cuts off every branch in us that bears no fruit. Jesus says we cannot bear fruit unless we remain in him, because apart from him, we can do nothing.

I look forward then to the day that The Salvation Army dies.

A day we lay our timbrels at the mercy seat.

A day we lay down our own ambition for that which is even better.

A day we commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the cause of Jesus Christ in the world.

This is the day I long for.

This is the day that we will be at our best.

And Praise God that in some places, that day has already arrived.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Podcast about Jesus Christ!

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The following podcast is a great discussion I had recently with Captain Matt Reeve from The Salvation Army, about the person of Jesus Christ.

It's challenging. Mildly provocative. And it's worth a good listen.

Click here to listen:

A Podcast about Jesus Christ

Thanks for listening.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Pre-Order your copy of JESUS CHRIST!

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JESUS CHRIST!
Nine Lies, half-truths and outrageous misconceptions about the most revolutionary person who has ever lived...
It's Peter Brookshaw and Stephen Court's second book in this series and looks at the person of Jesus Christ. Who was he? Who does the world say he is?
Jesus Christ was not just a nice man. He wasn't just a good moral philosopher who taught us to love each other. Jesus walked the earth saying he was the Bread of Life and the Resurrection and the Life. He said he would die and rebuild the temple in three days. Either this was true, or as C. S. Lewis says he was a lunatic or at best a liar. This book, 'Jesus Christ!' will challenge you to consider this revolutionary man that transformed the world. When you read this, what will your response to him be?
This book isn't just another book for a shelf, but a great pocket sized book to read and share, packed full of amazing information that will leave you challenged and inspired.
Grab it now: 
Contact Pete Brookshaw directly for discount bulk copies of 10+ books.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Race that Stops a Nation

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* This article is featured in The Salvation Army Others Magazine - Nov2018

The Spring Racing Carnival is in full swing. The horses are being immaculately groomed, and the fashions on the fields are luring in the eyes of the crowd. The bookies are taking their bets and the lines to the bar are out the door. With the Melbourne Cup just around the corner there’s no shortage of people crunching the numbers hoping for a shot at a big return.

Some will win. Many will lose.

Amid all the glitz and glamour of the races, there’s an underbelly of gambling addiction that most don’t want to talk about, nor read about.

I think we’d rather admire the ginormous hats and the pristine fields of green.

So when I recently heard about a local council hosting an event to talk about gambling, I initially shirked at the idea, but then thought, ‘Why not?’ The purpose of the meeting was to garner people’s views on the council’s Responsible Gaming Policy. The questions they posed were intriguing:

-         How much should be allowed to be spent on the pokies every hour?
-         How do we help people who have a gambling addiction?
-         How do you know if someone has a gambling addiction?
-         What percentage of the gaming community are ‘problem gamblers’?
-         To what degree should a local council intervene into people’s personal gambling choices?

The reason for the meeting was clear. It wasn’t articulated on a billboard or placed front and centre on the flyer, but if you weren’t worried about offending anyone, you would advertise:

“I think our community has a gambling problem. Let’s discuss it”

It was only December last year that the Sydney Morning Herald were writing this headline:

Australian gamblers lose a record $24b in a year

Nick Toscano writes, ‘Pokies accounted for the largest share of losses ($12 billion), followed by casinos ($5.2 billion), racing ($2.9 billion) and Lotto ($1.9 billion).’
That’s a lot of ka-ching, ka-ching over the course of a year. I take a bet each way that there were more losers than there were winners.  
It’s intriguing, that even though the odds are stacked up against us, Australians still love to gamble.

Who am I surrounding myself with?

A research report looking into social influences on gamblers notes, ‘Those who have experienced more harm are also surrounded by more gamblers who have experienced harm, and are more likely to gamble with them despite experiencing harm.’

Sounds like the company you keep reinforces the way you act.

The report continues, ‘Thus, not only is gambling-related behaviour normalised through these social networks, so too is gambling-related harm’(page 15).

Now I know why they offer those $12 Parma nights. Let’s create a community that reinforces the way I behave. Then I can feel like my choices are legitimized because a whole bunch of others are doing the same thing. Mix in a little Spring Racing Carnival beer and you have yourself a potential problem.

Normalising the Support
I have family history in the gambling industry. No, I’m not a multi-million dollar fat cat who owns three winning horses and a holiday house in Dubai. I mean, I have family who used to be addicted to gambling. I’ve seen the effects it has on family life. I’ve witnessed a little of what problem gambling does to relationships.
The problem is, we haven’t normalised the seeking of support in our culture. We’ve done it for smoking. We’ve done it for drinking. We’ve done it for Prostate Cancer. We’re doing it for drug dependency.
But, when it comes to gambling, it’s like we either don’t think there’s a problem, or we’re too shy to speak up about it.
We need to normalise the seeking of support. There’s no shame to say, ‘I have a problem with gambling.’
You might have a flutter on the Spring Racing Carnival and drink too many Coronas and you go home a little tipsy. Do what you do. But if you’ve woken up the next day with the bank account absolutely shattered and your marriage on the line, then you’ve got a problem.  

Go get some help.

The same report referred to earlier says, ‘People experiencing problems with gambling need to be supported to develop the capacity to navigate these saturated social networks and environments. At a broader level, strategies to increase social support and normalisation of efforts to limit or abstain from gambling should also be investigated.’

Maybe we should start a hashtag:

#donewithgambling

Then we could create a movement that says it’s ok to seek help. It’s ok to bring others into your social network that hold you accountable. It’s fine to tell someone close to you how much you spend and how often you gamble.

The race that stops a nation may have nice hats, groomed horses and pretty fields, but I’ll be honest with you: I’m done with gambling.



Pete Brookshaw is the Corps Officer of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith and you can find him on:

Thursday, October 25, 2018

When I stopped listening to the crowd...

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*This article was first published online at Christian Today.

I’m sick and tired of listening to the crowd. It’s tiring. It’s demanding. It’s not always truthful. It’s sometimes uplifting and other times not.

If God could shout a message loud and clear, I’d be ready to hear it.

Let me side track a few moments.

As the State of the Union Address was being delivered, the secret service ensured one of the state secretaries stayed behind in the White House. In the unlikely event that a catastrophe took place, this person would assume the position of President of the United States.

He or she is classified as the ‘designated survivor.’

As I sat on my couch watching this new Netflix TV series, the character Tom Kirkman (played by Kiefer Sutherland – you may remember his from the series ‘24’) was hurriedly sworn in as POTUS. Then he was thrust into the Situation Room and had to help stabilise the political tension in the Middle East, and prevent the U.S.A from going into economic meltdown, all the while dealing with his own insecurities of being in such a prominent position.

Episode one, done and dusted.

The show reveals Tom Kirkman as just a ‘secretary for urban development’, someone who many characters in the show believe was not capable of being President of the free world. Leadership was thrust upon him. Though was he ready?

You can hear the questions loud and clear. Who am I to be President? Am I really who people say I am? Are the critics right, should I step down? Or do I have the capacity?

Taking a step back from this fictitious adventure, and considering my own life, I have had to deal with my own sense of adequacy. Am I called by God to be a full-time minister? If I am, then am I qualified enough for this work? Will people recognise my capacity and calling? Will others support me on the journey? And what do I do if there is a disconnect between what I think about me, and what others think about me?

I promise you, I’m not a raving lunatic. I just have lots of questions.

Truth about yourself can seem elusive and even seemingly subjective when you listen to all the noise in the crowd. People have different opinions on you. Sorry to break the bad news. Not everyone thinks you’re amazing. Some think you’re awesome. Others misunderstand you. Others talk about you behind your back, but others have your back.

This was no different to Jesus Christ.

Consider for a moment, that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. Some just called him Joseph’s son. ‘He’s just a little boy born in Nazareth. I’ll believe he’s the Messiah when I see some more proof!’

Jesus called himself the son of Man, and the son of God, sent from the Father. He knew the Father had sent him, that he was the promised Messiah to bring salvation to the world. Many in today’s culture just think Jesus was a nice man who walked on the earth teaching nice moral ethics. (I suggest to you, if Jesus walked around saying he was the Son of God and that he is, ‘the Light of the World’, he either was, or he’s a lunatic!)

Jesus died on the cross for the sins of humanity. Some just thought he was crucified like any other convicted criminal of the day.

Jesus rose from the grace to conquer sin and give new life and hope. Some scholars today work hard to discredit the authenticity of the reality of the resurrection narrative.

Some people of his day absolutely misunderstood who he was.

People can say what they want

All I’m saying is, people can say all kinds of things about you, but that then doesn’t change the truth of who you are. People can make assertions about your work performance. People can talk about your family when you’re not in the room. And through all the noise, there is one truth that I feel like God is screaming out to tell you.

That’s why I published Jo Brookshaw’s latest drawing called ‘Daughter Zion.’ Take another look at it. In Isaiah 58:1 the Bible says, ‘Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet.’ This picture is of my daughter Shekinah, giving out humungous shout to the Lord.

Consider your own thoughts about your life. Some of us have negative self-talk that drowns out the rest of what we hear.

It’s hard to hear God above the sound of our own insecurities.

Some of us have been abused and mistreated and so the core of who we truly are is lost in the hurt, pain and bitterness. But God is shouting out something to you today…

You are who I say you are!

That is, you find your identity in who God says you are, not in who you may or may not think you are, and surely not what the crowd says about you.

A moment of preaching

Forgive me, because I’m a preacher by trade, so permit me a moment:

You are made in God’s image.

You are a child of God.

You are loved beyond measure.

Your personality is hand-crafted.

Your sin does not define you.

Your looks do not fully describe you.

You are who God says you are.

Tom Kirkman and Pete Brookshaw will need to keep discovering who they truly are. Tom is capable to be President. Pete is loved by God more than he realises.

What about you?

Can you hear God yelling out… ‘You are who I say you are!’


Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith and you can find him on:

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Eugene Peterson leaves a legacy in death

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On October 22nd, 2018, well known Pastor and Author, Eugene Peterson passed away at age 85. The American Christian Minister is best known for his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, while also authoring dozens of other titles.

About a decade ago I took on a mammoth task inspired by Eugene Peterson. I grabbed hold of that large hardback book called The Message, and I made a pact with myself that I would read it from front to back. Over the next two years I was challenged and inspired by Eugene Peterson's version of the Scriptures.

I came across words like these:

'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...' - Romans 12:1-2

And these:


'Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—
    you get a fresh start,
    your slate’s wiped clean.
 Count yourself lucky—
    God holds nothing against you
    and you’re holding nothing back from him.
 When I kept it all inside,
    my bones turned to powder,
    my words became daylong groans.

The pressure never let up;

    all the juices of my life dried up.
 Then I let it all out;
    I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.”
Suddenly the pressure was gone—
    my guilt dissolved,
    my sin disappeared.
 These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
    when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
    we’ll be on high ground, untouched.
 God’s my island hideaway,
    keeps danger far from the shore,
    throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.
 Let me give you some good advice;
    I’m looking you in the eye
    and giving it to you straight:
 “Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule
    that needs bit and bridle
    to stay on track.”
 God-defiers are always in trouble;
    God-affirmers find themselves loved
    every time they turn around.
 Celebrate God.
    Sing together—everyone!
    All you honest hearts, raise the roof!'
Psalm 32:1-11
He regularly challenged other Pastors and leaders to keep God at the forefront; to not turn churches into businesses. To keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. In his book Working the Angles, he writes, 'The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor's responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades.' 

I am intrigued as a minister of the gospel, how someone can have such a passion and determination to reinvent Scriptures that have blessed millions of people worldwide. I am inspired by Eugene Peterson's love of the Lord and his desire to finish what he started. To run the race well and to finish strong.

Have a look at Sheridan Voysey's blog Remembering Eugene Peterson for a great insight into this man of God.

My prayer is that I would continue strong in the Lord and I would finish strong like this man. Always loving the Scriptures. Always loving God's people. Always working hard to fulfil the plan of God for one's life and doing what you can to make a difference in the world.

I share with other followers of Jesus and offer prayers of blessing over his family and friends, and the legacy in which he leaves for the sake of the Kingdom of God on earth.

I am interested to hear from you. Has Eugene Peterson made an impact on your life?

This quote from Eugene Peterson is probably the best way to finish this short article: 

'That's the whole spiritual life. It's learning how to die, you start losing all your illusions, and you start being capable now of true intimacy and love...'




Friday, October 19, 2018

Sex is God's Idea

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*This article was first published on the Christian Today website.
I ordered my coffee and made myself comfortable in the corner of the café ready to read what I had been handed. I was preparing to officiate a wedding and I had been given a document about the Song of Solomon.
I squirmed in my chair.
I don’t read Song of Solomon very often. Maybe it’s the poetic language that I struggle with or the old-fashioned metaphors.
I’ve even tried some of the pickup lines from the Song of Solomon with my wife, but she wasn’t impressed with, ‘Your teeth are like a flock of sheep’.
I must admit there’s another reason I don’t read this very often, nor preach on the topic.
I’m not too comfortable talking about sex.
Even now I am cowering away on my laptop thinking I’ve become an unwholesome, dirty man who needs immediate redemption.
Though I’ve been thinking a little lately.
Sex is God’s idea.
There, I’ve said it.
For too long the secular world has taken sex and perverted it, tarnished its image and made a fortune out of promiscuity. Tinder. I don’t even know what I’m talking about.
People of faith have shied away from even uttering the three-letter word. The church has unwittingly kept discussion about all things sexual to the world at large. It has inadvertently abdicated its voice on the topic and lost all credibility in the process.
The world needed direction about fostering healthy, strong marriages, and the church was silent. I speak generally when I say, it seems people of faith have struggled over the years to talk about the topic. Not only that, the church has been rocked by scandal after scandal in recent years that has made Jerry Springer appear tame. We subsequently felt we didn’t have a platform to speak on such topics and went silent.   
The silence must stop
Something is stirring within the people of God in these days. I have pastor friends who are beginning to talk about the importance of marriage and even God’s gift of sex to couples.
I never heard this talk before.
I don’t think I’ve been oblivious to it, I just think we didn’t talk like this. I assume the church was so embarrassed by its shortcomings that it lost its voice on the topic altogether.
I think for the sake of God’s work in the world, the silence must stop.
The Christian faith has important points to make about establishing and nurturing intimate relationships. There are many people of faith, with strong, healthy relationships, that need to teach others about fidelity, forgiveness, nurturing an intimate relationship, trust and all the rest that comes with it.
The Song of Solomon
The love that takes place in the Song of Solomon, takes place in the context of a couple’s loving, committed relationship. Love within a covenant is the main theme of the book, without which the book itself cannot be rightly understood. The relationship expressed in the Song of Solomon is nothing other than total dedication and permanent obligation.
We live in a culture of immediacy. This culture runs contrary to the teaching of Scripture. In this world, we see relationships that have no boundaries, love that is cheap, and sex that is expressed outside marriage covenants, that ultimately lack the permanency and intimacy found in a relationship centred around God.
On the flipside we read in the Bible about love that is unconditional, love that is quick to forgive and love that doesn’t give up on another when times are difficult. As the Song of Solomon puts it, ‘Love is as strong as death’ and ‘Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.’ It is about covenant love. Love that is expressed in promises that do not simply fade away when the honeymoon is over. This is love that, as the Song of Solomon puts it, is a seal upon the heart; a seal upon the arm.
So it’s time we stopped the silence. Sex is God’s idea. Strong marriages are God’s idea. Healthy, loving, covenantal relationships are God’s idea.
I’ve finished my coffee now. I’m a little less uncomfortable. I’m a little less embarrassed.
After all, it was God’s idea.

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

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Salvation Army Leaders - I Have to Change...

3 comments:

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.'
Ouch! 

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!

5 comments:

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:

ACCELERATE or COAGULATE

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. 

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