Wednesday, September 2, 2020

An open letter to The Salvation Army

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Dear Salvation Army,

Where's your passion for Jesus? Where has your heart for your first love gone? Is it there, or is it hidden beneath the complexity of organisational life? Have you buried your love for Jesus while you try to build your own path to success? 

I ask you again. Where's your passion for Jesus? Where's your desire to lead people to him, to live out his values of the Kingdom and to transform Australia with the very love that once transformed your life?

I don't want to be the church in Sardis anymore. Have you heard of the one? Jesus writes a letter (as recorded by John) in Revelation chapter 3. It says:

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God."

Is God pruning us, or are we in fact dead? Convince me please that it is the former. Show me your red-hot, Spirit-filled, Holy-Ghost-infused compassion that seeks to live out a vision of finding hardship and injustice and then make choices that live up to those very statements.

We don't need another ecclesiastical corps cumbering the earth, nor do we need another corporate video that includes sound bites of board-room value statements produced in front of green screens and edited until they are flavourless and uninspiring. We don't need another 1 hour meeting, with a 30 second prayer at the start and a 30 second prayer at the end, with 59 minutes of trying to get ourselves out of the feelings of corporate malaise. Try for me, just once, at least... a 1 hour meeting that incorporates 20 minutes of prayer. Test me on this. See if God won't begin to give you insight and wisdom that leads you out of an institutional desert and into hope and life.  

God is calling us to be the people of God, fashioned into the likeness of his son, Jesus Christ. The way we have become is not necessarily who God wants us to be. We must surely die to ourselves, and our organisation and place each at the altar. 

And please don't skip over the importance of that short paragraph. Take a moment now and kneel before the Lord. Tell him you're willing to lay your life down (again) to follow him and his paths for your feet. Repent of the excuse that the complexities of this movement have caused you to lose your focus on Christ. It's no longer an excuse. Repent of making Jesus some sort of after-thought in your mind, when really, without him we are nothing.

I remember when I responded to a call to follow Jesus when I was 18 years old. I cried like a baby at the mercy seat (in fact that happened some weeks/months in a row!) and God was giving me a new life with a calling to serve as a Soldier and then an Officer of The Salvation Army. I am personally challenged by the Holy Spirit in these days, that I need to reaffirm my commitment to reaching for the lost and serving suffering humanity. I am a mission-mobiliser, not a corporate manager. I am a pastoral leader, not a risk management consultant. 

My heart is crying out for the Salvation Army right now. It feels like another critical time in the juncture of this movement. Will we fast and pray for revival to come upon us once again? What's it going to take? You can't do this in your own strength. You've tried, Salvation Army, and been pretty lousy at it. That's because, we were never called to fight a spiritual war, with human-made organisational solutions. We are a spiritual movement, and only God-led, spiritual wisdom will get us through. 

I am reminded recently of when I was invited by a Salvation Army prison chaplain to preach the gospel in the prison for all the inmates who attended to hear. Wow. I had a word on my heart. The word was, 'If you want to walk in freedom, you have to get out of the cage!' I preached up a storm in that little chapel area, with about 40 blokes. I said, you could walk out of this prison today, but if you still live with unforgiveness you'll still be in 'prison'! I called people to respond and an incredible number of men walked forward for prayer. I then called men to follow Jesus, and 18 big, burly blokes put their hands up to choose Jesus. I felt like William Booth at the age of 14, when he said that he had found his destiny. These moments change the course of history! This is the presence and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ at work!

Over the years though, we have moved from a Man to a Movement to a Machine. That seems to happen in the history of the Christian Church. We had William and Catherine Booth who were led by God to ignite a 'Salvation Army' around the world. A movement ensued, and spread across the global landscape. Then we had to deal with organisational complexity and for a myriad of reasons we became a machine. And it's a machine that, if we're honest, not many Salvation Army mechanics want to work on. The engine needs replacing, the spark plugs have died and it's pretty hard to get it moving again. 

The reality is though, if we don't reclaim our first love, Jesus Christ, we won't even exist as a 'Machine' anymore, we'll become a 'Monument'. And let me tell you, there are already many Salvation Army monuments around; closed buildings, memorial photos and plaques that remind us of a by-gone era from leaders we respect and admire. 

But, in the midst of the fog, I see a new day dawning. I see a fresh, vibrant expression of following Jesus rising up among the people. I see renewed discussion occurring about holiness and what that means for The Salvation Army. I see Officers themselves becoming sparks of revival in all their areas of influence. I hear the gospel being preached in new, powerful and authentic ways, in all levels of the movement. I see a movement fixing its gaze upon Christ like it has never done before. 

I can hear the sound of a roar coming from the heavens. It's loud and note-worthy. It's like the very fear of God is coming upon The Salvation Army. And I don't say that lightly. It's the presence of God calling us to love Jesus afresh, and be filled once more to overflowing, with the presence of the Holy Spirit. It's a mighty call back to our first love.

I don't want to be part of a Salvation Army that dies. I don't want to serve my days as part of some sort of bureaucracy that used to have an incredible historical legacy of world-changing dynamism. 

We must wake up! Strengthen what remains and get ready to follow Jesus into the unknowns of the rest of this year and beyond.

If you've hidden your talents, get them back out again. If you've lost your first love, then fire it up once more. This, my friends, will be the difference between The Salvation Army either dying, surviving or thriving.

Yours in Christ,

Captain Pete Brookshaw

 

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