Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why God is Not Finished with The Salvation Army.

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The response was varied. The readership was huge. The viral nature of my previous blog astounded me. I wrote a piece entitled, 'Why The Salvation Army is in decline and what we can do about it!'  For different reasons it sparked discussion right around the globe (especially in the West - and many are right when they assert that decline is most relevant IN the West). In one corner people agreed, and in another there was vehement disagreement. Some sought to sharpen up the original post, with some clarifying thoughts. Some pointed out that some of my assertions were general assumptions and not applicable to their setting.

Well, the dust has settled and I want to follow up that provocative post with Part 2: Why God is Not Finished with The Salvation Army.

I am convinced that Salvationists need a sense of urgency of the need for change, hence my previous post. One does not get a hair cut until they are dissatisfied with their current hair style (Ok, I do not speak from experience on that one...). You know what I mean? We can not change the course of history by trying to solve the challenges we have with the same thinking that existed when the challenge arose. We must think outside the box. Give new things a shot. We keep what is absolutely essential to what makes us The Salvation Army, and allow the Lord to reveal to us new ways of expressing gospel-centered ministry to a broken world in our rapidly changing global environment.

So, that's why I have written this post. God is not finished with The Salvation Army. In fact, I think the best days are still ahead. No offense, Will and Kate. You did great things. Though God has planted something within this movement that desires to do greater things!

We could rewind to the vision imparted to The Salvation Army from William Booth, found within In Darkest England and the Way out. The vision was an army pulling people from the ills of society, and giving them the hope of full salvation. You can see workers straining to reach out to people in need. There is a passion for the transformative work of Jesus to transpire in people's lives.

Today we have Salvationists right around the globe still working tirelessly to draw people out of addictions, hate, pornography, apathy, homelessness, loneliness, anger, abuse, bitterness and the list goes on.

I think of the street ministries of Salvationists and volunteers that give cups of cold water to those who thirst, and the community lunches that feed the hungry. I know of a ministry that provides free legal advice to those on lower incomes. There are Salvation Army hospitals and schools, and rehab centres, and shelters from abuse. There are Corps that are ignited by a passion to lead people to Christ and disciple them in the process. Some Salvation Army communities of faith meet in buildings, under trees, in houses, in fields, in large basketball arenas, in 'mission houses' and even in secret.

There is a passion to do something about our faith!

But one knows only too well, that there is still a job ahead of us.

This is why I believe God is not finished with The Salvation Army. See, within this movement is an embedded DNA that says, while there is still one lost soul, we'll fight. While there is still brokenness, we'll fight.

We're still fighting.

Until the fullness of the Kingdom of God has come among us, we will keep fighting.

We may wrestle with what The Salvation Army looks like a decade from now. We may not be able to conceive of how God will shape us moving forward. No doubt we'll discuss uniforms and music and ecclesiastical structures. A commissioner here and there will make some tough decisions. We'll debate about how to do effective mission in the world and we'll work at finding alignment on such issues. But that being said, I know this: we'll keep fighting.

We'll keep fighting, because there is still something to fight for. And while there is still something to fight for, you'll find The Salvation Army.

* These are my opinions and do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Salvation Army.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Why The Salvation Army is in Decline and What We Can Do About it!


This may well be my most provocative blog yet. Sometimes things are just painful. If you don't like pain, please turn away now. And this blog comes with a warning; these are my thoughts and my musings, not that of The Salvation Army, nor those of my wife. My children are only 2, 5 and 7, so it sure ain't theirs either. You can blame me if you disagree.

The Salvation Army is in decline.

The quicker we acknowledge the truth, the better.

Stephen Court highlights some sobering statistics in a blog back on January 20th at Army Barmy. Let's look at the facts:

1. Number of Corps
2015 - 15636

2016 – 13826
Decline of 1810 in one year.
Junior Soldiers  
2015 - 385994
2016 – 378881
3. Senior Soldiers
2015 – 1174913
2016 – 1056722
4. Soldiers (combined)
2015 – 1560607
2016 – 1435533
Decline – 125074
5. Officers.
2015 – 26497
2016 – 26675

Before I highlight why I believe The Salvation Army is in decline, we might as well admit that it is. One does not deal with their alcoholism until they admit they're an alcoholic. 

Let me suggest some reasons WHY I think The Salvation Army is in decline and this is the bit that gets controversial:

  • We have promoted music over mission
  • We have placed the Holy Spirit into the pentecostal don't-dare-go-there basket
  • We have created an unnecessary divide between evangelism and social work
  • We have failed to call people to follow Jesus
  • We have relied on our Public Image, more than our Image-giver
  • We have taken our eyes off the radical mission God calls us to, and watered it down to a pew-warming, lovey-dovey envrionment that celebrates mediocority. And yes, I spelt mediocrity wrong, because I couldn't be bothered fixing it. Call me apathetic.
  • Hmm... Should I go on?
  • We lost sight of the identity of the Army, within the trappings of the Army, and are only now seeking to reclaim the identity that we so quickly dismissed.
  • We call people to less than full salvation in Christ.
Maybe I've said too much and maybe the list is incomplete. Maybe we don't need to focus on such things? Maybe I'm being too pessimistic for once. Well, it's difficult to fix a problem you don't believe exists. 

Have a read of this:

Major Darren Elkington offers these provocative, yet insightful words, 'Sociologists would tell us that we are now living in a new age … that the old is gone … replaced by a new reality … that we are no longer living in the age of Christendom … but rather a new erathe post Christian era where every area of life is steadily being divorced from Christian ideals and re-interpreted in humanistic terms. Meaning that for many today, that the things that we cherish: God, Christ, grace, the cross, Easter … the church … is considered meaningless, irrelevant, and for some they would even go as far as saying to believe in that stuff is just strange or bizarre.

Now, like all new ideas … this is all debatable … and it’s certainly not my intention to debate whether or not this is indeed our new reality  … except to say … if it is true … then surely it requires a newness, a freshness, a new way of thinking and doing … Because if we simply continue operating under an old premise … or that this new division becomes no more than just the old division re-badged as new … then my prediction is that this new division will go the way of the old … each year producing less Soldiers, smaller congregations, fewer conversions, less ministry and more closures of corps.   

And so we need to embrace the new … new leadership, a new way of doing, new ideas, news initiatives, new possibilities, and as we do, I don’t believe it means that we have to re-invent ourselves.  This time last year, I arrived in back in Australia after being out of the country for the last 6 years … and what I’ve encountered on my return is a busy army, a diverse army, a social army, a uniformed army, a caring army, a fundraising army, a compliant army … and these are all good things in themselves to be … But God raised us up to be a Salvation Army … William Booth said it best.  This is our speciality: Getting saved, keeping saved, and getting someone else saved, and then getting ourselves mightily saved again and again.
So what can we do about it?

We need to be The Salvation Army. We don't need more facebook groups celebrating old Salvation Army buildings that have closed down, brass bands that had glory days in the 1970s and social media communities that are designed to have a whinge about the past, the present and anything worthy of trying to better the future. 

Fix your eyes upon Jesus, Salvation Army. God raised us up for more than good music, good social work and a comfortable Sunday morning. We are called to win the world for Jesus. Anything less is an insult to William Booth and a kick in the guts to Catherine. Re-embrace a radical, passionate, courageous faith in Christ, that causes you to substitute what is good, for what is great. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Pray like Jesus is coming back tomorrow. Live like you only have days left on the earth. Commit to sacrificial giving, disciplined obedience and compassionate gospel work.

Come on. Let's change the world.

Repent. Pray. Believe. Radically respond.

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