Monday, March 02, 2009

The “open plains of front line mission”

For some days I’ve been thinking a lot about a phrase that Phil Wall used in a piece I had blogged about earlier in the month here.

(If you haven’t read it already, I recommend that you do)

Talking about The Salvation Army (think Christian mission movement, not thrift store) Phil says this:

…numbers of our brightest and best(are)leaving, choosing the open plains of front line mission rather than the ball and chain of religious structural dogma …

I’m wondering who they are - not because I believe they don’t exist - because clearly they do. I can think of a number of specific individuals who I guess are pursuing this route, but I’ll refrain from mentioning them in case I’m barking up the wrong tree. There are some great people in this bracket, though.

In starting to wonder who these people are, it making me think does it…can it…include those who are skimming around the increasingly fluid edges of our Movement?

It makes me think quite how many of us fall into this categorization?

Can it include those radical Salvationist voices who still find themselves within the Army in one way or another - although perhaps in a quite different place in terms of their calling, role and purpose than the one they started in?

There are also a good number of outstanding people who have left the employ of The Salvation Army, and gone on to initiate or contribute to dynamic and vital ministries, while still being wholly committed to their Salvation Army community at a local level. Phil with HOPEhiv and his friend and colleague Russell Rook of Chapel Street would be prime examples, and there are many more.

It’s interesting and exciting that in recent years that our tribe has become a lot more open to dialog with other Jesus followers either through individual relationships or more concrete partnerships other Churches and organizations. It seems - thankfully - that we are less likely to cut ties with those who – for whatever reason - could no longer adhere to all of those distinctives that for some make us The Salvation Army. (There’s room a whole other blog post on that subject alone!)

It’s also good news to me that there is now a greater degree of diversity in the various expressions of Church found with our The Salvation Army.

I’m encouraged that there is more than enough room for communities as diverse as the 614 Network, Hope:asha, Raynes Park Community Church and The FRWY within The Salvation Army. They are just a few examples of the huge variation in expressions of Church which find themselves within the Sally Army.

HT to West Sonoma County, CA’s West County Gazette for the pic


Liam said...

Some good thoughts.

I think one problem we have in the Salvation Army is a very limited understanding of how to "really" serve God.

We want our soldiers to be involved in the ministry of the corps, the band, running youth groups, etc. But we tell them if you really want to do ministry you have to become an Officer.

The problem then becomes that people who want to commit themselves to front line mission, sign up to Officership intending to change the world. They then find themselves prevented from doing this front line mission by a whole heap of things: Administration, church maintenance (pastoral care) and of course the Army's bureaucracy.

I think the solution is to reconnect with a sense of an engaged soldiery. Soldiers need to be trained, energised and given permission to engage in real front line mission as Salvationists.

Craig said...

Hi Johnny. Good post. I've been thinking particularly about those who have left TSA... When Phil, Russ, and more recently, Gary Bishop left it left me thinking "Why are we losing all our key innovators?!" As a lay leader I'm regularly frustrated at the certain parts of the organisation that want to flush us out (e.g. I'm aware of certain rumblings swirling around the youth ministry leadership in the UK), or belittle the fact that we are also in full-time ministry. It was people like Russ who really gave me a sense that it's ok to be a leader in TSA without having to be ordained.
I really thought we were moving beyond the notion of the officer as the "everyman", i.e. they can do every role under the sun, but it seems that that is making a swift comeback. I mention all this because I get the impression that God is looking for the next generation of leaders who will speak up for lay leadership, will preach the truth that 'calling' is far more rich than ordained ministry, that it envelopes us all, is rooted in the call of Jesus drawing us ALL towards him so that we can get stuck into the amazing mission he has for us.
Do not worry my friend as there are still plenty of us, maybe on the fringes peering out, but we are peering 'outside' in order to bring the rich treasure back home. I feel a bit like an explorer who has spotted various beautiful landscapes unseen by many people who haven't even crossed the borders of their own land. It's our job to bring back the snapshots and also to arrange the expeditions for them to venture out.