Saturday, November 28, 2009


Recently, my mainline supervisor received word that he and his wife were being transferred to South America. Their positions will carry serious and demanding responsibilities. They are good people who will do well. Their giftings suit them well for what God is asking them to do.

I usually refrain from commenting on this particular part of our movement's tradition. Moving and doing it often comes with the calling. I believe the whole process to be a sacred one. It is bathed in prayer. Its affect on people is often dramatic.

The different reactions to the announcement of our friends move, were varied, but mainly it was one of shock and uncertainty since our friends have been with us such a short time. We were certain that this relationship was going to be in place this way for a very long time to come.

It has thrown many of my colleagues into the realm of uncertainty. There have been many questions asked as to how this could happen so fast or who will replace our friends.

I admit that I have had some of these private thoughts myself. You know that these decisions are considered deeply and the face of God is sought, but still when we involve a human element, a nagging question still hangs out there. "What happens next?"

God's promises never change. They are sure. Our abiding peace is in the fact that "He who began a good work in you, will continue to do it." Still out there hangs uncertainties.

I am conflicted often as to whether my uncertainty and the uncertainty of others is a sin of doubting or just part of who we are as people. Maybe it is just a lack of faith.

So are we unfaithful when we are uncertain? Are we actually doubting the power of God? Are we just being human?

I would be interested to know your thoughts on uncertainty. What do you think?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spiritual Gifts Fair?

It has been several months since I last posted to this blog. I have had some writer's block. I have needed some time to rethink some positions. I have also really wanted to examine my own reasons for writing. I have decided to not only ask my own questions, but entertain some from others. I have also decided to blog about the oddities of faith.

Today, the community of faith which I belong to hosted a "spiritual gifts fair." My friend, Matt, who is staying with Janet and me for a couple of days and I got goofy as we discussed what this might be. Perhaps we thought that one would get the gift of prophecy if you guessed the amount of candy in the jar. Maybe you would get the gift of healing if you won the "whack a mole" contest. Possibly, you would get the gift of tongues if you putted a golf ball into the clowns mouth. An immature mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Seriously, this event was held for people who have identified and are developing their spiritual gifts. It was an opportunity for those in the community and those just entering into it to see opportunities for service and put their gifts to use in the various ministries in the community. It is quite a unique idea.

This community has had its ups and downs. It has begun to grow quickly over the last few months. The community has done the right thing. It has reached out to the poor and sacrificed in order to make them part of the community. As a result, people from all walks of life have turned up and wanted to become part of this family of faith. Some of the leadership is very comfortable with their spots in the community. The newer members are not being squeezed out, they are just trying to figure out where it is they fit in all of this.

It was years ago when people showed up to our movement (which I believe is the church of and for the poor) and they were given a "job" as soon as they joined. That strategy implemented by William Booth, was sheer brilliance. It was also a spiritually sound principle at work. All people have gifts to add to the family of faith, uniquely given to them by the Holy Spirit.

Sadly, over the years, it has appeared to me that many long timers in our movement, think that prior to getting a job, that you need to "know" what our army is all about. We have also seemingly become more officer-centric, as our operations have become more complex. Pastoral authority and responsibility is often not shared and as a result, we have a ton of gifted people who find another place to use their gifts.

You know my thoughts on sharing authority and allowing people to carry out their responsibilities with little interference unless there is something completely unscriptural going on with them. Allowing people to be free is something that will cause the community of faith to grow.

I continue to wonder how we can flatten authority structures and allow for input on all levels. I admit, it can be challenging and sometimes intimidating, even for people like me who are proponents of this way of working. It may just be a matter of us trusting that the Spirit has the right idea and that we need to know how to work in concert with what He is already doing in the world.

So my questions are simple. Do you think we will ever really let people put their gifts to use? Is there a need for us to "pay our dues" in order to have a certain position? Why is it that it is intimidating for some leaders to let people do their thing?

So after months of being off this medium, I want to know, what do you think?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Formality or Fear?

Recently, I have had a few conversations which have given me pause to think. I have had several people introduce themselves by there rank. I have known or been friendly with these people for some time. This was followed up by a conversation where a respected friend talked to me about how the fiber of the movement was being eroded because his officer (who by the way he calls by his first name) allowed the kids in his congregation use his first name when conversing with him.

I have also had people tell me that this formality issue is a matter of respect. I used to think that way. The more I see it, I believe it is a matter of pride. More than anything, it is not just a cultural thing, it is a, I believe a matter of deriving worth from position instead of personal relationship. I have people who have really no idea of my title or rank. They respect me and love me, because I love them! We talk about deep things.

I have other had people tell me that you have to have a title. You could not just use your name? I would imagine that would make you vulnerable.

I thought at first this was generational. I have found this idea of ultra formality has gone into generations younger than me.

I know that I am a major. It just does not shape who I am or make me a better person.

This is a shorter post. I think it is an important one though.

Is being formal important? Is it a matter of respect? Is it a matter of pride? Am I just missing the point?

What do you think?

Monday, July 13, 2009

How Was Your Trip?

I recently returned from 10 weeks in Europe. 8 weeks were spent at The Salvation Army International College for Officers. I met some great people who will be with me in spirit for the rest of my life. The memories will be indelibly etched on my mind and heart for years.

As I have returned, people have asked me, "How was your trip?" I find that a difficult question to answer. I missed family and friends. I have thought about how much things changed at home and in my ministry while I was gone. Relationships changed. Procedures changed. Some of these changed for the better. Janet and I got much closer. Some of the other relationships and procedures are difficult to adjust to again. They are different.

I have begun to realize that my trip was bigger than a vacation or just a time away. It was a journey in a way. Trips have a beginning and ending point. They are for a set amount of time. Journeys tend to be longer, they are more about enjoying the scenery, the company and the time for reflection.

I took a journey. The company was great. The scenery was the learning experiences and the reflection time was plentiful. I have felt more as if I am on a trip with deadlines and restoring relationships since I have been back. It is not that they have been broken; they have just changed.

The fact is that journeys change people. They take people through depths of despair and also bring them to the peaks of delight.

The one thing I am learning on my journey is the real need for companions. We need each other desperately. As Americans, we value self-motivation, self-gratification and rugged individualism. I am not sure that those are necessary Christian values. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "We are one body."

I think the problem with our movement and the Church in general, is that we are in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B. We rarely stop to enjoy companionship or friendship. I think maybe it may be a trust issue. Maybe we are trying to get "results" from the latest Christian fad or mission slogan.

Whatever it is, I think that far too many people are taking the quick trip and not enjoying the journey.

So, what is that will enhance our journeys? How can we be the body that Christ wants us to be?

I think it is simple. It is about being vulnerable. It is about being accountable. In short it is about sharing the journey with friends and companions, not just having acquaintances.

Well those are my thoughts. Do you think too many of us are taking trips and not journeys? Do you think it is a trust issue that prohibits us from sharing the journey? Are we scared to be vulnerable because we are more about rugged individualism than community?

What do you think?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Independence Day?

This weekend, we celebrated the birthday of our country here in the States. There were cookouts, parades and fireworks. There were people who travelled to be with family. Folks sang patriotic songs.

We value independence here in the States. We honor people who fulfil the America dream, by hard work, pulling themselves up from bad situations and make their mark in the world.

It seems to be a value of people to be that way in the Church. In evangelical circles, people seem to love to hear the testimony of those who are "trophies of grace." We love to honor them for their hard work and marvel at the work of God in the individual.

I just heard a good sermon this morning. The sermon was on the "body of Christ." It was based on the passage in 1 Corinthians 12. It was clear that there is a deep abiding necessity for community. Those who would take this independent view of Christianity, over-emphasizing personal salvation as the be all and end all seem to missing the boat. In other words, my salvation depends solely on me.

We have used the word "community" over and over again as a Christian buzz word for the past several years. Yet, there continues to be a fraying of community. We have few family members in the Church it seems and more acquaintances. The lack of deep relationships in the Church I believe leads to shallow Christianity, since there is little in the way of challenge or discipleship in the vacuum of independent living.

This idea of independence, I believe is overrated. We live in such an interconnected world. With the advent of facebook, twitter, blogger and youtube, we are living in world where it is virtually impossible to be independent of relationship. The world economic situation makes it virtually impossible for a country to stand alone economically. Even politically, we have learned in recent years that an isolationist policy is incredibly bad for a country.

If in the secular world, independence is evaporating, I wonder why I see us only paying lip service to community in the Church. There does seem though to be a movement toward ecumenism

I wonder if it is true that salvation cannot take place outside of the Church? Is the idea of denominationalism dead? Is independence an idea that may be extra-biblical?

So as with all my other posts, I ask...What do you think?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Perception is reality?

Perception is reality. I have often heard this phrase used as a part of a conversation in assessing a person's veracity or personality.

In conversation with a friend recently, I heard what I felt was a really disturbing comment on the way perception is given so much power in the way people are viewed. For sure, we want to be around people who are charming, well-spoken and in general "present well." Yet, I wonder if that really shares the depth of a person.

I have made many acquaintances, who dress the right way, can say all the right things and even have some talent, but their depth is questionable. The only way to get to the depth of a person is to have conversation and spend time with them.

I was recently reminded of quote that I have used often over the past few years, "God is not necessarily looking for more talented people, or more intelligent people, but deep people." These past weeks I have been in community with some deep people.

Honestly, when I first met many of these people, an unholy sense of superiority came over me. I had to repent of some pride, because I made some judgements on perception. Over the past weeks, I have had opportunity to explore the depths of the souls of these people. Some have surprised me with their depth.

How does this impact our church and our movement? I think that we need deep people, deep leaders who will not be satisfied with the status quo. I submit that we have to look deeper to the heart and to the mind of a person. I would also submit that we can learn much from the dissenters in our midst.

I think that one of the reasons we work so much on perception is that relationships take work. It may mean making our hard positions vulnerable and up for scrutiny. It would may also mean that we as leaders would need to make ourselves vulnerable. That is something that may be the hardest thing of all.

So, is it perception or reality that counts? How can we know the difference? Are we in a perception dominated culture or are we to the point where we make decisions based on strong, deep relationships?

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

By Narrow Minds or Prison Walls Restrained?

Today, I had the privilege of sitting under the ministry of General John Larsson and his wife Commissioner Freda Larsson. The afternoon was well worth it.

My colleagues and I spent an afternoon singing some of the great songs that the famous duo of Gowans and Larsson composed. We heard the stories behind the compositions and were inspired by narrative of the musical genius of these two men.

Now many of you will understand that my style of musical taste really does not fall in line with what I heard today. I am more a Linkin Park type of guy. I do enjoy the music of Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, my boy Phil Laeger (I know Phil don't get a big head) and other writers of the new hymnody of our day.

Today, was a different day though. We sang some of the songs I sang as a teen and a guy in my early twenties as an officer. One of the songs we sang was "I'll Not Turn Back." The chorus is famous, but there are incredible lines in the verses which stick out to me.

You will know that I pride myself on the fact that I tend to be somewhat unconventional. My viewpoints are less than traditional and sometimes, I think people see me as bordering on the heretical.

As we sang today, a line struck me with incredible force from the song..."If doors should close then other doors will open. The Word of God can never be contained. His love cannot be finally frustrated, by narrow minds or prison walls restrained." I am not sure of the whole story behind these words. Yet, my eyes met with a friend of mine in the room as we sang this. We both had a similar emotional reaction. We wept. I cannot speak for my friend, but I think I know that I have struggled in recent years with implementation of grand visions for the expansion of gospel, because there seems to be a refusal to see beyond common sense and protocol. I admit, I have fallen into that trap as well.

I was given assurance that God's word is powerful and creative. It is even unconventional. I have no right to try to tell God how to operate. Protocols cannot get in His way either.

I was given a vision for what can and must be done in my life and in my ministry. I had my conscience pricked today about how narrow our minds have gotten when it comes to mission and the economic crisis we now face. We see dry bones but God sees an Army. We see doom and gloom and no resources, but God sees that He has storehouses of resources.

Our narrow minds and polity often act as impediments to what the Word of the Lord wants to accomplish. Yet, scripture reminds us that the Spirit moves as and when He wants. Finally, if we don't do it, He will find someone who will agree to His plan.

I heard an illustration recently. I think it might even have been one that General Larsson used. The speaker talked about how neat and orderly his office was. He talked about how papers were just so on his desk and in his file. It was easy to do business that way. Life was precise, predictable and contained. In other words, the focus was very narrow.

The speaker went onto say that on very hot day he opened a window. As is often the case, a pretty brisk wind picked up and began to gust in his office. He returned after a meeting to see that the papers had blown all over the place. Life was not orderly, but the wind had refreshed the space and made it cool and bearable, in a very unbearable and orderly place.

In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is likened to wind. He blows in where he wants. I see it this way. As stewards of the Word, we can either keep everything neat and manageable or we can trust the Spirit to refresh, while maybe messing up our protocols and pushing the Word forward. "His love cannot be finally frustrated, by narrow minds or prison walls restrained."

So friends, do you think as I do that we have tended to let common sense and protocol rule us too much? Has our polity become an impediment or a practical help to the Gospel? Is it time that we escape our narrow focus (I speak to myself here) and allow Spirit to really show us how to operate? Have we just hemmed God in? Will His word really not be frustrated?

What do you think?