Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What Next?

I have recently read George Barna's new book. He asserts, that from his research, the overwhelming majority of Christians say they do not feel a connection with God when they attend their local church. He goes on to predict that by the year 2025 about 70% of Christians will not be involved in a traditional local congregation. The people of whom he writes tend to give more liberally of their time and money than church goers, read their Bibles and pray more than their church going friends and have a more biblical world-view. These people, who Barna calls revolutionaries, also tend to be more involved in social justice issues.

He also states, that outside of the mega church movement, local congregations are declining at alarming rate.

I must admit I was skeptical that people could stay faithful without being involved in a congregational setting. However, Barna confirms some of the things I have been hearing and feeling from younger adults who I have worked with over the past several years.

In recent years, I have come to believe that congregations come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and one size does not fit all. I also believe what passes for church now is not really what the apostles practiced. I am not saying we ought to abandon our current model. I think our current model does work for many. I do believe that we (as the Army) may need to look at different models of church. Our definition of what a corps is may need to change. This is not something that is parroting Joe Noland. This is something that I have been thinking about for over 10 years. I am not sure why we need specific definitions for what we do, other than there are many who are not comfortable with something unless it is very well defined. We need accountability for sure. We also need to do what our heritage teaches us and adapt.

These revolutionaries will meet, but it may not be in a church/corps building. Revolutionaries may never attend a worship service as we define it, but will be intimate in their worship of God. I am not sure what this all means for the traditional Army or church.

So here is my question, what is next? I think we are perfectly positioned by heritage to include these revolutionaries in our mission. Do we radically change the way we do business now? Do we need to redefine church? Will we continue to see our local congregations decline? How will the new Kroc ministries help or hinder us in reaching those who are disenfranchised by the local Church, but who still love God?

What do you think?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

It's Christmas Time Again

I must start all of my blogs by saying, I am sort of working through things. With that said, I need to relate a couple of experiences.

Kettles and The Salvation Army put me in a quandary. I know the need. I wonder though about what they turn us into. The other night as I was helping to count money someone found they had a $100 bill in their kettle and it prompted the humorous $100 dollar dance from one of my co-workers. Obviously, there was joy and we should rejoice when God provides. My concern came as the people who collected the money stood around to see if they "beat the competition."

I know they were collecting because they believe in the cause. I do too. It appeared though that the joy of raising money, replaced the joy of serving, the real reason we raise the money. I was happy that the amount was raised. Many people will be helped through the dollars raised. I respect kettlers for their hard work in bitter conditions. I have even done the dance of joy on a good night.

Secondly, I helped for about 7 hours or so in setting up a toy shop in a small town corps. My wife and I worked from about 9pm to midnight on one night then from about 8am to noon the next day (or later that day). In that 15 hour period, I was overcome by the generosity of people. Gifts and checks poured into the small building. The corps officers were grateful and knew everyone, both donor and people being served. They have had some longevity in this corps. All were treated with grace. Many were embraced and kissed. "God bless yous" and prayers with hurting people abounded during that time, by faithful servants. There was ministry going on.

So here is my dilemma for today. Why just at Christmas do we generate this excitement about funding and service? I know the organization is busy in ministry and fund-raising year round. The cause is worthy. We do much good in the name of Jesus all year long. Does the joy of collecting often replace the joy of service? Is our Christmas service done more because now it is tradition and a good way to be noticed for our good works or more because it is ministry? Is there really a simple answer? Why does Christmas often become a joyless task for so many involved in SA ministry?

The cause is worthy. I know the history. I am wondering about today. It's Christmas time again. I wonder if we have really taken a good look at the why's of service recently. This is coming from a veteran of nearly 50 SA Christmas efforts. Maybe it comes down to personal motivation. What do you think?

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I guess I have started

Many of my friends have encouraged me to do this. So here goes.

I am walking down this road of faith as a learner, even after 25 years of ministry. Early in my ministry life I had a ton of answers. Recently, I have discovered I have more questions about ministry, faith, my denomination, theology and mission methods.

I am hoping to ask questions a couple of times a week and wait for you to give answers. I will not be as good as some of my friends who post daily and have fancy graphics. I am technologically challenged in as many ways as I am faith-challenged.

My hope is to spur discussion about Church, family, life and culture. I want to learn from you. I want to debate with you in a civil manner. Most of all, I want to walk with you on this journey I call loving God.

So join the discussion and help me answer some questions I have.