Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Moving up or moving on?

As you know, Janet and I are moving. We are taking on some pretty big tasks at the Divisional Headquarters in Cleveland, OH. We leave Project 1:17 in a bittersweet mode. We are excited for the new challenges God has laid out for us, but at the same time, saddened to leave behind family, friends and a ministry we founded. We realize that this ministry is not ours' but God's. We trust God that He is in control.

Since the announcement of our new appointments, we have had several people congratulate us on our new assignments. That is a good thing when they congratulate you on the new challenge and let you know that they are praying for you.

The issue that I have had is when people have said stuff about how this is a promotion for us. "You deserve this. You have worked really hard. Congratulations." I must admit that in by gone days I would have relished the fact that I have "Moved up" in the command structure of the organization. While we are glad that The Lord and The Army have faith to send us into some pretty big tasks, I really am not impressed by people who have the desire to be top gun. I know people like that. As I said, I was one of those people once.

Frankly, it is hard in our human spirits when we feel as if we have been passed over. It is a natural reaction, when others around us, sometimes our peers, get what might be considered a promotion. Our carnality rears its ugly head from time to time and causes us to become jealous. It is hard to be content all of the time. I am learning contentment more and more with experience. Appointment does not always equal contentment.

So what about this issue of moving up? I happen to think it is really not a holy attitude. I had one retired officer who I love and respect who told me I was on a roll. "The Army will need to sit up and take notice of you more. You have this promotion and you founded a creative program. You will be noticed." Does that mean they did not notice me when I was the corps officer in a town of 13,000 in Eastern Ohio, that had a tiny budget and a small building? Was that town not important in the plan of the Kingdom and the mission of the Army?

I guess what is more important to me is that God notices. He notices and loves me. I must trust that His will is being worked out in this new assignment as Janet and I move on. I gave my life to God as an officer 26 years ago believing that was His divine purpose for me. Nothing has changed. Even though I have had some tough moves because of leaving something we loved, I have never doubted that God wanted me to be an officer. I don't see what we are doing as moving up. I see it as moving on.

Of course, some of you are thinking "Easy for him to say. He is going to be a supervisor." I don't see that at all. I have always supervised, led and served someone. I have tried more and more as the years have passed to view ministry as a partnership with others not a dictatorship by the appointed one.

Yet, still we see this mindset that creeps in more and more. In fact, people who have never given us the time of day have now somehow have become close friends to us now that we have a new assignment. Funny, huh?

Well friends, I do grieve in my spirit about this concept of people wanting to move up. I am also conflicted about this. How do we strike a healthy balance of acknowledging specific areas of giftedness in ministry and at the same time not see them as promotions? How do we keep a balance between respecting leadership, but not seeing it as a career goal? What keeps us from being carnal about this whole thing? I think I have settled the moving up matter in my heart. Is it really necessary to think of moving up? Is it better just to move on?

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Emergent Commissioning?

This past Sunday I was on the platform for both of the gatherings which centered around the commissioning and ordination and the sending out of the new officers in our territory. I have always viewed these events as sacred. In fact, I have thought that these events are ordained by God.

Both of the gatherings had meaningful moments. The Holy Spirit spoke to me stongly as I watched families praying together and people committing themselves for ministry.

As meaningful as the moments were, they were somewhat tempered by the fact that the meetings were long and that I was already emotionally drained, because of the fact that we are moving to a new place. I was also struck by the fact that it seemed to me as I sat on the platform and looked out that there were many in the congregation who took this time for holding mini-reunions, during the meetings. I must tell you that it shook my spirit.

There were many factors which contributed to the this happening. The venue itself was not conducive, physically, to the elements of worship. I also had a sense that we packed too much into the gatherings. I believe that all the elements were important, but I wondered whether we needed to have all of those elements at one time.

I did love the fact that the new captains were commissioned at the Holiness Table. That is a great tradition of our movement. It was deeply moving.

As much as I loved the band,songster and drama numbers, I am not sure we needed them all. Many of the people I know, were ready just to hear from the Spirit. They did not want much in the way of the special numbers. They wanted a simplified approach.

Many in our day feel that way. They are not against ceremony. They are for the essentials of spiritual rites, not the institutionalism of ceremony. They are in a way, emergent. Their desire is to simply honor God and not necessarily the movement. They simply and directly want to get to worship and the Word. They wanted to have it contextually relevant, but missionally and spiritually traditional.

I wonder what William and Catherine would be thinking as they debriefed the weekend. I would imagine they would rejoice over the commitments of people sold out for the Gospel. Witnessing the commissioning of new officers and the sending out of new youth workers would have caused them to burst their buttons with holy pride. I am not sure they would take delight in the necessity of trying to be all-inclusive for programmatic elements. I am not sure The Spirit needs programmatic elements. He just desires worship and consecration.

So I am struggling with this. While I want to stay faithful to meaningful rites of spiritual passage, I also know that we need to be aware of the programmatic approach to worship gatherings.

When you go to these types of gatherings are you as conflicted as I am? Do you want meaningful ceremony, but carry concern about programmatic elements? What are the essentials that should be kept in meaningful spiritual rites of passage? Do we (I really include myself in this) try to be too creative and end up being creative for the sake of creativity, even though we are not trying to do that? How do we strike a balance so that we create a drama in worship that is pleasing to God?
Does ceremony need to "emerge" with the church or is the old really new?

What do you think?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Contract or covenant?

Yesterday, I was privileged to be part of two very meaningful and sacred moments. I was at the covenant signing for both the Project 117 students and the cadets who are about to be commissioned. Both groups pledged to follow God with all their hearts and made commitment to serve the lost, disenfranchised and broken of this world.

Both groups signed covenants. I am an officer and feel that my promise to God signed nearly 26 years ago is valid, and binding for life. I must admit there have been a few times when I have thought that it would be better for me to step away from this commitment. The Spirit has then whispered, "This is where you are supposed to be." My covenant is not just a piece of paper, but an assurance by God, The Great Covenant Keeper, who signed His name in Christ's blood and sealed it with the Spirit. I hold officership and its commitment in the highest regard.

It does seem, however, that it is often not as celebrated when others make life-long commitments to service outside of officership. There is not the fanfare, the ceremony or the same emphasis put on the commitments made by lay leaders to the life of ministry. I think it is because these people are often seen in our world as being professionals who are under contract, instead of people under covenant.

My coming to Jesus came through a series of events. I grew up with the strong covenant values in an officer home, but it was my Sunday School teacher when I was 7 and then a friend when is was 17, who were strongly committed to ministry, who prayed with me when I acknowledged my need of a Savior. In fact, I can only name a few officers who influenced me strongly for Christ, besides my mom and dad. Colonel Joe DeMichael comes to mind. He was never shy about asking me about Jesus or loving (sometimes in a very tough way) me unconditionally. Other than that, I honestly can't remember others officers having such an impact on me as those in the laity.

My current position for the next few weeks has me in position where we train people who many look upon as less than officer status. They are not always treated in the highest regard, even though they sacrifice and serve, with less security than many of my colleagues.

I know officership is my calling. It is holy. It is covenantal in nature. It is what I believe I was born to do! I also think there are many who are born to minister locally for life. They are called by God to fulfill His call in a variety of settings. We have had 117 students serve around the world. Often, they have served under very tough circumstances. I think they are under covenant as well. I believe that covenant to be incredibly important and not just a contract they can opt out of.

As I go through this week every year, my mind goes to these thoughts. Is there really a better covenant or just a different one? Maybe the distinctives of laity and officer are not as distinct as we make them. Many would say that the laity do not make the promises of an officer. I think they do. I think it is just different.

I am not looking for fanfare or even a big event for our laity. Many of my great friends would not want that anyway. Maybe the time has come for their gifts and leadership to be acknowledged in a different and more significant way. Maybe we should begin to consider them more as covenant partners in the Gospel, than just people under our command or care. After all, didn't Jesus call the disciples "friends" after a while?

All I know is that the covenant of grace and calling extends to all through Jesus. I guess I would like for all of us to be acknowledged as full partners. Who knows, I might be the only one who thinks this way. I am not always sure I do think this way.

What do you think?