Sunday, January 28, 2007

Confidentiality or Community?

Just this past week our DC's wife needed to have emergency surgery. I am responsible for sending out bulletins on health issues for officers in our division. We need to adhere to guidelines that only allow us to say the person had surgery or they had to be hospitalized. I typed out the bulletin so people could pray. Our DC came in the office later and shared the nature of the operation (an appendectomy)via email with the division. He editorialized with the notation "HIPPA is a pain!"

This got me thinking about the whole issue of confidentiality. How much is too much to share? I wrestle with this. Here's why I wrestle.

We use confidentiality as a cop out. Sure we need to respect the privacy of people, but often we don't know how to pray in the Body. It goes past just medical reports though. People use the confidentiality and privacy issue to cover up their weakness.

We all have weakness. For too long, we have refrained (especially in this organization)from sharing our weakness, because we are afraid of the repercussions. If we tell people the wrong thing, how can we trust them not to tell others. How will affect my next appointment? My question is, how can we not ask people to pray?

Some people believe it will hurt their careers. (Check the etymology of that word. It has to do with horses running around a track.) Maybe it will hurt their ministries. I believe that we can and should share if we are truly going to be the body of Christ that He wants us to be.

Maybe we don't need to know all of the details, but we surely would cut down on rumor and innuendo if we prayerfully shared concerns with each other. It is called being vulnerable. I believe that vulnerability is key to community. Vulnerability is not only about admitting weakness or problems, it is about allowing people to help and to share our journey. Possibly, this is the only way for us to really be the support group that we all need. The idea of spiritual growth and healing happening outside of community is something that is not biblical and is really a pride issue for the most part. Vulnerability also goes to submission. If we really want for there to be a healthy Body the Word encourages in Ephesians 5 to submit to each other. I think this idea of "going it alone" is misguided and needs to be corrected.

Now I know there is opportunity with those with a tendency toward gossip to use information shared in community as fodder for discussion, but then again, it may be an opportunity for the Body to correct gossip when it comes. You see, I think if community is really going to be healthy, we need to begin to be honest and willing to show our weakness, the weakness of our family and find ourselves accountable, if only to a strong community of mature believers.

Like I said, I think we should protect a person's right to privacy. When does that right become just another mask for our pride? I am not sure where the balance is here. I know what the professionals would say. I also know what I have practiced in the past. I am just wondering if God is calling us in transformational and healing community to go deeper. Where do we draw the line?

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lion Tamers?

I was reading one of my favorite magazines yesterday. "Relevant" always keeps me entertained, informed and challenged. The last article I read reminded me of an obscure story in Scripture. 2 Samuel 23:20 narrates the story of Benaiah whose whole life was highlighted by an incident where he met a lion, chased it down into a snowy pit and killed it. Huh? Are you for real? A man who not only does not run away, but chases a lion down and kills it at the bottom of a pit; what is that? Benaiah's courage to risk and take action caused him to become the head of David's body guard unit.

The amazing thing in this story is the courage of a man to face down the impossible and tame it. In other words, he tamed the scariest of all situations. He not only tamed but vanquished the situation.

This got me thinking about apathy and the church. Are we unwilling to face down and slay lions in our way? What a great metaphor. It is often not what we do but what we don't do that defines us. Imagine if Benaiah had not chased down that lion? What would have defined him?

What areas of inactivity are killing us as the church? I believe we are being defined more by our inaction than by our actions. Often our actions are misguided and selfish, not always, but often. Instead of risking and winning, we sit on the sidelines and everyone loses.

I could start a long list of issues on which we are inactive. I am more interested on the lions you think we need to slay. This blog is not about what I think. It is more about what you think. So are there lions we need to tame in the church, in order to make us what God wants?

I would be anxious to see what is on your list. What do you think?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Social Holiness?

John Wesley, the father of the "Holiness Movement," is credited with saying "There is no holiness, apart from social holiness." I have thought about this saying for years. Some have said that Wesley was talking about holiness in the community of believers. Others have said Wesley was indicating that to truly be holy, our focus has to be on the poor and oppressed of the world. To be holy would then be played out in our actions of encouraging the poor and being involved in causes that would make their plight better.

Wesley's own life would seem to make the latter the correct interpretation of the quote. Wesley lived on 28 pounds his first year in ministry. He continued to do so for the rest of his life, giving the rest of his wages for work among the poor and in the fight against slavery.

This week I was in the company of believers. Our division held its annual leadership retreat. We had as our guests, two sets of the Tillsleys. General and Mrs. Tillsley and Mark and Sharon Tillsley spoke eloquently of the moving of the Holy Spirit. There was no doubt in my mind and among those gathered that the Holy Spirit moved mightily among us. In other words, we experience a great moment of "social holiness."

General Tillsley spoke on the issue of the most crucial need for a corps being the "personal holiness" of its leadership. His point was that as leaders, officers, youth workers, and key employees need to be people who are wholly sanctified and sold out to God. He then went on to say that there would be a moving of the Spirit among the congregation of saints producing, "social holiness."

I think there is a correlation here. For too long, I believe that the "Holiness Movement" has viewed its mission as be purity in the midst of a filthy world. Just recently, a good friend of mine was appalled that I actually would know some of the songs recorded by Madonna. "How can you actually listen to that and still be holy?" I believe the call of the "Holiness Movement" is to touch the unclean and sinful systems, in order to bring them under the lordship of Jesus.

It is not that we are to brow-beat people into submission or to act as Pharisees. We are not superior, even though we may claim to be sanctified. "Social Holiness" in my view has to be a community of transformation. Holiness is also known as Brengle would put it, "perfect love." That means we are perfected in our love toward God and others by the Spirit controlling us and teaching us how to love. My feeling is, we can't really love someone without knowing them and their circumstances. For too long, I feel we have been puritanical and not practical in our holiness. That means, we will need to touch the unclean. In this holiness movement, it may be time for us to practice real social holiness.

I believe we are called to be holy. We are called to high standards. I don't believe we are called to impose our standards on the world. Holiness calls us to love people into the right relationship with Christ. Social holiness is a call for us to live in transformational community.

How do we make that happen in our movement known as The Salvation Army? How do we live in holiness and still touch the unclean without being tainted ourselves? What is the unclean after all? Is holiness as we explain it in the holiness movement really possible?

What do you think?