Saturday, April 28, 2007


Yesterday, a friend challenged me on several levels. The question went to faithfulness to my Lord and calling.

Most of it centered on the way I present myself. I tend not to be a "buttoned-up" kind of guy. I know how to be polished and professional. I can be when it is called for. Mostly, I try to be faithful to who I believe God has made me in personality and in my approach to things. I am not so sure that I am called to what many would be considered the proper image of an officer.

I am also a person who is built to reach out to others. That means I put my heart on my sleeve and often, go to places others wouldn't for the sake of relationship. I think often it is misinterpreted as not keeping a professional distance from people I mentor or even supervise. Frankly, I am not sure what "professional distance" really is. I think often it is a way of insulating ourselves from those who need our caring touch and love. I am not so sure I am called to be faithful to a profession.

I have also taken a different path in the way I try to live out my officership. Over the past 10-12 years in particular, I have found myself really asking if all the Army tells me to do is what God is telling me to do. Therein lies the struggle. My friend and boss Bill LaMarr calls this choice intentional obedience to the Army because of covenant relationship. But, I wrestle with obedience to the movement and obedience to God.

If the prophets (I am not claiming to be one) had been satisfied with the status quo and been obedient to the religious movement of their day alone, revival would not have taken place. If Jesus had not been obedient to the call of the Father on His life and gone with the flow and tried to change a dying world from within, where would we be? What if William and Catherine had stayed faithful to the denomination in which they were serving? Where would we be? If friends like Geoff and Sandra Ryan had continued with the status quo, where would The Army be? The dynamic movement in the Army they along with others, like my friend Phil Wall helped birth would not be in existence and we may not have the faint flickers of missional revival burning as they are now.

On the other side of this is that there are many who claim a prophetic rite and really have a selfish agenda. Even though they may be convinced they are apostolic or prophetic in their authority, in time, it becomes apparent that they are clearly not within obedience to God but in rebellion to any authority. I think there needs to be some confirmation in the Body to what we feel is our calling. This has to be more than a cult following. Even Jesus convinced some of the religious leaders of His time that what He was doing was of for the Kingdom of Heaven.

So what happens when you believe your vision and style of life you are called to live seems so dramatically different from what you see the movement you believe you are called to seems to advocate or to be heading? Where does faithfulness fit in? Must I be faithful to God or the Army? I am not sure that the two are mutually exclusive. Am I just being rebellious or am I actually being faithful to a call to work within this movement in a non-traditional way? Where does this all lead? I have invested my life in the Army, now my faithfulness is being questioned in some respects. Maybe my friend was a voice from the Lord to talk to me about heading down the road to rebellion. I am not sure.

Are we unfaithful if we take a stand by lifestyle or by even disobedience to an organization, if we feel that God is calling you to a different way? This is some of my struggle today.

I think some of you are struggling with this in the same way. I would love to hear from you.

What do you think?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The heart of Worship?

Today, I had the wonderful opportunity to represent The Salvation Army at a church other than an Army corps. I was asked to give a presentation in three different worship gatherings. One was a "contemporary" service where about 200 or so people gathered and sang some of the praise songs we have come to love in the church. A good word was preached and an opportunity was given to meet Jesus.

The second gathering was the "traditional" service. About 100 people were there. It was held at the traditional 11am hour. The people were sincere and very warm in their greeting to me. The singing of hymns of the church was featured and a good word was spoken. There was not the same feeling of transcendence as in the first gathering. Still, I am convinced that the people there were sincere in their desire to know Christ.

The first group was dotted with 30 and 40 somethings with some college aged worshipers. There were some older people there. The second group was decidedly older. About 30 of the worshipers there were part of the choir. In both gatherings the pastor prayed for me and the Army.

The third gathering was the "alternative" service called The Crossing. The music was decidedly more rock in style. The lighting was darker. The mood was much more casual. At the same time, it was incredibly reverent. I had on my tunic for my participation and I lost it. I even loosened the tie a bit. At first blush, I thought the congregation was younger. Yet, as I looked it was the most diverse group age and culture wise. While the two other gatherings were more formal and people were friendly, these people were engaged.

I also looked around and saw people who were advisory board members of the corps. They are regular attenders of this gathering. The shocking thing was that these people are very conservative in their careers and in their manner outside of worship gatherings. In this gathering, they let loose.

After my presentation, a group of about 50 of the 250 gathered there, surrounded me, laid hands on me and prayed for me. There was a freedom here. All three groups were seeking God. This group seemed to be seeking God with abandon. A good word was spoken here. The response was deep to the word.

Rarely have I experienced this type of worship in Army corps. In gatherings such as Roots and On The Edge, people have tried to model this type of worship. People respond strongly. I think, however, that many see this form of worship as being "for the kids." The octogenarians attending The Crossing this morning would probably disagree with that sentiment.

It is interesting for me that a movement that started the whole "alternative" worship experience in 1865, has strayed so far from its roots. We had a heart for worship. We reached out to God with abandon. We were people who let loose in worship, because this is what met people where they were. Does anyone get the impression that we now become way more formal in worship than we once were? Are we in fact, more conservative in our seeking after God in our gathering than we would be in our daily lives? We have very few characters as we did in the days of our founding. Instead, conformity and formality is valued these days. Standard of meetings anyone?

I sat in a meeting with friends this week and they called each other by their ranks. We have known each other for YEARS. My fear is that we have replaced the heart of worship which was the hallmark of our early days, with the heart of formality. While the world is looking for authentic, we seem as a movement to be more concerned with process and function, while mouthing words about holiness and pentecostal fire falling on us. At least that is what we model in our big gatherings.

This is not a blog about music styles. It is not a blog about uniform. Although, I still think we have placed too much value on the outward appearance and not on the heart of worship. In fact, recently, I was at a corps council meeting where I heard "This was not Army, they did not even where uniforms on Sunday." Aargh!

Do you find like me that very few people in our movement have a sense of seeking God with abandon? Do we value form over fullness of worship? Why don't we have gatherings like the Crossing at many of our corps? Am I just making too much of this? Or have we missed the heart of worship?

What do you think?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

New Life?

As I write this it is early Easter Evening in snowy (yes, snowy) Cleveland, OH. We have over a foot of snow in the past few days and we are digging out. This morning I went to my corps and had the opportunity to swear-in Jr. Soldiers. It was a sign of new life to me. I am going to blog in a few days on alternative paths to joining the Army. I am, however, encouraged today as I saw new life at our corps.

Also as I write this, my wife's brother (whom many of you have been praying for) is undergoing a heart transplant in New York. Someone died today. Their heart was a perfect tissue match for Clark. He has been suffering for more than 20 years with chronic heart disease. For the past year he has been surviving on a heart pump. He is one of only a few hundred people to use this technology.

I come back to Easter. I find it more than coincidental today on Easter, someone died and now my brother-in-law lives. I feel sorry for the family who lost their loved one. We will never know who it was who gave my wife's brother his life back (if the surgery is successful). We will rejoice though, that Clark has new life!

It is Easter. I have no deep questions today. I guess I could ask why someone died so that Clark might live. Then again, it is all so metaphorically correct today. Christ's life was given for us. We now live.

As I face this Easter Evening, I rejoice for new life. I rejoice that Clark will live. I also am reminded that life comes at great sacrifice. In our culture there is this death march of poverty, sin, crime and moral decay. I am reminded today that I need to sacrifice and stop the death march. I need to engage the world, know where the culture is instead of living a sanitized unrealistic Christianity. It is time the Church stops being so pious and engages death and if needs be, sacrifices our lives comforts and our sacred cows, for the sake of new life.

Please pray for Clark, Janet and the family. These next few weeks will be crucial. Clark will have new life if all goes right, because someone died. On this Easter I believe the Church needs to join in the sacrifice of Jesus in order to bring new life.

What do you think?