Monday, March 31, 2008

Questions or Disloyalty?

I have been asking questions in this forum for the last couple of years. We have asked questions on morality, leadership, our movement, ethics, the emerging church and even asked if you had a shot to tell the leadership our territory anything, what it would be.

I have asked these questions to stimulate discussion. I have asked these questions to raise other questions. I have asked these questions, to allow some of you to vent. I have asked these questions ultimately with the desire to seek the betterment of the church and to think through some of my own theology.

Recently, I had a conversation with a dear friend who suggested that because of the position I occupy in the movement that I might be disloyal to be asking these questions on my blog. My friend suggested that my disloyalty might come from the fact that I am in leadership.

First, let me hasten to say that I believe that we are all leaders. All of us in this movement, who take on the mantle of soldiership and officership, are called to be leaders. To say that I should be held to a different standard because I happen to have the appointment I do, to me says that there can be levels of loyalty??? My question is, "Is it fine for someone not in an administrative level to have questions about the movement and about the church in general, while those of us who are in those positions are not allowed to even wonder?" I frankly don't see the logic.

Our Army Mother said, "There is no changing the future without disturbing the present." I quoted that to my friend who said that it was fine for her to say this because she was one of the founders. I did not see the logic in that. My reply, "Are you saying that children are to seen and not heard?"

I submit not to ask the questions is to be disloyal. Because you want the movement and those in it to really move forward. If I have a question or give voice to questions others would want to ask, is that being disloyal?

I think it is all in how you ask. If I was denigrating people personally, it would be one thing. If I challenge the status quo or sincerely question with respect, then I think that it actually strengthens us. Debate that is civil and deep in my opinion only serves to inform. To not question, for me, is to settle for second best without wrestling with the ideas and traditions of faith. To not question, is in my opinion to breed passive aggressives. To not allow questions or to say that questioners are somehow disloyal would suggest that people like Luther, Wesley and Booth were somehow disloyal. Where is the difference???

Is there a time when we should salute and go? Sure. I think that even then, we owe it to the movement to if we have questions, to ask and not let unanswered questions turn into confusion or even worse bitterness.

To suggest that I am not human or that I am somehow needing to be above asking the hard questions because I happen to have a certain appointment, to me is illogical.

I have rambled a bit but I am interested in hearing you on this matter. Is my questioning disloyal? Does position make a difference when asking the hard questions? Do you think that this forum is the wrong forum to ask questions? Is this a helpful place to ask and discuss the hard questions?

What do you think?

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's Not Army?

I know I may tread dangerously as I write today. (What's new?) I recently have had a discussion that many of you have had. I was talking with some of our more veteran members about some of our newer ministries.

They explained how they had visited the newer plant. These godly people were aghast that there was very little uniform wearing that Sunday (if any). They were also somewhat dismayed that the worship leader was in a T-shirt (with a shield on it) blue jeans and flip-flops. They were also very unsure about the casual nature of the Gospel presentation that day and that instead of an "altar call" the preacher called people forward to wash their hands as a sign of some type of purity.

Their assessment was, that it was not Army. This prompted me to ask, so what exactly is? The conversation centered very much around worship forms, the NYSB and other venerable institutions of our movement. Little was said about the doctrine of holiness, service to the poor, or the fact that this particular expression of ministry conducted an outreach (in uniform) to the homeless on a regular basis.

I don't get really too much into the mix about uniform. I think there are some important times to wear it, especially for community service. I like a good brass band piece, on occasion, especially if I know the words and it isn't 12 minutes long. Rarely, can I sit through a concert anymore. I even like the song book, especially if we can use singable tunes.

I guess over the last 10 years as I have reflected on my service to the Lord through our movement, I have begun to think more and more about what is Army. I wonder if what we consider to be Army is more what we like and dislike rather than a real desire to serve the Lord as He leads us into this brave new world.

It comes down to whether it is about methodology or mission. Are we really meant to be a "church" in the denominational sense of the word? Or are we strictly to be a movement of the church especially for those who have no other church? Are we strictly for the poor and downtrodden? Is the answer somewhere in the middle?

What are the essentials of this movement ordained by God? Is the militaristic metaphor one that now causes more division, because of the divisive connotation behind military action or does it unite us behind a leader because of its clear structural delineation of responsibility? Is the answer somewhere in the middle? Is it none of the above?

Is wearing our uniform on Sunday really what we should do when we meet in the community of believers? Should we wear it some other time as a witness? Do we need uniform at all? Does the uniform cause more issues of division than we think or do we make more of this issue than we ought to?

These are all questions that have arisen over the years as we have wrestled with this issue of what Army is.

I fear that often we have treated many of our traditions as sacred cows and not really treated others with the respect which they deserve. We may also be a little guilty of not changing our ways for fear of the unknown.

So what is Army? Is it a matter of perspective, a matter of opinion, a matter of mission or a matter of holy leading? Have we labeled as important things that are more methodology than missional? Is a militaristic metaphor really the right one for these days?

I am asking myself many of these questions, while knowing that I am called to this movement because of what I see as Army.

So I ask again, what is Army?

I am anxious to hear.... What do you think?

Friday, March 14, 2008


I have heard the word authenticity thrown about a great deal over the past couple of years. As emerging Christians we often talk about authentic Christianity. We talk about authentic community. We talk about authentic leadership.

I must tell you that the whole idea of authenticity appeals to me. It should. It has to do with integrity and being who you are being made by God. It has to do with vulnerability and trust. Authenticity breeds trust.

For years, I think that we have talked in broad strokes about integrity. We have talked about it in terms of not spending money without proper receipts. We have also talked about it in terms of giving a full day's work. We have been called to be people of our word.

I think authenticity and integrity has to go deeper than that. I wonder how many of us do things in community and in the world with no motive other than to do them for sake of being loving people.

I know I live in an organization where we are called to "saving the lost." I am wondering if we did more things with authentic love, expecting nothing in return if more people would be transformed by the love of Christ. Instead, we seem to scheme, plan and gravitate toward the latest model in order to satisfy some idea of what we have called success.

Recently, we have invoked old language as a means of recapturing authenticity in our movement. We seem to want to resurrect some by gone era. We invoke the names of our past and we use much of their metaphor thinking that we can some how make ourselves more missional.

I see it this way, authenticity is not coaxed, a catch phrase or a something I do because I want to win the world for Jesus. I become vulnerable, I become caring and I become loving, because that is what Jesus did. If people get "saved" that is a bonus. Don't get me wrong, I want to see disciples made. I just wonder if more would be transformed by grace if we did not do things just to get them there, but rather built authentic relationship that would expect nothing in return.

I am not sure that I have made much sense today. I have been thinking about the whole idea of authenticity recently. Actually, I am trying to get my head around it. I am wondering if we are really as authentic in our faith as we need to be?

What are your thoughts on this idea of authenticity? How do you think the church would look if we really were authentic with each other and in the world?

Am I just dreaming that real vulnerability and authenticity will happen in the church? What is your definition of authenticity?

What do you think?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Losing Our Religion?

With all due respect to the R.E.M. song from the early 90's, it would appear that the Western World is leaving its religious roots. Recently, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a study which indicated that up to 44% of the US population has left the faith tradition of the family in which they were raised. Further, it was noted that 51% of the population claim to be Protestant in the country as compared with over 70%, 20 years ago.

It is not that people are necessarily leaving Christianity. It is that they are leaving the tradition of their family. In fact, the fastest growing churches in the US seem to be non-denominational churches. Time was that if you were born Methodist, Lutheran, Nazarene or Salvo, you stayed that way. Not so now.

In fact, it appears that the days of denominational loyalty are long gone. George Barna in his book "Revolution" predicted this a couple of years back. He indicated that he saw a day of boutique churches and the occasional mega-church, where people will pick and choose their place of worship.

To answer this, several denominations have started aggressive recruitment campaigns and media blitzes. These recruitment campaigns focus on joining a denomination. I am not sure those I have seen actually concentrate on joining the church. They seem more focused on denomination building. This is not to accuse those who want to build their denominations of being ungodly. I trust their motivation. I think that their methods are not effective and will probably not produce strong disciples. I hope I am wrong on the latter statement.

Syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman quotes Professor Donald Miller, of the Religious Studies Department at USC, in a recent column "You are the artist of your own life when it comes to religion," says Miller. "This enables people to be more thoughtful about what they perceive to be true and right rather than inheriting what passes down to them."

For years, I have thought that one of the things that has hampered us from making true disciples is that we have not allowed for strong questioning or opposing opinion in the Body of Christ. If someone questions doctrine or ecclesiastical practice, they are somehow branded as a malcontent, or worse, a heretic. Unfortunately, unquestioning loyalty is often rewarded, I believe, at the expense of a thoughtful, active faith.

Even family members of mine have had people tell them to get over their questions. They need to get past their hurts or anxieties. I have seen this questioning and denomination hopping not as unfaithfulness as much as I see it as a deep desire to discover deep meaningful faith.

Goodman writes, "I don't think Americans are just shopping for their beliefs in a trivial sense, trying on creeds like this year's vestment, searching for the latest spiritual fashion. But we are a people on the move. About 40 million of us move to another home every year. So too, we drop in and out of church, U-Hauling our beliefs off in search of a better fit. Today, we may shop in a spiritual mall. But what good fortune to find the mall paved over the old religious battlefields"

So I have been thinking very deeply these days about this subject. I am wondering if there will be a day when most of our denominations will close up shop? I see a day coming when we will need to change our idea of church. I continue to wonder if we are more concerned about building denominations and not the Kingdom. I know that each denomination sees itself as having certain distinctives theologically and in practice. I would submit, however, that most people really could not tell you the difference.

Where does this leave us who are faithful to denominations? Are we at the point where we are losing our religion? Is denominational loyalty important? Is it more important that we ask people join a cause for Christ or a church?

I have been rolling these thoughts through my mind. Is my questioning somehow being unfaithful? As with all of my posts, I want to know.....

What do you think?