Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Beauty Below.....

What a dire dark world we live in......or is it really?  Does the media determine how I see things?

I was thrilled to hear the other day on Twitter that Jonny Wilkinson was going to be a knight in the new year honours list, only to read this morning that The Daily Mirror had in fact got it wrong and he wasnt??  Who knows, I guess we will find out what is real tomorrow?  BUT who determines how I see things?

Do I see:-

Destruction....
Brokeness...
Hatred.....
Despair.... or

Joy...
Contentment....
Assurance...
Hope

As we reflect on the year past and look forward, I cannot help but continue to ponder on the journey or faith, embodied in the people of Israel and my own and church journey this year.  Nicky Gumble would say 'its been interesting!'

I've just walked, what seemed miles, although probably just a few, across the frozen countryside of West Yorkshire.  Its looks barren, desolate, leaves on the ground, trees bare, fields empty, or so it seems on first glance.   Then you see, if you really look....

The glistening frost laying on the fields, hanging from the boughs of the trees,  there's even a bit of green showing through, hints of life.  And then a beautiful Robin redbreast sits on a branch as content as can be.  What seems desolate and dead was in fact beautiful and alive.  I just needed to search harder with my eyes.

It would be so easy to reflect that like Israel in the wilderness, and indeed the Church in 2014 in the West, all seems destined to die.  Little or no hope.  BUT then like Israel God promises to bestow upon them beauty instead of ashes.  There was indeed hidden in the desolate place of the wilderness glimpses of the Creator Gods provision, manna and quails to name a few!

As I look, through my national role within the SA and at the state of the UK Church there is no doubt that all is not well, indeed we are faced by many challenges.  It feels like each day another citadel, church, or people are laid in ruins.  We have to search, look hard and long for signs of hope.  For beauty in the ashes.

BUT there are signs of hope, if you want to see them!

Im thinking that maybe the church desolate and broken is actually the best place to be?  You see when we do not know the answers, when we are at our weakest, when our strategies for evangelism have seemingly failed, when less and less people seem prepared or interested to get involved, then maybe just maybe we will see the God of resurrection power demonstrating His beauty in the ruins?

My testimony is of a God who has brought beauty out brokeness, out of ruins.

There is hope.  I choose to look for it.  I choose to believe in a God of resurrection to life, from death.

You see my theology and experience of God is not of a God who just died, but of a God who died and rose to life.  I seek this year to proclaim, life not death, beauty not despair,

What do you see in the ruins?  Despair or Beauty?

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Heres Hoping........

I've waited.....
Hung on....
Trusted...... and it now feels right to express the reality of HOPE.

HOPE in the midst of despair...
Brokenness...
Isolation.....
Rejection....
Falsehoods.....

God, who is Emmanuel, (GOD WITH US) has truly been my sufficiency and my HOPE through the hardest, toughest of years.

I write this not to wallow in self pity nor
To seek peoples favour or sympathy nor
To say woe is me.......nor
To say I have gone under

Rather

I want to express that Jesus has been my HOPE.  He has indeed walked with me and brought me through.
He has stood with me in the face of adversity
He has held me when I needed to he held
He has comforted me when I've cried and felt smashed
He has answered when I have shouted
He has been there by my side when I have not known where to turn.

God has indeed been with me.

Hope is vital when you are faced by uncertainty
Hope is what holds you when you do not know how to hold on
Hope is not wishy washing, it is certain.

Christ is certain.
He can be relied upon.
He never abandons us.
He is always present.

This is why I can declare that Christ has been and is my HOPE.

This year I can do Christmas.  Last year I couldnt
Im thankful, so thankful to friends and loved one who have stood with me when they have seen me crumpling before their eyes.  How because they have affirmed the Hope I needed to be reminded of.

Friends thank you.  

I pray that you would all know the HOPE which Christ offers you this Christmas.

Emmanuel - GOD IS WITH US!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Imagine

This weekend I lead a conference for the Salvation Army.  It is aimed at asking some deep and searching questions of some of our larger churches.  This has forced/allowed me to spend nearly three weeks, thinking, praying, considering where I think we are being challenged as a movement and maybe where we need to seek God afresh.

I am in no doubt God has a purpose for us still today.  So I have allowed my imagination to wonder, and have allowed the Holy Spirit to stir deep within my being.

Join me would you in praying that God does pour out His Spirit on this gathering, that not only excites but re-energises our 'cathedrals' to look beyond their walls

One thing is certain  and that has become clear to be is that none of us know what the SA will look like in the near, let alone distant future but I do believe our heartbeat is still beating and our calling to the lost still as real as ever.

SO I prayed and i looked at the bones before me, and i asked can these bones live.......

Imagine….
The whole country impacted and influenced by a new demonstration of Salvation, Holiness, social action, prophetic voice to the lost, despised rejected.

Imagine, communities and people not yet reached or who have never even heard the good news of Jesus being confronted and transformed by His name

Imagine not being able to contain or constrain such a movement of the Holy Spirit.
Imagine…….

Lord make our imaginations reality.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Down the garden path?

And the Lord was led into the wilderness......  He was led!

So sometimes im just to honest?  I was told last week im straighter than straight!  This was a compliment, I believe.

So yesterday, I was led to places I did not want to go...You see ive been putting myself through some counselling in the light of the challenges I have found myself faced by in recent months. I know I have needed it.  It will be beneficial, although im not convinced at present it is!!

At many levels im a free spirit.  I read yesterday that apostles need to be given the freedom to explore and be creative, do not try to shackle them or constrain them in your organisations!  (Floyd McClung)

Ive always struggled with being told what to do.  Indeed I like very much to set my own path...

But as a spiritual leader, I not only lead but am led.  In fact we need to seek Gods leading before we lead, lets get it the right way round Andrew.   Sometimes we are led down ways I would not choose to go.

My counsellor has started taking me places i do not really want to go.....you see I know its going to be tough, painful, and open up wounds that at present have a plaster on them.  But i know she is right to do so.  I also know I need to go where she leads, no matter what the cost.

I think Im learning that even free creative spirits need to be led!!

Its raw, very raw.  Emotion bubbles about like a bubbling brook.....but I believe its the Spirit that is leading me to places of faith and experience of God that I have not had before through all this pain.

So I did the Christ thing.  I went to a quiet place and reflected on the God, who ultimately leads me.

The picture is Otley Chevin.









The words that came into my mind:
Saviour lead me day by day,
Ever in thine own sweet way
Sweeter lesson cannot be
Loving Him who first loved me

So Saviour lead me where you will and give me the grace and wisdom to follow

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Real Worship??

Is this really worship?  I think this is a question we might be asking lots in the years to come.

I've been preparing a big corps conference for the SA.  In which we are seeking to help corps understand the importance of mission within church life.

Indeed I would go further and say that there is no church without mission and their is no mission without church?

But what are the fundamental building blocks, that have to be in place for worship/church to truly be experienced and demonstrated?

I will just share with you my latest experience of worship and let you make up your own mind.

On Sunday, as we had no building to use we went into a SNAW (semi natural ancient woodland).  This was a beautiful setting, trees, blue bells and many other natural flowers etc.  We stood quietly together at the start of our worship.  The people of God gathered together, pleased to see one another, hugging chatting laughing.

The leader set the scene, using Gods word and prayer.

We were led through the woodland, stopping at certain points to listen, reflect, chat.  We even at one point laid on our backs in the wood and looked upto the blue sky, to get a different perspective.  It really was an inspirational time.

Less than 300 metres away the traffic went about its day and a car boot sale was in full flow, but where we were was totally peaceful.

We concluded with a reading and personal challenge, and then went to share in cake and coffee?

Was this worship?

Or was it emerging church at its best/worst?

Ill let you decide, but I want to share that God was everywhere present and spoke very powerfully. Not my normal preferred style or even passion for worship, but for me deeply profound.

God can bless and inspire in ways we do not understand or even find comfortable, but I hope we are open to The Creator and creative God uses whatever means to get His message home!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Beauty is deeper

It seem as though its taken ages to build in the worst of conditions and with obstacles all along the way,but at last the top is going on and the nice bits added.  Im talking about the extension close by on a neighbours house, or do i mean life? Everyone who has lived near to this extension has been affected by the mess and chaos.

Sometimes it gets messy before the beauty is seen...


As i reflect on my journey and struggles in recent months, I have all the way through been confident that God would bring good out of it and that His glory would be seen and experienced in and through it.  


You see God makes all things beautiful in His time!


Sometimes however, you have to be looking differently.  With an alternative perspective.  We really do need to try and look at things through the eyes of Christ.  But this id a decision of the will, a conscious decision.


Jesus understood brokenness leading to beauty.



Today my heart goes out to the family, teachers, children of Corpus Christi school in Leeds.  A teacher who for over forty years invested her life into others, only for some, at this point unexplained reason, to be killed whilst living out her vocation.  That being to help teach and prepare young people to achieve their potential in life.  This morning we are reading and hearing of the way she sought to live her life.  Their seems to be to be beauty even now shining through the brokenness?


As I prepared for my day early this morning, i looked out as the day woke up, yellow fields full of rape seeds seem to be enveloped by thick fog, the yellow just about broke through.  But now just a few hours later, the field are bright yellow, beautifully bright, and the sky is clear.


Friends yes their is beauty in brokenness, and I believe God does make all things beautiful in HIS TIME.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Naked Truth (pure truth)

What is Truth, these words resound about me, and shout out to me this holy week.

WHAT IS TRUTH??

Pilate was in this place of helplessness.  Scared of making the wrong decisions re Jesus.  Scared of the implications for him.  Scared I suggest about the consequences of his decisions.
No wonder he agonised over what is truth……?

It didn’t help him that Jesus would not speak out against the lies and accusations.  Jesus knew he needed to demonstrate through his response that he trusted implicitly in His Father.  He could so easily have shouted defiantly, denounced the lies, caused a riot.  And still he remained silent.  St Frances of Assisi said. 'Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.'

Jesus let the truth speak for itself and saw everything against the eternal plan of Salvation.
Jesus knew the truth and the truth had set him free!

We live in an age where so many people question, whether there is any such thing as absolute Truth?  Sadly more often than not people who could once be trusted simply because of their positions/jobs/status seem to no longer be held in such regard.  There is no doubt that this is sadly down to the actions and conduct of those who have mistreated such positions, but also because many many things nowadays are thrown (whether true or not) against people who in society stick their heads above the parapet.
You could easily say, well that goes with the positions?

Jesus made outrageous statements, and many were about himself.  When he declared I am the way the truth and the life, many must have thought he was either some manic egotist of was of his rocker!  Can you imagine how people would respond today to such a statement!

For me the beauty of Jesus, as truth is best summed up in his conduct and actions in holy week, and then thankfully in His Resurrection.  Jesus did what he said he would do.  Bless Him!

·         I believe that Jesus is Truth. 
·         I believe He says what He will do and does it.
·         I believe He continues to walk with us through life, is alive and not dead
·         I believe that Jesus is the acid test to which we should seek to measure our lives against (holiness)
·         I believe that the Truth does set us free (but sometimes you have to go through suffering before it comes out?)

We as followers of ‘The Way’ have a responsibility to declare truth and live by it, no matter, like Christ comes our way.  If we do……then the truth sets us free.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Naked of Material Security

I sense in holy week the reality that Jesus had no where to call his home, or lay his head really must have struck home.

He even had to borrow a means of transport (a donkey!) to arrive into Jerusalem, and then a tomb for his body to be placed in.  He really did not have anything?

Jesus had no material, or physical earthly security.  He literally did live and walk by faith. Sleeping and feeding at the homes of people, mostly on the margins of society.  Although he did have a great ability to take the small offerings of friends and meet peoples and his own needs, eg. loaves fish etc.

By walking light of worldly things, did this make it easier for Him to be and have to be more reliant on the provision of His Father?  He truly was naked of material security.

There is something deeply attractive about such a life of faith.

Its obvious to anyone as they have journeyed with me, listened or read anything that I have written in recent months, that I have found myself being stripped back in many differing ways and levels, the consequence is that I have had to choose how I respond to what God is trying to do in my life, daily?


  • I am deeply moved by how Jesus lived his life in the face of suffering.  
  • I am deeply compelled to try and live a life that is more and more reliant on The Father.
  • I am deeply challenged that I want people to be attracted by the way I live my life.


These thoughts then collide, a bit like Jesus did with the religious leaders. I earnestly desire to seek to follow the ways of the kingdoms, but the worlds standards, desires and expectations have so invaded the Church today, that they seem to set the agenda all to often

I hear far to much about employment rights and what we are entitled to.
I hear to much about how we should respond, which time and time again is no different to the world

As i consider the way that Christ lived I have much to learn, but we The Church I think would experience far more answers to faith if we weren't so materially reliant?

And i speak to my own heart before I dare speak to anyone elses.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Naked..Mind!

When Paul said your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2), I am bizarrely encouraged by the humanity that I see in Jesus life in Holy Week.
 
I really get what Paul continually wrote about when he time and time again speaks about the battle of the mind.  We see glimpses of this battle in Jesus life during Holy week.

Just what was going on in His mind?
I am deeply amazed and blessed as I consider the focus by which Jesus went about His father business.  The salvation of mankind.
·         He knew the cost of what His Father was asking of Him?
·         He knew those who had shouted Hosanna would deny, disown, ignore, sell him out.
·         He knew those he loved would be broken, hurt, mourn and feel abandoned.

All this, if He was truly and properly man, which I believe he was, would have been flying around in His head.  So how was he so peaceful, still and in ‘control of his emotions’?

Now I want to say, without I trust boasting, that I believe my mind and thinking are some of my best components.  I love to strategize, think, look at things and reflect.  I probably do far too much of this, but as many say your strength is so close to your weakness as well.  I’ve had hours, days, weeks, even months to spend in thinking and reflection.  This has been as Paul said my biggest ‘battleground’.


Someone gave me great advise early on.  It was look at this as a blessing from God and use it as such.  So I did and have.
What has Jesus taught me during this time?

Well His approach to holy week has been a great inspiration.  I’m convinced Jesus achieved all that He did because He continually kept his mind of things above, on His Fathers intention and will for His life.
It has helped me that Jesus has walked hand in hand with me through my suffering, in the same way God walked with Jesus through His.  It has helped me continually that Jesus has been in the boat with me, not asleep, very much awake.  It has helped me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith.


My mind is a gift from God, which needs to be submitted to Gods intention for my life.  It needs to be continually renewed by Gods Spirit and it needs to be fixed on what Jesus is asking of me.  I have faced my own suffering and struggles best when this is where my mind is.  It takes a determination to fight through the pain, focused on Him, but when my will and His will are entwined then my naked mind is indeed what God needs it to be!  Totally reliant on Him!

Naked!

I've been on a learning journey, which has centred in over these last months in the experiences of Holy week. One of my key things has been redemption and restoring brokeness.

As I consider my own journey of faith through the last months, I have become more and more aware of what it means to take up my cross and follow.   I think I want to describe it as being Naked Before God!

In nakedness, their is no hiding place.  You either are secure in who you are, or you find yourself wanting to hide.  I must confess i dont really like what i look like so to think of myself naked is literally a scary thought!!!

Its fascinating what we build up around ourselves, to protect ourselves.  It does not have to be deliberate or intentional.  It may well just be circumstance.  What is fascinating however, is what happens to you, and how you respond when you suddenly do find yourself naked.

I see Christ's journey through Holy Week , as Himself being stripped bare and totally vulnerable before man.  Without being boastful or proud, I can relate to this, not in a messianic prophetic way, but in the simplicity of my own humanity trying to live out the life of grace and love.

Yesterday, I was reminded by the preacher, Andrea, of Philippians 2:1-11.  Our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus.   Humility is not something to be grasped, it is to be lived out!

And they shouted Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

I have heard many hosannas in the past when my own life has been spoken about.  Its fair to say I've been quite a popular and well liked person.  (i think I still am at many levels).  I'm definitely noticed when I walk in the room.  (again not by choice interestingly).  To me, its felt that my popularity in recent months has been lost.  I have felt like a real hot potatoe.

What happens to us as believers when the things which maybe we have allowed our lives to be built upon are taken away?

For me it has driven me back to the presence of The Father.  Blessed are you when you are persecuted for my names sake, the Word says.  It has been good, most of the time, to stand naked before God.  Christ understands what it is to have no standing in man's eyes, to be persecuted falsely, to have no beauty in man's eyes,  BUT To be secure and loved by Almighty God.

I thank God that I am being stripped back bare.  To lose more and more of myself.  I hope and pray that as people listen and see my life now, they will now see more of the reality of the Father lived out in me rather than the larger than life personality.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

So how do we dress today

So how will we dress today?  (What will the Church look like?)

As I consider my journey over recent months, the scariest thing that I have had to face has been time and time again, that all of whom I am and my security has been stripped back.  The things that I have rested upon, my personality, my faith, my character, my ‘proven track record’ have all been questioned.  Even the supposed security of my denomination and officership have been taken (temporarily?) from me.  When in this place you have two choices: throw yourself totally onto who God is and what He is doing or walk away from it all.  Thankfully, most of the time, it has been to God who has held me time and time again.  In fact again to be honest without my faith I’m not sure how I would have got through. 

It is in this mind-set however that it has been good to visit The Church and its missionary call in my thinking.  It is to such broken people as me that God calls us.  He calls us, The Church to be the demonstration of his healing presence, and to enfold broken humanity in his loving arms of embrace.  Have we forgotten that the world, and ourselves all need God’s healing touch?

It is fascinating therefore that here lies much of the tension for myself and for many who are not yet convinced of the love of God for them. We, The Church, seem all too often aloof from our realities.  Should not who we are (the denomination) be shaped by where it is all happening?  In planting terms we need to allow the edge (pioneering new things) to shape the centre.  BUT I have to say that the centre of religious traditions all too often shape the edge.  We have got it the wrong way round, in my opinion.  To be fair I know and recognise we need both.

The local church, in recent months has been amazing.  They love their God, and have loved me so much too.  A well respected officer said months ago to me in his office something which has stayed with me.  You are experiencing the mirror of grace back which you have held up to others over the years.   This challenge has allowed them to experience a whole new outpouring of the Holy Spirit and has called us back into a nomadic missionary church expression.  No base to call home (or to lay their heads), so we have worked, lived and breathed all over the community.  Wetherby Community Church continues to be on the move, for which I bless God.  And then there is the organisation which, to be totally honest has not known how to respond, and it has seemed has been more worried about its name and reputation.  Now this sounds harsh, it’s not meant to be!  Genuinely!  But we The Church have to learn from and through these experiences.  I do believe God has allowed this to happen to me, because of who I am and because God knows I will use this for His Glory, I pray.  I believe God has a purpose and calling upon the SA, if anything, this experience has embedded this deeper into my being.

Martin Wellings, Methodist minister says ‘for close to two thousand years a blend of Spirit-led creativity, evangelistic necessity, cultural pressures and sheer restlessness has encouraged or compelled Christians to seek new ways of proclaiming and embodying the good news of Jesus Christ.’

It’s interesting to note that Anglicanism could not contain or constrain the Wesleys, Methodism could not the Booths and so history continues with the likes of Forster, Coates, Johnson, etc.
But what was key to each of the above was a holy desire to allow God to be God and for creativity not to be stifled.  The old wine skins could not constrain the new wine.
I am inclined to think, and have an amazingly healthy respect for my forbearers and tradition, that we are not living in Victorian England.  I love what The Salvation Army was birthed to be and I love what it stands for. We must never lose sight of our commitment to the margins, the poor, the despised, and the broken.  But maybe we need new creative ways of engaging with this generation? 

My mum, a life-long Salvationist, who loves me dearly, best embodies the tensions we work with.  She always jokes I’m not a proper SA officer and Wetherby is not a proper SA corps.  I always smiled at this until my son, who is 22 expressed he wants to do church differently and understands faith differently to me, AND yet all he has known is Wetherby Community Church!  Here lies the need for us to be open to a far broader church than we know as individuals.  It highlights that there needs to be a far broader, more diverse and more creative way of thinking about church.  What works for mum, may not work for me, may not work for my children.

The mission field is changing at a pace.  But who we are, the Church, must be shaped by continual listening to God’s missionary heart for all peoples from all walks of life.  This is the strategic review we need to be undertaking. I believe we have to rediscover the ‘going’ of church rather than the ‘coming’ (or attractive model) of church.  I can’t help but think of Phil Wall’s quote years ago when he said ‘so just when was the Army called to stay in the barracks?’  The Army was always called to fight the fight wherever the fight was.  Demographics, socio-economic and philosophical changes are happening at a pace, whilst all too often we remain static, in the same place, physically, metaphorically and spiritually.  A soldier that stays static gets shot dead! 

So how do we maintain the movement, keep on our toes?  Again it has to be by continually revisiting our first love.  The reason we were called into being.  How does the missionary God fit against our church life and programmes?  The landscape is changing fast, and if we do not adapt with the times, and allow the ‘wind of the Spirit to blow where it will’, then we will not only be left behind but we will die. 
I suggest it really doesn’t matter what we wear.  What we look like.  I’m not the same as mum, but it’s obvious I’m her son.  My son is not the same as me, but it’s obvious he is my son.  This is not consumerism, this is the recognition that to effectively reach one another the gospel has to presented in ways that truly engage the different people groups and needs.

I recognise the dangers of this way of thinking.  I have heard the criticism of anything new or emerging, even going as far as them being called heresy.  But I would rather seek to live my life trying to fulfil the missionary call of God to the world through His church in the generation that I’m living in, than sit in my hat or religious clothes in a building, whilst the lost pass me by.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Church for Today or Yesterday......

Church…  For Today or Yesterday…
Martyn Atkins states, ‘that the Christian Church is primarily mission shaped is one of the key theological rediscoveries of our times.  This shapedness of church is today resulting in an explosion of wonderful variety and creativity.’  Much of this new creativity is being discovered within Anglican and Methodist traditions within the Fresh Expressions movement.
Atkins goes on to say ‘the essential nature and purpose of the Christian Church is missional’, he then contends that fresh expressions are perfectly normal and expected outcomes of church, understood as the mission of God.
For me and many others today however this seems a very strange place to start, the Church.  Bob Hopkins ACPI has for many years, in fact at least my entire ministry suggested that ‘we have to stop starting with the church’.  I agree.
Our mission-shaped thinking about the church has to start where all our belief systems are birthed out of.  God.
Our understanding of mission has to start with God.  It is all shaped by our understanding of who God is.  How He interacts with His world, and with us, His people. 
I want to share that in my view, much of our mission teaching has focused in on two forms of thinking in recent decades, as the Church has taught its people.  These two forms being the Missio Dei and Incarnation.  Both, whilst helpful in our understanding, fall short I believe of truly communicating who God is, and more importantly our own doctrine.
I’m indebted to Trevor Hutton, who has helped my own understanding and awareness of the Missio Trinitatis.  Our God is a Trinitarian God, who is at work in our world, His world, through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Missio Dei and Incarnation fall slightly short of this far fuller understanding of God as Mission.
God the Father, loved His world enough that he walked it Incarnate in Jesus, and then when the work of salvation was complete sent His Holy Spirit to the world to empower His Church to carry on this Mission to the lost and broken humanity.
It is for this reason that we believe  not only that there are three persons in the Godhead, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory, but that also all three are active in the world today.
As we consider the role and place of the church today, I believe it is fair to say that in today’s society so much of its time and focus has become about self-preservation.  We seem to shape so many of our programmes for our own needs.  Our buildings have become massive millstones around our necks all too often.  We spend much of our time generating income to keep them open and well furnished.  We have forgotten that our primary focus is to the God of mission, whose primary purpose is to the world.
Jesus did not teach his disciples, seek first the kingdom of God, coincidentally.  He was reminding them of their first love and calling.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart…..then love your neighbours.  Have we forgotten that our (the church) purpose is to love God and love humanity?
Many teachers and students today, say that our ecclesiology, is shaped by our missiology which is shaped by our theology.  Bosch says ‘God the Father sending his Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit was expanded to yet another movement.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the Church into the world.’  Atkins therefore concludes that ‘the Christian Church finds its proper place in the scheme of things through this thinking.  In short it derives its life, nature, mission and ministry (its shape) from the Christian Godhead.’
John 20:21 ‘As the Father sent me, says Jesus, so I have sent you.’
St. Augustine reminds us ‘The Church does not have mission; it is mission’.
I want to therefore suggest where mission is not at the heart of Church life, that church falls short of the glory of God, and His purpose for it.  Where the church has become preoccupied with its own internal organisations safeguards and structures, and with self-preservation, it is not truly fulfilling its primary purpose.  That being to the world.
When we consider the movement which is The Salvation Army and how it came into being, there is no doubt whatsoever, in its formative days pre 1910, that it was called to the world.  It was very common for its first disciples to constantly be heard to repeat its mantra,  whosoever will may come.    Birthed and lived out with its Holiness Trinitarian doctrine, to the world.
So what changed?  Well many things, far too many for this ramble.
Like many church denominations throughout history, we created and organised ‘efficient religion’,  BUT in doing so, I also believe we stifled the creativity of the Spirit.
There is no doubting that from the earliest Pauline churches, the tension between doctrine, practice and organisation of the church have been real issues, with which many communities have wrestled.  But history is also littered with the Church being rebirthed through new expressions.  Whether that be Reformation, Catholic renewal, Anglican, Free Church, The New Church and now Fresh Expressions, and many others in between.  There seems continually to be a need for the Church to look at itself and uphold its standards, values and principles against Our Father’s missionary heart. Indeed Prof James Dunn says ‘Christianity itself has its origins as a fresh expression of Judaism and the New Testament canon demands that Christianity is continually refreshed by a return to sources but expresses itself differently in different contexts.
But do we undertake this strategic spiritual review anywhere near enough? Do we revisit our spiritual resources when asking such questions?
We live in an age where strategic reviews, and rebranding are common-place.  These normally come about in the worlds eyes because the ‘company’ has lost either its vision of what it is or because it’s lost its share of the market place.  If God has called us, the Church, to the world, how are we fulfilling that vision and how are we measuring the  ‘fruitfulness’ of this vision?
This throws up for me many challenges as I consider our role, the UKT, and my own as a Salvation Army officer. 
I have had several months now to look at what and who we are.  I have allowed God to challenge me, and for myself to undergo a full spiritual review.  This has been tough, painful, demanding, stressful, and lonely, and yet, helpful, renewing, refreshing, and God blessed.  My passion and love for God is strengthened, my calling to God is sure, but there are many questions that are bouncing around in my head when I consider this: ‘how is the God of Mission being demonstrated through His Church (yes His Church), The Salvation Army’.   We sing ‘we need another Pentecost…’ but I’m inclined to think, yes we do, but first we need to be reminded of our first love and our first purpose.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all…. then love your neighbour. 

Is our church, His Church, still relevant for today or are we living in yesterday?  I will continue my thoughts and prayerful considerations in the days ahead.  Maybe the reason I’m where I am is because this is what I have been created for?

Emmaus Pioneer Journey

Picture the scene. You arrive, on a day off to spend the day with one of your children. To help him out. You're greeted by about 5 t...