This was how it was described to me.
We were walking around the Republic of Ireland. Seeing if there was a new way the Salvation Army could engage with this nation.
(There are just a few churches and a social centres, with vast expanses of seeming possiblities!)
As we chatted with people, and discussed with local leaders and community works, we kept coming back to the same question.
But how do we connect and support these places if we were to 'open up the work?'
As we journeyed around, chatted, prayed and reflected on what we saw, we increasingly became aware of the missionary nature of the early church. (is there any other way?)
The gospel spread by the power of those first witnesses who had seen and believed.
They lived their lives in a way, that demonstrated the transforming work of the Spirit.
In a way that showed the supernatural work of God.
In a way that excited and compelled others to follow.
This whole way of living was apostolic by its very nature!
The people of God were sent out into the world.
They did not stay in Jerusalem.
They went to the margins, the uttermost parts and people whilst they did continue to be connected to Jerusalem.
Can you imagine what would have happened if they had just stayed put in Jerusalem, at the centre?
The very nature of Gods people is that we are a sent people, nomadic and should not accept the settled place.
Surely therefore the Salvation Army is by its nature a sent missionary people! But where is it rooted in?
Where does it live out of?
Rev George Lings says that the very essence of The Church sent is centrifugal rather that centripetal, but in fact it has in the west operated for many years in a centripetal manner. Rather than the church being pulled and moving further and further out from its centre it has continued to allow all things to be shaped around the centre. If this had happened there would have been no spread beyond the 'known places', at the time of post resurrection.
These functions are described as 'Centripetal force is defined as, “The component of force acting on a body in curvilinear motion that is directed toward the centre of curvature or axis of rotation,” while centrifugal force is defined as, “The apparent force, equal and opposite to the centripetal force, drawing a rotating body away from the centre of ... www.lifescience.com'
Lings argues that this centrifugal way of operating is what we see in the great challenged of Acts 1:8, as a sent people you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts.
This apostolic way of working is what those first disciples were called to.
To reach out, to go beyond.
They were as Archibishop Rowan Williams, and others have described as rooted and free.
The Church, the people of Christ needs to be rooted, and free to explore.
As I walked yesterday, I really needed to clear my head from what seemed to me to be decisions that were more rooted in Jerusalem as the centre than allowing the edges, the margins to flourish.
I do not believe the centre is the key, I believe the edge is where we need to find ourselves....
I believe that we are as a people called to the edge but who are still rooted and free.
Maybe, just maybe the biggest challenge we face in Europe is that the church is formed far to much around the centre ground, and therefore cannot cope or wrestles with the edges of society and how we engage with them?
Im wondering, are we not called to be a scouting party who are sent out to rescue those falling of the edge of society, rather than building up structures to reinforce the centre?
Maybe just maybe, when Israel was busy building and rebuilding the Temple, Christ showed us each a different way when we are told 'our bodies are temples of the living God?'
Im wondering, does the edge shape the centre or does the centre control how far out the
Im thinking yet again, its bit old school maybe??
We are at war.
We have to fight this war out on the battlefield, not in the trenches, the safe places.
We need to break free of our safety nets and abandon ourselves into the safe hands of The Father.
We are an Army at war, and it may be that we need to push out further,