Friday, August 12, 2005

A New Kind of Church, Continued...(pt. 2)

I began working with The Salvation Army in 1998. Until that time I knew it only as a charitable organization. My soul struggled with charitable organizations because, though I was desperately drawn to them, I always believed that my life had been set aside to serve the church. And as a conservative Christian in America, I had always been led to believe that charitable organizations were for liberal tree huggers interested only in the physical needs of people, rather than the spiritual needs. So I had always kept my distance out of a perceived sense of obedience but had always longed to be doing something tangible like these organizations were doing. It wasn’t until I discovered that The Salvation Army was a church that suddenly my two great passions came together and I was finally able to describe my doctrine as “full gospel”.

Almost seven years later and my soul has been set free to embrace social justice as a part of my faith and my mind has been set free to question everything I’ve ever been taught about the Bible, faith, religion, and Christianity.

But The Salvation Army, like so many of the other doctrinal influences in my life, has also not been able to stand alone in my mind. For one thing, though it was founded on the idea of mission and social action, its members are rarely involved with either on a personal level. Generalization? Maybe. But my experience (in two separate territories) is that, for most, it’s enough to simply “attend” The Salvation Army and its worship services. Let the officers and social workers take care of the needy! The Army has also fiercely embraced church hierarchy; something I believe has no place in the church. It has also spent the last one-hundred years trying to justify why it doesn’t participate in any of the sacraments, a justification that, frankly, nobody is buying. Still, if the Army could ever embrace the way the world views its role in society (as a group that helps people), I believe that it could do a lot to change the way the world views the church.

To be continued…

(End of part 2)

Comments on "A New Kind of Church, Continued...(pt. 2)"

 

Blogger Jim Knaggs said ... (12:18 AM) : 

Hi Tim: I'm listening and trying not to jump in prematurely. I know you are a God-seeker and trust you. I'm very glad God has led you to TSA.

 

Blogger Nicole_Hostetler said ... (4:01 PM) : 

I have read parts one and two and am a bit concerned. First let me state that I appreciate your honesty and transparency on these subjects. As it relates to the church and service, every church and denomination will express service and worship differently(I think about the champs at the super bowl. They may jump up and down, cry, hug, sing, or just sit in awe of the moment. It took every player to win, offensive and defensive but each has their own part to play. The same is true of the church. Everyone has a part to play, the goal is to grow the Kingdom of God and bring people to Him. This includes all social classes, educational levels, and age groups. This means that every church should be doing something that will bridge the gap to bring all people into contact with the saving grace of Christ. with that we do not disagree (at least this is what I am getting from your writing). As it relates to the sacraments, The Salvation Army is not NONsacramental. We are PANsacramental. We do not frown upon the traditional sacraments, but we realize that they are not necessary to salvation! We have our own traditions and ceremonies that are in place, but this does not mean that we think nor should we believe that even these are means of grace! Every breath, every meal, every conversation, every service done in the name of Christ is a sacrament. If every member of the church (meaning the global church) would make this their primary sacrament (not demeaning or suggesting they dismiss the other practices)we would have the Great Commission on our lips daily! We would fulfill Christ's call to Go and tell (in words or actions), Disciple and mentor (words and example), and Welcome in to the Fellowship to the ends of the earth!!!

 

Blogger Tim said ... (5:51 PM) : 

I suppose I could answer this post by allowing my post to speak for itself…

“It (The Salvation Army) has also spent the last one-hundred years trying to justify why it doesn’t participate in any of the sacraments, a justification that, frankly, nobody is buying.” See above.

I could also point to The Lordship Conspiracy (found in the book A Generous Orthodoxy) which suggests that we have replaced Jesus, as our Lord, with Paul. One of the theory’s arguments is that “we (the church) have developed theological systems that taught us how to avoid many of Jesus’ teachings and reinterpret those we couldn’t avoid.” See above.

But I think I’ll simply point out that none of the Old Testament’s or New Testament’s commandments “save” us. They’re something we do out of obedience, respect, and (often) for our own welfare. At what point do we get to choose which ones we do and do not want to live by?

I was recently fascinated by a conversation I had with a local officer. He was bashing another local church for requiring one of his former soldiers to be baptised before she could join the church. I find it interesting that we’re incensed by the idea of a church requiring its prospective members to fulfil certain Biblical mandates and yet find it completely appropriate to bypass those mandates and come up with a long list of our own to fulfil (vows, uniforms, etc.)

 

Blogger Laura said ... (5:54 PM) : 

I stumbled onto your blogsite from Nate's site. I was curious to see what you're up to these days. Congratulations on the baby. I can't believe you're going to be a father!

As I read the two parts of your thoughts on a new kind of church, I must say that I am surprised that you are still struggling with these issues. I thought perhaps you'd finally found your niche, but I guess you're still trying to find it.

You bring up some very thought provoking issues in what you say. And, I've been mulling over what you've said and am trying not to jump to conclusions. Perhaps you're involvement in the social ministry of Salvation Army has been limited because of the positions you've held "in two seperate territories" instead of in a corps. I remember you telling me that you attend "the corps" and not "a corps". Perhaps that's why you still stuggle with these very issues. In my own experience, and even now as an officer, I believe that The Salvation Army is still fulfilling its mission that it set out to do over a hundred years ago. Do you realize that many of the people that attend a corps are recipients of our social services? Walk into any corps and you'll find them. Social ministry is more than bringing a youth group to work at an after school program for a week, it's more than taking a group of teens to the homeless underneath a bridge once a year. It's the very heart of our ministry! Where would the Salvation Army be without it's social minitry?! You speak of members "simply" attending its worship services. What do you tell the Sunbeam leader who plans and prepares for her group each week? What do you tell the man who is volunteering to make sure there is dinner one night a week for youth programs or the soup kitchen? These are all part of social ministry where corps members/soldiers are involved. So, Tim, I'll ask you, what have you done to fulfill the mission of The Salvation Army in combining its church ministry and its social minstry that goes beyond what you're paid to do?

As a salvationist who has grown up in the Army and have had experiences attending other denominations along the way, there's no such thing as a perfect church. And, you're search to find one will be life long and will not be fulfilled until that glorious day. While you may not agree with the church hierachy, there's also something to be said about the structure that it provides. I'm not out here struggling to figure it all out, I know who to go to for help in ministry. Still, I realize, this is not perfect either, but just like each individual, the Army is a work in progress.

What is a sacrament? Is it not an outward sign of an inward happening? Let's take that a step further... How about a sacrament being a pledge of our commitment to Christ? God has made the ordinary sacred by investing Himself in the ordinary. If God has done that, shouldn't everything we do be a sacrement to Him. "It has been said that we are not fully Christian until Christ has become Lord not only of the communion table but also the dinner table." An ordinary meal can be a sacrement to Him. The Lord must be in every aspect of our lives. If a sacrament is pledging our lives to Christ then that is all inclusive. Every part of us should be a sacrament to the Lord. Where the Israelites not told time and time again that to obey is better than sacrifice? My prayer is that each salvationist, each Christians lives' would be a living sacrament to the Lord. That we don't have to practice the ritual in order to honor the Lord, but that all that we say and do be a sacrament to Him.

Tim, I pray God's blessing on you as you continue to think these through for yourself. I pray many blessings for you and Jamie as you extend your family. Maybe someday our paths will cross again... chances are they will. That's one of the great things about the Army!

 

Blogger Nicole_Hostetler said ... (7:04 PM) : 

Again, what you have heard from one Salvationist does not speak for all. Don't think that I have blindly followed and believed a mandate that came from the "powers that be", those who know me would laugh at that. I have struggled with the very question you pose.I had spent years being angry, confused, and disheartened by teaching I had received regarding the sacraments. I felt like the Army had conflicting viewpoints, when in reality it was the instructors that were confused and uneducated! The results are numbers of salvationists who think that we are NONsacramental. Some think that we can never practice these sacraments. This is not the case. I agree that we cannot pick and choose our religion like a spiritual buffet, but how do you "choose" what practice is best? I mean, do we have to drink wine and bread or is it ok to have grape juice? do we have to fully emerse or is a sprinkle ok? What about the practice of footwashing? Do we forget that Christ washed His disciples feet (this tends to be forgotten in the discussions)? Would we rather have chaos in the church trying to untangle the human element in the sacraments, or do we serve Christ and be Christ to the world who is dying? When we stand at the seat of judgement, will Jesus care if we dunked, sprinkled, or stood under a flag if it never resulted in anyone coming to the foot of the cross? To piggyback on what Laura quoted,It is better to obey rather than sacrifice. It's about the heart. Why do we do what we do in the church (regardless of denomination)? Ritual, Tradition, Mandate, or Act of Worship and Reverence? I am not saying that all Army practices are flawless, by no means. We have a responsibility to educate other salvationists in all forms of worship. If we sing the Doxology every week because we always do it. Take it out! If we have a call to worship and it really is not that, take it out! As leaders and officers we need to be sensitive to the needs of our people. God has given us a great responsibility to nurture and love them. We can make mandates, we can discuss lofty theology, we can create new programs but if we are on the mountaintop away from the people for too long we forget what it's like being in the ditches in the muck and mire trying to bring souls into the kingdom!

 

Blogger Tim said ... (8:49 PM) : 

First of all, I wondered if somebody might discuss my statement about the Army’s members rarely being involved in its social services. I was going to be really disappointed if people were more offended by my statement about the sacraments than my statement concerning people being involved in the ministry of the church.

I guess my second response is to simply say that this post (A New Kind of Church) is incomplete. It isn’t finished and is an ongoing dialogue. So, while I’m happy to hear your thoughts, I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your personal attacks to your own blog. Wow.

This post was, first of all, meant to point out that I’ve gained so much from each of the denominations I’ve been involved with. My second point was to simply state that, while there is much to gain from each denomination, each of them tend to be good at some things and seem to totally dismiss others. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know where I’m going with this post. As I said, it’s an ongoing dialogue with myself (and, evidently, a bunch of Salvationists from USA East). Where I thought I was going was to point out that denominationalism is losing its grip. That more and more young adults aren’t satisfied with choosing a box and believing in that. That more and more young adults are asking questions and are finding that they embrace teachings from many different denominations and that maybe it would lead to wider unity in the church. But I admit, it’s taking me a while to get there. One thought leads to another and I’m realizing, more and more, just how many schools of theology have influenced my own.

So, while these two posts were not meant to be a personal attack on any of the denominations listed, I still stand behind what I’ve written. I’m thrilled that your experience in the Army has been different Laura. That you’ve evidently grown up with a Corps full of people involved in the ministry of the church. Wow! That’s awesome. But it has not been my experience either divisionally or locally. Again, I find that people are usually happy to just show up and I think, unless we’re prepared to change that, we need to stop calling ourselves Salvationists. Being a Salvationist should mean more than just “I don’t drink or smoke”. To me those are the two least important things on that list yet have become the priority.

To Nicky I would just say that I like you, I just don’t agree with you. I’ve heard this argument for far too long. “We don’t know what to do? Do we dunk? Do we sprinkle? We can’t figure it out. So we just won’t do it at all.” Too that I say, we can’t seem to get the “worship thing” figured out either. Traditional or contemporary? Modern or post-modern? I know! Let’s just not worship at all! Bad idea.

 

Blogger Laura said ... (9:06 PM) : 

Tim,

If you took my comments as a personal attack, I apologize. That was not my intention. I also realize that this writing is a work in progress, it does say, "to be continued." However, when you put your stuff out there on the internet, expect people to interpret and respond to what's there. Is there something wrong with having a dialogue with what you've written about to this point? I stubled upon your blog merely by accident and found your thoughts to be thought provoking and thought some others might be interested.

Blessings!

 

Blogger Davey Means said ... (9:07 PM) : 

Hey all.

All this talk is making my head spin. I think I'll quit the Army and go join one of those "worship what you want" churches. I think I'll go find some friends of worship SpongeBob Squarepants with me.

"ARE YA READY KIDS?"

 

Blogger Philip_Hostetler said ... (12:08 AM) : 

Hiya, Tim!

I don't want you to think you're being ganged upon, but what you said here is causing me to respond.

You said, I’ve heard this argument for far too long. “We don’t know what to do? Do we dunk? Do we sprinkle? We can’t figure it out. So we just won’t do it at all

That is not the Army's position on the Sacrements at all! If that is what you've been told, then whoever told you that is sadly mistaken.

The Army is not against sacrements. If we want to incorporate communion in our meetings, we're more than welcomed to by DHQ, THQ,and IHQ. However, the Army doesn't require that our soldiers participate in the sacrements.

I also believe - and I could be mistaken on this - that the reason sacrements were ultimately left on the non-required list has to do with William Booth seeing the ritualistic nature worship had become and wanted to avoid that in The Salvation Army.

Granted, we've replaced the tradional sacrements with our own rituals that indeed have become ritualistic.

I wholeheartedly agree that questions about anything and everything in our churches should be raised and should not be shunned. And an intelligent answer should be sought.

Anyhoo, just wanted to throw my 2 cents in (and ended up paying $2! Where's the justice?)

 

Blogger blogblogblog said ... (2:48 PM) : 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 

Blogger blogblogblog said ... (2:49 PM) : 

don't really want to stir this pot any more than it has been, so I offer the words of someone far more eloquent

Breaking Clouds
by Phil Laeger

Look at us now, a couple of thousands years later
Do we look the same or are we absolute strangers?
Maybe it’s me. Oh Lord I know that’s where it starts
I know it’s me, yeah, I know I’ve got to start to

Bridge the gap between generations
Break my bread between denominations
After all, isn’t anyone who calls on Jesus’ name one and the same?
It’s time we cry out to You for reconciliation
Preach the good news to the lost in every nation
After all, isn’t that what we’re doing here?
Isn’t that what we’re doing here?

Wave the old flag all in the name of our banner
Come and bless us. What if the glory shines elsewhere?
Is that enough? Maybe You could break us from this sin.
Oh, break our hearts, Lord, break us and then maybe we can

Bridge the gap between generations
Break my bread between denominations
After all, isn’t anyone who calls on Jesus’ name one and the same?
It’s time we cry out to You for reconciliation
Preach the good news to the lost in every nation
After all, isn’t that what we’re doing here?
Isn’t that what we’re doing here?

Look at the sky, look at the breaking clouds
Look at the sky, look up the time is now

To bridge the gap
Break our bread
Oh, after all, aren’t we one and the same?

We’re all redeemed by the blood of our Lord and living Savior
We fall at Your throne, every tongue tribe and nation
After all, isn’t that what we’re doing here?
Isn’t that what we’re doing here?

 

Blogger Gordon said ... (11:14 AM) : 

Wow Tim you hit a nerve?

The bottom line is that there is a history of church involvement within the SA based upon activity whether that activity seems somehow to have been divided into evangelism and then other social stuff - whether we like it or not - largely seen as secondary. That division shouldn't exist but it does.

More people historical mobilised to know that F# is 2 than being an authentic, genuine, holistic, missional post-modern community - ;o)

 

Blogger blogblogblog said ... (3:07 PM) : 

At some point, I said that I don't have too much to say on these topics, but this thread keeps coming after me, so I've come back to say a little bit.

On the sacraments, I have to admit that I don't have a well-formed opinion on one side or the other, frankly because of the external/internal factors. So I don't think I would have added anything to that discussion other than the fact that it's a joke to say that the SA sanctions the use of sacraments in any way. We've all been there. Someone introduces a "love feast", salvationarmyese for communion and leaders mutter things in the back of the hall. Someone wants to be baptized and they have to drive 50 miles from their corps to do it. Don't say the Army's happy to have us practice the sacraments.

On the social justice, are-there-any-real-Salvationists still out there question, just because a select group of COs buy into and practice social justice, it doesn't mean that anywhere near a majority of Salvationists do. I think, though, Tim, that this issue hits on something I fear in general about the church today. It's become such a consumer culture that there aren't a lot of Christians that are willing to do anything that will put them out in any way. This is part of my concern with some of the megachurches, that an atmosphere has been created in which people can come and "plug in" to what they want and avoid any of the messy entanglements of responsibility to the Body that fall outside of their comfort zone. We've specialized Christianity to the point where we can take what we want, leave what we don't and pat ourselves on the back because we're more godly than those outside the doors. This is not said to dismiss Salvationist apathy. It exists. It's pervasive and it, not any argument about woship style, is the biggest threat to this movement. You said something to the effect that if we want to give up on that part of who we are, we need to quit calling ourselves salvationists. I agree. If denominations have any value and if the Army is a denomination, going where the rest of the church won't go, is perhaps the greatest value the Army brings to the table.

 

Blogger Nicole_Hostetler said ... (4:08 PM) : 

First, let me say that I agree that the Church as a whole needs to get off their behinds and stop being comfortable in the pews (which is hard when most pews are like old Puritan benches anyway-but I digress). Please do not think that any responses posted here have had any intention to glorify or make excuses for the Army. We just need to get the facts out there! Education of the people we are responsible for, passionate scripture based preaching from the pulpit, and speaking loudest with actions are many times the reason for such spritual ignorance in the Church. Don't think that I am naive and believe that every corps or division or territory follows the Army's understanding of sacramental living. We have been our worst enemy...causing division and confusion in the wake of misinformation and opinionated teaching. It's time to stop being timid, stop being so concerned that we will "offend", and start being what God intended the Army to be! We can be with the power of the Spirit moving through us...making us a vessel God can use. Until we get past our organizational and denominational arrogance and spiritual superiority complex, we will never find the simple plan God has in store for us! I speak to all members of the universal Church! Until we stop pointing fingers and start pouring cups of cold water in Christ's name we will constantly miss the mark!

 

Blogger Pete said ... (9:35 PM) : 

I take issue with some things above! For some of us, F# is most certainly NOT 2, but rather 5, and for some it may be 42. Otherwise, it certainly seems like everyone has a strong e-pinion - people are thinking. After reading all that, I have procrastinated far too long from doing my day job, and now I have a case of "the guilts". Wish I could comment at length, but since I cannot, I thought I'd add some levity, at least if you have a goofy sense of humor as I do.

 

Blogger Laura said ... (7:25 PM) : 

In the aftermath of the hurricane devastation, an email was sent out to the officers of WEPASA with an entry from the journal of Captain John Falin who has been a part of the relief efforts in the Gulf Coast. His words help me put into perspective some of the things have been posted on this blog. Here are his words…. “’I’m The Salvation Army.’ I must have machined gunned that phrase a hundred times today in response to a myriad of questions. It just seemed to be the answer that was appropriate because I didn’t have the answers that were needed. ‘Sir, when does my bus leave?’, ‘Can you help me find my children?’, or ‘I’m wounded and need medical attention,’ I could visibly see the strength they gathered to push through the pain of asking such questions after the terrifying experience suffered for 4 days. They were trapped on roofs with no food or water… they were land locked in flooded houses… they were frightened by ruthless looters, but still they pushed through. Little children watched from the second floor of an unstable home saturated with water as human remains and snakes floated by their windows and they asked, ‘Am I gonna’ drown Mama?’ As they arrived by helicopter by the thousands and hurriedly made their way to my uniform I fielded the questions, but all I really knew was how to give them hotdogs, water, point them in a direction, and unconditional love. ‘I’m sorry… I don’t know, I am The Salvation Army.’ Then it struck me with a wild current, I caught it just in time to mask my discomfort from others around me. Why would I proclaim that I am The Salvation Army instead of I work for The Salvation Army? Is it possible that one can believe so entirely in something that one can become absorbed into its identity? My wife says that I am a “tough sell”, and she may be correct. I don’t know if I have ever been totally convinced of anything, but every year I am a part of this Army I seem to assimilate. I diminish to increase. To fully participate in a mission, I must be willing to put my personal mission aside. That is the power of The Salvation Army… the majority of us are ordinary people who are willing to sacrifice our goals to accomplish the larger goal. That is the truth that resounds in scripture as well. Jesus speaks clearly on this subject as He reveals the possibilities of a unified mission… a mission to practice true religion. The author of James says this in 1:27. ‘Religion that God accepts as true and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…’ and may I add Hurricane victims as well. When the thousands of wounded and terrified victims need solace, practical needs, and comfort… I am The Salvation Army.”

 

Blogger Rismas said ... (3:31 PM) : 

I just read through everyone's posts, and my heart is heavy. I have two strong feelings. One is that we would all be united in our love of God and our love for each other. While it may be beneficial to engage in open dialogue, it can lead to misunderstandings and disunity, rather than unity. As much as I love to write, I have found that mere words and ideas without the physical presence of the individual we are "talking to" leads to "connecting" without truly "connecting." Having said that, I wish that I had something to say to all of you that would both encourage and strengthen you individually, and bring you all together as a group. By sending a hug to all of you, I want to communicate to you all that as a brother in Christ, I love you and encourage you to continue living and striving to serve Him and love Him in every way, recognizing that "...it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil 2:13)

My other feeling(s) are personal. I feel so inadequate to join this dialogue. My knowledge and experience is so limited. I feel insecure and intimidated to say anything. However, I will say this: I am personally convicted by all that was said. What am I doing to love God and to love others? God, please continue to work in me. Help me to love you more, and to love others more.

 

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