10 May, 2008

Freedom Vs Structure

Robyn writes a great blog below, and I echo the sentiment and challenge. I often have the debate surrounding ‘reformation’. We recognize that there is need. We recognize that The Salvation Army was raised specifically to both minister to that need and transform society to eliminate that need. We recognize that this calling has not passed us by. And we recognize that significant change needs to occur to start this process once more. So we inevitably call for a reformation of structure. We look back into history and try to find the catalyst that inspired soldiers, the strategy that transformed lives, the structure that mobilized thousands. We transform through emulation which is like trying to revive a corpse. Sure, reviving a corpse has been done from time to time, but it takes a fair amount of work! So others mourn for the corpse and move on to another denomination and pray that this move will be the ‘new birth’ they have been searching for. While others still attempt to take a lesson from ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ and go on with life pretending the corpse is still alive and kicking. We don’t fool ourselves, but we convince a few others.

We can’t go back and live out history. Yes we can be inspired by it and learn from it. But we serve a living God, and He can do even greater things than you imagine. Would you believe He can do even greater things than William Booth imagined?

Is our mission to reform a structure? No. A great leader once said to me that The Salvation Army is not an individual that requires salvation. We are not attempting to get our denomination into eternal life! We therefore cannot waste time trying to ‘save’ our wonderful and much loved Army. Instead we must BE an army. An army of soldiers engaged in a battle that is fought on all fronts; spiritual and practical. We must commit to a sacrificial life of service and humility to our God. We must get out of our ‘structure’ and get into the mess of the real world.

So, should we dismantle the structure to make this easier? Should we decentralize and go each man for his own? Should we take the freedom before us and roam as salvation vagabonds? Should we just shrug our shoulders and acknowledge that while the system isn’t perfect, it does a good enough job? No to all of the above!

There are many elements that require reformation. There are many parts of our army that need to be shaken and rocked and cleaned. But there is also great success that comes from our current structure. I do not want to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Now before a friend of mine has a field day with my apparent contradictions (hat tip RC) let me attempt to clarify my point. There are parts of our structure and tradition that hold us back from ministering to the poor. And yet focusing on the structure to eliminate these concerns is only going to make things worse! We need to redeem our structure by using it as it was intended; as a ‘tool’ to bring about the mission Jesus has for The Salvation Army.

How do we do this? Think it over and I’ll blog some more thoughts on that question next week!

Have a great week everyone!
Gen

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