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Monday, 21 January 2019

Thank God it's Monday

Anybody out there really love their jobs? Like, really, really love their jobs?

Do you wake up on a Monday morning (or whatever day your working week starts) feeling energised, inspired and ready for action?

If not, this post is for you...

No Escape from the daily grind
So, work sometimes seems designed to be draining...there's often far more interesting things we'd rather be doing...but we've got to pay our bills, put food on the table and pay for whatever unexpected expenses come our way.

like it or not, most have us have got to keep working for the time being...

Wherever you work it can be stressful, demanding and draining. And of course, since this is a Christian blog the obvious question soon presents itself...where does God fit into all this?

Leaving God at the door
If (like me) you work in a secular environment. You might have been asked to 'leave things at the door' when you get to work...a phrase with some logic of course...the idea is you forget any personal feelings or problems you may be facing so you can focus on what you need to get done; without distractions, prejudices, favouritism or discrimination...a nice phrase...but often easier said than done...

It can be difficult to keep your eyes on God and on higher matters of faith at work; there is busyness, stress, perhaps co-workers don't understand or are actively disrespecting or dismissive or even hostile to our can be easier to 'leave God at the door' to focus only on our work and hide our beliefs from others... I've never made a secret of my beliefs at work, sometimes it would definitely be easier to hide and keep quiet...but how can you 'leave God at the door' when He's with you all the time?

Obviously there is an important difference between walking with God and forcing our beliefs on others or disrespecting them...both of which are inappropriate in most professional settings.

Our heavenly employer
However you feel about your job, love it or hate it... whether you work with 1 person, 1000 people or by yourself; wherever you work and whatever you do, it can be a great opportunity to spread the word of God and to be a positive influence in the world around you.

Ministers, priests and pastors are not God's only full time employees...we all are. We just serve in different arenas...God needs servants, workers and light-bringers in all areas of society...Godly ministers are needed just as much as Godly cleaners, politicians, nurses, lawyers, administrators, carers, soldiers, firefighters, paramedics, accountants and every other possible, conceivable job or responsibility...there are no greater or lesser callings or avenues of service... wherever God places us we can rest assured; even during the bad times, that we're following the greatest boss we could ever have the honour of working for.

A bad day
However much you enjoy your job, I'm sure there are days when you feel disheartened or unfulfilled, maybe you feel like that more often than not...

That's why I decided to write this blog post... I often don't feel fulfilled at has its moments, but sometimes I wish I was doing something 'more' whatever that means. I wanted to write some words of encouragement and challenge to anybody who might have similar feelings about their own careers or place in God's kingdom.

'Only following orders'
It's so important that we remember who we serve; and who our real boss is.
We serve God first and foremost. The decisions we make, the things we choose to do, the orders we choose to follow all play a part in defining us personally and our mission in the kingdom...
We are not just called to be holy on a Sunday but even more so during our working week with those who we will come into contact with....the Salvation Army often refers to their church services as 'meetings'... because as we often say; our service starts after we leave the building...that's where we put into practice all that we are taught and experience on a Sunday.

The well known Bible verse Matthew 6:24 says: "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.'

Our jobs often make us face this we do what God asks of us, what we know is right...or do we do what our boss asks of us after all they're paying our we owe them our unquestioning loyalty?

We have to decide who we will serve and where our focus will be... however hard it might be we can't just follow our employer's instructions blindly...our real employer; God comes first...we must never compromise our faith or ideals because of what someone tells us to do;
again I know, that's easier said than done when your employer pays you and ultimately is responsible for you being able to pay bills and keep a roof over your head...but God is with you and will bless your courage in stepping out, He will take care of might be asked to lie to a client or customer, to bend the rules or even break the law...sad to say, but it does happen, and some of the most disgusting and shameful acts in human history have happened because people were 'only following orders' from massacres, to the Holocaust, and even the crucifixion of Jesus...we have to be better and stronger than that.

The Mission
This is the privilege and responsibility of us as believers in the be Christ's hands, feet, voice and heart where we are, secular or religious employment, days off, leisure time etc... wherever we are, we are God's employees, His friends, of course. But also called and commissioned to serve Him; not just to pay lip service once a week but all the time in whatever we are doing and whoever we come into contact with.

If we lock ourselves away from the world even in church we miss reaching our full potential and being all that we can be...we miss the opportunity to reach all those that God wants us to reach.

Surviving Shift Work
My own experience of work is as a hospital worker. Obviously a hospital is a 24/7 workplace...we can't close down evenings and weekends or bank holidays; this means that shift work is necessary to keep the place running...shift work is awful when it comes to trying to build any kind of work/life balance...of course wherever you work this can be a struggle, but shift work is particularly draining, there's no sense of continuity or pattern, and forget having a body clock... I'm sure many reading this will have had that experience. It takes over your life and drags you down if you let it, it can damage friendships, personal life and make it harder to get to church and fulfill commitments, it has any number of disastrous consequences...if you let it...and that's the real issue; the fact that all these excuses do not let you off, it might make life difficult or make planning ahead difficult...but you can't let these excuses beat you... you've got to find the reasons why life, church, family are important and make them a holding back, no excuses!

The only way we'll reach our potential is to grab hold of the opportunities, to reach into the lives of those around when you start your working week and work gets you down, when it's been a struggle just to get out of bed, when you're feeling unfulfilled, unappreciated or wasted at work, remember your true calling, your true job given by God Himself, thank Him for the opportunity to reach others, and for paid employment that so many in our society long for and struggle to find...when you face all these situations, challenges and opportunities; bow your head and, above all else...
Thank's Monday!

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Jesus Christ: Humanitarian, Showman or Dictator?

Today I'm asking probably one of the most foundational questions about Christianity:

Who Is Jesus Christ?

Is He a liar or a fool, mentally unstable, a power hungry despot, a great teacher, a good man, or just a figment of the Gospel writers imaginations?

Or is He... something more...

Matthew 4:1-11 (What kind of Saviour)

I love the account of Christ's temptation in the desert. We, as readers are still trying to understand who Jesus is and what He's about...we know He's the Son of God, who has come to save us from our sin...but we're still wrestling with exactly what that means.

The crowds at the river Jordan have seen and heard strange, bewildering things and like us, don't really know what's going on.

Jesus enters the desert and faces some foundational temptations: physical need, ego, and power...
It's as if He's being given the choice of what kind of Saviour, what kind of man He's going to be.


So let's imagine you're stuck in the desert, no food or water, starving...but with the power to do something about it, what do you do?

Pretty reasonable request I suppose, to get yourself some food, but that wasn't the point of entering the desert; it was to meditate, to seek nourishment and energy, not from physical things but from the Father. Jesus is presented with the choice of relying on His own power or that of the Father.

Now, before I get carried away, I have to clarify that food, water, a safe place to sleep etc are important, of course they are.
As a Church and as Christians we cannot ignore the needs around us, we are commanded to do something about it, to serve our fellow man. 

But if we become simply a charitable organisation, we lose the heart of who we are. Jesus could have spent His earthly ministry simply doing good. He probably wouldn't have been crucified, but He would have failed in His mission to reconcile God and man, the very heart of why He was sent.

The fundamental truth of humanity is that we are not just physical beings but spiritual, and both physical and spiritual needs must be met...but really the physical only affects our short earthly lives...the spiritual, echoes into eternity. (shameless gladiator movie reference)

'Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (verse 4)

THE SHOWMAN (verses 5-7)

The next temptation is that of ego...the desire to put ourselves on a pedestal, to make ourselves the centre of the world. In the account of Christ's temptation, His own particular challenge was to put His humanity aside, to complete His mission by putting on a show, by wowing the crowd, essentially by putting style over substance.

But Christ is not distant or aloof...He walks with us, meets us where we are. Whatever situations we are facing Christ is there at the heart of it, not playing to the crowd but invested in our situations and in us as individuals that loved and valued by Him

For us, the challenge is to remember Christ's attitude and example.
The Church loves it's Choirs, bands, stained glass windows, buildings, traditions...the list goes on of course. And these are not necessarily bad things in themselves, they can be amazing and truly make us aware of God's presence...but they aren't the most important things...not by a long shot.

We must care, love and walk beside our hurting world, it won't be healed by fancy shows and nice looking buildings...but by getting involved in our world, walking with the broken on their level, by genuinely caring about each other and the things that matter to each of us... that's where we'll find Christ...waist deep in the nitty gritty of life.

THE DICTATOR (verses 8-11)

The final temptation that Christ faces in the desert is the temptation of power.
The temptation to make the world fall into use intimidation and control to achieve His ends.

Of course power like that comes at a means once again losing sight of who we are and why we're here.

Had Christ accepted the proposal He would have moved away from the Father's purpose, away from worshipping the Father and instead worshipping satan, and power itself...this always reminds me of the scene in the first Lord of the Rings movie; the Wizard Gandalf refuses to use the evil power of the ring, knowing that although he would be much stronger, the power would corrupt him and destroy everything he was. He would lose his very being in order to achieve power for powers sake.

As the Church we face a similar temptation, we seek power to achieve political and social objectives which in themselves are good and righteous.
I have met Church leaders like this... people who would make fantastic social justice champions and politicians but have lost sight of the God who calls them, the mission for which they have been equipped...Christ has been replaced by social, and political ends...again these are honourable aims...but when these leaders rely on themselves and without realising it, subconsciously push out Christ, they are worshipping a different power, putting results ahead of what their true focus and mission should be.

Putting Christ first doesn't mean that we won't be as affective at achieving social and political change, the opposite is true...what it does mean however, is that our aims and mission become aligned with God's. It means that we might have to sacrifice looking good or popular in order to make sure that the glory goes to God.

Christ made that worship God alone, it meant sacrifice and humiliation but it also meant final victory and put Him at one with the Father. He was made to be nothing so that the Father would get the glory and honour...and this is what is asked of us today.


"To holy people the very name of Jesus is a name to feed upon, a name to transport. His name can raise the dead and transfigure and beautify the living." - John Henry Newman

The title of this post was deliberately controversial and thought provoking... hopefully it will as intended provoke some thought and discussion and not unintentionally cause offence.

Jesus is of course far more than a Humanitarian, Showman, and certainly not a dictator. He is a Friend, guide, guardian, protector, teacher, master, servant and king. He is all of these things...but so much more.

He is not an abstract concept, or a distant unreachable cosmic entity. He's a real, living, loving, laughing individual being; God incarnate, who walks, laughs, cries alongside us, and who builds us up, rebukes, corrects and desperately calls to us to walk, serve and live by His side.

But it's one thing me telling you all this, it's not up to me to tell you what you should believe...your job is to decide for yourself who Jesus is to you. What will you do, and how will Christ change and inspire you?
Is He just a good teacher, moral example or something more...who do you say Jesus is?

I'll give the final word to C S Lewis...he gives us some brilliant thoughts to ponder as we try to answer all these questions for ourselves:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
 - C S Lewis (Mere Christianity)

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The trap of manipulative worship

When does worship become theatre? And when does the Holy Spirit become a smokescreen for pure emotional manipulation?

As someone who has led services and meetings before, I can understand how meeting plans are put together. Sensitive and deliberate song selections, placed specifically to follow a sermon or thoughtful moment, songs and atmosphere to enhance prayer times...and of course the dreaded altar call...

What is true worship?
So I've recently been reflecting on true worship... and where exactly do we draw the line between genuine Spirit led worship and emotional manipulation... and I don't think I have the answer.

Sermons themselves could be seen as manipulation...after all they are written and preached in order to get a response... whether that's encouraging Spiritual growth, participation in the service, encouraging the congregation to stay faithful, or to evangelize, or even just to encourage and inspire... whatever its purpose, is the fact that a sermon is trying to elicit a response and deliberately works towards that aim in itself manipulation?

Every part of a worship service is included or intended for a reason...or perhaps I'm being just a little bit cynical...but think about it; even a noble and righteous purpose like bringing others to faith is, in its own way manipulative when we use strategies and tactics to achieve this goal...

So should worship just be a personal thing? Just ourselves and God, no music, no sermon, no multimedia etc?

That sounds a bit puritanical and dare I say it boring for my liking... the problem, if you're anything like me; is that we're all human and actually all those things above help make worship accessible and help us reach and connect with God...a powerful sermon designed to inspire and encourage can (believe it or not) be inspiring and encouraging; reflective and sensitively placed music can enhance prayer times and of course even that dreaded altar call can, and often does draw people closer to God and reinforce our commitment and focus on God.

Just for entertainment?
Sowhat's the difference between all the different aspects of worship and dramatic music in a movie? We all I'm sure, are aware of the effect music can have in a movie...think of the greatest theme tunes... I'm thinking Jurassic park, Star Wars, Indiana Jones (ok so everything by John Williams) but how many other films use music...well probably somewhere around the 100% mark; dramatic moments, scary moments, heroic moments and so on are all enhanced by back to that question again what's the difference?

Getting the motivation right
Well, in my opinion, it's the motivation that makes the difference, and the source of our desires and reasoning for trying to achieve a response.

If our hearts and desires are in sync with God, then our actions must follow on. Worship is put together in a certain way to help us all connect and meet with God easier. The motivation is (or at least should be) to worship and honour God above all. In movies or secular entertainment the motivation is to entertain for the sake of entertainment and of course to make money... now I'm not saying that in Church we don't sometimes cross that line...I think it would be naive to think we always get it right; sometimes I'm sure worship leaders pick their favourite songs for the sake of it, or try to elicit a response for the sake of it, maybe even for the sake of their own egos or to push the boundaries or any other number of false motivations because of course, like all of us they are human...

So I suppose this is the challenge of today's post: to work hard and pray hard to ensure that our worship is and remains God centred and focused at all times... this includes both leaders and those of us in the congregation... both have to take responsibility and action to stay connected to God, to make our worship genuine and not just going through the motions...

Wrong worship
For some food for thought here's a funny but thought provoking​ video that was recently shown to me during a leadership training weekend: 'Wrong worship'

Including hits like: 'I will sing of your love on Sundays', 'I surrender some', 'Saviour, I don't need a savior'. 

As I said at the start, I'm not really sure of the answer, or where the line is... the only thing I'm sure of is the need to guard against false worship and promote true and God centred worship...
All your churches and experiences will be different, any thoughts you have please comment below or on the Facebook page by clicking here:

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Diary of a grumpy night shift working Christian

So once again I find myself on the night shift at work...and once again life seems to stop and the world passes me by...

The struggle
At the time of writing it's about 3pm I've not long got up... I've eaten too much and I'm watching rubbish daytime TV.... for the rest of the TV/dinner....then rinse and repeat for 7 days...

Night shift week always goes super quick, I don't have the will or the energy to be sociable or do anything much... I'm generally a little bit grumpy and not the easiest person to be around.

So where does this leave my Spiritual walk and life? Well like the rest of my life it feels like it's on a break. It takes a real effort to do anything other than vegetate in front of the TV...I almost feel like I've locked myself away for a week.

God isn't going anywhere!
What I'm reflecting on while I'm sat here though, is that God doesn't lock  Himself away...when I'm grumpy and grouchy God hasn't abandoned me or decided to avoid me... if anything it's the other way grouchiness doesn't stop God caring about me.

The only way I generally manage to stay in touch with people is on Facebook (speaking of which don't forget to like and share the Facebook page by clicking here) and as we all know that isn't the best way to build and maintain genuine relationships... Facebook is definitely no substitute for a real conversation...and that's the important thing...God obviously accepts and loves me despite my grumpy old self and tired, worn out night shift working self...I can talk to God when I'm feeling like this, I can even give God the occasional thought and remember Him occasionally in my grumpiness, but if I'm honest I know God doesn't want what's left of my time and some half hearted grumpy conversation...He wants my best. The best of my time, the best of my energy and the best of who I am.

God wants our best
I'm sure I'm not the only shift worker out there. This is an important message for anyone who struggles balancing shift work and life with faith and actually for anyone with busy lives who faces the same struggle to balance everything they've got going on..God needs to come first, He needs, wants and deserves the very best of who we are, our gifts, talents, time, energy etc.

All that being said...we are only human, there are going to be times when we don't feel our best, when we're tired and not the best of company, times when it's a struggle to get out of bed and actually do anything productive, and times when life is just passing us by. We're not always going to be the life and soul of the party...and actually that's ok...but don't make it a habit...if you're not careful life will really pass you by, you'll find yourself slipping away from people, even from God... although don't forget that although people might drift away from you...God won't...

For those stuck with a grumpy, grouchy night shift worker...please remember that shift workers need love too... don't forget us, and show us the little bit of grace we need and above all... don't let us get away with disappearing and letting life pass us by.

In every area of life, whatever it is that saps your energy and drains you, don't forget that God loves you, always and completely, He is patient with you, He will accept you and your prayers even when life is grinding you down, He hears you, love you, walk beside you, and lift you up...but that isn't an excuse to let life pass you by and not to do everything you can to give God the absolute best of who you are... because who you are is an amazing person. You have been created, developed, and equipped to continue to be an amazing person, you are someone who is absolutely loved by God, someone He is desperate to have a genuine and deep relationship with. You're His best friend, His favourite child... don't ever forget how amazing you are, don't let life pass you by stay close to God and always give Him the very best you can...even if the best at the time is a grumpy, grouchy night shift worker like me.

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Monday, 4 June 2018

How to build Spiritual muscle... the old fashioned way

Today's post is about strength, courage, determination and above all hard work...all things that are a bit out of favour with today's 'quick fix' fascination. But all of which are vital if you want to build strong spiritual muscles that will help you navigate and thrive and keep you moving forward through the hostile and often difficult journey of faith and life.

This is a personal message to myself... I hope others find encouragement and inspiration through it...but really this is me telling myself off and giving myself a kick up the backside, not letting myself give up and ordering myself to put in the hard work and effort it will take for me to be the very best version of myself I can be. Not because of my own ambition but because I believe that God has given all of us the skills and talents to fulfill our potential and occasionally I need to be reminded of this...and inspired to put these skills to work.

Why we need to build spiritual muscle
The Spiritual life is an amazing and truly worthwhile journey...but it was never meant to be means being vulnerable, exposed, opening ourselves to ridicule and sometimes takes a strong foundation in Christ, resilience, hope and bucket loads of determination and focus.

If you want to see a great example of physical strength...I would really recommend watching the 'Worlds strongest man' competition. If you've never seen it then basically it's a competition in which contestants have to compete in some ridiculously difficult events lifting cars, huge boulders, pulling get the idea...

These are some big guys and I don't think I've ever watched it and thought..."I could do that"
Those athletes have not become that strong has taken each of them hard work, patience, pain, determination, struggle, injuries and pain to get where they wanted to be...

Now of course it's important to note that we are not talking about physical strength...but the principle is the same... the Spiritual life of a Christian can be difficult, lonely and can grind you down if you let it... people won't always understand, you'll probably be ridiculed and dismissed...of course we serve a God who is much bigger and greater than all of that...but we have to learn to tap into His strength, listen to His voice and find comfort in His heart...

This isn't a natural response... we're human and fallible and desperate to do everything by ourselves and in our own strength.... building Spiritual muscle is training yourself to respond face everything with instinctively turn to Him not just when things are tough but all the walk in harmony with Him through your whole life... like a tree planted by a river (Psalm 1:1-3) constantly fed and empowered...

How we build Spiritual muscle
When I think of training or growing as a Christian I always think of Psalm 144:

"Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me." (Psalm 144:1,2)

This always helps me to remember that our God TRAINS us for war... he isn't a magician who snaps His fingers and does everything for us... He's the God who wants us to grow and develop into the best versions of ourselves that we can be...of course God can instantly give us what we need and strengthen us and empower us in the moment...but most of the time it takes patience and hard work to develop ourselves... it's not a destination but an ongoing process of learning and growth that lasts our entire lives and beyond.

Most of my heroes are people that have spent time in the wilderness, that are human and imperfect but determined to be better and then they are or were... it's this determination, the never giving up, whatever they've faced that makes me admire them so much... sometimes life sucks... sometimes we want to run away and give up... this is where our spiritual muscles (or lack of) will show...

Like a bodybuilder or athlete.... building our Spiritual muscles is going to take time, and hard work... it's going to take us getting knocked down and hurt, bruised and battered...but you become stronger when you keep getting become stronger when you become closer to become stronger when you learn to instinctively trust in the God who is greater than anything and everything you're going to face...

It's important not to get impatient or frustrated...of course ambition in itself is not a dirty word...when it's focused on God's heart and God's will it gives us the drive to keep getting better... that being said, don't force it, build the foundation on Christ, on the word of God, the Spirit of God and the heart of God, work with those who inspire you, be willing to take a hit, to fall and to fail and above all to keep getting up...but it will take time and effort...but if you're feeling discouraged don't forget that well known wise man you learnt about in Sunday school all those years ago who built his house upon the rock...and what happened to the other guy...

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army

Friday, 1 June 2018

Salvationists Assemble!!!

"There was an idea, Booth knew this, called the Salvation Army Initiative The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to to fight the battles we never could."

- Nick Fury (outrageously ripped off and paraphrased)

Before we get started I'll admit that this is probably the cheesiest post I've written...but I think it's an important message so I hope you'll stick with me.

The Heroes the world needs:

Maybe you're already humming The Avengers Theme tune ...and hopefully you'll forgive the shamelessly ripped off and plagiarised quote from Nick Fury...but this really was the idea behind the Salvation be an organisation of heroes, faithful champions who would storm the forts of darkness and fight against hate, injustice, homelessness, social inequality, faithlessness, and hopelessness.

Or to put it in the Army's founder, William Booth's own words, in his famous 'Vision of the Lost':

"Does the surging sea look dark and dangerous? Unquestionably it is so. There is no doubt that the leap for you, as for everyone who takes it, means difficulty and scorn and suffering. For you it may mean more than this. It may mean death. He who 
beckons you from the sea however, knows what it will mean - and knowing, He still 
calls to you and bids to you to come.

You must do it! You cannot hold back. You have enjoyed yourself in Christianity 
long enough. You have had pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, 
pleasant prospects. There has been much of human happiness, much clapping of 
hands and shouting of praises - very much of heaven on earth.

Now then, go to God and tell Him you are prepared as much as necessary to turn your 
back upon it all, and that you are willing to spend the rest of your days struggling in 
the midst of these perishing multitudes, whatever it may cost you.

You must do it. With the light that is now broken in upon your mind and the call that 
is now sounding in your ears, and the beckoning hands that are now before your eyes, 
you have no alternative. To go down among the perishing crowds is your duty. Your 
happiness from now on will consist in sharing their misery, your ease in sharing their pain, your crown in helping them to bear their cross, and your heaven in going into the very jaws of hell to rescue them."

Click Here for a shortened but dramatic reading of this vision for the lost and the mission of Salvation Army and wider Church.

What it means to be a Salvationist:

This is what I believe it means to be a Salvationist and of course a Christian from any denomination...we are called to take a stand against injustice, hatred and all the other things I listed above...

Check out this post from the archives about what I believe the role and importance of the Salvation Army Soldier truly is (including Officers, Adherents and members)
No Soldier left behind

The days of sitting back and avoiding conflicts are gone...the world needs us. Just as in William Booth's day, the needs of our fellow man are crying out to us. We must decide how we will respond...right wing hate groups seem to be everywhere as is 'casual' racism, Brexit is dividing communities, terrorism haunts our steps, gun crime seems to be on the rise, and our politicians and leaders appear to be only interested in themselves and not the common good...if we're looking for examples of heroes and champions...they won't be found wonder we seem obsessed with superhero movies at the moment...we seem sadly lacking in real world heroes.

That's where we come in...we are called and empowered to be beacons and lighthouses in the storms of this world, guiding people to God as is the entire Church of course.

But...and this is a big'll never find an active lighthouse in the middle of a field, miles from the ocean... because that's not where they're needed... that's surely what Booth's vision is all about... meeting the needs around us where THEY are, instead of where WE are and where WE are comfortable.

Sometimes being a hero and fighting against all the things that we are called to fight against; means stepping out, being unpopular, leaving our own comfort zones, and taking the fight far behind enemy lines...we spend so much time and energy as a Church trying to attract people into our buildings and events... when really we should be putting this effort into inspiring and encouraging those within our congregations to get out of our buildings and out into the streets where the battlefield really is... otherwise we're just lighthouses in a field, giving light to each other...which for the record is definitely not a bad thing... it's important and necessary to build each other up and be beacons for each other, keeping ourselves on track, on task, on the right path and of course in the light... but that's not where our mission should end!

As C.T. Studd put it:
"Some want to live within the sound
Of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop,
Within a yard of hell."

Developing the hero inside:

So my advice and encouragement for those interested, is to build yourselves, strengthen yourselves, trust and believe in God. Do what you need to do to reach your potential... heroes are not built overnight...Iron man spent years perfecting his armour, Captain America spent years building his character, determination and integrity before the super soldier serum gave him his physical powers, Thor had to experience life without his powers to discover who he really was and could become, Hulk had to learn to embrace his powers and potential to become more than a mindless beast... and the list goes on...every hero took time and effort to really reach their full potential and become true heroes.

But of course they didn't then spend their time congratulating each other and resting on their laurels (ok... Tony Stark/Iron man probably spent a while congratulating himself) they got to work, they fought the battles ordinary people couldn't, they stepped out and stepped up...they joined the battle where they were needed and despite sometimes having feelings of inadequacy or fear they didn't let anything stop them being who they had to be and doing what they had to do... the same goes for those early Salvation Army and women who gave up everything to serve God and man and fight for those around them who cried out for help... and the same goes for us today following in their spend that time and effort to reach your potential, become the hero you need to be; it is time well spent but don't stop there... get to work and be the hero this world needs you to be... and needs us all to be...

The Team:

Of course to do all this, we not only have to build ourselves and trust God...we have to learn to work together and put aside those things that divide us, to be, not just amazing individuals but an amazing team of heroes, like the Avengers...but in our case, joined together, empowered and equipped by God to save our fallen and hurting world...

So without further ado:

Salvationists Assemble!!!

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

How to improve church attendance in 5 easy steps

Have you ever wanted a foolproof way to improve church attendance in no time flat?

Perhaps you've found attendance falling and you've decided to take extreme and direct action to solve the problem.

If you want to fill your church and send your attendance figures skyrocketing and you are willing to sell out all that you are then read are 5 guaranteed ways to fill your church week in, week out...

The 5 Steps:
1) Replace hymns with pop music
2) replace your sermon with the latest movies and sporting events
3) undercut the local bars by selling cheap alcohol
4) replace the sanctuary with a casino
5) Remove anything remotely religious from the building we don't want to put people off...

Ok so all of that is a bit tongue in cheek; but I wonder if sometimes it's not close to the truth... we measure success and effectiveness by how many people come through the door, or sign up as members or join our obviously I understand why we use the measures of success...I get that these are helpful things and are obvious ways to keep track of how we're doing...but really they are only one small part of the story...

If our ambition is simply to get people through the door, then no problem...follow the measures above and people will flock to your church...but that's not really the point is it?

Our mission
Our mission is to build the kingdom, not to build a social club...our ambition and the measure of our success should be changed lives and closer walks with obviously these are highly personal things and not really least not in the way we usually measure things.

Christ however, as we know measures things in a different way:

"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" - Matthew 7:16

We have to decide what standard we are going to use... whether we will let our own need for approval and measuring of success or whether we will listen to what God wants us to do and measure success His way...or better yet; don't measure success, just be faithful to God's purposes, promises and mission....a bit of a stretch with our human need for approval but definitely something to aim for at least...

Ok so before I get carried away let's back track a bit... there's is nothing wrong with tracking figures, seeing what works, what events or programs are more successful than a point...the danger comes when we put more trust in the figures themselves and our own good ideas and pride that we lose track of who we are and who God wants us to be. If this happens we end up trusting in ourselves and congratulating ourselves and we begin to worship ourselves and our figures, forgetting to listen to God... rejecting ideas because of those age old Christian excuses 'we've never done it that way' 'we've already tried that' 'that's not the way we do things' and so on...

Not the best example!
This is a really dangerous road to travel down...the best example I could think of from scripture is 1 Chronicles 21... King David takes a census:

"Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”
But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My Lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”
The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.
But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him."

On the face of it, taking a census seems a pretty reasonable thing for a king to do... taking stock of your strengths and weaknesses, resources, making sure the nation is defended adequately, that it's financially secure etc.
The problem as usual is the motivation... this is what ultimately led to David's punishment... David was motivated by pride; he wanted to take the census to satisfy his own ego, to prove to himself how great he was, how powerful and secure... rather than relying on God for his security and confidence.

It's so easy for us to fall into this same trap... when we want to start a new program or organise an event  how often do we start by looking at our resources, efficiency, what people want or expect from I said earlier this in itself is not a bad thing... it's often responsible and necessary but we have to make sure we don't remove God from the equation and forget to prioritise His will over our own...we must always be ready and willing to hear and act on God's voice rather than our own.

So what now?
Hearing God's voice is not always easy... learning to trust Him above our own thoughts, worries, concerns and 'practical' considerations is even harder...but not impossible... That's what discipleship is all about!

Christianity is not about popularity or doing what the world expects of us... It's about connecting to God and doing what He expects of us however strange and counter cultural that might be... that doesn't mean we shouldn't grow, move with the times and become the welcoming, servant hearted, forgiving and loving Church we can be...but we should do this not because the world tells us to but because God leads us and calls us to be better and more like Him than we are.

Check out this old post about what the Church really is, and what it should be:
'The Church is...'

And what the Church, in particular my own church, means to me:
'A Place to call home'

All this aside...if you just want to fill your church building and get some more money in the weekly offering... maybe you should refer to the tips at the start of this post, start a social club and remove God from the equation...on the other hand if you're willing to trust God and put in the time and effort to build yourself and the kingdom then it's going to be a long road but worth it to become the renewed, faithful Church that it is God's call and our duty to become...

"Lord of the Church, we pray for our renewing:
Christ over all, our undivided aim;
Fire of the Spirit, burn for our enduring,
Wind of the Spirit, fan the living flame!
We turn to Christ amid our fear and failing,
The will that lacks the courage to be free,
The weary labours, all but unavailing,
To bring us nearer what a church should be."

- Salvation army songbook 817

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Disclaimer: the opinions and comments expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Salvation Army