Friday, October 08, 2004

Officers Councils and thoughts

Well we spent the last three days at officers councils (all the SA officers gather to have conference) Mostly I like seeing other officers who are further away. But this councils was hard.

If you have been reading you know I am depressed. I still am but I am beginning to understand why. That said three things came up that I want to talk about.

yesterday a Colonel Moulton was with us from THQ. (denomination's headquarters) He showed us a new "corps standard." That is a list of programs that the Army expects corps to run. It is the answer of an older generation to a problem, corps not doing anything. So we have a check list. They say its not but stats will tell whether or not a corps is meeting the standard or not. While I do not think this is the right answer, (do things the same way you've always done expect to get the same results) it raises a bigger issue for me.

If I do not do these programs I am a bad officer. But the community pays my salary and benefits. Colonel told us that NO corps in the western territory funds its church programs 100%. So we are taking community money to have a church. At one point that was okay. People understood. They were all Christian at least in name. But, we live in a post-Christian era. I am of this era. I oppose all public funding of religion. No one knows we are a church. People give us lots of money. See the problem? The internal line is that people give us money knowing what we do and who we are. I disagree. We are given money for what we do. We ask for money based on what we do. We do not say please give us money so we can have a church. I will not be a full time pastor on community money. I will pastor either based on how my congregation tithes or as a volunteer. But can we ask a volunteer to run youth, women's, means, senior programs and do the important aspects of pastoral work caring: carring for peoples spiritual needs? Does my question make sense? Do others see the problem? It is ethical for me.

But I have two things that are going on that are larger issues. I feel like Elijah right now. In 1 Kings 19 he runs away because he is alone. No one has the heart of God. No one cares. I feel like to the church is a bunch of pharasies. We care about our rules and the law calling it God's word. We keep all the rules but we seem to forget about the basics. We do not love our neighbor. We turn our backs on the poor. Hospitals close because of the uninsured but we do nothing. We give a food box because that is what we do. Does our heart break because people are oppressed? Do we cry at systemic injustice?

God where are those with your eyes?
Where are those who hear the cry's you hear?
God give me those eyes and ears.

Finally, my wife told me yesterday that she had not seen me pray in a long time. She is right. Prayer is still a struggle but I have failed her. This hit me hard. I'm sorry.

7 Comments:

Bill,

Your depression sounds very much like wrestlessness, sometimes we become wrestless because we know things arent right.

The thing about accepting public monies to fund Corps as I see it is this, The majority of funds goes towards our allowances and I see that I contribute in a significant way to the community therefore it is justified in this context, however if your Corps is one of those that exists for itself I can see your frustration.

Use this wrestlessness to create change, sometimes it is not right to just accept the status quo. If your Corps is inward focused, why not start challenging them to look outward. We have been doing this for three years now by preaching that we exist for those outside the Kingdom of God, not just inside.

Get others to pray for you if you are finding it difficult at the moment, your wife is right you need to get back into your own spiritual disciplines or else you will go down.

I am not sure if the check list thing would work, because this is what the Army did for years and it didnt work, now we have the freedom to be the Salvation Army to meet the needs of the situation we are at. You need to get praying and get your people praying about what it is that He wants to do in your situation.

It is awful though, when you feel depressed and you have to meet the unending needs of others. Hope your break away gives you enough refreshing.


You possibly didnt want all these words, but anyway, I feel for your situation, it can feel like we are boxed into playing out other peoples agendas at time, I pray that God will break through in your situation.

God Bless

Glenda

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:33 PM  

Hi, Bill,

The Salvation Army is unique among all the churches. It is not designed to be "only" a church for a few. It's greater mission is to the community and most of our programs should be designed and offered to the community.

I do have a problem with "strings being attached" that would "water down" evangelism and cause us not to be able to share Jesus Christ. As most of our programs are not 100% funded by the government, one could assume that they would not be offered by another church or agency for their inability to fund the difference.

If the people of the corps have lost their willingness to help others, they should take another look at scripture. God would not have us sit back and let people suffer when we have the ability to help them. We often throw our hands up in the air and tell God that the world is injustice and why is that? He could very well ask us the same! We need to be doing things to help people and give the "cup of cold water" in
Jesus' name. The community is our church!

Now, as it comes to expectations, The Salvation Army ought not to expect its officers and soldiers to follow an agenda that is doomed to fail, by not having enough time and finances to succeed. An officer who is expected to wear as many hats as they do cannot be "all things to all people" without something not happening.

I would tell my superiors that I have a "full plate" and I will do what I can to serve my denomination in a trusting way, but I cannot give 150% to every aspect the the corps and expect success in every category - whether it be church or its caring ministries to the community. You do your best and if that not good enough, they can move you to another place. The officer to follow you will have to make the same decisions you are having to make.

I think we spend far too much time "worrying" about the future. Take each day...touch lives that God has placed in your path....and move forward. If you do it for His sake, it will all come together. It may not be everything you want, your people want, your headquarters wants, but it will be worthwhile over the long term.

Each morning when you look at the work on your desk, you have to determine what you can do now, what is to be set aside for the future when things are right for it, and the rest you give to God for His intervention.

DHQ/THQ may believe they can "push you" but they really can't. Each corps and each situation is different. Each officer has different gifts and they will not always work at each corps. You share what God has given and move on. Maybe the next person will have the gifts you lack and will do things a little differently and they might work. Other things you have done, won't be done any better, because you did them right the first time.

I will tell you that The Salvation Army has no desire to lose your officership. You are of great value to the organization. They know the struggles you face. Take the information they have given and see how it fits in your corps. Some things will work, others will not, some will be delayed until God's time for that corps. No one can ask you to do more than your best and try to find some joy in doing it, if nothing else than to give that "cup of cold water" in Jesus' name and to teach your people that God is in it.

God bless you as you work through this, Bill. I believe it is workable over time, but don't let it spoil your day. Take one step at a time and work it through.

Lloyd Michael Fletcher, Major (R)
lmf4@mchsi.com

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:19 PM  

Bill,

Be still, but unsatisfied with what you see.

Be brokenhearted, but hopeful that He will deliver us still.

Be in communion with Him, but remember that the rest of us reflect His image too.

Be assured that you are not alone, but remember that it isn't crowded on the mountain top.

Be unbending in your commitment to Pastor, but mindful of your officership.

Be prepared to preach the Gospel in and out of season...and know its out of season today, but be bold anyway.

Be Bill! For I have never met another my brother. It's exciting to serve a God that is a lot like you, but more exciting to see that He is breaking you to make you more like Him.

If you were not brokenhearted over the condition of God's people...you should quit, but seeing that you are...don't.

Waging War With You,
Tom Fenton

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:20 AM  

Bill,
I wish I had some great wise things to say, but I don't. I will tell you that Lisa and I are praying for you and your lovely wife. Tom is the one good at giving great wordy encouragement (Love ya Tom) The Salvation Army is standing in the gap linking "modern" and " Post-modern" We can't let go of either side as long as people live in each. It is true we must not let the modern be an anchor in which we are prevented from preaching the Gospel in a way people understand. Yet, how do we find that balance? I don't know. I just know that I go out to my people and love them. I go to the smelly homeless guy sitting in my church and love him. Is this a touchy feely over simplified answer , yes. Maybe thats the problem..We don't simply love.

Love Ya Bill,
Jay

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:42 AM  

Dear Bill

It is depressing to come to councils to be read a lesson like that. Problem with councils is that they rarely lead to dialogue: to be told what to do is the problem really. Do they really feel the pinch at the executive level ? It is not just a matter of how much YOU do
One would feel that it would be a time of refocusing and centering, to be together with our Servant Lord who knows what we are going through

It is true we (SA)are not postmodern when we believe in koinonia fellowship. The postmodern world is hard: community/communion is being made suspiscious: self-promotion/egocentrism is all: people may work-out but will not join a sportsclub. Or church for that matter

That's why churches today cannot recieve public funding
look at the history of the churches over the last 100 years: they have been centres of fellowship and community. What has happened to them: shrivelled away? What we call community today is a loosely organised group of individuals, living in the same neighbourhood: where is the life of those communities: on the mall on sunday ?

On the other hand men cannot live without companionship/fellowship May be our mission is mostly about showing God given fellowship today
We may feel like we are crying in the desert
or like Elyah left alone in the land

Are we still convinced,that it was our God who called us into a community of faith that spills over in the surrounding community ?
To me it is a phase, postmodernism: it will give way to a new era of new communities
And if we are faithfull to our calling and not to our methods we wil find new ways of creating such fellowships in unlikely places

Your cry at the end sounds to me like a prayer as the psalmist could have voiced it. It's allowed to pray like that may not so pleasant, but God knows and hears and answers prayer like that, sometimes in ulikely ways
I am convinced of that

God bless

By Blogger GM, at 1:59 AM  

Thank you for your honesty and your struggles. Praise the Lord that He hears our hearts' cry, and the tears of his prophets. My service is to Christ, and my goal is to share his heart. My prayers are with you, brother. Grace.

By Blogger Aurora, at 8:11 AM  

Hi. I don't know you. I understand the problem, though. Programs can be good, but they can't be the standard. Every community is different. And money- that's all from God, so just depend on Him. I'm all about the volunteer stuff. I figure- put me on the team, or staff or whatever, just not on the payroll. Y'know?
That's why we do tentmaking, right? anyhoo, I'll be praying for you. And all this stuff. Stuff...pfft...it just gets in the way. And also, press in and continue praying because that's the only thing that's going to change anything.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:50 AM  

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