Leonard Sweet in Summoned to Lead highlights how some people make big splashes or one shot affairs; you may briefly notice their efforts or the moment may pass you by. Other people, however, make waves. Sweet goes on to say that “wave makers” are the people who you want to pay attention to.
The most important thing a person can do for the cause of Christ is to be a wave maker. The emphasis makes sense when we consider that a wave is defined as a force that creates a disturbance on a body of water; it generates a surging and progressing movement; a wave pushes you toward something. If you are a surfer, hopefully it is the shoreline! If you are a lost child of God, hopefully something or someone somewhere is pushing you toward Christ.
Interestingly, as we unpack the early history of The Salvation Army, we discover that Salvationists were called to be wave makers. In the words of Commissioner Theodore Kitching, “Salvationists are called to be God’s great disturbers of the peace.”
The goal of our early mission was to push people toward the shoreline where they would find the rescue and redemption of Christ himself. It meant churning up settled waters and causing people to take notice of Christ. Catherine Booth also called for wave makers when she proclaimed that “there is no improving the future without first disturbing the present and the difficulty is the willingness to get people to be disturbed.” In other words, Catherine was proclaiming our need for wave makers in The Salvation Army. She recognized how difficult it would be to move people from their comfortable flotation devices into a churning sea where they would be forced to grapple with the realities of our fallen sinful condition.
We are all in need of salvation. Only as we ride the wave of God’s grace and forgiveness can we find the hope and healing the Gospel offers.
If you were to cross the threshold of The Salvation Army’s Cross Culture building at Commercial and 1st Avenue in Vancouver, B.C., you would encounter a number of extraordinary wave makers. Led by ministry director Michael Collins (also associate pastor to Cariboo Hill Temple), a militia troop has formed, comprised of committed believers who love and serve God and exist to win souls and to make their salvation the first purpose of their community. Among this vibrant team of passionate evangelists, you would meet two young men: Daniel Ryder and Gareth Wagner. My own connection with these fine young men has been a great inspiration since arriving in my new appointment at Cariboo Hill Temple.
Having completed the Teen Challenge Program in London, Ont. a few years ago, Daniel Ryder found his way to the Vancouver War College. Convinced of his calling to remain in the Downtown Eastside and adjoining communities, Daniel makes it his life’s purpose to cultivate disciples who want to “recycle the cycle.” He can often be found walking the streets of the local community, readily talking to people about Jesus and building relationships, particularly with aboriginal youth who have become homeless and disconnected from any sense of a caring or nurturing community.
Gareth Wagner accepted Christ three and a half years ago and openly speaks of his deliverance from drugs and pornography. At the time, he did not have a church home and started to attend Cariboo Hill Temple. He became involved with the Celebrate Recovery program, a weekly meeting with others who acknowledge God’s healing power in their lives and walk together along the road to recovery. Through these meetings, he grew as a Christian believer and became a wave maker in the local community. While engaging in personal street evangelism, Gareth also finds his place as a key organizer of Cariboo Hill Temple/Cross Culture street ministry volunteers.
When asked about the highlights of wave making in their community, both Daniel and Gareth speak about the importance of establishing trust. They cite an example of how they had been invited into a local government building now used as a drop-in centre for aboriginal teens and young adults. While routine police checks will often be a regular part of an evening’s events, Daniel and Gareth speak of how wave making in this setting is so critical to those who are stuck in realities of street life. The goal of these young wave makers is to establish a presence in the community, so that when people see them, they begin to associate something positive with the name of Christ. We might call this the “credibility wave” as the ultimate intent is to establish rapport that motivates people to catch the next big “God wave” approaching shore.
Both Daniel and Gareth share the ultimate dream of the Cross Culture Corps to establish a barracks ministry where wave makers live on site at the corps building, while also working in the community to push people toward the shoreline of salvation and faith. This will mean stirring the waters of a complacent community, currently cold to the news of the gospel.
As members of the barracks ministry team are not required to pay rent, whatever Daniel and Gareth would normally contribute to personal housing expenses is directly poured back into the ministry of the corps. It is an exciting initiative and speaks to the way in which God is stirring the hearts of individuals to make a difference in our world.
The Cross Culture story affirms the reality that the early vision of The Salvation Army lives on as wave makers find their place in communities that need to move toward something that will make a difference in their existence.
A few months ago, seismic activity was detected off the B.C. Queen Charlotte fault impacting the Haida Gwaii Islands. Tsunami warnings were quickly issued. The word went out that big waves could soon be approaching. While due care was necessary in this instance, Salvationists in this day and age are being called again to evaluate the impact of their wave making in their own communities. Those connected with the Cross Culture militia are setting a pace that calls for our attention.
The Gospel of Christ is still for lost people. While some may be floating complacently at sea, most are struggling to find a wave that can take them somewhere meaningful and productive. In Christ, we find a homing device toward a shore where there is healing and hope for all. As it was for the disciples of old, when we reach this sacred shore, we may even find a fire burning and Jesus saying, “Come have breakfast with me” (see John 21:12).
While wave makers have propelled us toward this place, the motion that carries us is sustained by the power of God’s Spirit reaching into a human life. Praise God for the ministry of wave making and for those who are faithfully engaging their gifts to propel people toward new shores. May we be faithful in our own ministry settings to disturb that which has become settled, creating a movement toward the “something better” Christ offers us all.
Major Julie Slous holds a doctorate in biblical preaching and is the corps officer at Cariboo Hill Temple in Vancouver, B.C. She recently published a book titled Preaching a Disturbing Gospel, available from Supplies and Purchasing.