Hail to the CSM - Salvation Army Canada

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    Hail to the CSM

    We shouldn't just wait for the perfect candidate for local officership to walk through the doors of our churches. We need to start developing the people that God has already given us. June 21, 2011 by Lieutenant Rob Jeffrey
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    Last year my father, Fred, retired as a corps sergeant major (CSM) after giving over 25 years of service to his home corps. Prior to his enrolment as a CSM in the 1970s, my dad served as a young people's sergeant major, giving an incredible total of 38 years of ministry as a local officer in The Salvation Army. My dad was many things over the years: a bookkeeper, school teacher, principal, administrator, Gideon, Rotarian and a bus driver, but all of these responsibilities were done through the lens of his commitment to God and the Army. He was a CSM who happened to be a school teacher―a vocational calling that he saw as a ministry that complemented his service to the local corps.

    My own calling to officership was modelled on the example that both my parents set as faithful local officers. When my father finished a busy day at work, we would pile into the car with a trunk load of frozen turkeys and homemade jams, food items that were destined for the empty refrigerators of corps members or anyone else who was struggling financially. As we drove those forlorn roads of north-eastern Nova Scotia, dropping off little care packages that would see a family through another week, my dad imparted to me his theology of local officership. In many ways, it was identical to William Booth's criteria for finding suitable local men and women that would help the officer carry out the Army's work, mainly, that they be “lovers of souls, living holy lives.” Both of my parents did just that and I am grateful to them. As local officers, my parent's duties extended far beyond what happened within the walls of the church: theirs was an active ministry―a ministry that reached out and touched the lives of our soldiers, adherents and recruits. Their service helped ease the burden of leadership that was experienced by the many corps officers who served alongside of them.

    As a corps officer still in my first appointment, my thoughts turn to the state of local officership in The Salvation Army today. Do we place the same emphasis on growing, cultivating and sustaining local leadership? While churches within the Army may be growing, the call to leadership within the Church is not always given. Many corps across the territory do not have a CSM (or equivalent) and have not had one for many years. Certainly, corps officers do not want to put people in roles just for the sake of having them filled, but there should be an honest attempt to develop people in leadership. Beyond waiting for the perfect candidate for local officership to walk through the doors of our churches, we need to start by developing the people that God has already given us.

    The abbreviations and titles of local officer ranks in The Salvation Army are both colourful and a little bewildering: CT, CS, RS, CCG, BM, QM, Publications Sergeant Major, JSS, SL, Ward Sergeant, CCM Sec, and so on. (How many could you figure out?) Some of these positions may not match the situation on the ground in many of our corps and community churches. But surely the need for qualified, spirit-filled local leaders is always there.

    Dr. Bramwell Southwell, a retired CSM from Melbourne, Australia, offers a simple but powerful definition of a local officer. “A definition of a local officer might be one who can get others to work together.” Sounds easy enough, but getting people to work together in any task, let alone the building up of God's Kingdom, requires a level of spiritual maturity that is not always easy to find. And what happens when your prime candidate for local officership is an adherent and not a soldier? Is there a way of credibly having a parallel structure to local officership that employs the gifts and talents of adherents? Or is our requirement of soldiership as the preferred route to local officership a non-negotiable?

    Clearly defining a process of leadership and development training for all of the members that comprise our congregations is sorely needed if we are to take seriously our God-given mandate to raise up disciples for Jesus Christ. If you're lucky enough to be in a ministry unit that has a CSM, YPSM or any other local officer, take a moment this week to encourage them in their calling. Pray for them and with them, asking for God's strength and favour to fall upon them. They are leaders, commissioned to serve God and his church, and they need your support. “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).

    Lieutenant Robert Jeffery is the corps officer of Spryfield Community Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Married to Hannah, they have two children.

    Comment

    On Wednesday, June 29, 2011, Brian Adams said:

    Hidebound reactionary traditionalist that I am, I was about to commence a point by point refutation of some of the foregoing comments when it suddenly hit me: how does a very personal and heartfelt tribute to local leadership turn into a debate on "form vs essence"? How is it that we are more excited about what we CALL our local leaders than we are about the widespread LACK of local leaders? Form vs essence indeed!

    Great article Rob!

    On Tuesday, June 28, 2011, Ira said:

    Great job Rob. This is a fine testimony to the life of your parents.

    On Monday, June 27, 2011, Dion Durdle said:

    Great article Rob! Your father and yourself are both wonderful Christlike men, and your family is great example to the rest of us who are trying to raise families who follow God's will.

    My take on the above comments are that the SA is not perfect... none of us as individuals are perfect either... but if the Holy Spirit is telling the SA to repent of some things and change some things... then Lord give us ears to hear... Personally my issues are not with our Army forms and terminology... but we should never be arrogant and think that we have it all together either, because we don't.period. The only thing that keeps me grounded and faithful to Christ and to the SA is Love.period. the Love of Christ that overshadows all of these other issues. The bottom line is that being a part of the SA gives me and you great opportunities to serve the Lord, and isn't that what we all want to do...

    On Sunday, June 26, 2011, L said:

    geez........people hanging on to what the Army was, is only looking backward....... however, what it was, was radical..........it got people's attention...........they weren't afraid of different in the 1800-1900s How about "to serve the present age, my calling to fulfil......." The Army is a strange organization to most of the public today.....

    I was raised in an "Army" family.......5-6 generations........several officers in the mix. I was army barmy. But how it is portrayed today is not relevent to most............but Getting back to prayer warriors, knee drills, uniforms, etc. will not change and will not bring dedication and growth... Need to look at where people are hurting, what do they need, spiritually, emotionally and physically.....returning to the old song books, uniforms, etc. will not draw any more people than our fancy multi media presentations.........worship groups, bands or songsters......are these relevent or of interest to the people that live beside you???? Are they attracting or distracting people???? I am not saying that what was done in the past was not relevent............is was, and is, because Wm Booth had a simple premis............soup, soap, and salvation. Not what you do or how you look, but taking care of your neighbours physical well being - the soap, the soup, then, and only then will you have their attention, interest and trust to move them to salvation.

    This is happening today, I work in a government social service organization, and there is a group of different faith groups that support our families.........I must say they put most salvationist to shame, but really, they act like the Army of old!!! They are there, supporting the children with school back packs, supplies for moving into a new place.........a listening non judgemental ear, practical sharing of a place for us to meet with our clients.... if we have a need, we just express it to the group..........did I say they are a multi faith group??? The army could learn from them............actually, they remind me of the army I knew.......and they do not where uniforms, have strange lingo, and would be shocked to think about firing a cartridge. They just care about people, and give with no expectations, and no evangelizing. However, I know they have attacted families to their churches........

    My advice is to get back to a servant mentality, get back to the soap and soup, and the salvation will come, because of the love shown.

    On Sunday, June 26, 2011, Concerned said:

    Mark:

    God didn't make mistakes with his church. Not at all. But men most certainly did, and the history of Christianity is, to quote the English author George Herring," positively messy". I for one am grateful that God "raised up" men such as Augustine,Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, Calvin, Wesley...and the movements or reforms their influence "gave rise to". We would not be where we are today without them. And yes, William Booth, without whom we would likely not be Salvationists today...

    We have strayed far from the intent behind Rob's intial comment, and we will agree to disagree. The Army I see every Sunday in worship "at the meeting" ( I just refuse to say "church") is a vastly different one than the one of even twenty years ago. In my frequent travels across the territory I too can observe empty pews, little uniform wearing and a real loss of any sense of distinctiveness in most of the corps I have visited....the very thing that Comissioner Marilyn Francis indicated as one of her concerns in her final published interview as an active officer.

    It is ironic that if current trends continue Rob won't be able to write about his wonderful father the CSM. There won't be any CSMs , and no one will know what the term means anyway.

    On Saturday, June 25, 2011, markbraye said:

    Concerned, we'll have to agree to disagree.

    i don't see styles of articles of clothing and military language as vital distinctives of TSA. do you? why?

    "just another 'spire in the sky.'" what do we mean when we say things like this? is it simply a "rally the troops" type pep talk? a feel good Salvationism saying? is there any Biblical or spiritual or theological foundation to build this on? what's wrong with being a spire in the sky? what's wrong with other spires in the sky? what's wrong with being another church/another denomination?

    one more thing, and i'll try not to comment anymore. this is so far from Rob's thoughts now. but because you used it...

    i hate our "raised up" rhetoric. i hate when we use it. it is so arrogant. as if God made a mistake with the Church until 1865. sometimes i think we Salvationists have an inferiority complex and we have to do and say things to justify our ways, even to ourselves sometimes, sadly: we were "rasied up," we were called not to practice the Lord's Supper and Baptism, the full formal uniform is our dress and the only style of clothing that matters, etc.

    why?

    On Friday, June 24, 2011, Concerned said:

    Mark:

    Not afraid of....healthy.....change. Not at all. You adapt and change, or you wither and die....

    But you never, ever lose your distinctiveness. If we do, as a movement, we become, to paraphrase General Orsborn, just another "spire in the sky".

    God didn't raise up the Army to become that. Ever.

    On Friday, June 24, 2011, markbraye said:

    well, Concerned, you have a lot on your mind.

    you make a few fair points; a few are trite.

    it's clear to see this is an emotional issue for you.

    but...

    why do we need to call our places of worship corps to be TSA?

    why do we need the language of Corps Councils, CSM, CT, etc.?

    what does uniform mean to you? i'll assume, correct me if i'm wrong, it means full tunic and pants and a tie for men. a shirt, any shirt, with a red shield or crest or the words "The Salvation Army" cannot be uniform?

    if we're singing songs that worship God, does it matter if we're reading from a book or off a screen? does the instrument being played mean anything, except personal preference?

    shouldn't we be culturally sensitive and willing to adapt? we wouldn't use words that are culturally insensitve these days. why should articles of clothing be any different?

    how much of a connection do you truly believe there is between change in our form and attendance/financial health?

    it simply seems we're afraid of change.

    i wonder if our hesitation to healthy change and our stuck- in-our-ways spirit has more to do with our ills.

    Concerned, what does it mean to be The Salvation Army to you?

    p.s.: we should apologize to Rob as well. i do. i thought i would ask a simple question/make a simple observation. i did not anticipate this type of conversation to hijack his thoughts. it's good, though. nothing wrong with healthy debate and sharing opinions.

    On Friday, June 24, 2011, Concerned said:

    Well, lets call our corps "churches". Lets do away with the traditional format that worked so well for years......and as opposed to CSMs and CTs and all other forms of "local officers" ( remember that term???) we will call our local leadership "elders"...all members of "Mission Boards".....

    We will, of course, call our officers "pastors". Uniform wearing?? C'mon....get real....Lets get rid of that too!! So dated. So out of place in the modern world. Perhaps offensive to newer Canadians? "Song books"?? Replace those with Power Point. Bands? Lets have "worship teams" instead

    And we can, of course, watch our attendance at meetings decline as we go, and the financial health of many of our...dare I say...."corps"...also suffer.....I mean, who needs to "fire a cartridge" anyway....??

    A Salvation "ARMY"??? Just not sure any longer....

    On Thursday, June 23, 2011, markbraye said:

    Concerned, you're not wrong. you're expressing personal feelings and opinions.

    however, why would the rewording/reworking of our nomenclature make us not be The Salvation Army?

    we're starting to get into a form vs. essence thing.

    On Thursday, June 23, 2011, Concerned said:

    Or not....

    I hope we are still the Salvation Army. Or am I wrong?

    On Thursday, June 23, 2011, Moe said:

    @Mark- call them elders.

    On Thursday, June 23, 2011, markbraye said:

    we absolutely need local leadership. no question.

    the definition from Dr. Southwell is excellent. it could be a definition of any leader.

    however, with many ministry units and worship centres moving away from "Corps" in their names and language, what can we call local officers to better reflect the local church/ministry unit? how can we rework and reword these titles, roles, and responsibilities?

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