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Feb7TueThrough our holy living, we bear witness to the gifts of forgiveness, hope and eternal life. February 7, 2012 by Commissioner Brian Peddle
In the January issue of Salvationist I asked you to join me in “refocusing the vision” in the Canada and Bermuda Territory. My intention was to outline our identity, our priorities and how we use our resources when mission matters most. I am praying that the evidence of our obedience to God will be visible in every corps and ministry unit and also in our sacramental living as Salvationists.
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Some say the Church needs to be vigilant and responsive to the imminent return of Jesus. My sense is that we must make the mission of God in the world our priority, since whether the Lord returns in our lifetime or many years later, we are left with a limited amount of time to work in fields that are ripe for harvest.
In 1974, the Reverend Billy Graham was instrumental in convening the First Lausanne Conference on World Evangelism. In 2010, the third conference gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, and affirmed the evangelistic mandate: “We believe the gospel is God's good news for the whole world, and we are determined by his grace to obey Christ's commission to proclaim it to all mankind and to make disciples of every nation.” As The Salvation Army, our central focus must remain on reaching the lost world for which Jesus died.
We have a responsibility to impact the world in which we live—to shape the future. Our mission statement attests that we are “to be a transforming influence in the communities of our world.” The biblical mandate found in the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:16-20) rests squarely on the shoulders of the collective body of Christ, and we share a unique place within this Christian fellowship.
We live in a society where people are pushing faith to the extreme margins of their lives. Postmodernism, pluralism and I-can-do-it-myself philosophies run rampant. Our witness to the world is that none of these adequately address the provision of forgiveness, hope and eternity. These are gifts known to the Church and intended to be given away to a needy world. If we are to take the Lausanne Covenant seriously, we can't let the world squeeze us into its mould; we have to shape our place in the secular spaces that we occupy. Holy living is not only a responsibility, it's an evangelistic opportunity to reflect God to the world as he makes himself visible to a non-believing generation.
In The Mission of God's People, Christopher Wright argues, “It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his Church in the world as that God has a Church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the Church; the Church was made for the mission.”
If mission matters most to The Salvation Army, then how do we shape our future so that our priorities don't shift, our spiritual footprint increases in significance and God's Kingdom on earth is extended?
I suggest that we:
Reflect on the personal implications of the General's vision plan for the international Salvation Army: One Army, One Mission, One Message (see Salvationist.ca/international-vision).
Become prayer warriors. On Thursday mornings I pray knowing that I am a part of a worldwide prayer meeting (see Salvationist.ca/worldwide-prayer).
Prepare ourselves through training and equipping to ensure that we are a church engaged in God's mission, taking the gospel message into the world.
Rise up to be the Army God called us to be. As Sabine Baring-Gould writes, “Like a mighty army moves the Church of God.” We are an Army of Salvation calling people to holiness, righteous relationships and a God-shaped future.
Let us be an Army living in obedience to God, enjoying the full breadth and depth of a covenantal relationship with the Almighty and celebrating with joy the extension of his Kingdom here on earth.
Shaping the future may require new buildings, better programs, effective financial management and excellent leadership, but these should never be a substitute for the evangelistic witness that must always be found in you and me as we live holy lives engaged in his mission.
Let's shape the future together in his name.
Commissioner Brian Peddle is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory.