The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and BermudaView RSS Feed
Nov26MonWhen we seek renewal, we tune our hearts to the heart of God November 26, 2012 by John McAlister
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"When we get excited about what God is doing in our own hearts and see him moving in our ministries, then it becomes a natural attraction to other people,” says Major Toni Cartmell, corps officer at Kelowna Community Church, B.C. “People want to be part of something that has power and excitement and that is impacting lives.”
It comes down to spiritual renewal, both in our individual lives and corporately as members of The Salvation Army. Spiritual renewal is an essential component of the Army's international vision, which was launched by General Linda Bond earlier this year (see salvationist.ca/international-vision).
When our territorial leaders prayerfully considered the 12 actions outlined in the international vision, seven things clearly emerged as priorities for the Canada and Bermuda Territory (see below).
“The seven priorities that we've chosen are our declaration that we need to take careful attention to each,” says Commissioner Brian Peddle, territorial commander. “Putting them into 'We will' statements signals our responsibility to come up with actions that will bring those priorities to the forefront of Army mission and ministry.”
Not by accident, the first of the seven territorial priorities listed is spiritual renewal.
“Spiritual renewal will guard the mission as it will keep us from playing church, being insular and making administrative and missional decisions that are only to our own benefit,” says Major Fred Waters, corps ministries secretary, THQ.
“Spiritual renewal is individual,” says Major Cartmell. “But when individuals become renewed, it impacts the organization. It's all about tuning our hearts to the heart of God. We can go about doing the right actions but missing God's priorities and agenda altogether. Spiritual renewal puts us into the flow of God's plan. Everything we do then takes on a vibrancy and power that goes beyond what we're contributing because God has already gone ahead and tilled the soil.”
If we believe that this is God's Army, then there has to be a vital link between our existence (what we do) and the infusion of the Holy Spirit (God's activity within the Army).
“That can only happen if we are spiritually open and available,” says Commissioner Peddle. “I think renewal has to be a fresh, ongoing reality for the Army—it should always be a priority for us.”
“It's the very essence of who we are,” suggests Colonel Floyd Tidd, chief secretary. “We are a spiritual movement. As such, we as individuals need to be a spiritual people. It's not that we're dead inside, but there is an ongoing need for renewing and refocusing so that we can live out vibrant spiritual lives, and by extension, vibrant expressions of mission and ministry.”
So how do we experience this?
Emphasis on Prayer
“Spiritual renewal and prayer go hand-in-hand,” says Major Waters. “One leads to the other.”
As an Army, we rely on God's strength and guidance to enable us to carry out his mission in the world. This comes through prayer. And while leadership is important, we will only be as strong as the people carrying out the work on the frontlines. This requires all Salvationists to make prayer a priority, no matter their role within the movement.
“Part of the difficulty is that many of our people are illiterate in terms of their own prayer life,” challenges Major Cartmell. “Within evangelical circles, we have made prayer formulaic, so we're not always sure how to pray in all situations. We need to help people find their own prayer rhythms. Prayer needs to come to life in individuals.”
Richard Foster writes that the desire to pray is prayer. The key for the Army is to encourage Salvationists to acknowledge the hunger they already have to communicate with God and to give them the tools to express this more fully in every aspect of their lives.
As a corporate body, Salvationists are encouraged to participate in the weekly worldwide prayer meeting that was launched by General Bond (see salvationist.ca/worldwideprayer). Held each Thursday, the 30-minute prayer time offers Salvationists the opportunity to pray for the mission of the Army internationally.
In addition, there will be territorial prayer initiatives (such as the recent Weekend of Prayer for Human Trafficking or the quarterly children's prayer weekends) and resources provided through territorial departments and websites.
Each ministry unit is also encouraged to place a greater emphasis on prayer and look at their own local initiatives. This could include an educational component, such as inviting people to attend prayer seminars or retreats.
“We want to see every ministry bathing everything they do in vibrant prayer,” says Colonel Tidd. “This will enable them to respond locally to whatever needs exist in their communities.”
As Salvationists, we are called to sacramental living. While we acknowledge the opportunities for grace found in the traditional sacraments practiced in the church universal, we embrace the fact that God's grace is not limited to these and can be found in all areas of life. As such, our church celebrates the unlimited signs and means of grace found in the world.
“We are a sacramental people,” says Major Cartmell. “Even our uniform and flag are sacraments. We need metaphors in our lives for different internal spiritual experiences. They help people connect. We have to be more integrated with the body, soul and spirit. God is working out his salvation in all of those areas of us. So whether it's putting on the uniform with intentionality or eating a meal with intentionality, it's all in how we do it that makes it sacramental. It's not what we do, but how we do it.”
“It's living our lives as a sacrament of offering to Christ,” says Colonel Tidd. “In view of all of God's mercy toward me, and the relationship that I have with him, I seek to live to be a blessing and offer my life as a holy and acceptable offering to him.”
The world should be able to look at Salvationists and see Christ in us. The sacraments can be the presence of Christ here on earth lived out in individuals.
We're also a covenanted people. Covenant in the context of Scripture is a relationship between God and his creation. As Salvationists, we are governed by many personal covenants, such as our soldier's covenant, our marriage vows or our commitment to raise our children well.
“It's about our personal relationship with the Lord,” says Commissioner Peddle, “which is worked through an obedient faith that says, 'I am totally committed to his will and way for my life.' In other words, he is first. And understanding that with that comes his incredible ability to provide us with everything that we need. It's a reciprocal relationship.”
Salvation Army soldiers (and officers) enter into sacred covenants in which they make specific promises (see salvationist.ca/covenant). At times, these covenants can be forgotten or ignored, as the promises may have been made years ago or at an early age. A covenant lifestyle, however, is one that is framed in the context of these sacred promises.
In order for true spiritual renewal to happen in this territory, it is essential that every soldier and officer take the time to revisit the promises they have made. This isn't a negative experience, but rather an opportunity to make covenants a priority in their lives.
“If people believe in what you're selling, they will buy it no matter what the cost,” says Major Cartmell. “I don't think covenant is an issue for people, but we need to have the power and the impetus to make people want to take it on. Our covenant has to mean something, and I think that's where we've run amok in the Army. If we don't hold people accountable to it, then we diminish the covenant for the ones who would give it meaning.”
When we seek spiritual renewal in our lives and ministries, we make holy living a priority. Are we willing to cast aside our own needs and wants and pursue the things that God wants for us? Are we self willing to put to death our former self and be reborn?
“Holy living is the result of turning our hearts toward God,” says Major Cartmell. “We wouldn't have to stress about this if we were already taking people to that place of passion.”
At its core, holiness is about purity of heart. It's not about doing holy things, but about feeling and thinking with hearts and minds shaped by God so that everything we do is an expression of God's holy will.
“Holy living is not just what God wants from us,” says Major Waters, “he wants it for us. It guards our lives, families and ministries. It makes us a more attractive witness.”
This may mean renewal or in some cases complete revival. As Ephesians 5:14 tells us, “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Perhaps it's time for our Army to experience a new and holy resurgence.
“Living a life of holiness depends upon obedient faith and the lifeblood that comes into our spiritual living that makes covenant and sacramental living possible,” says Commissioner Peddle. “Salvationists are called, we believe, in the privilege of all believers, to be wholly sanctified. And from that flows the rich and incomparable spiritual renewal that God offers to us.”
We will focus on …
• spiritual renewal
› prayer initiatives/emphasis
› sacramental living
› covenant lifestyle
› holy living
• leadership development
› strategy for candidate recruitment
› employee recruitment and development
› officer and lay leadership
› make succession planning a cultural norm
› utilization of all resources in increasing our capacity to serve
We will focus on …
• social justice
• children and youth
• integrated mission and ministry (through our corps and social services)
We will focus on …
• the gospel and transformation