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May14WedHow to have a positive impact in a church with problems. May 14, 2014 by Jonathan Taube
Have you ever felt frustrated or dissatisfied with your corps? Present, but not planted? It's easy to see the flaws and failings of the church, but much more difficult to confront those same sins and shortcomings in our own hearts and lives. So how can we have a positive impact without becoming bitter or hard-hearted? How can we serve Christ in a church with problems?
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
One of my mentors has often reminded me that when I stand before the throne of God in heaven, I will not be asked to answer for the actions or inaction of others, but I will certainly be held to account for what I have done or failed to do with what was given me. We must live out our God-given calling regardless of our feelings about our individual setting.
William Booth once said, “Work as if everything depended upon work, and pray as if everything depended upon prayer.” We're no strangers to work in the Army, but we don't often gather solely and specifically to seek the Lord's guidance and empowerment. And it shows.
If there was ever one thing in Scripture that led to amazing, at times unimaginable, changes in our world, it's prayer. Pray for the Lord to reveal his will to you and to your corps leadership. Pray for those with whom you disagree. Pray for more than just a nice, stable corps; pray for victory in the salvation war for your neighbourhood.
Prayer invests our hearts in a way that little else does. Let's root ourselves in our corps communities by faithfully interceding for them.
While we're talking about investment, make sure you're giving even when you don't feel like it. Give your time, your gifts, your tithe and your very best without expecting anything in return. Give regardless of whether or not you are thanked. When Jesus sent out his disciples for the first time in Matthew 10:8, he told them, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
If we refuse to give because things aren't going the way we like, or even if we feel our voices aren't being heard, we're reducing a beautiful act of worship to an economic transaction. We're holding on to our own power rather than living the humble servant life modelled by our Saviour. Jesus talked about the impossibility of serving both God and money (see Matthew 6:24; the Greek word translated as money, mammon, means trusting in wealth and possessions). He also counselled his followers to serve those who could not repay, removing worldly economics from the equation and instead building social interactions on love and grace (see Luke 14:12-14).
A clear mark of Jesus' disciples is that they reject worldly power dynamics and give without expecting repayment.
No problem—big or small, real or perceived—can stop you from evangelizing and discipling others. You might feel hesitant to invite others into your corps community if it's an unhealthy environment (a valid concern), but don't let that stop you from witnessing, loving and reaching out to others. Prayerfully ask the Lord to lead you to someone in your corps, school or workplace that he might use you to minister to.
If we all worried less about politics and programs, and focused on making disciples of Christ, we'd probably fix all the issues we have with our corps in the process. We have to remember that none of us are called to build The Salvation Army or spectacular corps; we've been charged with making disciples. But to make a true disciple, we have to first be a true disciple. We have to regularly ask ourselves if we're really in love with Jesus, clear about his call on our lives, free from worldly pursuits and passions, and intentional in our efforts.
So I say again: pray. The Apostle Paul counselled the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV), but unceasing prayer begins with regular, intentional prayer. As we pray, we become aware of God's presence in all things. We learn to recognize his voice and develop “eyes to see and ears to hear” (see Mark 8:18). If you don't feel connected at your corps, focus on connecting to Christ.
The bottom line is that the church is full of imperfect, sinful people, and so it shouldn't be a surprise when we find imperfection and sin in the church. Catholic activist Dorothy Day expressed it well when she said, “Though she [the church] is a harlot at times, she is our mother.” We are called together to be the family of God, under one head—Christ himself. We should not easily criticize the church, because we are the church. If you're waiting for the perfect corps to come along so you can focus on building the kingdom, you're missing the point. Pour your whole heart into wherever God leads you to serve his people, and make sure your focus stays on him. Then you will find fulfillment despite your circumstances.
Jonathan Taube works and worships with The Salvation Army in the U.S.A. Central Territory's youth department and as a soldier at the Des Plaines Corps in Illinois. God has grown a deep passion in his heart for discipleship, world missions and incarnational expressions of the gospel. Taube is also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs. Read his blog posts at centralyouthnetwork.com/author/jtaube.