Mobilize 2.0—Inspired for Mission, Positioned for Growth. Since the earliest days of The Salvation Army in the East End of London, England, our movement has been about the kingdom message and mission: sharing the love of Jesus Christ, meeting human needs and being a transforming influence in the communities of our world. We are positioned to share and facilitate kingdom life, which is abundant life—life to the full in Jesus Christ (see John 10:10).
The kingdom of heaven is spoken of throughout the four Gospels and is the focal point of the message and mission of Jesus (see Luke 4:43). It is life as God intended it to be. Jesus describes what the kingdom of heaven is like through parables and metaphors: a wedding feast with joyful celebration and a diversity of guests (see Matthew 8:11, 22:2-10); a farmer’s field with germination and growth (see Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23); a pearl of great value (see Matthew 13:44-46). It belongs to the poor in spirit (see Matthew 5:3) and those persecuted for doing right (see Matthew 5:10). It belongs to the little children (see Matthew 19:14). The kingdom is here and now and is what the church is to be all about—to be drawn out of its buildings and programs into the communities of which it is a part and partner. Our purpose as the church is to extend the kingdom of God.
I recently read Kingdom Come: Why We Must Give Up Our Obsession with Fixing the Church—and What We Should Do Instead by Reggie McNeal. McNeal is the missional leadership specialist for Leadership Network and has taught and consulted globally with major denominations, including The Salvation Army.
McNeal asks, have we been putting too much emphasis on the church, confusing our participation in the kingdom of God with being the kingdom itself? The church and the kingdom of God are not one and the same. Rather than configuring ourselves around church activities or programs on church property, we engage the broader kingdom narrative that moves us from being church-centric to kingdom-engaged in our day-to-day lives. Jesus’ focus was more on the kingdom and less on the assembly (ekklesia, see Matthew 16:18, 18:17), calling us to meet the needs of others and share hope where there is hardship, suffering and pain. We see Jesus demonstrating God’s intention to redeem every dimension of our human existence, healing those with disfigurement, disease, dysfunction, demon possession—the physical, emotional and spiritual.
With this shift in focus, our measures of success shift from church-centred metrics (e.g., numbers engaged in church activities, bottles of water distributed) to those more reflective of kingdom mission where God is at work in our neighbourhoods and communities (impact/ transformation). McNeal asks, what does our “scorecard” look like today? What is it that we celebrate? What we celebrate is often what is seen as the priority and our “scorecard” needs to support our mission and vision.
The Salvation Army is a movement with a clear kingdom mission. The Salvation Army is a kingdom story, but often, we’ve tried to be a church story. We find ourselves working hard to be the church when the church is working hard to be like the Army. Our narrative, vision and mission are clear and kingdom oriented. As we move forward, we need to ensure the alignment of our vision and values (how we act and how we behave), mindful of the support these give each other.
An army is to be an invading force, meant to reclaim what has been stolen (see John 10:10). While we are protected with the full armour of God (see Ephesians 6:10-18), we are not to be in protection mode but on the offensive. McNeal states it well: “Kingdom engagement thrusts us into situations where abundant life is threatened, compromised or missing so that we can serve as advocates for the life that God intends for people to experience, abundant life.”
The Canada and Bermuda Territory has done some self-examination. The Mobilize 2.0 transformation program is timely. We are doing a little deconstruction to get limber again as a movement. The realities of the current pandemic have heightened human hardship and need. It has revealed cracks in our systems, forced change and accelerated a customized culture and digital revolution. We have adapted, discovered wonderful opportunities and developed new partnerships as we continue to hit the streets—to love our neighbour with spiritual influence as we demonstrate the gospel and collaborate with others in the transformation of our towns and cities.
Lt-Colonel Lynn Armstrong is the territorial secretary for mission. She will take up a new appointment as divisional director of women’s ministries and divisional officer personnel secretary in the Prairie Division on July 1, 2022.
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