Posts in Ministry
Plan For Holiness' Sake

I'm reading Proverbs 29 this morning. In the ESV, verse 18 says this:

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

I learned that verse in the King James back in the day. It reads like this:

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

There is a lot of popular church work these days in the field of strategy, vision casting and leadership. Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, the whole Catalyst movement, Driscoll; they all deal heavily in vision casting, strategic planning and management and leadership systems. While proponents of these philosophies would say that they simply exist in the field of human relations much like gravity exists in physics and the leadership of the church can choose to make use of them or choose not to heed them at their peril, opponents of management philosophy that I have encountered online and in person tend to accuse "planners" of worldliness. "The church is not a business." "God's ways are foolishness to the world." Stuff like that.

I tend to attempt to walk in some middle ground in this area (assuming there is some) but what struck me about Proverbs 29:18 this morning is that the vision of leadership impacts the holiness of the people under that leadership. While it's easy to accuse planners of just wanting big churches, or money, or fame or whatever, God's Word, at least to some extent, says that people aren't motivated to discipline and personal holiness when they don't have someone providing them with clear direction for the future.

I think Paul expresses this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 when he says:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

When I read literature about strategic planning, or am in discussion with our ministry team about vision, we typically have our eyes on evangelism (not money or fame btw). However, Proverbs 29:18 is a good reminder that the people of God need vision too, if only as motivation for their own holiness. Vision casting isn't just about the external mission of winning souls, but the internal mission of feeding sheep.

Bible, MinistryZak AdamsComment
Sacrifice For The Good Of Mankind!, or, Paper Is Easy, Brains Are Better

I've decided to give up two personal conveniences for the good of others and the betterment of myself. Both of these conveniences have to do with my public work during Sunday gatherings at church.

I'm giving up capo'd chord charts.

When I lead music from the guitar, I often use a capo. It allows a guitar player to use the most appropriate and best sounding voicings (or chord shapes) in the best keys for congregational singing. There are several problems with this though. First, no one else in the band plays with a capo. My chord sheets says "G" but everyone else's says "B." That makes it more challenging for me to communicate. I have to transpose as I speak to my team, which, for some reason, doesn't always work right. Secondly, I have on more than one occasion placed my capo on the wrong fret of my guitar. I then played all the right chord shapes in the wrong key. Again, the rest of the band doesn't have this and consequently has no idea where I am and cannot play with me. As a solution, I have decided to just memorize the shapes in each capo'd position and play with charts that are labeled for the absolute key.

What this allows me to do is both communicate with the band easily (because we are reading the same chart) and increase my ability to play the correct chords wherever I am capo'd without having to rely on the transposed chart. They can understand me, I become a better player.

I'm giving up sermon notes. 

I am taking a preaching class this semester and in one of the textbooks the author strongly encourages his readers to get rid of sermon notes. He does not advocate memorizing the sermon, but simply memorizing the outline. I usually preach with an outline about a page and a half long. I was given the opportunity to open up Kroc Church's study of the book of Galatians and got to preach for the last two weeks through chapter 1. I did not use notes either time. It was a lot of fun.

This practice has done two things for we so far. First, it allows me to keep better eye contact with the congregation while I am preaching. I have noticed an immediate difference in my ability to read the congregation. Secondly, it forces me to write a simple outline. If I'm going to memorize it, it can't be 8 points with 3 subpoints each. It has to be simple. Hopefully a simple outline is easier to communicate to the congregation.

So there you have it. Two ways I'm trying to become better at what I do. Hopefully these steps won't come back to bite me one day in a horrible wrong key/forgotten outline mishap. Perish the thought.

Statistics, or, You're Pregnant? I'll Count You Twice

I grew up in a non-denominational hippie church. Actually, it was a church plant that came out of a hippie non-denomination. What is a non-denomination? That's for another post. Anyway, my pastor's mantra was "teach the Bible." He was good at it too. He still is. I learned a ton and my faith was really formed through the years I spent there. Because of its ties to the hippie non-denomination though, record keeping, and specifically statistics were never really a big deal. In fact, I walked away with the perspective (whether it was taught or not) that focusing on "nickels and noses" was a bad practice to be in. I've come to realize that it definitely can be, but how many people you have and what they do with their money can also be a valuable metric for evaluating the health of a church. Then we have The Salvation Army. 124 countries (last time I checked), 4 US territories, 10 western divisions, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Statistics are important. Why? Because if you work at territorial headquarters in Long Beach, California and I work at the Kroc Center in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, there is no reliable way for you to judge how well I am stewarding the Army's resources in my local context without some kind of standardized measurement system that we both understand and agree on. Sure, the leaders at the territorial and divisional levels come check on us from time to time, but it's hard to get a good picture of what's going on from a visit.

So statistics. I find statistics challenging in two ways. Funny thing is, one way is due to my humility and the other way is due to my pride. First off, I find it hard to quantify the work we do. Not because we don't do quantifiable work, but because we do it all the time. For instance, one of the general categories of statistic that the territory wants is "people assisted." Well, we do that all day long, every day. The couple hundred of us that work at the Kroc Center are all about assisting people. It's who we are and it's the culture we have created. That makes it hard to quantify.

Lest I come across too holy and benign though, the second reason I have trouble with stats is that I want to look good. I am always tempted to find ways to make numbers appear greater than they are. Mr. Jones says he really liked the sermon on Sunday? What he probably meant was that he repented from his sins and decided to follow Jesus. A new salvation! That's a stat.

In all honesty though, I've never done that. But I've thought about it. The sick, twisted, Jesus-is-killing-day-by-day part of me that is my flesh has thought about manipulating stories of the saving work of Christ for personal and organizational pride. I would be surprised if I couldn't find others like me.

So when it is time to report stats, I try and ask myself two things:

  1. What are all the things we did? Who are all the people we served?
  2. Did we really do all those things? Did we really serve all those people?

Hopefully, by asking myself those questions, the statistics I keep are an accurate representation of the ministry that goes on at our corps and in our Kroc Center. I think we lean more towards the "I forget all the things that we do and our stats are a poor reflection of our ministry because we leave stuff out" rather than the "I inflate the ministry we do in order to look good," but this year I want to redouble my effort to collect accurate stats. Not so we can feel good about ourselves, but so that brothers and sisters around the country can rejoice with us in the work that God is doing in Coeur d'Alene.

Summer Membership Class, or, Doctrine Is More Fun Than Getting Rained On

I started a new session of the Kroc Church Membership class on Sunday. I typically set up the class to run for 6 weeks in 2-hour segments. Since it's summer and no one wants to have 6 of their summer afternoons (or whatever passes for summer afternoons in North Idaho) taken up by doctrine and philosophy (except me of course) I am abbreviating the class to 3 weeks of 3-hour sessions. Sunday's class went rather well, if I do say so myself. We got through the Our People documentary and the first 4 doctrines. I had to go quickly through some of the finer points, and gave a bit of scripture to take as homework instead of looking it up and discussing it in class, but I think it went pretty smoothly.

It's a small class this time, only 8, but I think it will be a good one. Lots of interest in what we are doing and a desire to be involved. Truthfully, I'm not interested in making members and soldiers that simply want to get a certificate or say that they are connected to our church. I want people who are excited about the mission of God and want to get their hands dirty with the work of the ministry. I don't think this class will disappoint. There are several staff represented, a couple from my Community Group, and a few others that have been in the process of checking us out for awhile. It's a good group.

It's interesting, but I think there is something to be said for having membership classes more often during the year. The last class I taught was in the late winter, February/March. Since it's July, any momentum and excitement for membership that we could have generated from the Spring enrollment is gone. We will enroll new members and soldiers from this class some time in August, and then the next class will be in September. I am planning on doing 2 classes this fall, almost back to back, to further capitalize on our congregation seeing the new recruits and the enrollment prompting others to sign up. It's quite a bit of work teaching two sessions in a semester (back to the six week per session format as well) but I think there will be considerable fruit from it. Whether people become Salvationists or not, the knowledge of who we are and what we believe in invaluable if someone wants to be connected to our ministry. All I have to do now is raise up someone else to teach the classes so that I don't have too all the time!

First Sermon, or, Remember Me? I'm Your New Pastor

I was reminded both by Territorial Commander Commissioner Jim Knaggs and by Major Ben Markham (at service yesterday) that yesterday was the day, that all around the territory (maybe the world?) Salvation Army officers preached at their new appointments. The Salvation Army is fairly unique in that its head pastors, "officers," are itinerant. They move from church to church, appointment to appointment, throughout their careers, typically every 3-5 years. In what I consider great news, Major Ben, who with his wife Joann have been our associate officers at Kroc Church for the last three years, announced that yesterday they officially began their new appointment as our Corps officers and executive directors at the Kroc Center. Ben told me that they even got an official letter that said they were supposed to depart their old appointment last week as associate corps officers in Coeur d'Alene and they had 4 days to report in at their new appointment as corps officers in Coeur d'Alene. It's a long trip.

There is a lot that can be said about the pros and cons of moving pastors around. That's for another post though. Today I am grateful that my senior leaders are a couple that have been with us since the beginning, understand our culture, the unique role that we play in this massive organization and are prepared to fight for the gospel, the people under their care and the city that they are called to ministry in for many more years to come.

Soldier Up, or, Don't.

There are a lot of things I love about being part of The Salvation Army. There are also things that totally drive me crazy. That being said, I want to approach an issue with as much grace and an attempt at understanding a different opinion as possible. The New Frontier magazine (available at a Kroc Center receptionist's desk near you), Volume 30, Number 09, featured a front page story by Karen Gleason and Amy Jorgens entitled "Soldier Numbers Rise In The West." It seems that soldiers (Salvation Army church members) are on the rise in the Western Territory of the United States.

First off, that's great. I'm a soldier. I teach soldiership classes. The commitment to being a soldier is one of the things, in my opinion, that is great about The Salvation Army. What bothers me about this article is a quote by Reno, Nevada Corps officer Major Janene Zielinski. The article says:

Offering adherency as a viable and attainable church membership option is also helping to grow the corps. "People (young families) are responding by the boatload," she said. "They are thrilled to be accepted, valued and not judged for where they are in their spiritual walk at the moment."

To be fair, I don't know Major Zielinski, and have no idea what the context of this quote was outside of where I read it in the article. However, all I have to go on is this quote and there are several things that rub me the wrong way.

It was an adherent member of our church that pointed this article out to me. Jeff is a member of our music team (he leads about 25% of the time these days), he's a member of our Corps Council (sort of a TSA deacon's board), he serves on the Social Services committee, his wife (also an adherent) is an employee of the Corps and oversees our children's ministry and their whole family are models of faithful service to Jesus. Jeff was totally appalled by the above quote. The way he took it (and the way I read it) is that those that choose to become soldiers are somewhere ahead in their spiritual walk of those that choose to become adherents. It seems like Major Zielinski is trying to communicate that adherents are accepted while at the same time labeling them as spiritually inferior. It's totally possible that I am taking the statement "not judged for where they are in their spiritual walk at the moment" the wrong way. I would like to know how I should take it if so.

I think there are two extremes when it comes to this issue. One is that soldiers are clearly superior and adherents (which I have on good authority is a word we shouldn't be using anymore - they are members) are just dodging their responsibility as Salvationists. Soldiers do commit to a pretty strict way of living life. The Soldier's Covenant (aka, The Articles of War) contains lines like:

I will be responsive to the Holy Spirit's work and obedient to His leading in my life...

I will uphold Christian integrity in every area of my life, allowing nothing in thought, word or deed that is unworthy, unclean, untrue, profane, dishonest or immoral...

I will abstain from alcoholic drink... as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army...

Those are just a few of the commitments that soldiers make. The entire member's covenant says that they:

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and seek to follow Him

Participate through worship, fellowship and service at a local Salvation Army corps

Identify with the mission of The Salvation Army

So, if a soldier is the real deal and the member is being "valued and not judged for where they are in their spiritual walk at the moment," why do we even have members in the first place? If the call to join our army is soldiership, why would we lower the bar just to get more people on our rolls? If soldiership is where it's at, it totally seems to me that members are cop-outs and the army that created that "adherent member" was just trying to pad its statistics by making it easier to get signatures. Again, that's a harsh accusation, and I am fully prepared to be corrected, but that's just what it seems like to me.

The other extreme is that soldiers and members are the same. I think this is both true and false. The big question is,are we disciples of Jesus? That's the club that the Bible forms: the church. Members, adherents, soldiers, officers, those are all things that we have made up since. I don't have a problem with that, but we can't forget the categories that God's Word puts us in in favor of categories that we make up for ourselves. So it one sense, the sense that my good friend and TSA member Jeff is operating from, soldiers and members are the same: disciples of Jesus Christ who seek to live out the mission of His church with The Salvation Army.

However, soldiers are also different, and I hope that's what Major Zielinski was getting at. Soldiers are called not only to identify with Jesus and His mission in specific ways, we are called to identify with The Salvation Army in specific ways. If I am taking my soldier's covenant seriously, I am limiting my personal freedoms, sacrificially giving of my resources, and seeing myself as an ambassador of Christ through The Salvation Army. Can members do all those things? Yes they can, but they don't have to commit to doing them, and they aren't committing to do them while taking into account the values and needs of The Salvation Army.

In our church, there are certain things that only members can do, like lead a Community Group. Why? Because I want to know that they have taken a class (where they learn all about our church), that they really are Christians (as much as we can tell), and that they can represent both the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Kroc Church whenever they are asked. The members of our church love Jesus, are generous givers, volunteer their time in service and believe in what we are doing.

Soldiers are a little different. We always have fewer soldiers to enroll than members, but if you become a soldier, you are telling me that you aren't just committed to the Gospel, but you are committed to the leadership of our church and our philosophy of ministry. You are a soldier in the army and you are willing to do what it takes to get the job done. If you are soldier, it might take me a while, but I'm gonna find you a job to do, and in a perfect world, I'm not going to have to make a lot of accommodation for you to do it.

So, where does that leave me and the quote from the New Frontier? Frustrated. Frustrated that we sometimes see officers as more committed to Jesus than soldiers. Frustrated that we see soldiers as more committed to Jesus than members. If you are part of Kroc Church, do I want you to become a soldier? Yes. If you prayerfully consider it and decide to become a member instead, do I look at you as less than me? No. The Salvation Army soldier is not given a higher calling than any other Christian, just a different one. And depending on your views on alcohol, it's not even a radically different one.


I Want To Do Everything, or I Think I'll Be A Videographer Today

I don't want to do everything that there is to be done, but I do want to do a lot of things. I recently completed the creation of a video for my bosses' going away party and I loved just about every minute of it. Except for the rendering. Lord save us from the rendering. Now, I'm not that great at it (I spent the evening after its debut going frame by frame with my wife on all the things I wished I had done differently) but I'm reasonably competent and I believe I would get better with time. The problem is, I don't have any more time for another skill set. There are days where I think I'm a preacher. Days where I fancy myself a worship leader. At other times I think I could be a writer, or a recording engineer, or a producer, or a videographer, or a concert promoter, or et cetera et cetera et cetera. Now in reality, I have a fairly narrow set of talents. I can speak and write decently, I have a reasonably good ear, and a marginally good eye. That's about it. I can't create anything with my hands, can't draw, can't do physical art in any form, I'm not naturally good with children, and my people skills are something I put on for special occasions. I live with, work with and know many people who's gifts and talents constantly impress me, partially because I don't share them.

That said, as I grow in my gifts, I see the need to specialize. I don't have the time and energy to get better at everything that I enjoy doing. I have to choose. My personality won't allow for that. So, instead, I get crazy about different things at different times. Last week I was editing video and thinking it might be super fun to do it more often and actually figure out what I am doing. A couple days ago I was a songwriter. Today I am planning another conference and tomorrow I will be putting together a Community Group training. I have to confess to a certain dissatisfaction with any one of these things that prevents me from doing the others depending on the mood I'm in.

I anticipate that this feeling will only get worse as time goes by. I hope that I will continue to have the time to grow in at least some of the things that I somewhat enjoy while I focus on the things I most enjoy and that I am, more importantly, called to for the glory of God and the good of His people. I'm not sure today what the difference between "somewhat" and "most" is. What I can take comfort in is that I know it's not pottery. I'm terrible at that.

The Gathering, or Your Horn Is Cramping My Style

Every 15 years or so (at least that's what I'm told) The Salvation Army in the western United States holds a territorial congress. This is a big weekend full of meetings, concerts, theater, workshops, food, etc. The first weekend in June was my first congress. It was called "The Gathering" and that's what we did: there were over 5,000 Salvationists present from Alaska, down the west coast, Hawaii, Guam, the whole territory was represented. It was pretty cool. This event immediately followed Boot Camp at the same location, the Pasadena Convention Center. A couple thoughts: 1. At Boot Camp, Kara Powell of Fuller Youth Institute taught on how church can be compared to the "adult table, kids table" arrangement at holiday meals. All the basics are the same, but the kids are segregated and separated. The tone and feel of their meal is markedly different from the adults. Bill Davenport actually pointed this out to me, but Boot Camp was the kids table. Everything there was specially arranged for the youth workers in attendance. As soon as The Gathering started, the tone and feel of the week changed drastically. This isn't necessarily a criticism, just an observation. I'd like to criticize it, but I'm not sure if I can.

2. That brings me to #2. I hate it when, at the close of the message at our church, people get up to leave. It's my assumption that they don't understand the importance of musical worship, they are self-centered and not concerned about the body as a whole, church is all about their private consumption of an entertaining message, blah, blah, blah. It really gets on my nerves. I especially dislike it when I believe that individuals choose to come to church late or leave early because they don't like the style of music being played. I make the musical choices that I do for a lot of reasons (which I might write about later) but I find it annoying when someone's perception of what good music is doesn't allow them to see through their preference and worship with the assembled body.

Having said all that, I was that guy at The Gathering. My party almost always came late and definitely left early. I was absolutely interested in hearing the word of God delivered by the General (our international leader) but totally disinterested in the pomp and pageantry of the rest of the meetings. Now, I could come up with a list of "holy" reasons why I have "theological" or "philosophical" problems with the liturgy of the event, but the bottom line is I just don't like it. It doesn't relate to my past or current experience; I have trouble connecting with the forms used, and the rituals are foreign to me.

There are many people in the army that have problems with the way we do church. I definitely have my thoughts on this, but my realization at The Gathering was that I can very easily become the guy that I am so easily annoyed with. All it takes is a liturgy that is not my "style" and I become the person that I so easily accuse of carnality, self-centeredness, or lack of understanding of corporate worship.

The truth is, there were a whole lot of people at The Gathering that were blessed by the services as a whole (I still loved what the General had to say). If I had been in charge of the corporate worship experience, it would have gone differently, and I would have probably created an environment that was foreign and disinteresting to many in that population.  With 5,000 people from a whole bunch of different backgrounds, you can never please everyone. I don't have any wisdom on that front. I do hope though, the next time someone walks out of service in The Kroc while we are singing "From The Inside Out" or "The Stand" when I think everyone should be rushing the altar, that I am a little less judgmental and a little more understanding of the foreign culture that I am presenting to some in our church. If my role is to lead our people in corporate worship, I need to be aware of how to guide them into the forms that I am presenting and help them navigate what is foreign. Maybe "when we've been there 10,000 years" the church will have this multi-generational thing figured out. I look forward to it.

Post Boot Camp 4

I returned from California on Monday after 9 days (as my 6 year old kept reminding me) at two Salvation Army events in Pasadena. The first event, Boot Camp 4, was put on by Roy Wild and Jim Sparks in the Territorial Youth department. It was awesome. 4 days of great music, really great teaching, and hanging out with cool people. Boot Camp was one of the best conference experiences I've been to. I got an opportunity to teach (on apologetics no less) and I learned a lot. I learned a lot about teaching actually. Jon Acuff, in his main session presentation, advised us that we should never compare our beginning to someone else's middle. I am constantly guilty of this, as I was last week. Jim Burns, Doug Fields, and several others just wowed me with their public speaking skills. I want to be like that. I want to be able to speak with that kind of ease and mastery of the subject. It got me sort of depressed at one point, but Acuff's reminder is a positive one. I am almost two years in to my occasional public speaking career. I love doing it, and I am hopeful that I will continue to do it more and more. I hope that means I'll get better and better. We'll see.

Boot Camp was followed by a Salvation Army Congress, called The Gathering, of which I will remark later.

Boot Camp and The Gathering

The plane takes off for southern California this Sunday. Six of us are going down to Boot Camp, a Salvation Army youth leaders conference. This will be followed by The Gathering, a territorial congress. Salvationists from all over the western territory will meet in Pasadena for 4 days to hang out, receive teaching, celebrate the graduation and appointment of a new class of officers, and hear from the General, Linda Bond, who will speak throughout the weekend. I like Salvation Army events. I have been to a handful of get togethers, seminars and conferences put on by TSA since I have been at the Kroc, and I always learn something. There are a lot of cool people in The Army too, and it's fun to network. Spending the week in California with good friends is a bonus too.


Well, I'm a week past the Resonance Music Ministry Conference. It was a lot of fun. God really blessed the day. I heard a lot of great feedback from the artists/guests, workshop leaders, and conference attendees. Still debriefing with key people, but it sounds like there is a good possibility that we will do it again next year. My OCD personality is already putting together options for the agenda next year. Here's hoping that it's easier this time. One of the things that I am learning about myself through big events like this is that it's more difficult to balance these things with my family life than I would like. Being pretty introverted like I am, dealing with a lot of people, while enjoyable, is very tiring. That being said, when my 19 hour work day on Saturday was over, I really needed to spend some time alone to decompress. Like at least 19 hours to decompress. The problem is, my family has missed me all week, and they really need me. I haven't quite figured out how to deal with that yet. Maybe I will have it figured out by next year.


So, tomorrow it will be 2 weeks until the Resonance Music Ministry Conference at The Kroc Center. I have had the opportunity to attend several really good conferences for church musicians.  They were all in Southern California.  I flew down, learned a lot, was really inspired to write music and play and record and better myself (and buy new guitars).  The problem I always had was that I could never transfer that excitement to the rest of the team that didn't get to go, and that's a real bummer.

So, after about a year of prayer and planning with a great team of worship pastors from the Coeur d'Alene area, Resonance is going to bring that great conference experience to the inland northwest.  It's my sincere hope that worship leaders from around the area will bring their whole teams for the encouragement, teaching and fellowship that this one-day event will provide.

Our morning speaker, Dr. Harold Best, has written two books that have greatly impacted my understanding of music: Music Through The Eyes of Faith and Unceasing Worship.  I am thoroughly excited for what the Spirit will lead him to bring to us.

Our morning worship leader and evening speaker, Evan Wickham, probably hates it when people say, "Are you Phil Wickham's brother?"  He is a great songwriter and musician in his own right.  A couple of my favorites of his are below.

Throughout the day Brenton Brown and The Worship Republic will be leading workshops that will culminate in their leading us in music for the evening session.  Brenton is a great songwriter who, in my opinion, doesn't get the credit for all the great songs he's written.  Here's a few:

As of today, we have 199 people signed up for the conference, so space is running out.  It's going to be a great day and I'm really looking forward to seeing what God does.


Today Major John enrolled 4 new soldiers and 5 new members out of the students from my last membership class. People have different opinions on whether or not official church membership matters.  I was brought up in a very "loose" church when it came to membership.  I have come to respect the process of becoming a member during my time with The Salvation Army.  The thing I like the best, from a ministry perspective, is that these are the people that are standing up to say "count me in...I'm here to be involved."

I love that.

This Spring

I am in for an eventful spring. We are fast approaching Easter, the biggest Sunday service of the year.  We are busy practicing music and preparing for the flood of visitors that will attend Easter Sunday service at The Kroc Center.  Shortly after that, I am teaching a workshop at the Northwest Division's Youth Councils (on the importance of truth).  That brings us to May: my 30th birthday and the Resonance Music Ministry Conference.  June opens up with a Territorial youth leaders conference, Boot Camp, which I am also teaching a short workshop at (don't know what about) followed by The Gathering, a Territorial Congress.  It's a big deal.  The General will be there.  As soon as we get back from that event in Pasadena, my bosses are leaving.  Majors John and Lani Chamness, my pastors and our executive directors, have been reassigned to head up the Hawaii Division.  Their last day is June 17th.


Membership Class - Week 6

Last week of the Membership class is done.  We finished up by looking at The Salvation Army mission statement:

The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church.  Its message is based on the Bible.  Its ministry is motivated by the love of God.  Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

We looked at the Crest:

Then we looked at the flag:


We talked some about the Salvation Army's tradition of uniform wearing and then we zoomed in a bit to look at Kroc Church.

Kroc Church is somewhat of an odd thing as far as I can see in The Salvation Army world.  First of all, the Kroc Centers are a new concept in service for The Salvation Army.  We haven't quite done anything like them before.  Secondly, our Kroc Church is a brand new corps.  The Salvation Army came back to Coeur d'Alene in 2009 after being gone for 66 years.  Thirdly, the Coeur d'Alene Kroc has been hugely successful, initially as a result of the amazing community support it received.  All in all, we are an interesting corps.

Our mission at Kroc Church is the same as the rest of The Salvation Army.  The way we put feet to our mission is called E3: Encourage, Equip and Engage.  We encourage through hospitality, prayer, and generosity among other things. Equipping happens through all kinds of formal and informal teaching, and we engage our culture through service, outreach and evangelism.

We ended the class talking about the commitment of soldiership.  I asked everyone interested in becoming a member of the church to write a brief testimony and share what they felt a person needed to know to become a Christian.  Now I'm waiting for the final total of new members.  We have an enrollment scheduled for April 1st.

Membership Class - Week 5

Last week in the Kroc Church membership class we finished the doctrines (and there was much rejoicing) and started to talk about unique aspects of The Salvation Army. Doctrine #10:

We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We talked about what it meant to be sanctified, and I chose to focus on what it means that our bodies are to be sanctified.  We have this weird idea that God is only concerned about our souls, but the truth is, He cares about our whole person.  We looked at sanctification as a process (2 Corinthians 3:17-18) and as a partnership (Romans 8:1-11, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Philippians 2:12-13).

It's possible to take the idea of grace and believe that once you raise your hand or pray a prayer, God requires nothing more of you.  The Bible however, places a great emphasis on our personal holiness.

Other people over the years have created an unhealthy relationship between the body and the soul.  Neo-Platonism in the 1st and 2nd centuries taught that matter was evil and the spiritual world was good.  Therefore the way you treated your body wasn't important.  We looked at how even Christians today can have that attitude if we are not careful when we say "it's all gonna burn!"  The body belongs to the Lord.

Doctrine #11:

We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.

Doctrine 11 can be a tough one to swallow for some people.  We are immortal beings and there is a judgment coming.  There is a judgment for believers (1 Corinthians 3:5-10) as well as unbelievers (Revelation 20:11-15).  We have a great hope for a future world that is free from sin and death, however there is a real, eternal judgment coming for those who reject Christ and choose to be the lords of their own kingdoms instead of submitting to His lordship.

We moved on from there to look at some specific traits of Salvationists.  We talked about the sacraments and TSA's position to not ritualistically mandate communion and baptism.  We practice this as a witness to the rest of the Christian church that water baptism and communion do not save; it is grace of Christ that saves us.  I also throw in a pertinent quote from the 2008 International Spiritual Life Commission:

Our position as Salvationists is a position of freedom. The response of Salvationists worldwide to their freedom in Christ may be diverse, differing with the cultural context of indigenous Salvationist mission. Such freedom and diversity are to be prized as part of our heritage as Salvationists.

Finally, we moved on to a quick overview of officers, territorial, divisional and local structure, and a fun Salvation Army Terms matching game.  Our Corps has very little traditional Salvationism in it (other than our effort to preach the gospel and meet human need) and many of the terms that are sometimes used are absent in our Corps.  For instance, our Corps is called Kroc Church.  We do not use the terminology "penitent form," (altar) "fire your cartridges," (tithes and offerings) or "Holiness Meeting" (church service).  However we do talk regularly about officers, soldiers, World Services, and being Promoted To Glory.  I believe there is a healthy mix of the new and the old in our Corps, and I am glad for it.


Real Life Immersion

I got to spend the last two days at a local church called Real Life Ministries going through their Immersion training.  Hopefully I will get a chance to write more about it later, but for now, I have to say that I wish more of our team had been there.  I was joined by my boss, Bill Davenport, and we both got a lot out of it.  They do good work at Real Life, and I'm glad I got a chance to attend.


So, I am taking a preaching class in school right now.  One of the smaller assignments is to read some journal articles on preaching and write synopses of them.  So, I got on the library database and found an article on "Easter Preaching" by David R. Buttrick in the journal Interpretation.  I don't know anything about Buttrick or Interpretation, but I think, "Hey Easter's coming up.  This should be interesting." I was disappointed.  While the author correctly points out that the Easter audience will be wide and varied beyond a typical Sunday, and while he also states that resurrection is more than just a personal promise but also the restoration of all things in God's kingdom, he completely devalues and even denies the veracity of the gospel accounts, and his basis for this is the work of atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann!

Lüdemann's work is just not good.  His arguments are consistently beaten biblically and philosophically in debates and in writing by William Lane Craig.  It just blows my mind that pastors would be entering their pulpits on Easter Sunday with a message of hope and life to come without the support of the truth of the physical, bodily resurrection of Christ.  To quote Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Our faith is built on facts.  If we lose those facts, there is nothing left that is commendable about Christianity.

High Point Church

So, I went to Victoria, British Columbia last weekend to visit a Salvation Army church called High Point Church.  It is pastored by Lieutenants Peter and Alison Lublink.  I "met" Peter about a year and a half ago on Facebook because he makes some of his own uniforms.  We have sort of kept in touch over twitter and he recently told me that it would be great if I could come up and see what the Lord was doing in the church in Victoria.  I had just come off a couple weeks of preaching and had a free Sunday which corresponded to the grand re-opening of their building, so I decided to drive up. I am currently reading a book that uses sports metaphors to describe the church.  In light of that, they play the game a little differently up in Canada.  Victoria, according to Peter, is very non-Christian.  I was told that something like 3% of the city professes faith in Christ.  There are large groups of atheists, other religious adherents, and general spiritualists.  High Point Church is the only church in their area of the city.  It's an incredibly different context than the one that I work in.

One of the exciting things for me though is that immediately after arriving there, I was in the presence of the body of Christ.  I love that no matter where you go, Jesus' bride is there faithfully fulfilling her calling.  I got to attend the back half of a cell group meeting on Thursday night and Friday I was given a tour of the facility and neighborhood.  They were busy remodeling and I got to spend some time helping set up their light board.  Saturday I got to see a little bit of the city, and Sunday I got to play synth for the worship service.

Sunday morning was great.  I was told they typically have 70 in attendance.  120 showed up.  I got the impressed that the Lublinks were well loved by the community, and many came out to see their new meeting place who didn't follow Jesus.  A testimony was given and Peter shared the gospel with the group.  I met many people who had been changed by the gospel through High Point over the years.

I can tell that Peter and Alison see a chance to really change their city with the gospel of Jesus and they aren't afraid to be creative with their methods to achieve that goal.  The way I saw them live and contextualize the gospel was refreshing.  Their lives motivated me to move forward on some things that God has been stirring in me for awhile.

I got four days of not worrying about a ministry.  I got to serve and watch as other people did their thing.  We shared ideas and stories, disagreed a little, and had some fun too I think.  They were great hosts and tour guides.  I am looking forward to returning the favor some day soon.

Membership Class - Week 3

We had a really great membership class on Monday.  We started with a review of last week's topics.  This quickly turned into an impromptu discussion of the reliability of the Bible.  Some quick facts about how the Bible stacks up amongst other historical documents can be found here.  We can trust God's Word. So, this week we started with doctrine #4:

We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that He is truly and properly god and truly and properly man.

The fancy theological word for this is the "hypostatic union."  Similar to the trinity in it's weirdness, Jesus was, and is, both fully God (the second person of the trinity) and fully human.  We looked at evidence for Jesus' divinity (John 8:58 and John 10:30 among others) as well as evidence for his humanity: John 1:14, Hebrews 2:17 and Philippians 2:5-7.

The great thing about this truth is that it shows that 1) Jesus has the ability to pay for our sins as a human representative with the sinless deity worthy of such a huge sacrifice, and 2) Jesus understands us.  He's been there.  He probably lost his earthly father at a young age, he grew up poor and misunderstood, he worked hard with his hands, he was ridiculed by friends and family, betrayed and denied by his closest companions, and brutally murdered even though he committed no crimes.  If you can resonate with any of that, realize that Jesus gets what you're going through probably more than you do.

We briefly talked about the Chalcedonian Creed in 451ad that put to rest this issue.  It's important to understand the theological battles of the church in the past, because the Devil continues to use the same old tricks.  When the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and others deny the deity of Christ, we can understand that that issue was already dealt with fifteen hundred years ago and that just because it has come up again doesn't mean the argument has any more merit than it did then.

Doctrine #5 is a heavy one:

We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocency, but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness, and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.

Total depravity is a foreign concept to our culture.  Voices from everywhere talk about how people are "basically good" and they go wrong because of their environment and the things that they are taught.  You'd think that anyone with children would laugh at that idea.  We are born in sin, wicked rebels, dedicated to our own selfishness at the expense of God's law.  The class was thoroughly depressed by Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 51:5 and Romans 3:10-11.

Total depravity doesn't mean that all that humanity does is totally evil, but that all of our good works can never meet God's holy standard.  We bear the image of God that Adam and Eve (real people btw) have passed down to us, but it is marred by sin.  We are unable to fix it and deserve to be destroyed for our wickedness.

This doctrine is incredibly important.  First, it tells us that something has gone terribly wrong.  Things are not the way that they are supposed to be.  God is not the author of evil.  Secondly, it helps us to understand sin.  In their book Doctrine, Mark Driscoll and Dr. Gerry Breshears quote Cornelius Plantinga:

The Bible presents sin by way of major concepts, principally lawlessness and faithlessness, expressed in an array of images: sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold.  Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck.  Sin is blindness and deafness.  It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it - both transgression and shortcoming.  Sin is a beast crouching at the door.  In sin, people attack or evade or neglect their divine calling.  These and other images suggest deviance: even when it is familiar, sin is never normal.  Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony.  Above all, sin disrupts and resists the vital human relation to God.

Doctrine #5 further helps us understand our need for a savior.  Because we can't fix the sin problem, someone else needs to, and that brings us to doctrine #6.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by His suffering and death made atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.

There is a lot of confusion about whether or not the Bible is true, whether we can trust it.  I think it's very important to understand that our faith is built on facts.  I gave 5 facts in class that support the resurrection.  Theses are not points of faith that Christians hold to; these are historical realities that secular historians have to explain away if they are to deny the Bible.

  1. Jesus was crucified.
  2. Jesus' disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them.
  3. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed into a Christian evangelist.
  4. The skeptic James, Jesus' brother, was suddenly changed and became a leader in the church.
  5. The tomb was empty.

Jesus really did die on the cross and the world was changed because of it.  The only reasonable explanation for this is that Jesus actually rose from the dead like the Bible says.  So what did his sacrifice do?

Jesus made atonement.  The word atonement holds two other words: propitiation and expiation.  To propitiate (1 John 2:2, Romans 3:25) means to "satisfy the anger of a deity."  The word expiate means "to remove guilt."  There is a great picture of this in Leviticus 16.  In it, Moses describes a procedure that is carried out once a year on what is called The Day of Atonement.  All the people of Israel gather and confess their sins.  The high priest places his hand on a goat and confesses the sins of the people, symbolically transferring them to the goat.  Then they kill the goat.  The death of the goat covers the sins of the people for a year.  Then they get a second goat and the high priest confesses the people's sins on that goat.  But this time, they drive the goat out into the wilderness so that it can't find its way back to the camp.  The sins of the people, symbolically transferred to that goat, are removed from the people for a year.

Jesus, whose sacrifice was better than that of goats, satisfies God's wrath against our sin and removes our sin from us.  He is the perfect sacrifice, and the benefits of his offering are available for anyone.

Doctrine #6 reminds us that we have a faith built on facts, that our sins can really be forgiven and that God is not angry with us, and that our sin has been removed from us forever and will never be brought up again.  Praise God!