Thursday, November 25, 2010

Every loss causes us sorrow...

"Let me take this opportunity to say that I hope and pray we will continue to make progress in the way we treat and think about officer colleagues who relinquish officership. Trials come. Some are unavoidable. It is not for us to stigmatise any colleague."

Shaw Clifton General
The Officer;  Spring, 2009

An update on ‘Sensitive Statistics’ was shared in The Officer, November-December, 2010. In addition to the actual loss in the number of officers, the statistics were listed in a dozen or so categories. The categorization, while providing a general overview, falls far short of the FSAOF survey results shared some months ago in our blog site. Many in SA leadership at TC, CS, DC levels are familiar with our fellowship. It seems logical that our stats, gathered directly and privately from former officers would have been included in “the latest information” discussed in the International Management Council.

No reference was made in the article relative to stemming the tide of attrition, except to say that other churches suffer ‘far steeper losses’,

As in his first article 18 months ago, the General encourages Cadets, Officers, retired and active, to ‘bring the information I have shared with you to the Lord in prayer as you read. Each statistic is in fact a valued person whom the Lord loves beyond measure. Let us remember the children of our colleagues’.

He also writes; ‘Every loss causes us sorrow. Each one is a sadness to us all.’

I don’t believe any in our fellowship doubts the General’s genuine concern. However, one would be hard pressed to see evidence of his earlier challenge and encouragement that we; “continue to make progress in the way we treat and think about officer colleagues who relinquish officership.”

Some months ago an approach was made to IHQ seeking dialogue in order to effect a more uniform, compassionate and consistent program of pre and post resignation care. We were informed that such concern ought to be addressed to individual territories or commands. Many perceived this IHQ dismissal as nothing more than their ignoring what they must have deemed inconsequential and a nuisance. We believe that to ensure an across borders effective program of care we need more than just warm words from HQ’s side. Merely seeking a prayerful approach is not enough to bring about change. It’s a matter of shared aims and values replicated in every country ‘round the world. What is needed is an irresistible momentum for change articulated and issued as instructions about exactly what the expectations ought to be.

Our intention is not embarrass or critique the army. A brief perusal of our poll results highlights time and again that we hold TSA in the very highest esteem. Nonetheless we believe some simple facts will reveal the scale of the problem. Almost 400 former officers are of the opinion that a paradigm of care (agreement) needs to be brought within the frame of the global SA governance, not just the patchwork of local parochial rules and regulations.

Such an agreement would place duties and regulations guaranteeing rights and privileges for officers during and subsequent to the resignation process, and the expectation that TSA establish high ethical standards of social, labor and human rights behavior.

Many former and active officers deem TSA’s activities relating to ‘formers’ as nothing more than PR exercises designed to give the impression of an ethically conscious organization, without any real intent of change to corporate change in activities.  The necessary action cannot be delivered through voluntary initiatives, even if recommended by the General. To date the voluntary approach has clearly failed. And perhaps a reminder is needed: what's deemed ethical in one Command can differ dramatically from a Command on the other side of the ocean. Ethics are culturally driven. What's needed is moral instructions on Christian care! 
We challenge IHQ to demand a published annual performance report of accountability, a call for a convention on corporate accountability worldwide.
The online slide presentation that follows highlights our concerns and provides an insight to our activities and fellowship profile.
God bless The Salvation Army !


Dr. Sven Ljungholm
PhD Corporate Ethics
Former, USA East

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dangerous People Hiding in Your Organization

One of my strengths in ministry is also one of my greatest weaknesses. It's this: I tend to think the best of people. I'm not trying to make myself seem better than I am. I just honestly and naturally tend to believe that people--especially people in the church--are motivated by love for God and others. I truly expect "Christian" people to act rationally, to want to get along with others, to NOT be sneaky, spiteful, resentful, or abusive. But of course those expectations are often dashed by people in the church.

Enter David Foster. The gifted preacher and pastor David Foster is one of the bloggers who leads and pastors me, though we've never met. I subscribe to his blog (hey, come to think of it, why don't you subscribe to mine?). A few days ago, he posted the following which is typical of his direct and inspired thinking and communicating:

Churches, organizations, businesses, anyplace where there is a mission and a passion to extend that mission and its influence, are places populated by people, at first, just a few true believers. And as the mission takes hold, and as you grow larger and larger, more and more people begin to populate the organization.

There are two kinds of people that hide in every church in America that will ultimately take you down. One, the bad person; two, the bored person.

There are bored people in all organizations. These people really don’t know what to do, except they do know what they want. They want credit. They want attention. They want power. But they don’t know how to get it. They can’t perform. They don’t add anything to the organization. The problem with them is they look good, sound good, smell good, and they interview great. If you’ve got bored people in your organization, get them out now, today, tonight. They will try to overthrow you. I know. I’ve had it done, and it’s painful.

The truth is bored people are easy to identify. Every bored person in one of my organizations that has ultimately hurt me I could have identified and dealt with. But I didn’t because I didn’t want to be viewed as a bad guy. And ultimately, that’s exactly what I was viewed as, because bored people have to justify their behavior by demonizing the leader.

The hard person to identify in your organization is the bad person.
For those of us who are Christians, it is hard to find it in our heart that there are really any bad people. I am not talking about people who are lousy at what they do. I am talking about people who are corrupt at their heart. They have no motives. They are not motivated by power or recognition. They are just bad. And the only thing they care about is tearing things down and sowing discord, distrust, and dissension.

You probably have some bad people in your organization, at least one. If it’s a large one, maybe several. You need to guard yourself against them because they are like a cancer. They spread and they infect other people who are otherwise happy, excited, and on mission.

This is a call to my pastor brothers and leaders... Please don’t be naive. Be at the wheel, diligent and alert. For just as much as the Sunday morning service is your responsibility, so is the well-being of the organization, and weeding out those who would harm it. At the end of the day, it is not about the leader. It’s about the people; providing a place where they can find God, grow, and reach their full, God-ordained, God-blessed, God-given redemptive potential.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Anonymous said...

Truly grateful for all the work you've put into the survey statistics and comments. If HQ doesn't react positively to the FSAOF initiatives I see little hope. We now outnumber the total number of cadets world wide- not a good sign.

    Former, USA East

Friday, 19 November, 2010 

Anonymous said...
Thank you for this 'heads up' statistical report and accompanying analysis. Clearly a 'sound the alarm' moment ! HQ do you see what I see? 

UKT Active CO
Friday, 19 November, 2010

Anonymous said...
With the proper encouragement about half of people listed would no longer be "formers".
What a recruitment that would be with experienced people to assist in the leading of the Army around the world.

USA East former
Friday, 19 November, 2010 
Anonymous said...
Let's hope TSA leadership shares your logic and optimism USA East, Former.

Is anyone making certain the TCs are reading your stats?

Active US South
Friday, 19 November, 2010 
Anonymous said...
US South,

With the proper encouragement. I share your negativity though. I would be shocked with 20 %.

USA East , former
Friday, 19 November, 2010

Anonymous said...
I think that the "proper encouragement" must take place long before anybody becomes "a former". From my own experience, as well as that of my dh, wld horses couldn't drag us back.

There remains in the hierarchy of authority an insidious attitude that is not conducive to nurturing new Officers nor to encourage those whom have served more years.

The Army demands that its Officers be loyal, but the leaders do not practice nor demonstrate that same loyalty to less senior officers. Why anyone would want to return under those circumtances is beyond me. In many cases, the time, effort, & money invested in training Officers is a loss to the Army--yet becomes a welcomed gift to other denominations, which gladly welcome trained pastors. You'd think IHQ would get a clue.

Friday, 19 November, 2010

Anonymous said...

Not that this man needs any recommendation from me, but I want to tell you, if you haven't already worked it out, these articles come from a man with a massive heart for the things of the Kingdom of God and a huge heart for the on-going ministry of The Salvation Army. If you were to cut an artery I swear his blood would be yellow, red and blue. 

Sven, has spent HOURS on this, in many ways, blood, sweat and tears is no exaggeration and I believe shows something of the heart of the man who works tiredlessly with one arm for the better good.

I am proud of Sven, of the seriousness he gives to this ministry and the way in which I believe he will always 'Press On' when many others would give up. I know he believes in you ... believes in the Army and is constantly working for the Kingdom of God.

Glad Ljungholm
Active UKT

Friday, 19 November, 2010 
Anonymous said...
Don't ever think you're not being listened to? Read the General's editorial in the NOV/DEC The Officer. The stats quoted are from your own FSAOF research!

Sven, make certain he gets the entire survey please. I'll share it with my NY colleagues. I remember your impact when you and Cathy served in NYC.

Do you remember NY City's Mayor Koch's famous line; "How am I doing?" I think the FSAOF and your impact are doing just fine.

Active officer
USA East
Saturday, 20 November, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Curse God and Die ! Conclusion

What about the problem of evil itself? If God wanted us to be loving and kind why did he come up with a ridiculous concoction of a higher brain on top of a reptilian brain? Couldn’t a Sovereign God come up with a better design than that? It also occurred to me that if C.S. Lewis was correct and we are all part of some great cosmic laboratory, then what the heck happened? Did we get the C student?

O.K. so the ancient Hebrew and Christian writers hint to us that the problem may be that we as humans, with our finite minds, think the question is Why(?) when there is really a much larger question we should be asking---we just don’t have the mental capacity to know what it is. Check out Job on God in the whirlwind or the writings of second Isaiah.

I’ll buy that idea for the time being because
 1. There is truth to it. Our brains are finite and our vision may be marred by the time and space dimension we presently inhabit and
2. At the moment, for me at least, it doesn’t matter much anyway, because my body would be too tired to use the capacity to figure out the real question even if I had it!

My only hope is the hope of everyone---that God sees me not as others might, but as I desire to be seen in my heart of hearts. That He understands this pathetic Earth creature of His, groveling in the mire of life, attempting to do justice, though again and again missing the mark and that He doesn’t condemn me for asking the questions I am able to ask. As a conscious decision of my will I’ll continue to trust in the ultimate promises of God because I’ve learned that without faith the world becomes an even bleaker place than it is with a faith that asks a lot of annoying, and what some might call, irreverent questions.

In the final analysis as I look out over what I perceive to be an abyss, a new awareness is slowly dawning. Could the abyss really be the hollow of God’s hand?

He knows, He knows,
The storms that may my way oppose;
He knows, He knows,
And tempers every wind that blows.

This piece was written as a catharsis 5 years ago when I was going through a particularly rough time and was--- as the colloquialism goes---“ready to take out everyone within a mile of me and then some.” Instead I opted to sit at my desktop and bang it all out on the keyboard. (After all, I am a graduate corps cadet. lol!)
A friend read it and urged me to get it published. The following May it was excerpted and published in the UK War Cry under the title, “Into the Abyss”.

This week also marks the 8th anniversary of Dale and me taking care of our mom at home. Somehow over that time frame (and within the five seconds daily his genetic coding allows for him to talk) we’ve made a commitment to each other to keep mom in her home. We decided to keep her for as long as possible and hopefully until she passes away. For an update you can read our story on-line in the USA Eastern Territory’s Priority! magazine Winter 2010 edition. It’s entitled “Every Tear From Their Eyes”.

Though humor is one of the tools I use to keep from going bonkers, Alzheimer’s disease is no laughing matter. Bona fide Alzheimer’s is believed to have a genetic component to it and usually begins somewhere in a person’s 40s. The diagnosis “Alzheimer’s” however, is often used as an umbrella term, to describe all forms of dementia.

There are presently over 26,000,000 people in the world who suffer from old age dementia with over 5,000,000 cases in the USA alone. Unless a cure can be found soon, and as people continue to live longer, the dilemma is predicted to only get much worse.

One last note: Earlier this year on a spectacular spring morning I was driving home from work through the suburbs west of Chicago. On either side of the road for a mile were cemeteries. Unlike most Sunday mornings I noticed many people on both sides of the street bent over graves weeping and praying. One man was nearly prostrate on the ground. It then struck me: It was Mother’s Day.

I now realize how fortunate a man I am. I get to care for my mom when so many people only wish they still had such an opportunity. I no longer have any regrets. What I once thought was important really wasn’t. God has been faithful. 

Daryl Lach

USA Central

Monday, November 15, 2010

Curse God and Die ! Part -2- of 3


Every day is something new and more depressing. After working all night with ventilator-dependent children who are themselves chronically ill, I come home to a mother who knows me only as “that man who sleeps in the front bedroom.” And if that’s not bad enough, it’s anyone’s guess what she’ll be cooking for breakfast in the washing machine.

Her “sundowning syndrome” is by far the worst aspect of the disease. It occurs at sunset and some times in the middle of the night when I’m off work. She gets violent and can tear into anything in her path---including my face. You name it, I have to hide it. Where once there was a clean and orderly house there are now rooms and closets packed with unrelated objects that give the place that warm, homey warehouse feeling. You can’t hide everything though, and thanks to her latest past time of taking all the dirty dishes out of the dishwasher and dipping them in water before placing them back in the cupboards, I’ve made a new, unexpected discovery. Just because a garbage disposal chokes and dies on a handful of cherry tomatoes that doesn’t mean it can’t chew up dentures.

Well meaning people tell me that 24/7 is too much and that I need ‘down time’. I always enjoyed television documentaries. So I took their advice and turned on the boob tube. Thanks to the latest string of cable programs, I now know more about impending disasters than anyone in their right mind should care to know.

For instance, if the Canary Islands don’t quake and fall into the Atlantic soon, sending a massive tsunami barreling 200 miles inland on the USA east coast, then for sure it’s just a matter of time before Yellowstone National Park, (which is really a huge underground volcano) erupts, sending the whole northern hemisphere into a nuclear type winter. Of course none of this may ever happen. The earth is quickly losing its magnetic shield and could as soon as 50 years from now turn into another lifeless Mars due to scorching solar rays. Then there’s that pesky asteroid belt throwing huge rocks our way, anyone of which upon impact could incinerate the whole planet within 20 minutes.

A few friends (and one clergyman!) have suggested I take up drinking. Their reasoning has something to do with being alive and numb at the same time. My preference is sleep, when and wherever I can get it. My reasoning has something to do with being alive and unconscious at the same time. (Besides, I never have and never will drink because I am after all, a graduate corps cadet!)

How about prayer? Most of my adult life I prayed everyday and rarely had any problems with the stock answers some Christians throw out to those who are having difficulty in life. From time to time I threw them out myself.

But something occurred in my 40s—in my heart and soul, my gut if you will. The stock answers no longer made any sense and became anathema to me. After decades of watching innocent children die from chronic diseases and otherwise healthy adults suddenly be stricken with horrendous maladies it started to take its toll. I found myself arguing with God more than engaging in the usual proper and polite stuff. With the exception of Revelation 21:4 “and God himself will be with them, he will wipe every tear from their eyes” I could find nothing else that spoke to my soul at its deepest most vulnerable level—--and at times even that lifeline verse barely did the trick.

If bad things only happened to me I’m sure I could handle it but I could no longer accept the suffering of innocent children or dumb animals or of an elderly woman who sacrificed her whole life for her children as part of some divine plan for good. As humans we tend to be impressed with numbers. We become overwhelmed with the thought of collective suffering when as C.S. Lewis so eloquently argues, there really isn’t any. But that still doesn’t negate the horrible pain of individual suffering, does it?

The prayerful arguments branched out into other areas. If God is praised for the good why isn’t he at least partly responsible for the bad? It can’t all be the Devil’s fault? There’s genetics, in utero factors and chemical imbalances. External to us are geological events, accidents and violent weather patterns. They all contribute to suffering every bit as much as human selfishness. If I’m responsible for all I do or don’t do why isn’t God?

Daryl Lach

USA Central

Friday, November 12, 2010

Curse God and die??!! Part -1-

O.K. So, in the last three ang-uishing, tor-menting years, since becoming the primary caretaker of my elderly mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, I haven’t quite crossed that line yet. But that’s only because I’m too darn chicken to do it. My reluctance no doubt, probably has something to do with six years of Corps Cadet lessons!!

However, just for the record, the “Why-this-why-now- God?—innards- evacuating-record, I have many times, like Job, opted to do the second best thing and curse the day I was ever born-- December 23rd to be exact. Throw in a couple of imprecatory Psalms and my daily spiritual catharsis is complete.

Oh, was someone expecting this to be a neat little testimony about spiritual certainty in the shadow of adversity? About coming out victorious and virtuous with a plastic, holy smile on my face and doing it all on a daily crummy 3 to 4 hours of sleep?
Word on the street has it that Tomas de Torquemada the Inquisitor possessed one of those smiles when he retired to the monastery. He first slaughtered 100,000 heretics but his contemporaries claimed it gave him inner peace. Fortunately, for those I don’t like, relieving one’s fear and anxiety by burning people who irk you at the stake is no longer politically correct—or even legal for that matter. I might otherwise consider it an attractive alternative to cursing the day I was ever born.

Three years ago, I came back to the mid-west from California to help my mother sell her home and move to Nevada to be near my sister. As a registered nurse I was the only one of my six siblings who could get work anywhere with flexible hours for a few months. I planned on returning to the west coast. At the time I also had a comedy act on the side which was probably a Freudian reaction to male menopause. It may not sound very orthodox but it was a lot cheaper than driving around in a red convertible with my shirt unbuttoned, making a big fat fool of myself.

Soon after arriving home it was obvious my mother was experiencing cognitive changes that were not related to normal aging. Then came the diagnosis and my own plans were suddenly secondary to her care. My life was put on hold. As a result I’m stuck here in the prairie mud.

And wouldn’t you know? Except for one married brother who lives down the street and is a Godsend, (though unfortunately he has some genetically ingrained repulsion to talking for more than 5 seconds) and one sister who flies in to give us relief one week every year, my brother Dale and I have been left with pretty much the whole kit n’ caboodle.

Friday, November 5, 2010


In 1878, our founder, William Booth, said this: “It was not my intention to create another sect ... we are not a church. We are an Army - an Army of Salvation.”

However, at the 1904 International Congress in London, England, General Booth did declare that “The Army is part of the living Church of God - a great instrument of war in the world, engaged in deadly conflict with sin and fiends.” 11He still did not go as far as saying that the Army is a church, but admitted that we are “part” of the Church.

Catherine Booth
does not specifically say that The Salvation Army is a church either, but she does group us with other churches, called to a distinct witness to them. “The main difference” between us and them, she said, “is in our aggressiveness ... The Bishop of Durham, the learned Dr. Lightfoot, says: ‘The Salvation Army has at least recalled us to the lost ideal of the work of the Church – the universal compulsion of the souls of men.’”

General Bramwell Booth
Echoes and Memories:
There is one Church.. The Salvation Army are an integral part and element -we humbly but firmly claim that we are in no way inferior, either to the saints who have gone before,

General Albert Orsborn
said repeatedly during his office from 1946 - 1954, “We are not a church - we are a permanent mission to the unconverted.” 14 It was during Albert Orsborn’s tenure as General that The Salvation Army became a founding mem- ber of the World Council of Churches, but it was in an article on our relationship with that ecumenical body that he expanded on why he was not comfortable with the Army being regarded as an established church or sect.

To this day, we are still accepted by some churches only as social welfare workers; they do not admit our claim that we have within ourselves a corporate spiritual life, with its own authority, able to provide for our people all the services and rights exercised by a church toward its members. But we are almost universally recognized as a religious denomination by governments, and for purposes of a national emergency – such as war services – or for convenience in designating our offi-cers, they group us with the churches. That is as far as we wish to go in being known as a church. We are, and wish to remain, a Movement for the revival of religion, a permanent mission to the unconverted, one of the world’s greatest missionary soci- eties; but not an establishment, not a sect, not a church, except that we are a part of the body of Christ called ‘‘The Church Militant” and we shall be there, by his grace, with “The Church Triumphant.”

General Frederick Coutts
 “The place of The Salvation Army within the Christian community ... has long been an area of sensitive concern both to those without as well as within the Movement itself.” He suggests, however, that William Booth never left the Methodist Church but simply had an eagerness to fulfill the mission of the Church more effectively when he gave up his place among the Methodists.

It should be remembered that when, on July 18, 1861, William Booth left his assured place as a Superintendent Minister in the Methodist New Connexion, he did not think of himself as leaving the Church. “I offer myself,” he wrote even in his letter of resignation, “for the evangelistic work, in the first instance to our own connexional churches, and, when they decline to engage me, to other portions of the religious community.” This was not the language of a man who was washing his hands of the Church, but of one who could only be faulted for his greater eagerness that the mission of the Church might be fulfilled more effectively.

Members of the Church are those who are “incorporate in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1, N.E.B.). This is the one thing needful. The Church is the whole of the worshipping, witnessing Christian community through- out the centuries into whatever groupings, large or small, accepted or persecuted, wealthy or poor, her members may have been structured in the past or are governed in the present.

In a sermon preached at a united church service during the week of prayer for Christian unity, he linked the

General Clarence Wiseman
In an article in The Officer magazine of October 1976, General Clarence Wiseman clearly pointed to the need for a Salvationist ecclesiology, a Salvationist doctrine and theology of the Church. As the international leader of our movement at the time, he ventured towards suggesting what the basics of that theology might be. The article was entitled “Are we a church?” and General Wiseman concludes with a positive response to the question of the title. He indicated that he was comfortable with our using a number of terms to describe ourselves, and suggested that all of those descriptions relate to the New Testament concept of “Church.”

It appears ... that we are a permanent mission to the unconverted and a caring social service movement; in some places we assume the features of a religious order. These various aspects exist within the God-given shape of the Army, the worldwide Army of Salvation! Can all these elements be sub-sumed under the generic designation “Church?”

The 1969 Handbook of Doctrine

 “The Holy Spirit called into being that fellowship of believers known in the New Testament as ‘the Church,’” an item not included in the former 1923 Handbook of Doctrine.

(from a paper by Earl Robinson)

Thursday, November 4, 2010


A comprehensive UPDATED survey was conducted during the 2010 summer months, among the 375 Former SA Officers, all members of, and representative of our fellowship.

An earlier survey (330 members) was made available free, on request, to all SA HQ, with few expressing interest. With the looming election of a new international leader the FSAOF deems it timely to once again bring these statistics to the attention of all SA leaders and all who have a genuine concern in the State of the Army.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Radical Disciple:

Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling
By John Stott.

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.” (John 13:13; NIV)

About six years ago New York Times Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks wrote of John Stott, “When you read Stott, you encounter first a tone of voice. Tom Wolfe once noticed that at a certain moment all airline pilots came to speak like Chuck Yeager. The parallel is inexact, but over the years I’ve heard hundreds of evangelicals who sound like Stott.

It is a voice that is friendly, courteous and natural. It is humble and self-critical, but also confident, joyful and optimistic. Stott’s mission is to pierce through all the encrustations and share direct contact with Jesus. Stott says that the central message of the gospel is not the teachings of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the human/divine figure. He is always bringing people back to the concrete reality of Jesus’ life and sacrifice.” (NYT; 11/30/04)

Later, in that same piece, Brooks went on to lament that the media is actually the reason why so many people are misinformed about evangelical Christians. When the media puts forth windbags like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as the principal evangelical spokesmen, rather than “real life people of faith” like John Stott, everyone is done a huge disservice.

This is interesting stuff coming from a non-believing Jewish fellow like Brooks. Based on my most recent encounter with John Stott in this his latest and last book, The Radical Disciple, I’d say Brooks got it right. Of course, Stott found his voice and pen quite some time ago. Many first learned of the faith and Stott in his classic, Basic Christianity, which has been in print for more than fifty years. With this most recent effort, we are not surprised to find the writing completely in character with the voice we have come to know and trust. For me this small new gem is compelling precisely because we know that Stott ventures to write only of that which he has personally taken onboard. The so-called neglected aspects of the disciple’s calling have very clearly not been neglected by this real life man of faith and for this reason he has our respect and attention.

In his preface to, The Radical Disciple, Stott explains the thinking behind the book’s title. He observes that there are different levels of commitment among Christians. In saying this Stott is being descriptive, not prescriptive. The difference lies, he says, in one’s being selective as to which areas one will actually follow Christ. The radical disciple is one that recognizes that Jesus is Lord and he or she, the disciple, is not. The radical disciple, therefore, relinquishes all selectivity based on personal preference.

In this book Stott addresses what he believes are eight often neglected areas or characteristics of discipleship, thus, the subtitle. These would be areas in which a radical disciple has abandoned claim to selective obedience. The eight characteristics considered are nonconformity, Christlikeness, maturity, creation care, simplicity, balance, dependence, and death. Each characteristic is considered in its own chapter.

When I survey the list all entries seem appropriate but only two, Christlikeness and maturity, are obvious no-brainers. Two more, dependence and death, would seem to be aspects of particular concern to one, like Stott, at an advanced stage of life. The others; nonconformity, creation care, simplicity and balance seem “relevant.” In his conclusion Stott admits that he has been selective in choosing these eight characteristics and somewhat arbitrary. Having said that and recognizing that other characteristics might also be suggested, it is clear that Stott believes these are aspects of discipleship appropriate for all Christians and ones he desires for himself.

Stott’s treatment of each of the eight characteristics is to the point. In his consideration of nonconformity and creation care he starts with a view to the world as it is by commenting on the challenges of pluralism and the ecological crisis. The chapter on Simplicity is good but has little original material beyond a brief story illustrating how a commitment to simplicity can lead to fruitfulness. Most of the chapter is made up of “An Evangelical Commitment to a Simple Lifestyle,” a document that came out of a consultation on the subject in 1980. While that’s not exactly fresh I can’t think of too many people that would not do well to read it and ponder. The other characteristics take the inward life of the disciple as starting point. All in all there is not much here to argue with but much to aspire to.

Stott’s writing is itself a great example of simplicity; clear, concise, straightforward and unadorned but never austere. He writes with an economy of words, saying in a few what others struggle to say in many. If ever less is more such is the case with The Radical Disciple. At a number of points I wanted the author to say more and half expected it. After all, so many books these days seem too long by half. By the book’s end; however, I was convinced that the brevity of Stott’s prose is one of the book’s strengths. In this regard The Radical Disciple is a vicotry of substance over style. For one thing, these days it seems that the standard format for books in the discipleship genre requires a laundry list of questions at the conclusion of each chapter over which the reader is meant to ponder. Honestly, with many of these books, at that point I’m not that interested or just too exhausted to go on. With this small book; however, each chapter serves as an effective launching point to further reflection and without the bother of programmed questions. In sum, Stott presents radical discipleship as a deeply inviting way of life and not just a matter of dogma to be argued or barriers to be hurdled.

In April of this year John Stott celebrated his 89th birthday. Since 2007 he has been retired from active public ministry. One chapter in the book; “Christlikeness,” is based on the text of his last public address given at the Keswick Conference in ‘07. At the conclusion of this book Stott informs us that he is now putting down his pen for the final time. A pen it is since Stott never gained immigrant status in this digital age but has remained a pen to paper holdover from the previous era. Technological change is one thing but discipleship is quite another. Following Christ in a rapidly changing world requires focus and discernment as to that which is essential and enduring and that which is not. Stott is one that understands this even as he nears his finish line. Those of us, and we are many, who have in some way been shaped for God’s purposes through John Stott’s life and ministry do well to ponder the words of the writer of Hebrews who counsels us to remember our leader who spoke the word of God to us and to consider the outcome of his way of life as one radical disciple .

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
(2 Timothy 4:6-8; NIV)


Monday, November 1, 2010

"Officership is long-term service: service to God and the Army for a life time."

A Conversation about Salvation Army Officership

General Paul Rader and Commissioner Kay Rader in Conversation on Officership. Excerpt from the forthcoming book, CHARGE!

What follows is a conversation between General Paul A. Rader and Commissioner Kay F. Rader reflecting on their calling and experience as officers of The Salvation Army.

PAR: A life-time of service certainly gives us a unique perspective on officership over the long haul.

KFR: Long, but never boring. How often have we said, we may die of something, but it won’t be of boredom!

PAR: Is there any calling that is more diverse, colorful, fascinating, challenging and rewarding than officership? Not a walk in the park -- sometimes intense and demanding, but always deeply rewarding.

KFR: What do you think has kept us at it all these years?

PAR: Bottom line: a sense of calling. The confidence that this is God’s will for our lives. We have to admit that how that call is experienced is not the same for everyone.

KFR: Isaiah 30:21 tells us, “Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it.” I wish it could be that certain for everyone.

PAR: Psalm 32:8 has always been reassuring for me: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” God has a way of opening a door and nudging us toward it by his Spirit.

KFR: Yes! Those who have ears to hear and hearts to obey want to respond as Isaiah did when he was touched with fire, “Here am I, send me!” However it comes, a settled sense that we are on the path of God’s purpose as officers has taken us through the difficult points in the journey.

PAR: And there have been some testing times.

KFR: For one thing, we never knew where our response to God’s call was going to take us. I love the plaque in our kitchen that pictures a little tent topped with an Army flag and says, “Home is where the Army sends me!” Along with all the positive and the Divine Yes that resonates in our hearts, we accept the disciplines of an Army – an Army of Salvation, an Army of peace, but nevertheless: an Army. And that means being where ever we are needed in the line of battle.

PAR: Officership is not about contract. It is about covenant. It begins with our commitment to Jesus Christ and the reality of our relationship to him. It is grounded in our experience of his saving life. Our relationship to him is covenantal. And when we have responded to his call, our relationship to the Army is really not unlike the marriage covenant. Officers enter into a covenant relationship of trust and loyal commitment: each to the other, and both to God. The Army commits to provide for its officers as long as they are faithful to their calling. The Army depends on us and we depend on the Army. But there is no binding legal contract. It is all a matter of calling and covenant, mutual trust and commitment.

KFR: One of the great joys of officership for married couples is the privilege of working so closely together in a common calling. We have been able to work off of each other’s strengths, supporting and encouraging one another. You remember that at our wedding, Dad Rader quoted this verse: “One shall chase a thousand and two shall put ten thousand to flight!” As married officers we signed individual covenants, committing us to “live to win souls . . . as the first great purpose of [our lives] . . . to be true to The Salvation Army, and the principles represented by its Flag.” But the Army, after all, is about teamwork, an egalitarian partnership that crosses gender lines gently.

PAR: The covenant is not intended to be joint. It is a transaction that must occur between the individual and God. It is, however, signed and sealed with a common purpose that is shared by all officers, whether one’s spouse or a colleague officer with whom we may be teamed – all of this, as an accepted part of God’s plan for our lives as officers in The Salvation Army.

KFR: Our covenant committed us to the holy mission of the Army. It has been expressed in many ways. The International Mission Statement is this:

The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministries are motivated by love for god. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human need in his name without discrimination.

Our calling and covenant commit us to the mission. Officership requires allegiance to the mission, under the lordship of Jesus Christ, believing in its principles and goals and methods and being fully comfortable with its ethos.

PAR: That is why full immersion in the training experience is so critical.

KFR: One of the most exciting dimensions of officership is the wide open door it provides for creativity and innovation in our service. There is such a rich diversity of ministry opportunities. And always fresh ways to address the needs of those we serve and with whom we share the Gospel.

PAR: For one thing, officership makes us part of a global missionary movement. It can provide a platform for service anywhere in the world. It puts us totally at God’s disposal to send us where he will and use us as pleases him most.

KFR: Officership does not give us a blank sheet of paper and a packet of crayons and say draw whatever you want. But within the expectations and guidelines the Army affords – and the Army itself is part of a divinely creative process – there is unlimited scope for a lifetime of ministry as colorful and inventive as God by his Spirit can help us to make it.

PAR: We need to say something about officership being long-term. It is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. O.K., that is a hard sell these days. Maybe, more than ever before. People tend to be into short term commitments with all options open and unhampered control of one’s life choices. Let’s be honest. When God laid his hand hot upon us and claimed us by his grace for this ministry, it meant signing on for the duration.

KFR: Actually, the Soldier’s Covenant (what we used to call, ‘The Articles of War’) signed by every soldier, commits us to a lifetime covenant of service within the Army. It is part of the uniqueness of our movement that we expect that level of commitment from all our members. Officer covenants go deeper by extending this promise to exclude other employment outside the bounds of the Army until retirement, and an expectation that even after retirement, officers will give willing service as opportunities arise. This is long term.

In the early days of overseas missionary service, the candidate understood his/her covenant to be life long. British born, Amy Carmichael, famous missionary to India, committed her life to the people of India for a lifetime, never returning home for furlough, living out her life, dying and being buried among the people of the Dohnavuhr Fellowship which she founded. Elisabeth Elliott, entitles her biography of this great saint, A Chance to Die

PAR: Officership provides its own ‘chance to die’ and ‘chance to live’ for heaven’s highest purpose: sharing the Gospel in its transforming power and living out the love of Christ for our lost and broken world. For “he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14 TNIV). But let’s be up front about the cost, because Jesus was. “Whoever wants to be my disciple,” Jesus said, “must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23, 24 TNIV).

KFR: Officership is long-term service: service to God and the Army for a life time. Officership is not working for the Army. Officership is being the Army. Officership is belonging to an elite ‘company of the committed’. The fellowship among the officers with whom we may be privileged to serve, is beautiful.

PAR: What a privilege to wear the same uniform they wear. We have met them all over the world – many serving in hostile environments, in difficult and dangerous circumstances. The uniforms may differ but they are all identifiable as Army. When we meet these heroes and heroines, we know we share a common covenant and are engaged in the same great mission. The uniform itself is sacramental. Putting it on may be difficult, but as one Korean officer observed, “taking it off is more difficult.”

KFR: Whatever the challenges, the rewards of this life are great beyond telling. And best of all is knowing that to follow Christ into officership in answer to His call, is to bring joy to the heart of God. In the end, that is all that matters.

General Paul A. Rader (Ret.)
Commissioner Kay F. Rader
Lexington, KentuckY

Paul Rader, the retired General (international leader) of the Salvation Army, was named President of Asbury University, and served in that post until 2008.