We’re the leaders we’ve been waiting for
The essence of the conference was—change. Our 21st–century world is changing more rapidly than ever before. But how are we, The Salvation Army, responding to change and the evolving needs, challenges, and expressions of spirituality appearing across the globe? In our experience, the Army has been more of a bureaucratic, hierarchical behemoth than an agile, nimble, and innovative army on the advance. I dare to say that even the U.S. Army has surpassed us in embracing change.
But this hasn’t always been the case. Our forefathers (and mothers) were at the forefront of societal change. They challenged conventions, crossed social divides, and used a variety of means to save souls. They were entrepreneurial masterminds who hijacked relevant, popular, cultural symbols and redeemed them for the Kingdom. Who would have thought to transform crude bar tunes into the sacred songbook that we know today? Whether it was through “Prison Gate Brigades,” red–tipped safety matches, or the world’s first feature film, this Christian avant–garde saw challenges as opportunities and did not hesitate to innovate and “do church” on the front lines.
Where has this revolutionary, bold, and fiery spirit gone? There must be a problem when we love our legacy more than our current state of being. These sentiments are not just directed at some institutional army out there, they’re directed at us. We will be the first to admit that we have more than once lost sight of the mission, the urgency, and the Kingdom. Still, though there have been countless missed opportunities, we can and must seize today (Ps. 95:7). Today and every day, we can choose to live Kingdom–oriented lives. And only by doing so will we move this Army forward for the sake of God’s redemptive mission.
So each of us must ask ourselves, “Are we serving with our ‘sleeves rolled up’ today? Or have we become too comfortable, too prideful, or too fearful of wrinkling our freshly–pressed suits? What would following and embodying Jesus look like in our individual lives, circumstances, and communities?”
The Strikepoint message was loud and clear. We are building the Kingdom, not an institution. We choose to serve a community, not a building. Church is not what we do on Sundays, but a way of being in the world. Church is us, expressed in our daily lives and in our interactions. We are a part of God’s redemptive mission in all that we do, wherever we are. And true service means finding ways to empower, support, and walk alongside people rather than just do things for people.
Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, territorial commander, reminds us that “To change is to live …. Any organism unable or unwilling to adapt to its environment will eventually perish…. It’s a basic life principle.” So, are we willing to change in a way that brings life, growth, and strength? Are we willing to, as Commissioner Swanson asks, “risk deep change for the sake of advancing the Kingdom”?
Now, let’s think about some change opportunities. We’ll start with some reflection points and actionable takeaways:
- Be intentional about your conversations and relationships. Season your conversations with blessings! There is power in simply being curious and sincere in asking, “How can I ask God to bless you today?”
- Live each day as if it were a missions trip, an adventure with Christ. What are new ways to express your faith and bless people? Begin to see them through the eyes of Christ. Talk to them, walk with them, and discover the needs and challenges in your community. Then, see the opportunity for change and redemption.
- Don’t be afraid to take honest inventory on a regular basis. Examine your life, your family, your church, and determine what’s working and what’s not. Nobody and nothing is perfect. We can’t change or fix things if we fear talking about what’s broken. Failure is a powerful teacher.
- Take time to discern the things that are preventing you from living a Kingdom life. What distracts you from the presence of God, and from the fullness of Christ’s joy and redemptive mission? Stop making excuses or getting sidetracked by being too fearful, too critical, insecure, comfortable, prideful, or consumed by entertainment or the mass media.
- Share big dreams. Brainstorm the possibilities. Great ideas are birthed this way. Be quick to share, slow to reject.
- Share your struggles and needs so that we can truly be the Church. We were meant to support and to hold one another accountable.
- Find new ways to do things with people—not just for them. To that end, the territorial commander has pooled $100,000 to develop and execute new initiatives. If you have an idea for how The Salvation Army can bring “church” to where the people are, it’s time to put your idea into action!
The Salvation Army wants to empower us to be curious, to seize opportunities, and to exercise entrepreneurial leadership for the Kingdom. I trust that as we step out in faith, the Lord will show us exceedingly great and unimaginable things. What are you waiting for?
by Annie Liang/Steffon Davis
To view main article, please see ‘We are the leaders …’.