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Journey of the heart

Journey of the heart

Journey of the heart

4 May 2016

By Peter McGuigan

On the future of the Church, I’ve got to admit to being a little on the worried side. Something big is up in Eden, so to speak, and I’m growing tired of old truisms like: “The Church is God’s and he will look after its future.” I could list everything that’s wrong, but why? To justify what I’m saying? To make myself and others more worried, depressed even? Perhaps I should write such a list, given the assertion of American change expert John Kotter that without creating a sense of urgency, nothing will change.

But there are already enough naysayers around, announcing the Church’s so-called irrelevance in a postmodern, “post-Christian” world, actively seeking to derail or defame it, predicting its imminent demise. Why should I become another one, especially when I actually love the Church with all my heart – its Lord and Saviour first, and then its community of transformed people.

That is, after all, what we actually are – God’s community of transformed people. John Stott once called us God’s new society. And I would say that the biggest thing we need to do right now is to act like we’re transformed, like we do have the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ in us to share with all humanity. Perhaps at this point in our 2000-year history, we need a grease and oil change. To put that in some kind of church speak, we need to go on a journey of renewal, where the passion and the love and the power of God are brought fresh back into our lives; where we experience deeply the “times of refreshing” Scripture encourages us about (see Act 3:19).

I say this, because I do believe that Christianity has lost its heart in many places. We have become too cerebral, too didactic, too prescriptive about what we think the Church should be and how it should be led. Certainly that is true in The Salvation Army. We have become prone to sameness, more attached to Army traditions and procedures, seemingly, than attached to God and the creativity of God’s Spirit.

To put it bluntly, there is a fork in the road of The Salvation Army’s future. We can choose sameness and proceed towards oblivion, and probably get there in a hurry. Or we can choose God and God’s renewing presence, and be surprised where the road leads. More and more, I sense that’s where we want to go, and some decisions that have been taken in recent times reflect such a longing.

This will be a journey of the heart, in which we seek the giver of life and speak life into each other, not doom and death. Together, we will love God and love prayer with a refreshing new vitality that will overflow into the world wherever we are. All of us, including second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth-generation Salvos will have a vital testimony about Christ transforming our lives, not only our first-generation brothers and sisters.

Such a journey will not only require the Army and her people becoming much more spiritually astute and self-aware regarding the future. It will require a powerful self-transcendence as we arise from the ashes of selffocus and self-serving to let go of all that we were, all that we are and all we can be into the hands of God. Together, we will partner with God in ensuring the future of this part of the Church on earth, exercising a God-led stewardship of the future, especially the spiritual gifts that will come alive in us, and our renewed passion and vision to serve God and the world.

Our brokenness and humility before God, personally and in every expression of The Salvation Army, will be the catalyst for such monumental change. It will be like God birthing and nurturing Micah 6:8 in us all over again: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

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