by Captain Terry Camsey –
Aren’t these fascinating times to be alive!
Did you see the report in New Frontier regarding the recent meeting of international leaders where, it appears, the official line on new initiatives towards more effective evangelism is, “You can!” Apparently the goal is to change from being a “permission-withholding” administration to a “permission-giving” one.
This was followed up in a Salvationist article, during last week or two, by a very strong affirmation from Commissioner John Gowans (Territorial Commander of the United Kingdom) in which he encourages experimentation and risk-taking at the local level. The only caveats are that the activity must not be unethical or illegal. Officers, soldiers and adherents may now, he says, “courageously try new tactics.”
Of course there have always been those who have tried new tactics–usually without permission, since such would have been withheld without a cast iron guarantee that the innovation would work perfectly…the first time. If that same qualification had been applied to Edison (“Get that electric light bulb right the first time, son, or else!”) we would still be using candles.
It’s a hard thing for some to realize that failing at something can, and should, be a learning experience. One more step towards succeeding.
The Western Territory has, of course, for years been officially, if not always in actual practice, in favor of new tactics. The corps standard (listing of official activities agreed by the divisional commander and posted at corps buildings) indicates–or used to–that “Nothing in this list shall inhibit inspired or innovative experiments.”…or words to that effect. I don’t have a copy in front of me as I write. In practice, however, even if permitted, such experiments were always in addition to other activities, some of which may long have outlived their effectiveness. We are great at addition, poor at subtraction from a program perspective. What was it someone said: “When the horse is dead, dismount!”
In fact, many of the West’s innovations (ARC corps, New Life Centers, etc.) have been vigorously taken up by other territories. This, even when we ourselves have been struggling with acceptance and support of such initiatives…getting impatient and frustrated when the results are not as immediate or as palatable as some would wish. (Were they unethical or illegal? I wonder). Initiatives which, nevertheless, have been effective–if not “traditional” (whatever that means)–in reaching the populations targeted.
Gowans, many years ago, suggested he was very much afraid that–if the door of the cage were to be opened–the canary would have forgotten how to fly. In other words, creativity and freedom (hallmarks of the early Army and part of our heritage) have been stifled for so long that–even with the new-found freedom granted by the International Commissioners–
some officers, soldiers and adherents will be so “rusty” at initiating new tactics that they will not be able to do so. What is it they say, “Use it or lose it!” That is true of almost anything you can imagine. Why should it be any different when we think of the creative “muscle.”
The editor of Salvationist suggests that it is time, ministry-wise, to put our ministry where our mouths have been. We have moaned for so long about what we are not allowed to do (even when that notion is dead wrong) that some, doubtless, will be hesitant to step out of the self-perceived prison, preferring to stay inside it and blame others, rather than accept such freedom and the responsibility that goes with it.
Then again, I muse to myself, is it faintly possible that some who do want to take the international leaders at their word will find that “middle management” countermands the intent of those international leaders? Time will tell.
What’s that song that’s buzzing around in my mind. Oh! I have it…
“Yes I can, yes I can!”
“No, you can’t!”