Back to front
by Terry Camsey, Major –
Apart from a visit to Norway last winter, and one or two to the United Kingdom, I have not visited Europe for a number of years. Prior to the Norway trip, I had visited Europe several times to conduct various seminars on Church Growth with different groups of officers, some in councils settings, others in seminar groupings.
Today, the statistical trends speak for themselves regarding church health.
There are bright spots, I understand, that are reported in this issue and that is wonderfully inspirational. One of the bright spots that I have experienced first hand over the past decade or so has been the ROOTS experience that has taken hold of all generations in the United Kingdom—an event where people gather for inspirational worship and teaching and unique fellowship. It is an event that has grown and grown over the years. Some might say that it’s not “really Army,” although its spirit, contemporary nature and depth is very reminiscent of the Army’s early days.
Another fresh approach has been the creation of the ALOVE brand of Salvationism, which is, I believe, primarily targeting young adults who—while deeply spiritual—are not necessarily wedded to the “ancient” traditions and rituals of the Army. But it is an Army “baby” and like so many babies, may resemble the parent somewhat, but not in every detail.
These two new approaches have been visions generated by young adults primarily to address the experiential preferences of their own generation. There is one key to the future here for those who can get over the tendency to say, “It may be growing but it’s not really Army!”
I was very influenced a few years ago by the words of Robert Webber, who states that the challenge is getting past the immediate past to the past past! I understand this to mean that, over the years, churches tend to lose their enthusiasm for their first love and become lukewarm. (The churches at Laodicea and Ephesus had done this after their first 30 years or so!) Programs and procedures tend to crystallize; old methods have less impact on later generations.
When I was in the UK I cherished the opportunity to speak to groups of retired officers because they were the ultimate “permission givers” in the Army so far as whatever corps they attended was concerned. Often, when I started speaking, many had their arms folded (if not physically, then metaphorically) with what I sensed to be an attitude of “Bless me if you can!” They knew I would be speaking on the need for change. But, as I started to remind them of the way things were in the “good old days” of the Army (at least as far back as I could myself remember), those arms (physical and metaphorical) started to unfold and you could see the enthusiasm returning as eyes started to sparkle.
I had taken them, in their mind’s eye, back from the immediate past to the past past, a time before the Army started to get (as someone once suggested in a song current at the time) “respectable”!
Here we see, I feel, a major key to unlocking the future for the Army. A key that requires us to carefully review and recapture the spirit and motivations of the early Army, rather than being hung up on now traditional programs originally designed for another era and generation. Capture THAT spirit and motivation and stand back and watch
the transformation before your very eyes.
Back to front?