by Lt. Colonel Raymond Peacock –
A relevant and vibrant expression of Christianity… In his latest book, Aqua Church, Leonard Sweet recalls a Three Stooges routine. Larry cried out to Moe, “I can’t see! I can’t see!” Moe rushed to Larry’s aid, asking “Why not? What’s wrong?” Larry then smiled and proclaimed, “I got my eyes closed!” Then, of course, Moe bopped Larry on the head.
There are plenty of people who prefer to see things a little less clearly, who behave blind, who refuse to see the path ahead. Sometimes we need a spiritual bop on the head to see where it is God wants us to go. We need “the vision thing”.
Leonard Sweet helps us see by asking, “How do we begin to navigate ourselves, our church, our structures, our planet in these new waters? The first step is a change of perception. We need to take a new mindwalk, to embark on a new soul train. We need a new vision, a new way of seeing, and new ways of describing what we see. We need increased powers to comprehend the postmodern world as it really is and not as we have been trained to see it from the perspective of modernity.”
I’d like to think the journey Sweet describes is the journey we are on in the Western Territory. We have taken that first step and several beyond. We are now closing in on the goals and strategies for implementing our corps, divisional and territorial visions. We are now revising our corps, divisional, and personnel reviews to be aligned with our new visions. We are engaging in the mindwalk, aboard the soul train, and will have much to say between now and June 2000, the deadline for reporting territorial goals and strategies.
The first six months of 2000 may be the most important in our journey. We are bringing our visions and their implementation into clearer focus, working on becoming a relevant and vibrant expression of Christianity. Doing so has required the development of a “double vision” of sorts. Leonard Sweet suggests that any organization or person looking at the path ahead needs “scopes.” Some use telescopes and get a one dimensional, monocular, narrow view of what’s ahead. Others use a binocular scope. This two-eyed, bifocal perspective brings with it a depth perception missing heretofore.
We here in the West have had to open not just one eye, but both eyes to discern what we want to be in the years ahead. With one eye open we surveyed the past, but with both eyes open, we are reading the signs of these postmodern times. Visionaries are people who can read the signs of the times, not the signs of the future, says Sweet. Call it both eyes open or double vision if you like. Two good examples of this double vision can be found in the January 1, 2000 issue of New Frontier. You need to read the articles by the territorial commander and the chief secretary. If you have not already done so, locate the issue and do so.
Leonard Sweet talks about “double vision” being forced upon the church following the revelations of postmodern culture. He says, “Some are misreading this as a ‘culture of two minds,’ a culture unable to make up its mind one way or the other. But postmodern culture is of ‘one mind.’ It’s complexly (not simply) a mind that likes to go in different directions at the same time–like the new psychological syndrome recently diagnosed as “shy extrovert.” He sites other examples of post-modern duality: more rich-more poor, churches getting smaller-getting larger, new houses being built bigger and bigger while families get smaller and smaller, etc.
Sweet says the future is for those who can bring the extremes together, handle the dualities and complexities. He reminds us that in the cross and in Christ, the vertical and the horizontal, the human and divine were united. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the “Word made flesh.” So, the church, (our Army), should be able to handle extremes, edges, complexities and multiple approaches rather than “safe middles,” and single solutions.
In fact, if our Army is to be “a relevant and vibrant expression of Christianity” we have no choice but to deal with the “postmodern world as it really is.” This is double vision at its best: seeing not only what is, but also what a postmodern world can be in Christ, and seeing how our Army can be a relevant and vibrant expression of Christianity in that postmodern world.