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Focus – Parable of a Shoe Factory


By Major Anne Pickup – 

A man bought a shoe manufacturing factory. He invested a great deal of money purchasing state-of-the-art machinery. He took extra pains to hire a professional management staff, and the assembly line workers were well trained, each having previous experience.

Once everything was in place, the owner left the plant in the capable hands of the manager. Two years later he returned for a progress report.

“In these first two years,” asked the owner, “how many shoes have we produced?”

“None,” replied the plant manager.

“None? With state-of-the-art machinery and a most qualified staff, we haven’t produced one pair of shoes in two years?” asked the owner incredulously.

Defensively, the plant manager continued, “It’s true, we haven’t produced shoes, but I want you to know we are very busy. We’ve been very active at our jobs and many of us are real tired.”

This story couldn’t possibly be true…and it isn’t. It’s a modern day parable interpreted as follows: the shoe plant is a Salvation Army corps, the plant manager is the corps officer and the owner is Jesus. Its application is apparent–too many corps have wonderful facilities, excellent staff and dedicated soldiers, but the corps is not producing what it’s supposed to–disciples. Many in the corps are very busy, active at their places of leadership and involvement, and even very tired; but still, no disciples. The shoe plant’s purpose was to produce shoes. The purpose of a corps is to produce disciples.

“Therefore go and make disciples….” Matthew 28: 19 Known as the “Great Commission,” verses 19 and 20 of Matthew 28 are a call to disciple making. We associate these verses with evangelism, but evangelism can not be separated from discipleship.

Go–A word depicting movement, intention and direction. We have to go to people who need Jesus. We can no more expect them to come to us than we can expect fish to flop up into the boat when we are fishing. The command is to go, indicating that making disciples is an intentional process.

Baptizing–Baptism is a rite of membership used throughout religious history, a rite used as an outward witness to an inward change. It is a rite signaling a new beginning. Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River at the start of his early ministry.

The Salvation Army does not practice baptism, but we practice other rites of new beginning, acceptance into God’s family and The Salvation Army–kneeling at the altar, enrollment as a soldier or adherent, wearing a uniform or a maroon jacket. With less concern over ceremony, and more emphasis on the cleansing power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are to bring people to a relationship with Jesus, through the washing away of sin–this is salvation. Salvation is the rite of entry into the universal family of God and The Salvation Army.

Teaching–The full interpretation of the “Great Commission” includes teaching. Jesus instructed his disciples for three years, teaching them Scripture and training them in holy living. He didn’t bring them to salvation and then leave. Too often, we have been guilty of winning the lost to Jesus but not nurturing them in the faith. We have been guilty of making converts, but not making disciples. Too often we have forgotten that conversion is only the door to a life-long path of discipleship developed through teaching and learning.

We need to look at the purpose and productivity of our corps. The challenge to the plant manager was to make shoes: the challenge to Salvationists is to make disciples!

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