By Lt. Colonel Raymond L. Peacock –
I wish you all could have been there. I’m talking about the public farewell for Colonels Dennis and Noella Phillips. It was planned right down to the tiniest detail. But, something unplanned…spontaneous…took place that became a highlight and a “Kodak moment” to remember.
Robert Docter reported it this way in the January 28, 1998 issue of New Frontier: “Both Edwardses brought the entire congregation to their feet with rhythm and movement as everyone got in a ‘Caribbean mood’ with the chorus ‘Hold On’.” I encourage you to ask Commissioners David and Doreen Edwards to teach you the chorus “Hold On” when they come to your division or corps. You’ll experience a smile on your face, an uplift in your heart, and motion in your body and soul.
The chorus reminds me of the verse found in I Thessalonians 5:21 (NIV), Test everything. Hold on to the good. Well, we certainly live in an age and belong to a body that “tests everything.” There is very little that escapes being scrutinized, analyzed or criticized by Salvationists. Maybe you’ve heard the one about “How many Salvationists does it take to change a light bulb? It takes 10. One to unscrew the bulb and the other nine to criticize the darkness.” We are high achievers when it comes to dissecting every word and deed that takes place within our movement.
Where we seem to stumble is in the area of “holding on” and “letting go.” David Cormack, in his book Changing Directions: New Ways Forward, suggests a key element in the church’s moving forward is determining what we need more of and what we need less of, or what to “hold on” to and what to “let go” of.
Recently, I was handed a “Point of View” article by a staff member that was indeed pointed in speaking of what we let go. The author said, “We live in a time (and place) when people are casting away great treasures of the past for extremely trivial reasons. Great books are rejected because they were written by ‘dead white men.’ Great worship traditions are rejected by many churches in favor of a cheap feel-goodism that meets market demands. Great music is facing the same kind of mindless rejection, even on the part of people who should know better–and would if education were doing its job.”
Before you think this column is a push for the traditional versus the nontraditional (contemporary), it is not. I truly believe the Kingdom of God and our Army are large enough for both models and the variations within each category. (Anyone for “blended worship” styles?)
No, I hope you see this as a plea to “hold on to the good,” the effective, and to “let go” of the bad and the ineffective. Western Territorial Salvationists are currently being presented with several opportunities to think about and speak out about what needs to go and what needs to stay. Three opportunities come to mind. The first is last October’s Terloc/MISSION2000 Council. This council met to dialogue about the impact of MISSION2000 on our territory, divisions, corps and every officer and soldier. Their dialogue was both faithful to their requested assignment and fruitful in terms of producing further thought and action. Following that weekend, the chairs of the six committees met together, digested the dialogue and came up with 18 recommendations for territorial administration. Currently, each recommendation is being considered by administration and will receive a response later in the year. The Terloc/MISSION2000 Council will meet again in May of ’98 to complete their task of helping the territory successfully bring MISSION2000 to a conclusion.
The second opportunity to think and speak out about what needs to go and what needs to stay is going on right now in every corps across the territory. We call it the territorial survey. Every individual 14 years of age or older attending worship at a Salvation Army corps on Survey Sunday (March 1, 8 or 15–each corps determines which Sunday) will have the opportunity to fill out and return this multi-page questionnaire. Never in our territory’s history have so many been asked to speak out. When the results are tabulated, we hope to know some trends, have some idea of what we need to keep and what we need to let go.
The third opportunity will come to each corps in the fall. It’s called the opportunity to write a corps vision statement. More will be said about this at your divisional camp meetings and in fall visioning rallies. Simply stated now, each corps has two critical considerations that relate to their vision: what a corps wants to be and how it should get there. Every corps has a momentum–it is headed somewhere. It’s intended that as corps engage in the visioning process, strategies for defining where you want to go and how you can get there will be shared and implemented.
As we all participate in this grand process, my point is “hold on to the good!” You see, I happen to think that other factors are more positively correlated to growth and ministry than the traditional/nontraditional and size classifications of our corps. What are those “good” factors? Location, prayer, corps officer longevity, discipleship activities and small group ministries, sound doctrine, great music, new attender integration strategies just to name a few. If you have these, hold on to them. Yes indeed, HOLD ON, because the good is cyclical and coming back again big time.