It’s a puzzle

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by Terry Camsey, Major – 

by Major Terry CamseyMark Twain told of one man’s search for the world’s greatest general. He spent a lifetime on that quest but without success. On his arrival at the pearly gates, he told St. Peter of his search and St. Peter said, “I know, we’ve been expecting you and I have good news. Look over there and you will see the world’s greatest general.”

The old man excitedly looked over and said, “That’s not the world’s greatest general. He was a cobbler on Main Street in my hometown.” St. Peter responded, “But had he been a general, he would have been the greatest general ever!”

I wonder if the cobbler knew this. Was he aware of the potential within him to do great things? Perhaps, like many, he was not aware of the unique way God had created him to make a positive difference in this world.

In his book Unleashing the Church, Frank Tillepaugh refers to a survey conducted among 5,000 pastors investigating the greatest needs for strengthening the church. The questionnaire had 25 items they were asked to rate on a 1-5 scale. Almost 100% cited “Getting my people involved in ministering to men and women” as the major priority.

Other surveys have revealed that, maybe, up to 40% of a congregation may actually be involved in personal ministry. The rest are “sitters and soakers,” taking but not giving anything back. It’s hard to see that this is acceptable to a God who created us for ministry and who has charged us to represent Christ to our communities. If close to 50% are actually working at this while dragging the other 50% along as “dead weight,” the image suggested is that of a spastic Christ which, surely, is unacceptable.

It begs the question, “Why are not 100% believers in the congregation involved in ministry?” My guess is that the only ministries offered to them are related to existing programs. Has not our aim, for years, been to try to assemble in each corps a picture of ministry that includes a full panel of local officers plus plenty of participants in an existing set of programs and activities? Isn’t that what the “Corps Standard” was (is?) all about?

Consider this: God sends a brilliant saxophone player to a corps that has a band. What is the standard reaction? “Put him on 2nd baritone, he should be able to handle that OK.” Result, a mediocre baritone player instead of a brilliant saxophone player and a missed opportunity to extend the range of ministry the corps offers! Why? Because we are only interested in brass players. God sends us a tremendous resource for ministry and we try to squeeze it into a mold we are comfortable with.

My belief is that God gives every corps, big or small, all the “pieces” of the “jigsaw” for the “picture” of ministry he intends for that corps. Our job is to discover how those pieces fit together to make his intended picture. Problems arise when we put a frame around the picture of ministry we want to create, regardless of the pieces he gives us.

Result? “Pieces” that do not seem to fit in our frame are not considered useful and lie idle. We try to force some “pieces” into place that don’t quite fit—consequently people can get “bent out of shape” and frustrated since the ministry offered does not match their call. Other “pieces” seeing that what is on offer does not match their desire for ministry, decline to participate. Yet other “pieces,” perhaps ideal as center “pieces,” insist on being key corner “pieces” (“My dad was CSM for 20 years and I want that job!”).

Worse, if such a picture ever does get completed, there is no place for new people to become a part of it…because we have put a frame around it. That, surely, cannot be right. God has equipped every single soul he sends for some special ministry. If we do not facilitate discovery of that ministry and offer opportunity to pursue it—we are missing God’s intended “picture of ministry” for our corps.

His picture has no frame…it expands with every new person won and folded into the corps. That picture may change as some people leave and others join, each carrying their special ministry with them. The big challenge is that there is no “picture” of his intended ministry on the “box” of the puzzle to guide us. We have to first get all the “pieces” on the table and then fit them together. What an exciting discovery that can be! But, as I say…

It’s a puzzle! Isn’t it?

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