Neither up nor down

Body Builder

by Terry Camsey, Major – 

“The grand old Duke of York
He had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up they were up,
And when they were down they were down,
And when they were only halfway up
They were neither up nor down.”

Just a simple, perhaps silly, rhyme from childhood days—yet perhaps neither as simple or silly as it seems to be. Haven’t you experienced how amazing it is that time can add perspective and insight to the seemingly mundane?

This particular rhyme talks of a leader who led his followers up, then down the hill.

That’s kind of the pattern that we have seen in corps settings over many, many years, but with a difference. The leader who has taken followers up the hill has not necessarily been the one who led them down again.

Here’s something that I have observed…

A leader is appointed and comes (hopefully) with a great deal of enthusiasm to inspire and motivate the congregation (followers) to even greater things. Naturally, as with all of us, he or she has certain strengths and interests (even comfort zones) which he/she will want to bring to bear in the local setting. It follows that not every leader appointed has the same strengths, interests and comfort zones. So here, for example, is the pattern we have seen over many years…

The officer comes in and decides to build the corps using as a primary agent, say, the music program. That’s natural because he is musical himself, enjoys participating in musical experiences, and feels comfortable in such settings. He says to those he expects to follow him, “We are going to build this corps through music programs. Follow me up the hill.” Dutifully, as followers are expected to do, they follow him up the hill.

A few years later, a new officer arrives who is not at all musical, has little interest in music and feels decidedly uncomfortable with anything to do with music. She is, however very interested and keen on young people’s work and—in particular—the Sunday school program. “Follow me up this hill,” she says, “We are going to build this corps through the Sunday school program.” Off she sets up the hill, with followers (but probably a few less because of the musicians in the corps who are upset that music has lost its focus).

The scenario changes to a few years later when once again the leadership of the corps changes. Now we have an officer who is uncomfortable, and relatively unskilled at both music and young people’s work. But he has a passion for the Home League, and skills to relate to the women who have an interest in that program. It is within his comfort zone, so…

He says to the people, “We are going to build this corps by focusing on the Home League. Everybody––follow me up the hill.” Off he goes with any supporters who are interested.”

Then arrives another officer who says, “We are going to build this corps using Evangelism Explosion. Follow me.” And the people say, “You go––we are fed up with constant changes and don’t want to climb any more hills!”

Can you see it? In many corps it’s as if we are wading around waist-deep in the rubble of foundations that a sequence of different officers have laid, only to have them kicked down and replaced with other foundations by other officers that followed them––unfortunately with little built on any of those foundations due to frequent changes in strategy. No wonder that the followers can become seemingly apathetic!

The best thing any officer can do for a corps is, first, to help it discern what the Lord requires of it in that particular setting and to clarify purpose, vision and immediate strategy to start moving in that direction. And, if such is already in place, to review it at least annually to determine if change corrections are necessary. Finally, to ask, “How does my unique ‘spiritual gifts/natural talents/personality and passion mix’ fit into those plans?”

Because, in the final analysis, as officers we must take care not to confuse ecclesiastical function with the personal ministry for which we were created.

Halfway up, halfway down or neither up nor down?

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