have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10
By Robert L. Docter –
By authority of Pope Gregory, April became the fourth month of the calendar year and was assigned an even 30 days. There is no name given any month more beautiful than that of April.
April wears a gown of many colors. Against an azure sky, brilliant bursts of red and white and orange and yellow and blue and purple spread their beauty across emerald carpets as far as the eye can see.
April is a freshness of sky-an easiness of wind-a gentleness of sun-a festive fragrance from magnificent perfume.
April’s sounds bring awe and wonder as thunderous waterfalls cascade from cliffs, and robins greet each dawn with a song for the heart.
April means fertility-new life-an opening of the earth-an explosion of nature’s gift of beauty. April speaks to us of anticipation and expectation. April means springtime-a time of warming and awakening.
With April-dormancy ends. Hibernation concludes. The sleeping become alive. There is within humankind an increased sense of energy. The soft sun warms us, and our spirits soar. Things like “spring cleaning” take place within us and without. We resonate to the new.
Churches feel new life, too. The Army is no exception, and with the spring there is evidenced the first fruit of the winter planting and planning. And in the people, matters of the spirit are assigned a higher priority. God seems closer to those who love Him.
NEW LIFE CENTERS
Somewhere in the spring of the 90s decade, Majors Craig and Audrey Madsen began a work in the Amador Valley of northern California which they called the Amador Valley Christian Fellowship. It was a person to person ministry of Christian love and teaching. It’s not fair to say it became the model for the 15 New Life Centers that followed, because there is no model for these Centers. Like the flowers that grace our garden, each New Life Center is different. Some have early success in reaching people. Some find it very difficult. There is variation in the presentation of worship, in the place of worship, in the time of worship and even on the days.
Five of the New Life Centers have been closed. No single reason for the closings seems evident. Ten, plus Amador Valley, continue, and for the most part, these 11 centers have many things in common although each maintains its own uniqueness.
Statistical reports reveal tremendous visitation efforts. Officers in these centers have been in people’s homes to a greater degree than elsewhere. Attendance in worship services tends to be at or above the territorial average, while tithing exceeds the average. There appears to be a greater investment in adherent (member) enrollment than in making soldiers at this stage of their development. There appears to be significant efforts to establish and maintain Bible study programs. Youth programs appear very effective and highly unique. Half of the centers have utilized envoys and auxiliary captains for leadership. Four of the remaining centers are led by lieutenants.
Two vital hypotheses seem to be hinted at when examining the development of these centers. One, as in any organization, the New Life Center seems to take on many of the characteristics of its leader. It does not appear that every Army officer has the personality or entrepreneurial attitude necessary to be successful in this ministry, for it appears to require a shift in identity by the officer. Those officers who identify themselves with the particular center they serve rather than as a temporary representative of the Army as a denomination tend to find the experience more rewarding and the successes more evident.
C. Peter Wagner, in his book Church Planting for a Greater Harvest, identified nine qualities for effective leadership in this field. They are: 1. A committed Christian worker; 2. a self starter; 3. willing to endure loneliness; 4. adaptable and flexible; 5. a high quality of faith; 6. supportive spouse and family; 7. willing and able to lead; 8. a friendly personality; and 9. clearly called by God to lead a church.
A second important note concerns the reality that the national statistical package doesn’t fit this ministry. There is such uniqueness-such individuality of each program-that some other model of assessment seems essential to foreclose what might be perceived by some as the appearance of an unsuccessful program, when, in actuality, it was doing very well.
Testimonies of those attending speak of the dedication and spiritual sensitivity of the leaders. A mechanical engineer at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory who attends Amador Valley wrote of the support he felt from “Paster Craig” on the occasion of his brother’s death. “As I think of my brother’s new life,” he wrote, “I think of my new life, too. It want to thank Craig and Audrey for being there for my family.”
Another Amador Valley member wrote: “Although we always felt we had God in our hearts, something was still missing in our lives. A friend told me about her church-Amador Valley Christian Fellowship. We went with her, and it was there we immediately found what was missing. We are now committed and devoted lifetime members.”
“I’m impressed with the frugality of the church and the Army in general,” writes another Amador Valley member. “I serve on the church board of directors and have seen first hand the accountability for resources through the operation.” A young woman wrote: “I didn’t understand that you could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Life seemed empty. Craig and Audrey had such hope and faith in their hearts, and I’ll never forget holding Craig’s hands and praying to Jesus to come into my life. My heart is changed because of it.”
A TRADITIONAL NON-TRADITIONAL NEW LIFE.
Not all the new life in the Army comes from New Life Centers. Many corps have begun and have maintained a traditional orientation. One such is in Temecula, where Envoys John and Marlene Jones opened a work last October. With close to 100 people at their opening meeting held in the Perris ARC chapel, they now have moved from their quarters to an elementary school with a regular attendance approaching 50. Their service is simple and traditional. “God has blessed our ministry here. We are encouraged by the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His people which inspires them to witness for him,” John Jones wrote. We are challenged by the work that lies ahead – the work of bringing others into a relationship with Christ.”
NEW LIFE IN RECOVERY
For the past eleven months the Phoenix Citadel Corps has hosted a worship service entitled: “Faith Walk – a worship service for recovering people.” Its purpose was to offer the recovering community a meeting with a spiritual emphasis that would include all components of a worship. ARC and Lyncrest Manor clients, graduates, family members, as well as recovering people from the community make up an average of 45 in attendance. A nucleus of those who attend “Faith Walk is also involved in leadership of a 12-step “Serenity” support program sponsored by the corps.
New life is found through fellowship with the Holy Spirit and through helping others find a pathway to recovery.