On the Corner

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by Robert Docter – 

Needs and wants. Mankind has been confused by these choices throughout all of human history. It shouldn’t be any great surprise to us that we’re still confused–especially now.

We live in what is described as a post-modern age. Things have changed since “modern” disappeared as the prime descriptor of today. Technical complexity has leaped upon us. My typewriter sits in the corner gathering dust. I’d be lost without this computer. Everybody goes faster, tries to think faster, talks faster and sends more mixed messages. Relationships seem more superficial–boundaries, the rules which determine the manner in which we interact, have become fuzzy and blurred. I think there is a greater desire on the part of many to recognize the need for increased spirituality in their lives. The problem is, they don’t think “church” will provide it. They want to believe something, but can’t seem to figure out what it is.

Life seems to be more harried and disorderly for people today. Because they don’t know what they believe, they can’t know who they are. Because they don’t know who they are they don’t know where they’re going. Because they’re “flying blind” spiritually, life seems meaningless. They need identity, purpose, spirituality and meaning in their lives. Their absence introduces tensions from which they seek relief– sometimes through thrills, adventure, self-centeredness, instant gratification. Their “inner voice” of reason and focus becomes faint–drowned out by negative self-talk and anger. They don’t know how to form intense relationships based on caring and trust, which add meaning to their lives. Because they don’t know how to relate, they can’t seem to form community. It is in an empathic and caring community that individuals find meaning for their lives. In community we fill in the empty spaces of our existence. Life becomes richer, fuller–meaningful. The best place to find spirituality and community together is in a church that cares.

We’ve got a great vision for the Army of the 21st century that perfectly articulates our ethic and ethos. It says we’re a church with certain very specific characteristics. We want to see ourselves as “Biblically authentic”–as “relevant and vibrant”–as “culturally diverse”–as “compassionately active in serving humanity.” This vision clearly states where we NEED to be at the advent of the next millennium. It pays homage to our “roots”–our history which contributes to our identity. It defines our role as a Christian church for all people. It envisions active, loving, caring, committed people involved with others as facilitating agents of Christ in every dimension of people’s lives.

And so we NEED to be what we say we are–what we communicate as our identity.

So what’s the problem?

When reading material, no two people get exactly the same message. That’s because no reader can take meaning from the page. The only meaning we get is what we bring to the page. Different people have different experiences. Therefore, they bring different meaning to their reading of the vision statement. Fortunately, we have many common experiences, so we are able to communicate with each other in a “rough” sort of way. It’s possible, then, for Salvationists to see within the statement almost anything they WANT to see. Some will see nothing new. They’ll say: “same ol’, same ol’.” Some will ignore the opportunity to relate an energized Army to a new age. They’ll say: “Just another campaign.” Some will want simply to see a middle class church with comfortable pews in which they worship with people just like them.

This is what I see.

For the first time we have a clear, concise statement from the territory which helps define the movement– helps us see what we are. We’re a church–a church with certain distinct characteristics seeking to challenge us to emulate Christ–to be non-judgmental –to have few external boundaries designed to foster exclusivity–to be fully contemporary while respecting our past. Just as the vision statement you wrote for your corps defines your role in your community, this vision statement from the territory, carefully developed as the product of all the corps statements, provides a broad overview for both internal planning and external communication. It gives us the jumping off point to some common meanings.

When a group of people have common meanings, they can exist together, design the rules which guide the system together, differentiate the desirable from the undesirable together. When this happens community forms. In community, people develop in the direction of the values the community embraces. In a Christian community of worshippers, they grow towards Christ.

What does the vision statement say to you? Talk it over with your friends.

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