Each week as we gather in the boardroom at territorial headquarters participants are reminded, by note cards placed under the glass, of the strategic priorities of the Western Territory–priorities that have grown out of the visioning process, priorities designed to grow an Army that is biblically authentic in motive and mission, a relevant and vibrant expression of Christianity, culturally diverse in methods and ministry, and compassionately active in serving humanity.
As we being this new year, it is a good time to reflect on those priorities again to determine where we are going. We are to make the field a priority, to build healthy congregations as well as establishing a system for “pruning” that which goes beyond financial non-viability and strategize for corps planting. I trust corps councils are prayerfully considering the expansion of the Army in their communities, looking beyond the walls of the building and discovering new ways of reaching out to the unsaved. What is your corps doing in the place of open-air meetings?
We are to promote holistic ministry, a corps ministry that integrates worship and community service, soldiers who are personally involved in corps activities and service ministry and integrated social services responding to the whole person–spiritual, physical, emotional and social. I commend our League of Mercy workers who have been doing this for years. Let us consciously look for ways to bridge that which divides youth centers and social service institutions from corps programs.
We are to make ministry to youth a priority. In her welcome challenge the territorial commander indicated that youth ministry must be a priority, with concrete goals established so that every corps will have an evangelistic outreach program for children, that new initiatives relevant to youth will be seen in corps programs, that emphasis will be given to discipling and training and that selection and training of youth leaders will be a priority. I am pleased to report that General John Larsson has declared that 2005 will be the Year for Children and Youth. The General indicates that in the lead-up to, and during the Year for Children and Youth, we would need to look at issues such as: how better to meet the needs of disadvantaged children and youth in society, how better to reach out to children and youth with the Gospel, lead them to faith and discipleship and service for God, how better to use existing and new programs to attract and hold children and youth, how better to release the potential of youth to reach, serve and teach children, and how better to release the potential of youth for the Army’s mission as a whole.
We are to cast a global vision. We are to celebrate the internationalism of The Salvation Army through financial giving, overseas service, mission teams, training of national officers, and prayer support. Let us celebrate that we are not a federation of independent units but a worldwide Army of God. We want to underscore the Army’s goal of “the world for God” through global evangelization. We need to continue to reach the “world” in this territory. We are in this together, let us build up one another and take the gospel message to a world that speaks of individual needs and a great lack of accountability. We are to celebrate our unity in diversity. Leadership at all levels is working to increasingly reflect the diversity in our Army soldiery and corps.
We are to identify, train and develop leaders. Those graduates of the Master Leaders Key program are well aware that every leader should be working, mentoring and training someone to replace them in their ministry position. Sunday school teachers need to recruit assistants who are equipped to take over the class, bandmasters and songster leaders need to train assistants to be future bandmasters and songster leaders. I challenge every soldier and junior soldier to lead one person to Christ this year and disciple them to become members of The Salvation Army. Think of it–if every member met this challenge this territory would double in size in one year.
We are to direct resources to mission. The following questions have been developed to help in evaluating this process: Are souls being saved? How has or how will the community be transformed through this ministry? Is there evidence of growing Christ- like character among believers through this ministry? How is or how will the gospel be proclaimed? Does this ministry meet the needs of vulnerable groups, those overlooked or ignored in the community? How will this ministry use the gifts and strengths God has given? Are there measurable goals and objectives for this ministry that incorporate the values of The Salvation Army? What other groups or individuals outside the Army can participate in this ministry, bringing strengths that may not need to be developed internally? How will this ministry cultivate the distinctiveness of the Army and uphold the following non negotiables the Bible as the foundation for what we believe, the doctrines of The Salvation Army, the Salvation Army position on holiness, a passion for world evangelization, mission driven service that includes saving souls, growing saints and serving suffering humanity, positive and prominent identification of The Salvation Army.
As we pass through this new year that God has given us, spend time reflecting on your personal priorities. Look for the opportunities and let God bless you and your availability to him.