Reflection: A small corps sowing seeds in Estonia

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Slow but meaningful growth

by Daniel Henderson, Captain –

As we move through this sixth year of ministry in this northern land, some important concepts become clearer. I remember that during the first two months of our living in Narva, Estonia, I met with the pastor of the Pentecostal church. He advised me that I had arrived 10 years too late for starting a new church. Truly, local culture in our town moved quickly from post-Soviet openness towards faith in God, to a more post-modern attitude towards faith.

Many factors contributed to make us eager to see big numbers of new soldiers enrolled early on. Thankfully, years of hard work have broken us of this need to justify our existence through numbers. I realize that I would rather have one good soldier, who truly understands the core values and vision of The Salvation Army, than 40 soldiers who are adept at making me think that they understand. God has given us success whenever we have concentrated our efforts on developing individuals. He hasn’t allowed the corps to grow quickly and efforts to create a “big show” have met with limited success. Instead, we have an accepted candidate for officership, a few dedicated soldierstwo of whom may be candidates in the futureand some committed adherents.

The parable of the farmer sowing seed, in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13, has happened here. Watching some people decide to leave and others stagnate in their faith has been terribly difficult. It is hard to watch people throw away their potential and turn down self-destructive paths. Watching the few begin to produce, to live the life of faith on their own, has been extremely rewarding. It’s not the kind of success that makes the front page, or sells church growth books, or feeds a church leader’s ego. For these reasons, I now trust this kind of church growth more, because I could never pretend that I brought it to pass. Since I wasn’t the main factor in developing these people, then my eventual departure will not prevent them from carrying on the Army’s mission.


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