Some closing thoughts
by S. E. Horwood, Captain –
Over the past two years, I’ve had the profound privilege to contribute to the public dialogue of the Western Territory through New Frontier. The editors, and particularly the readers, have been infinitely tolerant as I have tried to offer some perspectives of the international ministries of the Army, social justice and multi-culturalism. It has been part of a larger attempt to share the experiences that my wife and I have had over nearly 15 years of officership in very unique appointments. But this appointment has also been a wonderful part of that journey. Since we will soon be once again transferring out of the territory, I would like to share some final reflections with you.
The first involves missions (naturally). It appears to me that in spite of the abundance of literature, academic opinion, testimony of church health/growth experts and the experience of pastors, the Western Territory still seems reluctant to embrace and normalize the ministry of international missions at the corps and divisional levels. With some stellar exceptions, this may be a result of perceived lack of resources, lack of leadership or lack of interest.
Nevertheless, we are missing out on a valuable aspect of cross-cultural engagement and ministry. I realize that every ministry has a “missions field” in their community, but it is not an overstatement to say that a cross border trip will act as a catalyst for spiritual growth and increased local corps activity. Getting out of our local context, and into an environment where we are the outsiders, helps us to acknowledge our own weakness and see God from another perspective.
In addition, it might surprise some readers to know that almost 60 percent of the Army’s strength is located on the continent of Africa. So important is Africa to contemporary Christianity, that there is a broad consensus among theologians and historians that Africa will have a greater impact on Christian life in the western hemisphere than anything else influencing the church of the 21st century. The issue of religion permeating all of life, rather than a separation between the sacred and the secular, will challenge us, and a new awareness of a spirit world that we have long since exorcised from our public discussion since rationalism and science has taken such a strong hold on the culture, will challenge our traditional western thought.
It has also been reaffirmed to me that the Army must be the Army if it is to remain a vital and relevant movement in the Church. The Body of Christ needs and continues to ask us to contribute our distinctive, God-appointed ministry in the world. This is where we should be leading and prophetically speaking into the Church. Our ministry is not merely about God changing hearts, but God changing lives. Our ministry is not a about telling people they need to come to our context to find God. Rather we are where they are, helping them in their context to find God, because, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among them” where they live, whether it is the brothel or the boardroom.
I also realize that the global Army needs the Western Territory to make its unique contribution to this church movement. Our resources, creativity, and multi-textured society have equipped us to help move the Army forward in this century. Although we have experienced a decade of the blues, God is richly blessing us. And I believe God is calling us to renewed optimism, growth and leadership, and to appreciate the distinctive cultures in which we live.
It has been wonderful to be back in the territory during these three years. My wife and I look forward to once again being ambassadors for the great Western Territory. And we look forward to seeing how God will continue to bless the ministries that take place.