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Territorial vision gains focus

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by Carol Seiler, Major – 

“The field is not just where services are delivered, but where the services are received—the field is the world.” And so Commissioner Linda Bond opened a conversational focus group held at Crestmont with leaders of 11 corps where evidence of mission is visible and vibrant.

“I’ve asked you to come here today because we do want to make the field a priority,” she said. “It’s happening in these corps where people are coming regularly; there is evidence of holistic ministry; there are leaders being identified, trained and developed; young people are finding leadership and service…

“If the Army stops saving souls, it’s time for the Lord to give us a decent burial.”

Bond wasted no time getting to mission. These corps were different from each other and yet similar. Hailing from California, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and New Mexico, the congregations spoke English, Spanish, and Korean. Some members had high incomes and some had low incomes. Some corps had extensive social services, others were in larger cities where social services were handled elsewhere. But in each setting, the corps congregations are alive, are vibrant and relevant, saving souls and growing saints.

Was longevity of the spiritual leaders the secret? Not really—the range of time in the appointments was from one through 12 years, the average at 4.5 years.

Officers were asked to share the three or four key factors they believed were instrumental in success, and then to share what was transferable. It was no accident that six key themes emerged and no false modesty when each of them said it was all transferable. The themes were the basis for the Commissioner’s initial address with the Territorial Executive Council. The most significant elements related to the purposefulness of all the actions of the corps, and paradoxically, that more commitment was required of soldiers rather than less.

Worship was seen as vital—quality, depth, appeal—so that “people would know that they had been in the presence of God when they left Sunday morning.” Prayer happened at least once a week and in some settings daily, and included a specific time, a group of people from the corps, and a deep commitment and faith in answers. Purpose and vision drove most of the planning—did the activities of the congregation fit where they wanted to go? Food and fellowship was integral, with no less than shared meals weekly.

Discipleship had depth of training and requirements. These leaders were preparing soldiers, and demanded a time and activity commitment to expand their own leadership and pastoral care of the growing congregations. Although the leaders provided the vision, they gave responsibility to the priesthood of believers. Soldiers were involved, took on responsibilities, learned about scripture, and shared in worship.

“Make the field a priority” is about making the spiritual growth of each individual important, important enough to invest time in nurturing their growth and to trust them to in turn spread the gospel and nurture others. There are so many variations of the picture of the “field,” as we carve out our niche to be the most important. But the field is “where the services are received,” as Bond started the day saying.

A final question asked for finishing the sentence “You will know the field is a priority when…” What are the obstacles? Why doesn’t it happen all over the territory? This sparked an afternoon of comments! But at the end of the day, the lesson of the growing corps was a lesson for administration. What was heard most clearly from these officers and envoys was “Show me that you value who I am and what I do”… that you will invest time in listening to me, training me and trusting me with ministry. A concept of growth and stretching being practiced in these corps, a lesson for divisional and territorial leaders.

Will the conversations stop there? Wait and see—the territorial commander values sharing perspectives and someday the phone may ring at your house…”Say, are you busy Tuesday, or can you join me for a conversation?”

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