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The magic bullet

Body Builder

by Major Terry CamseyI was fascinated, some years ago, by the story “Acres of Diamonds,” quoted by Earl Nightingale in some of his motivational material. As I recall, it was about an African farmer who, hearing tales of others who had discovered diamond mines and made millions, sold his farm and went off in pursuit of fortune.

The story tells how, after years of fruitless search, he got so despondent that he jumped in a river and drowned himself. Meanwhile…

… “back at the farm,” as it were (his own farm, which had been purchased by another farmer), the new owner spotted some shiny stones in a small stream on the property. He didn’t know what they were until a visitor told him they were valuable diamonds. The farm, it is said, subsequently turned out to be the most productive diamond mine in the whole of the African continent!

The original owner had literally been standing in the middle of his own acres of diamonds, yet did not see them or realize the value of he property he already had.

Isn’t that the way it frequently is with us…with The Salvation Army? We keep envying grass in the “pasture” of other churches that seems so much greener than ours, forgetting that, perhaps, it is greener because the farmers over there are doing more to maximize their fields’ potential.

For example…one sees these days that, almost invariably, large and growing churches are targeting a specific group of people (knowing that they cannot possibly be all things to all people). They also have designed distinctly different meetings for the saved (“believers’ meetings”) and for the unsaved (“seekers’ meetings”). How many seminars at other churches have we attended en masse to discover these “gems” of church growth wisdom?

Yet, many, many years ago, William Booth targeted a specific group of people for priority action (the poor of London), and held quite distinct and unique meetings for the unsaved (“salvation meetings”) and the saints (“holiness meetings”). “Roses,” as it were, “by any other name.” He also anticipated current trends by having a special meeting set aside for praise. “Acres of diamonds” right in our own backyard, yet rejected by us in favor of discovering the same truths from other, “Johnnie-come-lately,” churches.

The trait of “rejecting our own in favor of someone else’s” has continued over many years as –to change the metaphor ­ we keep seeking the “magic bullet”…the “quick-fix, one-size-fits-all” kind of solution to our corporate evangelical ineffectiveness.

And still, today, the market is being flooded with these “magic bullets” and there are those who ride off in all directions seeking them. The reality is that all we really need to know is set out clearly in the Bible. Booth knew that and we see the pattern emerging as the Army established its ministry. The “Jesus Strategy” for growth is clearly given in Acts 1:8… first in Jerusalem (the church), then Judea (the immediate community surrounding the church), then Samaria (other cultures), then unto the uttermost parts (where we have no presence yet). And the keys to health and growth are set out in Acts where the church that “added to its numbers daily” (that’s at least 365 converts a year) is described in detail. What were they doing?

A very skilled committee studied that question and developed the (new) corps evaluation that replaced the previous annual corps review. A tool, based on the successful Acts church’s activities, and asking questions affirmed by research as being reflective of church growth principles proven to be effective in churches across the denominational spectrum. We already have (in our own back yard) “acres of diamonds” in the form of a tool that can help a corps self-diagnose its health and address weak areas. Better still, it helps a corps measure itself against its own potential, rather than being compared to others. It truly is a “diamond” although, some may say, it has no value since it did not come from someone else’s back yard!

Digging for diamonds we already have, or chasing after every “seemingly magic bullet?”

Which can we really afford to do?

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