Where there’s a will
by Terry Camsey, Major –
JESUS LIVES…but the church is dead!
It was a strange juxtaposition that I noticed as I drove down a major street in the city where we live. First I spotted the sign on the side of the building, “JESUS LIVES!” It was in bold, colorful lettering with a rainbow running through it. Then, as I drove past the building itself, I noticed that it was severely neglected and that all the windows were boarded up. Obviously dead!
I was reminded of something that General Bramwell Tillsley (Ret.) had written years ago in The Officer magazine (August 1985) and later referred to again when he was elected to the generalship of the Army. He had written about the life cycle of religious organizations within which he identified three phases: movement, institution, and museum. He wondered whether the Army had now (that was in 1985, 20 years ago) entered stage two, having regressed from a movement into an institution.
An institution, he suggested, became more oppressive and ever encroaching on those personal freedoms and initiatives through which the Holy Spirit would like to flow. He quoted William Fisher’s suggestion that, “The institutional man soon begins to substitute prestige for passion, program for piety, pressure for power, statistics for souls, success for sanctity, and before long he substitutes the executive mind for the shepherd’s heart.”
“In an institution,” said Tillsley, “human plans and programs tend to replace leadership of the Spirit.” In our programming do we not tend to play it safe? What are we presently attempting that we cannot accomplish without an intervention of the Lord? Is it not true that most of us live our lives within the narrow limits of what we can do in our own strength and with our own gifts and talents? In an institution, enthusiasm and spontaneity begin to wane.
Now “institution” is just the middle of the three stages he identifies. Let me tell you a secret—in many teaching sessions over the past 20 years, which embraced a variety of Army personnel representing countries all over the Army world (including a number of ICO sessions), I have described the symptoms of each of the three stages General Tillsley identified, then asked those people where they think the Army is in the life cycle. Do you know what? They, without fail, have all said that they feel we are past the institutional stage and entering the museum stage. This is the body itself identifying what it feels to be its state of health.
But back to the sign with its rainbow. A rainbow signifies a promise of God’s love. Jesus promised, “I will build my church.”
I (not you) will (with or without your help) build (it will increase in both size and spiritual stature) my (primarily for my purposes rather than for your pleasure) church (my body here on earth).
Let me change direction slightly. In an article entitled “The Measure of Success,” published in a major newspaper in late December 2005, Thomas L. Friedman suggested the following in referring to conducting a war. I am paraphrasing somewhat:
We are an Army, and that itself begs the question, “Why be a soldier if you don’t intend to fight?”
A schoolteacher once spelled out on the chalkboard the word A.P.A.T.H.Y and asked his disinterested students what it meant. One responded, “I don’t know, and I don’t care!”
He obviously lacked both commitment to a cause and the will to pursue it.