Us and the Church
Just to keep things clear from the start. If I say Church I'm referring to the Church Universal, the Body of Christ, the collective name for all Christians; if I say church I'm referring to some particular congregation.

This is the last of three posts exploring what we're doing here, our connection to The Salvation Army and our relationship with the Church. I've already explained our vision for our mission here (which is always up for reinterpretation by God) and our ongoing (if slightly strange) connection to the "Army", so all that remains is trying to explore our place in the Church.

Without wanting to offend anyone, the majority of churches here in Cornwall (like many across the country) are very traditional in their form. They are full of people who sadly don't really understand what salvation is (or what they are saved from) and who are more interested in raising money to maintain their building than saving people from eternal damnation. I don't blame any of these people, this has been going on for years - the less personal Christianity became the less people had a need for it.

Eventually Christianity became so watered down that people went one of three ways:
  1. Reject the whole thing because it's a waste of time
  2. Look deeper to see if there's something more to it
  3. Stick with it, because at least it makes me a better person and helps me meet other people
Thankfully, my Christian heritage is from the second group. A lot of the churches of the land are filled with the third group.

Grace, the church that we've connected with here, is definitely part of that second group, but unfortunately the other churches it seems are mostly toward the third group (although there are definitely some second-way Christians in Looe not connected to Grace). So in terms of our connection to a church, that's definitely Grace here, but also very much The Salvation Army (see my last post).

What we're doing here, however, may lead us to do something entirely new (at least in Looe) - not that we particularly want to start a church. I'm starting to feel that we may be called to work with that first group - people who have rejected church or can't connect with churchy-ways of doing things. Also, unfortunately, Grace has a bit of a bad rep here with 18 year old rumours still flying round - this may prevent some from being able to make a first step into church.

The theologians talk about postmodernity and postchristendom, but to sum it up briefly: people don't think and live the way they used to and old forms of church don't really work any more. Therefore we'd be looking at ways of meeting people where they're at - this probably won't involve preaching on street corners, more one-on-one conversations, but who knows?

The most important thing is that whatever we do, we will be part of the Church. The people who join us, whether or not they choose to attend or affiliate themselves with any other church, will still be a legitimate part of the body of Christ.
Our Connection to The Salvation Army
Having reiterated our vision and mission here in Looe, the next big question to address is our relationship to The Salvation Army.

This is a question we've been asked quite a few times in several forms since we first announced our plans. Are we doing this with the Army? Have we left the Army?

The short answer to both is No. We're not doing this with the Army, but neither have we left. The long answer gets a little bit more complicated, but I'll try and break it down a little.

1. We're Salvationists
First of all, we're both Salvation Soldiers. That means we're covenanted soldiers in an Army of Salvation. Our covenant is not just with The Salvation Army, but more importantly with God Himself.
Our covenant has led us to this point and is in some way guiding our actions, so is our knowledge of Army history - although we're doing stuff a lot slower than the Army pioneers worked. They would've started from day 1 and have a large corps or 2 planted by now...
One other thing, since I am called into full-time ministry as a Salvation Army officer it would be useful to maintain my status as an enrolled soldier, otherwise I will need to renew that enrolment at such a time as we return.

2. We're serving God
It's important to keep reiterating the fact that we're here because God called us. God doesn't care so much about denominations and stuff like that. We are designed to be a single Body of Christ, so He doesn't mind who we come representing, as long as it's Him!
It's not like we've abandoned God and the Church universal and have become heathens. We're not lost sheep, we've just relocated temporarily to a different flock...

3. We've not abandoned the Army
We both love the Army and although it is going through a time of strife, particularly in this country, we believe that God still has a plan, a hope and a future for The Salvation Army - but only as and when it returns to purpose.
Importantly, we both believe strongly that there is indeed "sin in the camp"1 and this must be removed and/or otherwise dealt with in order for The Salvation Army to move on - this must be done by all Soldiers and leaders!
We miss parts of the Army, but on the other hand, the freedom that has come by worshipping "out of our comfort zone" has enabled us to move closer to God and understand other Christians better.

4. Our ministry will have a Salvationist flavour
The people we reach will be "Saved to Save" and "Saved to Serve". Those that want to will be taught extensively about Salvation Army history and mission, those that don't will be drip fed Salvationist ideas...
People will be well educated in the urgency of their mission; they will be trained and disciplined using Sword and Knee drills; and they will be invited to take up covenant (perhaps even soldiership).
We'll help our converts to see "Heathen England", to become "Love Slaves" and to engage in "Aggressive Christianity".

I often think that it might be entirely possible that if the group that forms around us are willing, they may well become a "society" (a recognised group not led by an officer) and be the future of a corps here in Looe. Somehow I can't see that happening in our time, but it might.

Our Purpose Here
In the first of a few posts I want to explore our purpose here, our connection to Salvationism, the Salvation Army and the wider Church. Today we're going to start with our purpose and mission here.

Our mission is summed up well in the mission statement at the top of the blog:
To push back the darkness and claim the land for God
To Save Souls, Grow Saints, Train Warriors and serve suffering humanity.
I took a quick look over the posts I've made and I was really surprised to see that in the initial rush I never posted anything about our original vision, so let's start there:

We need to go back to about 6 months-1 year before Lucy and I were married. At that point when we were planning our future (where we were going to live, what jobs we were going to do) and were undertaking marriage preparation classes a word was given to us.

I was living in Reading where I was finishing my degree but we didn't really have any intention of staying there. Lucy was from the country and I prefer the country having grown up there, that's what we wanted to go to when we married. Lucy particularly likes the South West but as a realist I was also looking north for a good combination of jobs and low cost of living. I was looking for (and applying) for graduate jobs in Cornwall, Reading (and surrounding areas) and Leeds.

The word was this: "Take St. Martin's road"

It came from a very respected friend of ours. We truly believed this was from God! So I looked for St. Martin's roads in all 3 areas, but due to the lack of jobs in Cornwall didn't really pay much attention to that part of the search.

Anyway, strangely I got a job in none of those places but close enough to Reading to commute (if you like commuting). 6 months later things appear to be going well and we're starting to settle, living the life that everyone else was living (spending all your time getting to/from work and never having time to enjoy the great money you're earning).

Not long after we had moved there the true meaning of the "rat race" started to dawn on me and it was particularly depressing for someone who feels their true vocation in life is full-time ministry. I started to beg God:
"Call me now. Please? If not Officership yet, how about envoy-ship?" (Envoys are non-ordained lay leaders who give 3 years of their life at a time to full-time ministry)

Then a recurring dream and day-dream started to happen (at least to me): quite simply it was Lucy and I standing on a street corner in Salvation Army uniform. Between us we usually had a flag, a drum and a brass instrument of some type. The street corner was in a quaint sea-side village. The calling seemed pretty clear so we started to pray about it, we prayed over maps of Cornwall and we asked a few trusted other people to also pray for this decision.

We eventually found a St. Martin's road in Looe which was our route in. In order to get into Looe we'd have to take "St. Martin's Road". We prayed more, but it seemed clear that this was the place (this has definitely been confirmed since we arrived).

Once we decided that we were going to follow God's call, we had to make some decisions. Our rental contract was up for renewal in August, rather than sign up for another 6 months it seemed like this was the opportune time to go. Why waste time when God is calling?

We didn't think anyone would understand. We hated the thought of having to explain this to our parents. Would they understand? 3 of them are Christian, but we still weren't sure. We prayed that God would tell them for us... He didn't do quite that, but He did prepare the way and most people we told were excited and encouraged us.

Lots of things happened on the way, but we ended up here. First and foremost our mission, as stated in the first post, is to fulfil the great commission to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I [Jesus] have commanded you." So that's the "Save Souls" bit of our mission statement.

We think it's possible that we may end up starting a new congregation or network of congregations along the lines of organic church/simple church/informal church. That covers the "Grow Saints" and "Train Warriors".

We also both feel very strongly about actual spiritual warfare and facing some stuff head on, so we may get involved in some of that if/when necessary. That's the first line "To push back the darkness and claim the land for God".

There's also the serving of suffering humanity, which we'll do as and when.

Finally it's worth mentioning that we're not here to compete with or clash with any of the established church congregations here. If someone else is doing something better we'll work with them and point people in their direction. There's no point duplicating and fighting with other Christians. But I guess this leads nicely into my next post about our relationship with The Salvation Army and the Church universal...
Sorry for the silence
Hey folks!

Sorry for the recent silence! Let me just say that it's not because nothing is happening!

The prayer group meeting in our home every Wednesday 2-3pm is growing and is really exciting. We're able to hear a lot of what God is doing here in Looe, which is great.

We've had a few people asking what we're doing here and what our relationship is to The Salvation Army (importantly whether we've turned our back on it). Short answer(s): we're still trying to determine what we're here for exactly and we haven't turned our back on the "Army". Over the next few weeks I want to explore what we're here for and our relationship to the Army - hopefully make it clearer for you and us ;-)

One other thing, I'm reading some interesting stuff at the moment, so I'd like to distil (sp?) some of the interesting and relevant stuff onto this blog.

Happy new year to you all!