59% of people in an independent survey when asked to give one word to describe The Salvation Army gave the word...music. Great...! A lovely talented salvation army officer gets the highest recognition in the salvation army – what for...music. Brilliant...! The Salvation Army has even bought the prestigious weekly magazine "The British Bandsman"...Fantastic...!
Is this our heartbeat? Our unequivocal, unmistakable identity? Old time Salvationist and holiness guru for many SL Brengle gives us a warning about when 'love leaks out'.
"...not enough to wear the uniform, to profess loyalty to Army leaders and principles, to give goods to feed the poor...we must love one another, making it the badge of our discipleship. 'If love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us'.
If love leaks out, we shall lose our identity, lose our crown. We might still house the homeless, dole out food to the hungry, punctiliously perform routine work, but the mighty ministry of the Spirit will no longer be our glory.
Our musicians will play meticulously and will revel in the artistry of song that tickles the ear but will leave the heart cold and hard. Officers will be accepted by Mayors and officials and be greeted by outsiders but God will not be among us. We shall still recruit our ranks and supply the Training College with cadets from our own young people, but we shall cease to be saviours of the lost sheep that have no shepherd."
Please our identity is not in our uniforms; our identity is not in our music; not in our principles; not in our function. Strip it all away and it doesn’t stop us being The Salvation Army. Strip away our pseudo-military trappings; our ranks; our music; songbook whatever – it doesn’t stop us being The Salvation Army. None of these things are our heartbeat. Strip away our foundation of 'whosoever' and we’ve got problems.
The moment love leaks out – particularly for our communities. The love for the unlovely. The love for the marginal. The love for the looked down on, the trivial, insignificant, irrelevant, the non-designer people that live fragmented lives all around us. The moment the love that is authentic and is grace centred leaks out – is the moment the heartbeat stops. The moment The Salvation Army stops being The Salvation Army.
A few visits to habbohotel has made me think - actually maybe this is not an internal bleat about The Salvation Army but about church per se. It’s interesting listening to emerging church chat with all their 'dot abbreviations'; their 'fixation with prefixes'. Listen to the issues. Watch the passions. Feel the enthusiasm. I love it, the banter, the creativity BUT remember the moment 'love leaks out' - the church is stuffed, the heart beat stops, identity lost.
[sorry if this bleat has been internal – every now and then it happens...!]