Soldier Up, or, Don't.

There are a lot of things I love about being part of The Salvation Army. There are also things that totally drive me crazy. That being said, I want to approach an issue with as much grace and an attempt at understanding a different opinion as possible.

The New Frontier magazine (available at a Kroc Center receptionist’s desk near you), Volume 30, Number 09, featured a front page story by Karen Gleason and Amy Jorgens entitled “Soldier Numbers Rise In The West.” It seems that soldiers (Salvation Army church members) are on the rise in the Western Territory of the United States.

First off, that’s great. I’m a soldier. I teach soldiership classes. The commitment to being a soldier is one of the things, in my opinion, that is great about The Salvation Army. What bothers me about this article is a quote by Reno, Nevada Corps officer Major Janene Zielinski. The article says:

Offering adherency as a viable and attainable church membership option is also helping to grow the corps. “People (young families) are responding by the boatload,” she said. “They are thrilled to be accepted, valued and not judged for where they are in their spiritual walk at the moment.”

To be fair, I don’t know Major Zielinski, and have no idea what the context of this quote was outside of where I read it in the article. However, all I have to go on is this quote and there are several things that rub me the wrong way.

It was an adherent member of our church that pointed this article out to me. Jeff is a member of our music team (he leads about 25% of the time these days), he’s a member of our Corps Council (sort of a TSA deacon’s board), he serves on the Social Services committee, his wife (also an adherent) is an employee of the Corps and oversees our children’s ministry and their whole family are models of faithful service to Jesus. Jeff was totally appalled by the above quote. The way he took it (and the way I read it) is that those that choose to become soldiers are somewhere ahead in their spiritual walk of those that choose to become adherents. It seems like Major Zielinski is trying to communicate that adherents are accepted while at the same time labeling them as spiritually inferior. It’s totally possible that I am taking the statement “not judged for where they are in their spiritual walk at the moment” the wrong way. I would like to know how I should take it if so.

I think there are two extremes when it comes to this issue. One is that soldiers are clearly superior and adherents (which I have on good authority is a word we shouldn’t be using anymore – they are members) are just dodging their responsibility as Salvationists. Soldiers do commit to a pretty strict way of living life. The Soldier’s Covenant (aka, The Articles of War) contains lines like:

I will be responsive to the Holy Spirit’s work and obedient to His leading in my life…

I will uphold Christian integrity in every area of my life, allowing nothing in thought, word or deed that is unworthy, unclean, untrue, profane, dishonest or immoral…

I will abstain from alcoholic drink…

…giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army…

Those are just a few of the commitments that soldiers make. The entire member’s covenant says that they:

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and seek to follow Him

Participate through worship, fellowship and service at a local Salvation Army corps

Identify with the mission of The Salvation Army

So, if a soldier is the real deal and the member is being “valued and not judged for where they are in their spiritual walk at the moment,” why do we even have members in the first place? If the call to join our army is soldiership, why would we lower the bar just to get more people on our rolls? If soldiership is where it’s at, it totally seems to me that members are cop-outs and the army that created that “adherent member” was just trying to pad its statistics by making it easier to get signatures. Again, that’s a harsh accusation, and I am fully prepared to be corrected, but that’s just what it seems like to me.

The other extreme is that soldiers and members are the same. I think this is both true and false. The big question is,are we disciples of Jesus? That’s the club that the Bible forms: the church. Members, adherents, soldiers, officers, those are all things that we have made up since. I don’t have a problem with that, but we can’t forget the categories that God’s Word puts us in in favor of categories that we make up for ourselves. So it one sense, the sense that my good friend and TSA member Jeff is operating from, soldiers and members are the same: disciples of Jesus Christ who seek to live out the mission of His church with The Salvation Army.

However, soldiers are also different, and I hope that’s what Major Zielinski was getting at. Soldiers are called not only to identify with Jesus and His mission in specific ways, we are called to identify with The Salvation Army in specific ways. If I am taking my soldier’s covenant seriously, I am limiting my personal freedoms, sacrificially giving of my resources, and seeing myself as an ambassador of Christ through The Salvation Army. Can members do all those things? Yes they can, but they don’t have to commit to doing them, and they aren’t committing to do them while taking into account the values and needs of The Salvation Army.

In our church, there are certain things that only members can do, like lead a Community Group. Why? Because I want to know that they have taken a class (where they learn all about our church), that they really are Christians (as much as we can tell), and that they can represent both the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Kroc Church whenever they are asked. The members of our church love Jesus, are generous givers, volunteer their time in service and believe in what we are doing.

Soldiers are a little different. We always have fewer soldiers to enroll than members, but if you become a soldier, you are telling me that you aren’t just committed to the Gospel, but you are committed to the leadership of our church and our philosophy of ministry. You are a soldier in the army and you are willing to do what it takes to get the job done. If you are soldier, it might take me a while, but I’m gonna find you a job to do, and in a perfect world, I’m not going to have to make a lot of accommodation for you to do it.

So, where does that leave me and the quote from the New Frontier? Frustrated. Frustrated that we sometimes see officers as more committed to Jesus than soldiers. Frustrated that we see soldiers as more committed to Jesus than members. If you are part of Kroc Church, do I want you to become a soldier? Yes. If you prayerfully consider it and decide to become a member instead, do I look at you as less than me? No. The Salvation Army soldier is not given a higher calling than any other Christian, just a different one. And depending on your views on alcohol, it’s not even a radically different one.


Soldier Up, or, Don't.

Anthropomorphisms, or, F Major's A Lovely Lady

Do you ever give genders and personalities to inanimate objects or concepts? Throughout history, ships and cars have been designated as “ladies.” There are probably many other examples of common things that we think of as being male or female and give human characteristics to. Here is an example.

I don’t know why, but for as long as I can remember, I have assigned gender and personality to notes in the musical scale. I have never really identified a correlation between my anthropomorphisms and the way the notes sound, but there might be a link.

C Major is male. He is unassuming, but confident. He can be passionate and lively, in the right situation, but he can also function equally well as the wallflower at the party. He has a couple good friends, F and G.

D, who is a close friend with G but can’t stand F and doesn’t get along with C, is also male. He is sweet, charming, a little boyish and silly. He catches the eyes of the ladies more so than C, but he’s not as nuanced and interesting once you get to know him. G is a close friend, as well as A.

E is somewhat of a pompous jerk. If he drove a car, it would be a fast one. If he had a house, it would be a big one. He makes up for lack of depth and character with the sheer awesomeness of his presence. He runs around with a lady on each arm: A and B.

F is classy. She is a full figured woman, with all the right kinds of tastes. She appreciates the calm confidence of C. She has a temper, but it is shaped by wisdom and poise. She can’t stand B though, and does everything in her power to wreck her day.

G is warm and gentle. He is equally at home at a party or in a reading room. C and D are his two best friends.

A is a lot like G, but she would never admit it. She loves the reckless confidence of E and the crazy antics of D. She is light and airy and is always brightening rooms and turning heads.

B is brazen, unforgiving and conceited. She is condescending and outright mean at times. There is nothing that can stand in the way of her getting whatever she wants, and she has the means to live her life as she pleases. She keeps E around for laughs, but she doesn’t really care about anyone but herself.

There you go. I promise, since I was a little boy, I have thought of the notes on the piano is just those terms. If you know anything about music, it’s apparent that the notes hang out with one another based on their relationships as tonic, dominant and sub-dominant chords in the scale. The notes don’t get along when one key sharps or flats another. For example, B is so self-centered because in her key, all the notes but E are sharped. I don’t know why my mind interprets that as relational strife, but it does. I’m sure this has to do with learning to play in the key of B on the piano. It’s one of the hardest ones for a young student to master. This kind of thinking is so ingrained in my mind that I always have a brief second thought whenever I play a song in B. I don’t like B. She’s a jerk.

So, is it just me? Am I alone in my crazy anthropomorphisms? I think not.

Anthropomorphisms, or, F Major's A Lovely Lady

Yes, We Have No Roast Beef, or This Job Would Be A Lot Easier Without All You Customers

Sunday afternoon the family and I were driving home from a great 4 days in Seattle visiting family and hanging out. It was lunch time and we were in Ellensburg, Washington so we stopped at Arby’s for some sandwiches. I’ve always felt like Arby’s was just a little higher on the fast food chain than some of the burger options. I’m sure at some point I felt like eating there would be a healthier option than Burger King. I don’t think that anymore, but I am still attracted to Arby’s when I want something just a little fancier than a cheap burger or taco.

Irrational reasoning or not, we drove up to Arby’s and went inside. There was quite a line. Lots of Arby’s folk in the back making food, and one lone girl at the register. She was trying to make the best of it, but, at that moment on that day, her world sucked. You see, Arby’s had run out of roast beef. At least, they had run out of prepared roast beef. As I neared the front of the line, someone was frantically pulling chunks of hot meat out from some hot meat maker in the back and throwing them on an automatic meat slicer where another someone was just as frantically pulling them off piece by piece, weighing them and make sandwiches as fast as the slicer would let him.

The hard thing for April (that was the girl at the register) is that she was being told, pretty regularly, that she needed to let all the customers know that any beef product would be a ten minute wait. I think this was supposed to disuade the customers from ordering beef products. It wasn’t working. Why wasn’t it working? Because all of these shenanigans were taking place at Arby’s. The roast beef sandwich place. April was making the best of it though. She asked the customer in front of me what name to put on the order. “Connie.” “That’s the name of my car,” she said. “What?”  “Yeah, I have a Lincoln Continental. I call her Connie.”

I ordered my roast beef sandwiches, much to April’s chagrin, and went to the side to stand and watch. Each customer heard the same warning that the customer before them did: “Any beef sandwiches will be a 10 minute wait.” No one changed their resolve for beef. At one point, the manager, or at least the girl in charge of the shift, after continuing to see beef sandwich orders appear on the monitors around the kitchen, came up, again, to make sure that April was telling her patrons that there would be a long wait for beef. April assured her that she was informing each one of the perils.

As I put in my 10 minutes, it was fascinating how frustrated the staff was about the beef. Now, I’m sure they were frustrated about there not being beef: whose fault was it that there was no beef right at lunch, is there anyway to bypass some steps in order to get beef faster, etc., but the way that their frustrations kept coming out was: why do you people keep ordering beef?

It’s funny how we misdirect legitimate frustrations toward those totally not responsible for our problems. The way we see a solution, but it doesn’t involve hard work, an apology and possibly personal loss, but instead a scapegoat that we can blame. The right thing to do would have been to suck it up, apologize profusely and give everyone free sodas (that’s not even a statistically significant personal loss but it would have gone a long way) but instead the staff decided to blame all those pesky customers for their problems. If only we had gone to Taco Bell on Sunday, Arby’s would have never run out of beef.

I only stayed long enough to get my ‘Shroom and Swiss Roast Beef, Regular Roast Beef, Jr. Roast Beef and Large curly fry, but as I was walking out the door it became clear that the staff of the Ellensburg Arby’s was going to get their wish: the shift leader announced that instead of just being behind on beef slicing, the restaurant had actually run out of beef. I’m sure the line subsided shortly thereafter.

Yes, We Have No Roast Beef, or This Job Would Be A Lot Easier Without All You Customers

Totally Oblivious, or I'm More Important Than You Except You Don't Know It

Ok, here’s a thought. You know when you are walking behind someone and they can’t see you, and you’re trying to pass them but they keep shifting their weight slightly and you aren’t really sure of what direction they are going but they seem to block you every time that you try to get around them but it’s not really their fault because they don’t even know you are there? You know, that?

Or, when someone cuts in front of you in a line but they aren’t trying to be rude because they didn’t see you?

We spent the weekend in Seattle with Jo’s brother and his wife. They are great. But, this means also that we did the obligatory Seattle things: Woodland Park Zoo, Pacific Science Center, Ikea. All those things are great in and of themselves, but I find myself in the above situations constantly when I am in large crowds. I really hate it. People make me angry. Why don’t they simply widen their field of view in order to perceive me!? Am I not important enough to be perceived?? Now in reality, no, I am not. But I feel as though I should be. I care SO MUCH about my life, my agenda, my walking path. Why don’t others?

I have felt this way all my life, but lately I have begun to think: I wonder how many times I act like that? How many times am I the one slightly adjusting my walking pace and direction so as to inadvertently block someone behind me? How many times have I rudely cut in line in front of someone without even knowing it? Probably lots. Thinking like this helps me have patience when others make me angry. It’s not their fault, and when I do it to you, remember that it’s not my fault either.

Totally Oblivious, or I'm More Important Than You Except You Don't Know It

I Want To Do Everything, or I Think I'll Be A Videographer Today

I don’t want to do everything that there is to be done, but I do want to do a lot of things. I recently completed the creation of a video for my bosses’ going away party and I loved just about every minute of it. Except for the rendering. Lord save us from the rendering. Now, I’m not that great at it (I spent the evening after its debut going frame by frame with my wife on all the things I wished I had done differently) but I’m reasonably competent and I believe I would get better with time. The problem is, I don’t have any more time for another skill set.

There are days where I think I’m a preacher. Days where I fancy myself a worship leader. At other times I think I could be a writer, or a recording engineer, or a producer, or a videographer, or a concert promoter, or et cetera et cetera et cetera. Now in reality, I have a fairly narrow set of talents. I can speak and write decently, I have a reasonably good ear, and a marginally good eye. That’s about it. I can’t create anything with my hands, can’t draw, can’t do physical art in any form, I’m not naturally good with children, and my people skills are something I put on for special occasions. I live with, work with and know many people who’s gifts and talents constantly impress me, partially because I don’t share them.

That said, as I grow in my gifts, I see the need to specialize. I don’t have the time and energy to get better at everything that I enjoy doing. I have to choose. My personality won’t allow for that. So, instead, I get crazy about different things at different times. Last week I was editing video and thinking it might be super fun to do it more often and actually figure out what I am doing. A couple days ago I was a songwriter. Today I am planning another conference and tomorrow I will be putting together a Community Group training. I have to confess to a certain dissatisfaction with any one of these things that prevents me from doing the others depending on the mood I’m in.

I anticipate that this feeling will only get worse as time goes by. I hope that I will continue to have the time to grow in at least some of the things that I somewhat enjoy while I focus on the things I most enjoy and that I am, more importantly, called to for the glory of God and the good of His people. I’m not sure today what the difference between “somewhat” and “most” is. What I can take comfort in is that I know it’s not pottery. I’m terrible at that.

I Want To Do Everything, or I Think I'll Be A Videographer Today

The Gathering, or Your Horn Is Cramping My Style

Every 15 years or so (at least that’s what I’m told) The Salvation Army in the western United States holds a territorial congress. This is a big weekend full of meetings, concerts, theater, workshops, food, etc. The first weekend in June was my first congress. It was called “The Gathering” and that’s what we did: there were over 5,000 Salvationists present from Alaska, down the west coast, Hawaii, Guam, the whole territory was represented. It was pretty cool. This event immediately followed Boot Camp at the same location, the Pasadena Convention Center. A couple thoughts:

1. At Boot Camp, Kara Powell of Fuller Youth Institute taught on how church can be compared to the “adult table, kids table” arrangement at holiday meals. All the basics are the same, but the kids are segregated and separated. The tone and feel of their meal is markedly different from the adults. Bill Davenport actually pointed this out to me, but Boot Camp was the kids table. Everything there was specially arranged for the youth workers in attendance. As soon as The Gathering started, the tone and feel of the week changed drastically. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, just an observation. I’d like to criticize it, but I’m not sure if I can.

2. That brings me to #2. I hate it when, at the close of the message at our church, people get up to leave. It’s my assumption that they don’t understand the importance of musical worship, they are self-centered and not concerned about the body as a whole, church is all about their private consumption of an entertaining message, blah, blah, blah. It really gets on my nerves. I especially dislike it when I believe that individuals choose to come to church late or leave early because they don’t like the style of music being played. I make the musical choices that I do for a lot of reasons (which I might write about later) but I find it annoying when someone’s perception of what good music is doesn’t allow them to see through their preference and worship with the assembled body.

Having said all that, I was that guy at The Gathering. My party almost always came late and definitely left early. I was absolutely interested in hearing the word of God delivered by the General (our international leader) but totally disinterested in the pomp and pageantry of the rest of the meetings. Now, I could come up with a list of “holy” reasons why I have “theological” or “philosophical” problems with the liturgy of the event, but the bottom line is I just don’t like it. It doesn’t relate to my past or current experience; I have trouble connecting with the forms used, and the rituals are foreign to me.

There are many people in the army that have problems with the way we do church. I definitely have my thoughts on this, but my realization at The Gathering was that I can very easily become the guy that I am so easily annoyed with. All it takes is a liturgy that is not my “style” and I become the person that I so easily accuse of carnality, self-centeredness, or lack of understanding of corporate worship.

The truth is, there were a whole lot of people at The Gathering that were blessed by the services as a whole (I still loved what the General had to say). If I had been in charge of the corporate worship experience, it would have gone differently, and I would have probably created an environment that was foreign and disinteresting to many in that population.  With 5,000 people from a whole bunch of different backgrounds, you can never please everyone. I don’t have any wisdom on that front. I do hope though, the next time someone walks out of service in The Kroc while we are singing “From The Inside Out” or “The Stand” when I think everyone should be rushing the altar, that I am a little less judgmental and a little more understanding of the foreign culture that I am presenting to some in our church. If my role is to lead our people in corporate worship, I need to be aware of how to guide them into the forms that I am presenting and help them navigate what is foreign. Maybe “when we’ve been there 10,000 years” the church will have this multi-generational thing figured out. I look forward to it.

The Gathering, or Your Horn Is Cramping My Style