Salvation Army Focus Groups Submit Topics to 2004 Forum

( [email protected] ) Sep 30, 2004 08:43 PM EDT

Representatives from The Salvation Army are currently in Thailand for the Lausanne 2004 Forum for World Evangelization. Meanwhile, the Army’s focus groups have recently been submitting topics on roadblocks to evangelism.

Approximately 1,800 Christian leaders are attending the gathering which began on Sept. 29 and goes until Oct. 5.

Most Salvation Army focus groups acknowledge that ‘Relationships are fundamental to the task of evangelization’ in their submissions.

The full text of the submissions on The Salvation Army’s Web site states:

The group statement on Evangelisation of Children says it succinctly:

·Evangelisation of children is all about engaging with children and building relationships is at the heart of the matter. (Children)

But this is echoed in many of the other submissions:

·We seek to re-centre the Great Commission in the Great Commandment. ‘Church’ will decreasingly mean a place one attends, and will increasingly mean a community to which one belongs, who share a common mission and a common spiritual practice, rooted in a common experience of what is going on in the community. (Diaspora)

·evangelization needs to start with identification with the people, in contrast to the ‘colonial’ approach. (Two Thirds World)

·People who are highly literate and technologically aware, as well as those who are traumatised or dispossessed, often hunger for someone to actually talk and listen to them. (Oral Learners)

·the call to the worldwide Salvation Army, at this stage, is a three layered and yet integrated, relational approach. We need to reach, evangelize and disciple (code RED). (Youth)

·Jesus' example of inclusive love inspires and motivates the 21st century Church to find a pathway which enables and encourages pastoral care of all people without discrimination, no matter what their family status. . . (Non-traditional Families)

When referring to the kinds of leaders the Church needs, the group calls for:

·people willing to develop deep and costly relationships with team members. (Leadership)

There’s even a relational emphasis in the call to prayer

·Prayer can be defined as right link with God. By developing openings for prayer alongside our evangelism, we can connect people to God in a more personal way. (Prayer and Evangelism)

Some emphasise the importance of maintaining well-tried methods:

· showing from Scripture that the Jesus of the gospels is the Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures; showing why the gospels, especially Matthew – are truly reliable documents. (Reaching Jews)

But generally the groups question the value of many traditional forms of evangelism.

·relying on past techniques (such as ‘open airs’, campaigns) far from promoting the Christian faith can actually inhibit evangelism. (Education for Evangelisation)

There are also calls for fresh and imaginative approaches:

·evangelism is (not) about bringing people into our individual churches – it is about making disciples of Jesus Christ. (Marketplace Ministry)

·Not all children come to the Sunday School/Church but now is the time for the Church to go to the children. (Children)

·Pre-Christians who observe Christians not merely routinely following ‘religious’ forms, but joyfully responding to the presence of God in relationship, and who hear the Word of explained in a relevant manner to their life and situation, are deeply impacted and evangelism takes place. (Redeeming the Arts)

·regard internet cafes and clubs as valuable outreach opportunities . . . imaginatively explore virtual worship, communion and fellowship opportunities. (Media and Technology)

·Empower corps for effective action by specifying results required rather than specific methods. (Local Church)

There is an unquestioned agreement that evangelism extends to social care, participation in community, stewardship of the earth's limited resources, advocacy and working to establish justice. (Holistic Mission) Here too the emphasis is on relationships:

·Meeting human needs and caring for hurting persons in the name of Jesus is a valued expression of the Gospel and is in itself a spiritual ministry (At Risk People)

·Salvationists should be seen to be actively involved with unbiased compassion and when opportunity arises, forthright evangelistic fervour. (Partnership?)

·The Church must be an advocate for moving the focus of globalization from commercial/capital/temporal motives to people/social/spiritual objectives (Globalisation)

·Collaboration extends beyond the boundaries of one’s place of worship and denomination. It promotes the dignity of human beings, the blessings of peace and a Christian spirit in every discipline and area of life. Forces that threaten the dignity of the human person such poverty, racism, consumerism and terrorism call for joint action. (Partnership)

·Advocacy campaigns can be effective in preventing breakdowns in the established gains toward greater human security and in enhancing healthy social, ethnic, and religious environments that together ensure collective security. (People at Risk)

·It also misinterprets the teaching of Scripture to believe that we must gloss over injustice and the sins of discrimination in the name of forgiveness. (Racial, Tribal and Ethnic Conflict)

The opportunities for evangelism in the workplace get special mention. The relational theme is there again:

·churches still need to encourage young people to explore the very influential professions of health care administration and health care policy-making as ways of faithfully living out their vocations, supporting them in their education and linking them with experienced mentors. (Bioethics)

·Christian business must of necessity be ‘fair trade’ at all levels of operation. This will be evident in the treatment of personnel and in the demands made on trading partners. (Business as Mission)

·Churches should be initiating workshops/conferences that address the issues of being a Christian in the workplace. (Marketplace Ministry)

There are questions and suggestions about supportive methods and resources. The statement on funding asks an important question:

·Is the link between funding support and evangelical effectiveness God-inspired, or a result of the organisational systems of the Church? It might be asked whether the provision of, and dependence on, external funding really promotes evangelisation - or might possibly hinder it! (Funding)

And in considering education for evangelism, the group highlights the importance of teaching and training every believer in the task of evangelism. This is not an optional extra for the gifted, or for the paid clergy. It draws attention to both formal and non-formal learning:


All Christians including Salvationists must be open to what the Spirit is teaching in the world today . . . Theological education must be geared to practical ministry. Theology and missiology are related disciplines. (Education)

When there is a call for self-examination within the Church it is largely about relationships:

·Many live in a guilt trap because they are not able to contribute as much as they feel they should to ‘local’ mission and they are not encouraged, affirmed or trained to see the marketplace as their mission field. (Marketplace Ministry)

·As long as the Church all over the world operates as hurting and unharmed, as privileged and under-privileged, as oppressed and oppressor, as "us and them", so long will we continue to blight the Body of Christ (Racial, Tribal and Ethnic Conflict)

Whilst recognising the Army to be an action-oriented denomination several groups call for a greater allocation of time to reflection and prayer:

·it is not the labourers but the ideas that are few! (Media)

·Balance our passion for action with time and energy for prayer and reflection; train our people to be thinkers as well as doers; participate in the wider theological reflections of our Army (Local Church)

·Mission which is not prayer-centred is, in the long run, powerless. (Prayer)

Our own spirituality is the beginning of relationships. Development of the spiritual life is the bed-rock of evangelism:

·the authentic lives of believers, which speak louder than any words (Oral Learners)

·The youth of today are searching for those who would be true to the words they share – would model lives of purity, joy and right choices- so that they can see and believe it can be done. (Youth)

·Affirming the movements of the Holy Spirit in postmodern spirituality; cultivating holiness in experience; undertaking spiritual formation in the praxis of healing the world. (Spirituality)

As the Lausanne Forum continues, the hopes of Salvationists are well stated:

·Partnership and collaboration between churches stems from the common life shared by each in the one body of Christ. Co-operation and commitment is hardly surprising. Scripture, prayer, worship and Christian belief are the rock-bed of godliness and wholesome human relationships. From this position of power in the Spirit, Christian unity and mission go forward. (Partnership)