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tirsdag 14. februar 1995

Interview with General Paul Rader

My “Master-dissertation” was on “The Salvation Army and the Church Growth Principles". My working-hypothesis was: "No church is better suited for church growth than the Salvation Army" (a statement made by Peter Wagner in one of the seminars held on the subject). In connection with this paper, I was allowed an interview with General Paul Rader in his office on Tuesday Feb. 14th 1995. 
Here it is:

What value has the Church Growth Movement as you see it?

When I from 1971-73 was studying at Fuller I was acquainted with Donald McGavran whom I think it is right to say is the father of the CGM.  I felt that he stood for something that was in the spirit of the Founder. His priorities were right and his position in mission could just as well have been expressed by William Booth. He saw disciple-making as the ultimate aim of the mission.

William Booth was never satisfied with just the redemption of men. They had to be taken further. The target and main aim was to persuade them to become disciples.

I further found that the CGM had a substantial theological basis. Donald McGavran communicated this until his death. In the periodical: "Evangelical Quarterly" Arthur F. Glasser writes that he went to McGavran just before he died and asked him this question: "What is the most ignored fact in Church Growth theory?"
"The Lordship of Jesus Christ" was McGavrans answer. This is what gives us authority: "The Lordship of Jesus Christ".

When I was at Fuller, it was still the mission-work that showed the most interest in Church Growth theory. This was caused by a frustration over the fact that everything was regarded as mission. Missionaries were busy with everything but disciplemaking - the number of missionaries returning to take teaching-degrees is pointing in the same direction.

Win Arn and Peter Wagner came into the work and tried to set the right focus again. They started to measure results, which in some circles created resistance: "How is it possible to measure spiritual results?"

This is not a problem with us in the Salvation Army. We have measured our results as long as we have existed. But the CGM enabled churches to look at membership, face facts and ask questions like: Where are we going?

In addition to this we saw in the late 70s and early 80s a revival of evangelism end the fact that people must be born again. More and more churches became occupied with how to get results, and the looked to the CGM for help. I think it is right to stress that CG is not an "American thing".

The Salvation Army became interested in the CGM because it stands for something we have always wanted to do. General Orsborn said: "The main thing is to let the main thing remain the main thing", and this is still the main thing. We must do our part to fulfil the great commission and make men into disciples.

Would you say that to be a soldier and to be a disciple is the same thing?

We have no guarantee that a soldier is a disciple, bur it should be our aim that our soldier became disciples. I want a renewed focus on soldiership. We have 799.000 seniorsoldiers in the world today. I cannot see why we should not have 1 million who marched under the flag. We must build a seeker-sensitive-ministry, continue to reach new people, enhance the quality of the teaching we give our people and so on.

Would it not be easier to make adherency the target of the discipeling?

It is important the adherents feel that they are a part of our movement, bur we cannot fulfil our mission without soldiers. Without soldiers, no officers, without officers, no army. William Booth said very strongly that he did not want members, but soldiers. Today Salvationists are more church-conscious and the membership-thought has a fine spiritual connotation. Personally I think about the body of Christ in this context and Romans 6 that speaks about the limbs as servants for the good.

In what way has CG been adopted into the SA?

When I was the TP in the training college in New York, we had Ken Baillie on the staff. He was a very enthusiastic CG-man who came to USA from Canada where he had experienced success with the CG-principles as a corps-officer. I remember that he said: "Until we get the top leadership with us we will never see real growth in the army". Little did he know that I one day should be the general, and that he himself should be TP in USA-Central with great influence.

It was particularly under the leadership of general Eva Burrows that the CGM reached to the different parts of the Salvation Army world, and something very important happened when she took the initiative to the Strategy for Growth Conference in 1989. She was herself very interested in CG and had seen it functioning in different parts of the world. May be her most important contribution was that she gave people permission to try out new things.

One of the results from the Strategy-Conference was that many territories appointed CG-secretaries and made growth a main emphasis. But CG is not a "cut and glue" program with simple solutions, we need to make people disciples, that is an indisputable fact.

Which territories have had success with the CGP?

Personally I have seen growth in Korea and in USA-West. CG depends very much on goal setting. Canada showed an interest in the CGP at a very early stage, and I think that they will be ready to confess that they have not reached the goals they had hoped for. At the same time I think the territory has learned a lot and seen things they would not have seen if it was not because of this effort.

The Southern territory in Australia can report on successful corps-plantings, and even India is experiencing exciting things in the growth-area.

One of our fastest growing territories is East-Africa, but this is happening without any special focus on CG. McGavran would be the first to admit the validity of this, because the Holy Spirit is sovereign. The theory does not function without the Spirit, but the Spirit can function independent of the theory. J. Edmund Orr spoke on this subject in a lecture, and underlined the difference between mechanics and dynamics in the Kingdom of God.

What kind of growth-strategies has the international SA?

CG is very much a question of leadership, and I do particularly think of the factor of motivation. A leader must know the will of God, have a vision and so get people to see the same vision. This demands a lot of prayer and a focus on the right priorities.

It is important to show that CG is very much in line with what we in the SA are already dedicated to. If our people are convinced about this, things can start to happen. Only when a goal becomes the goal of the people, it can be reached.

To set goal must always be our priority. We must let our people share partnership, ownership and stewardship in this order. We have occasionally turned the order in the SA, but it is difficult to motivate people for stewardship, if they do not feel partnership and ownership. If we get them to this point they will see that to be faithful involves being fruitful.

Thinking about CG - what do you see as the strengths of the SA?

Both Eddie Gibbs and Peter Wagner stress the importance of looking at strengths, and I see it as far more important to focus on our strengths than on our weaknesses.

The first thing I will mention is the unity. In the SA we have a very clear sense of mission. A lot of churches exist for a variety of reasons, but we know very well why we exist. If we do not win souls, we are not doing our job.

Discipline is also an important factor. Soldiers know what is expected of them. In the same way we could say that the dedication of our soldiery is a very important resource. They can be mobilised.

Many young adults will appreciate the practical aspects of the SA. They are give an opportunity to serve, and I think that a lot of people today will want to take part in a practical Christianity.

To serve is not depending on e.g. financial resources. I remember visiting a poor island in the Pacific. The island was influenced by the atomic test bombing in the area. The SA there had no economy and small resources, but I remember the pride of one of the Salvationists as he showed me his "League of Mercy- card" and told how happy he was for the opportunity to serve.

I think that our commitment to evangelism is an important asset. The same can be said about the dedication of our officers, and in that connection I should mention the appointment system. Much can be said about this, but it is a strength that we can move human resources to an area where we see a need.

There is also something that tie us together in the army, and that is our common identity. We belong to a greater context. I have spoken to many who envy us this international fellowship.

Last but not least, I will mention the treasure the SA has in the "good-will" we enjoy in the public. In the USA we often said: "God help us to become as good as people think we are!" This "good-will" is definitely a great resource for us.

You mentioned that you preferred to speak about strength rather than weakness. Do you see any weaknesses?

I could mention quite a few things, but just mention a couple of things that I see as a challenge. There is no doubt that the uniform is a great advantage in many areas. It opens up a lot of possibilities, but quite a few are also turned of because of it. I can understand that a newcomer who finds that 2/3 of the congregation are in uniform, will feel a bit left out. In addition to this we know that a lot of people love the SA, but would not for anything in the world carry its uniform. We face a challenge here. How can we keep the advantages of the uniform without turning people off? Uniform-wearing is without doubt one of the privileges of the soldiery.

William Booth was a pragmatist, and his letter to the first contingent missionaries to India gives advices about adaptability, but without letting this interfere with our characteristics. I wonder if he had the uniform in mind when he wrote this? You will find this letter at the back of Booth-Tucker´s autobiography.

Another challenge we face is the use of "codes" in our meetings, a language that only the "insiders" understand. We must be more conscious about the people we want to reach.

I could have listed a long list of challenges, but as I said, it is more encouraging to see the possibilities that lay in our strengths.

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The title of the dissertation is: "Do something!" here is the Norwegian version: "Gjør noe!"

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