ON SHALLOW OR DEEP LEVEL?
As most of the contributors to the officers´ magazine, I write from a context limited to experiences in my own territory and from what I hear, read and observe from other territories. The limitations are therefore of such a character that I probably should have let the whole subject rest until I had investigated the matter and could have come with profound facts resting on research found in approved dissertations or equivalent material.
When I despite the feeling of a shortcoming as far as facts go still write these words, it is due to a conviction that the question of unity in our church today, very much is a question of “yes” or “no” to God’s special visitation to cities and countries around the world.
The Salvation Army is a “popular” co-worker in ecumenical forums on international level, and I appreciate the fact that we are found in WCC, the Lausanne-treaty and take part in DAWN-conferences etc. Personally I enjoy the challenge I find as a member of “The Norwegian Theological Discussion Forum” where we discuss the papers published by WCC and where we in mutual respect try to find a common path of belief without compromising the doctrines of any of the participating churches.
I am also grateful for the fact that we over the recent years have seen that guest-speakers from other denominations have been given access to our pulpits in international and national SA-celebrations. This has definitely contributed to a broadening of our horizon as an Army of Salvation, without necessarily limiting “Army of Salvation” to our own church.
We move in the right direction, but I will still argue that this is ecumenical work on a rather shallow level. On international and national level, it is probably good that the situation remains as it is, but on the local level it must be an opening for a deeper fellowship among believers, and I think that we as ministers of the gospel, as pastors of His church – and He has only got one church, must be the front-liners in this venture. As a pastor in
, I do not only have 450 soldiers in my congregation – I have Oslo Temple 500.000 in my parish, but I share this parish and church with a number of wonderful pastors. We have to see that this is the case, and that we can benefit enormously from a fellowship of mutual blessing and encouragement in our effort to reach our common goal – the evangelisation of our cities.
Does this have any practical inclinations?
I will come with a few suggestions – probably nothing new, but to keep them as a reminder for myself and may be some others:
24-7 on ecumenical level
It has been great to hear all the good news about the SA´s 24-7 initiative e.g. from
. Why not make it an ecumenical effort? In Great Britain we are going to do this for the third time next January, and we are trying to get the Town hall for at least one prayer-celebration during the week. It deepens the spiritual fellowship and fruits have derived from it: Oslo
A weekly morning of intercession for the city (06 – 10 AM)
I do not think that our corps – at least not at this stage – could have managed to keep this going, but now it is possible to meet with the “prayer-people” from all the congregations, and it becomes less exhausting.
Our city is covered with prayer every hour of the day through the whole year. One congregation on its own can hardly do it.
Monthly bulletins are spread through Internet where issues concerning our city are made subject for prayer. The network has contact with the municipal authorities, the police force i.e. We saw a prayer-victory last June when The World Bank had its summit in
. Riots were expected, but the situation was made a subject of intercession, and the demonstrations were the most peaceful in the history of the bank. Oslo
Experiencing spiritual blessings together
It is good to come together with brothers and sisters from other churches and share stories from our different settings, but it is important that we also experience blessings together. This can be done through interdenominational campaigns conducted locally (do we dare to take part even when the main-speaker is controversial?) and participation on revival-conferences.
I was fortunate to be sent to the 9th “Catch the Fire”-Conference in
last October. A benefactor decided that he should send 20 of the pastors and worship-leaders in the town to this conference. The unity we felt from sharing the same experience was enormous, and to meet with anointed tools like Dr. Heidi Baker from Toronto , will be an encouragement we will carry with us as we try to fulfill God’s calling on us to reach our city. I was by the way surprised to be the only officer present – was it a coincident? Mozambique
A fellowship of blessing
The group of pastors that I belong to has blessing as its main mission. We meet bi-weekly and pray for one another and for the ministries represented. We can share failures and victories and know that experiences shared are confined to the fellowship only.
What about interdenominational cell-groups?
When pastors can have fellowship in this way, why cannot our church-people have it also? I just raise the question for consideration. A musician working with our national Opera-orchestra, started a cell-group for professional musicians, and has seen many of his friends saved, but they go to different congregations to worship.
From time to time we know that the Salvation Army take part in worship together with other churches, and it always brings my heart joy to see “the unity in Christ” manifested in this way, and since this was one of his last prayers, I know that it also thrills my Lord (John 17:21). It also happens that such events include a celebration of the Eucharist, and very often I find that Salvationists remain in their seats and in a way demonstrate that we do not need this “means of grace”. Of course we don’t - we have already experienced the spiritual core of the Eucharist. But my heart sinks in me, why can’t we transfer the generous attitude for which our movement is so widely recognized and share in this fellowship with other believers on their terms? I can’t see that we in any way compromise our theological foundation by doing so, on the contrary we would be more in tune with the spirit of our army and take the ecumenical fellowship to a deeper level.
I believe we need this kind of unity to reach our cities for God. The author of “Prayer-evangelism” and “That none should perish” (and many more) Ed Silvoso, would through his experience of cities transformed by the gospel, testify to the fact that it always starts with a spirit of repentance, reconciliation and unity among the pastors in an area involved. I recommend his books. Let us go for an ecumenical fellowship on a deep level without loosing our mission, identity and character!
Published in “The Officer” no. 1 - 2003