The Salvation Army in the UK is currently thinking about being Fit For Mission. This prompts the question 'What is a fit for mission corps?' In this series of blog articles I’m going to use the letters C.O.R.P.S. to help us to answer this question.
Monday, 9 February 2015
'Fit for Mission Corps' - C
A CONNECTED CORPS
The first word is ‘connected’
In The Salvation Army our local churches are called ‘corps’. The word is from the Latin ‘corpus’, which means ‘body’. The dictionary defines a corps as ‘a body of troops for special service’ or ‘a body of persons engaged in the same activity’. That’s a good description of a congregation of Salvationists, but we need to be clear about what the special service or activity is!
Once upon a time you could walk into any Salvation Army corps and find almost exactly the same things. It was as if there was a blueprint that everyone had to follow. Nowadays a better image is of the fingerprint – each corps with its own individual identity. Of course there are similarities and there are ‘non-negotiables’, such as our doctrines and our basic mission purpose, but in many ways each corps is distinctive.
What makes a corps distinctive? According to Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, ‘Two things shape the church and its mission: its own inner dynamic and the world in which it finds itself’. Let’s look at these two things:
1. The inner dynamic
The inner dynamic of a corps includes the gifts and abilities of its members. These are not random, but purposeful. If the Spirit ‘gives them to each one, just as he determines’ (1 Corinthians 12:11), then the gift-mix of a corps says something about the kind of ministry and mission that corps should have. The size of a corps is also part of its inner dynamic. A small corps is just as important as a large corps. It needn’t try to be a large corps in miniature – it should work according to its own dynamics in terms of leadership, worship-style and relationships. Similarly a large corps shouldn’t try and operate like a small or medium-sized corps. Its particular inner dynamics might mean, for example, that the corps officer is assisted by a pastoral team. So, don’t neglect the inner dynamic – be connected to it.
2. The world around
The life of a corps should also be influenced by the world around – not in the sense of adopting all the values of society, but in the way it responds to and serves local people. Although a corps sometimes needs to challenge the assumptions of its community (for example, where injustice exists) and must sometimes counter the prevailing mood (for example, by being a beacon of hope where there is the despair of unemployment or family breakdown), it should also reflect something of the community’s culture, aspirations and outlook. By connecting with its community the mission of a corps is more effective.
Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago says, ‘The local church is the hope of the world’. That’s only true if it’s connected with its inner dynamic and connected with its local community.
Lieut-Colonel Jonathan Roberts
Assistant to the Secretary for Scotland