A RESPONSIBLE CORPS
How can a Salvation Army corps be fit for mission? In these blog articles so far we’ve used the letters of the word ‘corps’ to think about being a ‘connected’ and an ‘outward-looking’ corps. The letter ‘R’ stands for ‘Responsible’.
A Salvation Army corps (church) needs to take responsibility for its own vision, ministry and resources. Within the broad framework of Salvation Army strategy, every corps needs to take ownership of its mission. The Army’s structure might seem to inhibit responsibility if we view it simply as a command and control system, but that’s not how it should be. The key words are freedom and accountability – and these ought to encourage responsibility.
Of course there are issues where compliance to some form of regulation or guideline is needed – but when it comes to how a corps does mission there is a lot of scope for initiative, creativity and imagination. A corps shouldn’t wait for headquarters or anyone else to tell it how to reach its community. The corps is in the community and the community is the corps’ responsibility. Ideas from elsewhere can be helpful, but in the end it’s up to a corps to take an idea and run with it!
A corps is accountable to the wider Army for how it conducts its work. But its greatest accountability is to the Lord. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) is often taken as a lesson to individuals to make sure they don’t waste the gifts God has given them. The lesson is bigger than that, however. It was the servants who took a risk with the master’s money who earned his commendation. This is a lesson for the corps about how much energy, commitment and thought it risks in its mission.
So, here’s another ‘r’ – ‘risk’. Being responsible and taking risks might sound like a contradiction! But actually God asks us to be adventurous, to be sacrificial and to take a risk in our service for him. This could mean all sorts of things: launching a new activity and/or abandoning an old one, spending money on new forms of outreach or an innovative community project, planting a new corps or relocating an existing one, and so on. Because we are accountable to him we dare not play safe with the gospel. We have a responsibility to take a risk!
Taking responsibility might be a daunting prospect, but we can be sure that when we step out in faith God’s resources are available to us. After all, responsibility is really only our response to his ability.
Lieut-Colonel Jonathan Roberts
Assistant to the Secretary for Scotland