Tuesday, 24 February 2015

'Fit for Mission' Corps - S


This is the last of my blog pieces using the letters of the word ‘corps’ to spell out what makes a Salvation Army corps (church) fit for mission. ‘S’ is for ‘Spiritual’.

In this series we’ve already thought that a corps must be outward looking. If so, then being deeply spiritual might appear to be too self-indulgent and other-worldly. After all, we might become too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good! But of course, being spiritual is fundamental to our relationship with God – and when we think of mission, and of the society which we are called to reach, it’s clear that being spiritual is actually a missionary necessity. That’s because there is a lot of spirituality out there with which we need to engage.

Dr Michael Voas claims that around a third of the population have something called ‘fuzzy faith’. He says, ‘Despite the decline in both believing and belonging, residual involvement is considerable. Many people remain interested in church weddings and funerals, Christmas services and local festivals. They believe in “something out there”, pay at least lip service to Christian values, and may identify with a denomination. They are neither regular church-goers nor self-consciously non-religious: what they show is fuzzy faith.’

Then there’s prayer. According to a Tear Fund survey, 42% of adults in the UK say they pray and one third say ‘there is a God who watches over me and answers my prayer’. And in a recent study of 9,000 people born in 1970, only 28% said they were not religious. This is, as the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams said, ‘a society haunted by religion and not clear on what to do about it’.

The question for us is, ‘are we clear on what to do about it’? One answer seems to be that we need more spirituality. If someone came to your corps seeking to explore faith, would they find a place of spiritual depth or of spiritual shallowness? Many people avoid the church because they see themselves as spiritual but not religious – and what they see in the church is religion but not spirituality! To engage with spiritual seekers we need to be spiritual corps – places of wholehearted discipleship and passionate spirituality. This means deepening our relationship with God and taking faith seriously enough to allow it to inform and influence our lives.

In this series of blog pieces we’ve discovered that, to be fit for mission in the twenty-first century, a corps needs to be Connected, Outward looking, Responsible, Participatory and Spiritual. Is yours?

Lieut-Colonel Jonathan Roberts
Assistant to the Secretary for Scotland

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