As Cadets at the Salvation Army college we have the privilige of meeting a lot of officers. Some newly commissioned, some old in the game and some retired. What strikes me is how many of these officers seem to be burnt out and jaded. I do understand that being a Salvation Army Officer is hard work but surely it is also blessed work.
I saw an add yesterday on the train that said:
“if you like your job don’t bother with this add”
I prayed a prayer that I would never want to bother with that add. I want to be like the guy in Mary Poppins singing:
“Chim chimeny, chim chimeny, chim chim cheroo, I do what I like and I like what I do!”
Surely Officership is a privilege. To have a job where part of your work description is to spend quality time with God. A vocation where you are expected to spend time growing and maturing your faith, reading devotional books, praying, praising and functioning in your gifts.
I do understand that there are jobs that are less pleasant and some even unpleasant but we have that in common with the chimney sweep. I think that sometimes we get so busy with the dirty work that we forget to look around us and enjoy the majestic view. Like the chimney sweep we are “on top of the world” even if we do have our hands in the dirt!
One of the things that really get me is how we (as in Christians in general but in the Salvation Army in particular) seem to live out practical agnosticism.
It crops up everywhere, in class we are taking about sermon prep and how to get inspiration for sermons. I just assume that God is our first and most important source but as it turns out, I am being told that if God tells us what to preach on and how to preach on it we need to test it by getting a second opinion from a scholarly book.
When I read The Shack last week I chuckled when I read the following quote:”Jeez Mack, if you think God is going to be up there, why all the supplies? Mack smiled rather sadly. I just thought I’d cover my bases, you know be prepared for whatever happens.”
Is that not how we all act, we say we believe that God will show up and then we act as if he won’t. Wolfgang Simson tell a story about a church in Africa that had a special prayer service to pray for rain (there had been a massive drought in the area and peoples lives depended on the rain coming) On the day the whole congregation showed up, but no one brought an umbrella. The Pastor sent them back home saying when you are ready to believe that God will send rain come back. Next day they all showed up with umbrellas, that night it rained.
John Eldredge, author of Wild at heart and the late Brent Curtis pick up on this in the sacred romance.
This is, in fact, how many professing Christians end up living: as practical agnostics. Perhaps God will come through, perhaps he won’t, so I’ll be hanged if I’ll live as though he had to come through. I’ll hedge my bets and if he does show up, so much the better. The simple word for this is godlessness. Like a lover who’s been wronged, we guard our heart against future disappointment.
We are afraid to trust God because we feel we have been let down in the past. And somehow deep down many of us are not sure we really believe that God is good and that he loves us. The shack really picks up on this (A great read that I cannot recommend enough) and deals with our deep fear of trusting God. Somehow I think these are the real issues we need to deal with first in our own lives but then we need to bring our congregations to a place where they are not only trusting God to to his bit but actually expecting and depending on him to show up.