Last summer, I came across a word I haven’t used for a long time – faithfulness.
A Canadian pastor, Merv Budd, spoke about “Evangelistic faithfulness”. He said: “I’m not sure that God blesses techniques, but he blesses nurturing and faithfulness.” His talk was mainly about evangelisation, but I find his points helpful when we think about our ministry with children and young people.
I grew up in a time when faithfulness was a word frequently used in The Salvation Army. But, somehow, it turned into negative demands and lost its positive meaning. I also saw the outcome of a wrong understanding of the word. Being a faithful leader meant to some that they should stay in the same responsibility until they were too old to do it well. In some cases it meant that new leaders were not nurtured and given the chance to take over.
That attitude also scared many people from taking on a leadership role in the corps. The expectations seemed to be of a 10-15-year responsibility. In some sense, faithfulness to God was exchanged for a burdensome loyalty to the organisation.
When Merv Budd spoke about faithfulness it was very inspiring. I understood it as one more way of applying the words of Jesus: when we first seek and live in the Kingdom of God, the involvements and responsibilities will be a natural outcome of our relationship with him and of our love for people.
The church in the world is doing many programmes and uses many techniques. We have to. That is the way we can interact with others in order to bring them into the atmosphere of God’s family. We teach kids music, we take them to camps, we have fun in the youth café and help them to find Jesus in the Bible. So, what does it mean when we say that God does not bless techniques but blesses our faithfulness?
The difference can be subtle but it is important. For example, the Alpha Course and other programmes are good methods to use. I believe it is important to understand and follow the guidelines. But I don’t think the programme itself has the power to change people. It is a tool God puts in my hand. The goal is not to make the young people fit into the methods I use and the dreams I have for myself as a leader. The goal is to be faithful to the people and the plans God has for their life.
As parents make sacrifices to give their children what they need in order to develop, so leaders in a corps might need to sacrifice (or rather re-prioritise) time and traditions in order to accommodate the welfare and spiritual growth of the children and young people.
When I am faithful to God, it means being available for his mission in this world. I trust him to adapt his calling for me according to the needs around me as well as to my personal work and family situation.
Serving as a leader, and enjoying it, does not exclude the fact that I can get tired. But even in that situation my awareness of faithfulness helps. Faithfulness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in me. As I receive life in Jesus, I will be able to give myself in faithful service.
This text has been published in the Heilsarmee Magazin #9/2018