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The Third Act
by Lieutenant Jordan Westrupp
Glen Eden Corps & Hamodava Coffee Company
New Zealand, Fiji & Tonga

 

So much of how we understand hope is grafted from the stories we tell each other, and this is not a new practice. The ancients told stories of their heroes, unlikely and overlooked, called by God to a task seemly beyond them…. and just when the odds are against them, hope breaks like dawn. The stories we’re often glued to on screens and pages remain the same. Similarly flawed, unlikely and overlooked heroes are called to a task seemly beyond them, a threat rises, the tension of the second act is created… and the third act breaks like hope. My trade was in films, and the art of story telling, so I understand much of life through this lens. I see our primal need for hope in the stories we tell each other.

 

Can I speak to you for a moment from my own vantage point in this Salvation Army? I feel increasingly that we are living somewhere within the second-act of our own story, and that there is a strong sense in which those around me who are living within the story are looking to the horizon.

 

A bit of relatively recent history.

 

In the 1970s/ 80s my territory experienced a spiritual renewal as an overflow of the charismatic revival movement that righteously tore through many churches and spiritual groups in this country. Our faith communities were given a gift, which presented us with a sense of task and a way forward. In the late 80s and then into the 90s, once again we received a gift in the form of the church-growth-movement. Our faith communities grasped once again at methods that gave us a sense of task and a way forward. Those waves came in great sets, and we rode them while they lasted. The 90s was almost 20 years ago, and in that time the next gift was promised by many people, though none came so easily. The way forward has since seemed not so clear. Perhaps you’ve felt this from where you stand? The odds have seemly started to build against us.

 

New leaders, new seasons, a new General. A new term. These often give to the imagination that spark of hope, and that perhaps the light is waiting just beyond where we can see. Here’s the caution for myself, and maybe for you. Its all too easy to place every possible expectation on the shoulders of one leader, methods and our mission, or even our systems old and new. So if I have hope, I want to place it where I see it is needed most. I want to share what I believe lies out there, that flint of hope that I see.

 

Repeat after me.

 

Nobody knows.

 

If we’re looking for a leader who’s going to tell us exactly what the next chapter is going to look like, and what is the way forward, a sort of ‘master-plan’. Nobody knows. I want to take comfort in those words. There won’t be a new purple book, or a ministry model based on a metaphor. No one fix-for-all program that will sweep the church. Nobody has it. I need to hear that.

 

But, I see hope. I’m hoping instead for the permission to take risks. I want the next season to be one where leaders give that permission, and find every way possible to remove the hurdles and the barriers that kill the spirit of those who dare to try. I hope for a culture shift where we honour and celebrate our missional innovators and our entrepreneurs. We’ll try and fail, and I hope that our conversations change from ‘See, I knew it wouldn’t work’ to ‘we still believe in you, lets regroup, and try again!’. Perhaps then we shall begin this time round to write our own book, rather that borrow it from someone else?

 

I hope for a move of God’s Spirit in my own territory in the way that He is moving in other parts of the Army world, like Papua New Guinea and Africa. I hope we can find ways to part with the abundance of material resources that we have here that those who are Spiritually rich simple don’t. There should be enough of God’s Spirit and resource for all in a truly globally connect Army of Salvation.

 

I hope that we remember that the same Spirit alive in an adult is alive in a child - that our youth have not been given a junior Spirit. That we follow Jesus, who was/is Himself a young man; who called teenagers to follow him; who changed the world; who inspired a young man and woman to start the Salvation Army, who inspired other teenagers and young people to storm the world for Salvation. I hope we capture this again. Can we let our young people lead us again?

 

Maybe the hero is down, having taken the punches and the dirt kicked in our faces. The odds are stacking against her. But we know how the beats of this story go. We know there is a third-act. The hint of something new is stirring the imagination. Hope beckons with the first glistens on a dazzling horizon.

 

 

 

  

 

 

   

 

 

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