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Prophetic Hindsight: Debriefing 2020 in 2030
by Major Stephen Court


They say ‘hindsight is 20/20’!  Too early?  Probably (I heard it said of a well-known, long-retired Salvationist recently that we'll be discovering the extent of his impact over the next century; but we'll stick with a 'decade' since we hope to have won the world for Jesus within the next century).  But surely reflecting on the significant changes birthed a decade ago, in 2020, can still prove an edifying exercise.  It’s part of our ‘drill / deploy / debrief’ micro modus operandi.  We made those decisions back then.  And it is helpful to debrief on them now.  And just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, this is the definition of ‘debrief’: ‘question (someone, typically a soldier or spy) about a completed mission or undertaking.’


What was the undertaking?  Well, we all remember getting stomped by the pandemic.  It shut down so many of our traditional spiritual rhythms and practices.  For some seasons during its greatest intensity, in different parts of the world we weren’t even meant to leave home except for groceries and health care appointments (and, don't forget, dog walking and exercise!).  The social policy reaction to the virus was such that most of our habitual spiritual activity ground to a halt. 


By necessity, we began exploring different ways of connecting, discipling, worshipping, and evangelising.  And we did.  Hallelujah.


What began in different local areas as tentative experimental steps into online community established a precedent and foundation for face-to-face community as social restrictions loosened.  New relationships and activities on the screens transferred fairly smoothly in most instances to living rooms and cafes. 


And so the transition of the nucleus of public SA activity from Sunday-at-the-building to several different times in several different places marks a seismic shift in praxis – a ‘fundamental reorientation of a state of affairs.’


Yes, in 2030, we still have buildings in most SA cities in which we gather to worship at the usual intervals.  And, yes, those building are still optimized when used throughout the week for food banks and family and community services and Pathway of Hope and English-as-a-Second-Language, and day cares, and more.  But more and more, the basic building block of The Salvation Army structure is the Army(‘s) Base Network.


The rebranding of The Army’s ‘societies’ as bases, with that simple formula ‘base = cells + hubs’, proved practical and fitting in that crisis season.  The flexibility of the ‘open’ cells and the accountability of the set-membership Infinitum hubs joined together to streamline salvationism, replicate rapidly, bypass bureaucracy, and revitalize the revolution.  And it continues to expand, extend, and multiply!  Hallelujah!


It turns out that Jesus was not surprised by the crisis, and that He could (and can) save people, heal people, deliver people, free people, sanctify people, disciple people, speak with people and heaps more with or without viruses, in traditional or unconventional means, inside or outside dedicated buildings (and even with or without 'official' approval, through young or aged, newly arrived or multi-generational, in any language, and more)!  Glory to God!


To look back even further, the effects of pandemic are reminiscent of the effects of persecution in Jerusalem that scattered the disciples throughout Judea and Samaria (see Acts 8:1-4).  And we all know how that's turning out!  In modest ways, the years following 2020 reflect some of the same explosive expansion of Jesus’ love as the chapters following Acts 8.









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