Help! I Hate My Corps!
Last year we tried to take a long, hard look at why young people are leaving The Salvation Army in record numbers. We heard from a former Salvo, a Salvo youth minister on the cheap answers offered young people, and a Salvo young adult on why he’s stuck around. Obviously this isn’t an issue that will be solved by a few blog posts, but it’s a conversation that needs to be happening within The SA and the larger church body. Our young people are too important for us to ignore the very sobering reality of their exodus from the Body of Christ. In a continuation of that series, I wanted to try my best to answer a question submitted to the CYN:
“What can I do if I don’t feel connected at my Corps?”
Adults, young people, employees, and officers can all probably relate to the feeling of being present but not planted, to remain but not feel rooted into the community you’re a part of. For young people especially, it can feel frustrating to be expected to give all you are to your Corps and at the same time not feel valued for anything more than filling a position or boosting a program’s stat line. When we look at our Corps realistically, it’s easy to see the flaws, but finding a way to have a positive impact without falling into bitterness or hardheartedness is difficult. It’s easy to confront the sins and shortcomings of the Church, but much more difficult to confront those same sins and shortcomings when they are manifested in our own hearts and lives.
We must live faithfully to our God-given calling regardless of our feelings about our individual setting. A mentor of mine has reminded me often that when I stand before the throne of God in heaven, I will not be asked to answer for the actions or inaction of others, but I will certainly be held to account for what I have done or failed to do with what was given me. So, what can be done to serve Christ in the midst of feelings of helplessness or dissatisfaction?
William Booth once said, “Work as if everything depended upon work, and pray as if everything depended upon prayer.” In The Salvation Army we’re certainly no strangers to work, but we don’t often gather together solely and specifically to seek the Lord’s guidance and empowerment. And our Corps show for it.
If there was ever one single thing in Scripture that led to amazing, at times unimaginable changes in our world, it’s prayer. Pray for the Lord to reveal his will to you and to your Corps leadership. Pray for those you disagree with. Pray for more than just a nice, stable Corps; pray for victory in the Salvation war for your neighborhood!
There is little else that invests a heart in something more than prayer. Let’s root ourselves in our Corps communities by faithfully interceding for them.
While we’re talking about investment, make sure you’re giving even when you don’t feel like it. Give your time, your gifts, your tithe, and your very best without expecting anything in return. Give regardless of whether or not you are thanked. When Jesus sent out his disciples for the first time in Matthew 10, he told them, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
If we withhold because things aren’t going the way we like, or even if we feel our voices aren’t heard, we’re reducing a beautiful act of worship to an economic transaction. We’re holding on to our own power rather than living the humble servant life modeled by our Savior. Jesus talked about the impossibility of serving both God and money (Matthew 6:24; the greek word translated as money, mammon, connotes a trusting in wealth and possessions). He also counseled his followers to give and serve those who could not repay, removing worldly economics from the equation and instead building social interactions on love and grace (Luke 14:12).
A clear mark of Jesus’ disciples is that they reject worldly power dynamics and serve/give without expecting repayment.
No problem–big or small, real or perceived–can stop you from evangelizing, converting, and discipling others. You might feel hesitant to invite others into your Corps community if it’s an unhealthy environment (a valid concern), but don’t let that stop you from witnessing, loving, and reaching out to others. Prayerfully ask the Lord to lead you to someone in your Corps, school, or workplace that he might use you to pour into.
If we all worried less about politics and programs, and each focused ourselves on making disciples of Christ, we’d probably fix all the issues we have with our Corps in the process. We have to remember that none of us are called to build The Salvation Army, or to build spectacular Corps; we’ve been charged with making disciples. But to make a true disciple, we have to first be a true disciple. We have to regularly ask ourselves if we’re really in love with Jesus, clear about his call on our lives, free from worldly pursuits and passions, and intentional in our efforts.
So I say again: pray! The Apostle Paul counseled the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing,” but unceasing prayer begins with regular, intentional prayer. As we pray, we acclimate ourselves to an awareness of God’s presence in all things. We learn to recognize his voice and develop “eyes to see and ears to hear.” If you don’t feel connected at your Corps, focus on connecting yourself to Christ!
The bottom line is that the Church is full of imperfect, sinful people, and so it shouldn’t be a surprise when we find imperfection and sin in the Church. Catholic activist Dorothy Day expressed the issue well when she said, “Though she [the Church] is a harlot at times, she is our Mother.” We are called together to be the family of God, under one head–Christ himself! We should not easily criticize the Church, because we are the Church. If you’re waiting for the perfect Corps to come along so you can focus on building the kingdom, you’re missing the point. Pour your whole heart into wherever God leads you to serve his people, and make sure your focus stays on Him! Then you will find fulfillment despite your circumstances.
- How do you overcome feelings of dissatisfaction or frustration with your Corps? How do you guard your heart against bitterness?
- What keeps you rooted in your Corps community?
- What do you see as challenges to investing in a Corps with “issues.”