Aristotle said, ‘Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.’ But that’s not an option in the face of a mission value that calls us to ‘Support Our Army’.
I’ve been a proud supporter of the Wellington Phoenix Football Club since its founding in March 2007. Okay, strictly speaking that’s not entirely true. Over recent years my loyalty has waxed and waned.
Our son was just 13 when the Phoenix kicked off, a mad keen footballer with a reasonable amount of talent. Nine years earlier, my Australian-born husband (previously a solid Aussie Rules fan) had converted to soccer (aka ‘football’, aka ‘The Beautiful Game’), and spent a number of seasons helping coach and manage Scott’s various teams.
I’d never had any interest in sports. Growing up, I didn’t even succumb to objectifying hunky rugby players. And yet, weekend after cold, wet, windy weekend, I was on the sideline cheering on my son’s efforts. We’d drive whatever distance was needed, getting to know the other parents and talking tactics like pros. Back home, I’d wash my son’s often mud-caked football kit, carefully scrubbing his boots so they were ready for their next on-field encounter.
When the Phoenix started, it was a natural extension to sign up for a club membership. Over the years, through ups and downs of owners, coaches and players, we kept the faith. We knew who was on the team, joined in the game-day chants, followed news reports, listened to podcasts, watched and even re-watched games. Such was our support for the team.
But in recent years, we’ve let both membership and interest slide. Our son’s now more interested in the celebrity and skill of overseas clubs Barcelona and Chelsea, while the Phoenix have struggled to find the back of the net, money for top signings and coaching stability. The past couple of seasons have been disappointing.
I’ve been a proud supporter of The Salvation Army for my whole life. Okay, strictly speaking that’s not entirely true either.
’m part of an organisation that serves in over 128 countries with over one million members. I believe in what the Army stands for—a Christianity that really does try to turn faith into action. No passage of the Bible sums that ethos up better for me than James 2:14–16 (CEB):
My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. What if one of you said, ‘Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!?’ What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.
The Salvation Army is not a church that says, ‘We’ll pray for you’, without also putting feet under our prayers in the form of concrete action. I love this about the Army!
But I’m also aware that my support for this Army can at times be conditional, cynical or even competitive. And I don’t love this about myself. Not at all.
Conditional: If I understand and agree with a decision the Army’s leaders have made, I’ll get behind it. If not, I’m sometimes inclined to shrug my shoulders and figure it’s not something I need concern myself with. Not my problem. I may not get in the way, but I’ll also not do as much as I could to help. And, at my worst, I may even seek to undermine that directive.
Instead, I want to accept the decisions of leadership with grace and mercy, offering every decision a fair hearing and a fair go. I want to support God’s leading in the lives of those who are responsible for the Army’s strategic direction, building on what they ask by playing my part as a strong link in a chain, not a weak or missing link.
Cynical: Some new programme or initiative is announced and where once I would have jumped in boots and all, as a long-term and sometimes over-worked Salvationist, these days I’m sometimes more inclined to again shrug and mutter something like, Well, that’s not going to work! The least of such a cynical response is pessimism or apathy; the worst is mistrust or even downright meanness. Cynicism keeps God’s big dreams from becoming reality in our world.
Instead, I want to respond with excitement and enthusiasm—to look for the good and even the great in every new idea. To be excited at how God is working and to look forward with anticipation for every new thing God might be about to do in the Army. To be an eager collaborator, not a critic. Most of all, to let hope lead the way.
Competitive: If I hear of someone in the Army who’s had a victory of some sort, I confess that my first instinct isn’t always to take notice or cheer them on. Again, I sometimes sense a negative shrug in my spirit: I wonder how long that success/programme/person will last? When I sense that thought, it’s a sign that I’ve forgotten the way to maximise God’s work in the world by having lots of different people doing lots of different things, rather than just a few people—or (even more arrogantly) just a few people doing things the way I would.
Instead, I want to respond by genuinely appreciating, celebrating and cheering for others. I need to realise that my part in God’s great enterprise is often simply to ‘gossip the greatness of God’s work’ so clearly evident in the lives and actions of Salvationists.
As I consider my sometimes negative—and God limiting—reactions, I wonder if there’s something of the Kiwi psyche at work here. As a nation (and despite our espoused pride in the Number 8 Wire Kiwi make-do mentality), we’re quick to chop down our Tall Poppies, slow to get behind innovators, and happy to settle for criticising people rather than stepping forward as cheerleaders.
If someone was to tell you that one of The Salvation Army’s values in the New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory is to ‘support our Army’, what reaction comes to your mind?
Is your first thought that you’re proud to be part of the Army’s heritage, that you want to honour the Army’s godly leaders and work with them rather than against them, that you’re ready to devote time, talents and money to make the Army stronger, not just at home but aboard? Or do some of those more negative responses almost unwillingly come to mind? Is your support conditional? Do you measure others’ ideas and work, only to find them wanting? Do the pressing needs of today’s communities no longer capture your heart strongly enough to compete with nostalgic memories of days gone by? Do you still support the Salvation Army team, or are you just making up the numbers, long past thinking we might actually win this for God?
I’ve shown myself to be a fair-weather fan of the Phoenix. They’ve just signed a new coach in Darije Kalezić. I hope he has a good run. I want to get back to the days when I believed in the team. When there was the realistic hope for a finals spot. It might still happen. And when it does, I know I’ll catch that finals fever.
But I don’t want to be a fair-weather fan of God’s work, because what’s at stake is far more significant than the escapism and short-lived pride of some sporting contest. When I support The Salvation Army, it means I’m supporting our mission to care for people as we serve in Christ’s name, to see lives transformed as we help people encounter the Holy Spirit, and to reform society as we stand against injustice and fight for God’s values in world.
If your loyalty to The Salvation Army is on the wane, don’t shrug it off. Life’s too short for apathy and pessimism when there’s so much good God wants to do. Let’s keep our faith and loyalty for the Army alive!
Major Christina Tyson is Editor of War Cry magazine and Territorial Communications Secretary.
by Christina Tyson(c) 'War Cry' magazine, 1 July 2017, pp20-21
You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.
Learn more about our Mission Plan & Values | www.salvationarmy.org.nz/MissionPlan