When taking time to think about what I see the role of a 21st century officer to look like, I am brought to the verse in Romans 12 with the title being “place your life before God” it reads:
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Peterson, 2006:1661)
For myself going into Training College and obeying God’s call on my life to become and Officer in the 21st Century, this verse is one that helps me to see it as a lifestyle not a career.
I believe that we need to be secure in our calling and have faith in God that he is above all and will guide us, comfort us and provide us with the support we need to obey His calling. For some people to be apart of the Salvation Army there is a great sense of belonging and ‘working for a cause’ but I feel that there needs to be so much more than a personal ‘want’ to be apart of it and a greater sense of following Jesus and being his hands and feet through our lives.
I see the role of a 21st century Officer to be an active member of the community in which they live in, for me personally I have areas in my life that allow me to be involved in the community that we are apart of. These areas although they may change as life goes on, I see are valuable links to reaching the lost, the last and the least, in just doing life and through that fixing my attention on God. When I take the time to think of these specific areas and then compare them to my husband’s specific areas of interest and gifts, I see that although some overlap there are also several that are different. I believe this is an important part as we collectively take our ‘everyday lives and place them before God as offerings’. When we look at the wider Salvation Army we see that many areas are covered and as we make up the “body of Christ” (Peterson 2006:1682) we are encouraging and strengthening each other in our own individual areas.
I recognize that the role of an Officer is to encourage and empower those they come in contact with whether it is in the community or within the church. When ministering to the Church there needs to be an openness and a willingness to develop others as leaders and build them up in areas of interest and to support them as they explore ministry in different forms. I once heard someone say that you can not lead someone further than you have come yourself, because of this I believe that we are to be constantly growing and taking time to be refreshed and renewed. I recognise that we can at times become so adjusted to how things are already being done that it is easy to continue to do them that way, so because of this see the importance of being open to change and exploring different avenues of ministry.
As we take our lives and place them before God there is the risk of burn out and so there is a great need to find balance. With our Sabbath day being the day that Officers in a Corps setting are leading services this can become a busy day with multiple services and all that comes with that, I believe that it is important to take a day to refresh and recharge for the week. To assist in finding balance, an officer needs to be effective at time management, with the busy schedule that is life as an officer it would be easy for it to consume your life and then allow for minimal time with family and for relaxation.
An important part to include in your ministry is that of meeting with a mentor or coach. This I feel is important in a few specific respects. I believe that it is important to have someone outside of your ministry in that you can debrief to and discuss events that are happening that may be causing stress or grief. To talk to someone who is removed from the ministry in which you are involved in is beneficial in them being able to assist you in working through your thoughts and feelings with a fresh perspective and a non bias view point. I also believe it is important to meet with someone who has more experience in ministry as they can share their experiences and also challenge you to grow and support you in this as you question, develop and strive to be the person God has intended you to be.
I also believe that taking part in social justice is a part of being an officer in the 21st century. With many organisations trying to make a change in the wider world around us, we too need to make a stand for those who do not have a voice. When we think back to the early days of the Salvation Army we are made aware of campaigns that they were apart of to be the voice of change amongst society, I believe the verse in Romans speaks about this where it says:
Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out’ (Peterson 2006: 1661).
In todays society we are surrounded by issues that need people to take a stand against. With the world just accepting these issues I recognize that this verse is urging us to stand against the worldly cultures and to seek God and what He is wanting from us. To seek His heart and passion and to love others and therefore bring justice to society. When we think of social justice at times we can think firstly of the issues that are that of third world poverty and child slavery in these countries, but I believe we too need to look to our local communities and the issues that are pressing.
I believe the 21st century officer is to be a person who places their life before God, seeking His will in their lives and seeking His heart when coming into contact with those around them. This is my aim as I head into ministry, that I may be an officer who has a heart for God and a heart for humankind.