Constant values; changing times

Management consultant Fred W. Smith put it in the form of a couplet: “Methods are many, principles few./ Methods often change; principles never do.”

As every individual, every organization, and every congregation contemplates what kinds of lasting impact COVI-19 will make, I think it is important to review the principles – the values – by which we operate. Here are the next two value/principle statements I articulated for my work in The Salvation Army: 

#3. Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) will energize our activity:

  •             — we will work for the salvation of the lost,
  •             — disciple them in the faith,
  •             — enlist them in the “salvation war,”
  •             — and train them to disciple others.

Most preachers are aware that in the Great Commission there are four verbs, only one of which is an imperative. “Going (participle), therefore … make disciples (imperative) of all nations, baptizing (participle) them … and teaching(participle) them what I have commanded you.” Jesus assumes that his followers will go and teach and baptize; he wants to make certain that they are not mere activities but methods to make disciples.

Just so, while we are fond of counting our activities (and recounting how busy we are), we ought to make certain that our activities are directed toward the salvation of the lost and discipling them in the faith.  

#4. Jesus’ Great Command (Luke 4:18-19; Matthew 25:31-46) will drive us to:

  •             — feed the hungry,
  •             — clothe the naked,
  •             — visit the sick and imprisoned,
  •             — love others as ourselves

Our Salvation Army mission is singular: preach the gospel and meet human need in Jesus’ name. “Methods are many,” said Fred Smith. “Preach the gospel every day. When necessary, use words,” said St. Francis of Assissi. Our works of mercy are not a distraction from preaching the gospel; they are intrinsic to it.

I confess that in retirement my personal value on obeying Jesus’ Great Commission and Great Command has undergone a methodological change. It is no longer “built in” to the work I do; it has to be intentional and I must see neighbors and acquaintances as those to whom I minister.

Maybe this week’s reminder is unnecessary to those still active on the front lines of ministry. You put methods to these principles every day. But, just maybe, the reminder is useful in a time when change is inescapable.

            “Methods are many, principles few.

            Methods often change; principles never do.”

Submitted for your consideration with prayers for focused ministry.

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