Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Greatest Dilemma in The Salvation Army


The Salvation Army has great challenges ahead. In a recent post I mentioned that we were on the cusp; of a new era of Spirit-filled, dynamic Salvationism that will change the world like never before. I believe that. Though with every significant shift in organisational life there is always a difficult transition period.

I want to suggest what I believe is one, if not the greatest dilemma in The Salvation Army today. 

Now, I've written about challenges facing The Salvation Army before. Some of these include:

  • Financing the work of The Salvation Army from a global perspective. Much of the first-world funds the third-world. How do we ensure longevity of Salvation Army ministry in places where finances are hard to come by?
  • The ability of The Salvation Army to adapt its methods in an ever-changing society to fulfil its God-given mission, while retaining the unique personality of The Salvation Army and the fundamentals of its belief system.
  • Pressure to conform The Salvation Army's theology to more inclusive, relaxed theologies, that potentially 'water-down' or compromise its core beliefs.

In an article entitled 9 Reasons Why I'm a Salvationist, I highlight one fascinating aspect of Salvation Army life. Let me recap for you, if you haven't read it (or if you fell asleep before you got to number 3).

This is what I said:

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 3 – We integrate the work of evangelism and social justice. We don’t separate the two and place them in two different buildings with two different line managers and never the twain shall meet. No. As William Booth said, they are like Siamese twins. As I wrote in a recent blog post, ‘When the gospel is only about the salvation of souls we deprive Salvationism of the fullness of the work of Christ. When the service of God through The Salvation Army is only about cups of cold water to those in need we can let people go spiritually thirsty. Captain Andy Miller III in his new book Holistic Hospitality says, 'The way in which people understood [the] balance between what is social and what is spiritual was an issue in the beginning of the Army and is still an issue today.' He mentions that in some points of The Salvation Army's history we had 'dynamic holistic missiology'.’ 

Now, here's the premise of this short article: We haven't always got the balance right between evangelism and social work.

This is one of the greatest dilemmas facing The Salvation Army. What does it mean to have social work and evangelism integrated? What does it mean to be balanced in this way? 

When our social work separates itself from evangelical foundations, we end up with work that devoids itself of eternal matters. When our evangelical fervour fails to care for the whole person we can treat people like numbers and statistics.   

But we have convinced ourselves that it's alright to do social work without evangelism. We have found nice arguments to suggest that this is ok. Maybe it is. Though maybe we end up stifling effective Salvation Army ministry because we don't offer the whole gospel. 

Let me be provocative for a moment. I don't think at this point in our history, (generally speaking) that we are struggling with an over emphasis on evangelism at the expense of social work. I think part of the imbalance has been a lack of soul-winning, and the fact that even that language grates against some is testament to the fact that what I'm saying holds true. We have lost one of the arts of Salvationism, and that's leading people to Christ and more so, making disciples of those people. We have continued great social work, and we have done it well, and do it well, but in the process evangelism has taken such a back seat, that we're frightened to bring it back out to the front seat alongside our great social ministries. 

We must be partnering with God in the work of the whole mission of God. To allow fundamental aspects of who we are as a Salvation Army to fall by the wayside causes us to be less of who God calls us to be.

It is a dilemma in The Salvation Army. 

God help us.

Friday, August 14, 2015

This Blog will Shake the Foundations: We are a Salvation Army on the Cusp...


A cusp can be defined as, 'a point that marks the beginning of a change.'

The Salvation Army is on the cusp. Maybe you sense it, maybe you don't. I might suggest that the reason you are even reading this right now, is that you agree to some degree that what I'm saying resonates.

Let me suggest to you right now, that The Salvation Army is on the cusp, not just of a new season, but the cusp of a new era. We are on the cusp of a revived Army, a focused Army, a praying Army, a soul-saving Army, a courageous Army, a risk-taking Army and a Spirit-filled Army. There is a sense that we are reclaiming the DNA of a movement that has at times been sleeping while the world passes on by.

I'm not meaning to be controversial. One may fully appreciate the plethora of good work that The Salvation Army does globally and give thanks to God. We may also give thanks to the hundreds of millions of people in our societies that entrust us with the opportunity to help them out. Though I am saying, that at times we have retreated and become a safe movement, that has relied on the goodwill of the past to empower it for the future.

No longer can one rely on financial security or popularity for the days ahead. One must rely on Christ. In fact, John 15 says that without Christ we can do nothing. *Ouch. Thanks John for that whack between the eyes. Without Christ, and without being joined to the Father through him, The Salvation Army cannot be all that God intends it to be.

When it comes to the picture depicted in John 15, of a vine and branches, I am really of the belief that God has been pruning us the last few years. And guess what? It's painful and it hurts. Programs have at times, ceased. Funding has, at times, been cut and so on and so on. But, through this, God helps to recalibrate our direction, and refocus us on what really matters.

We need God to help The Salvation Army to go from Good to Great. Thanks to author Jim Collins for that tag line...

Here's my thought. The Salvation Army is on the cusp of going from good to great. We have done good things for a long time. We have sung good songs. We have performed good concerts. We have executed good social policy. We have been good.

Without wanting to sound too melodramatic, but it's time to be great. Now, not necessarily in great songs, and great concerts, but great in the things that absolutely matter.

We are a Salvation Army. The world needs the fullness of salvation found in Christ. Anything less is an insult to who Christ is.

So what do we do? We seek after the holiness that only comes through Christ. We seek an infilling of the power of the Holy Spirit. We ask God to help us in every facet of Salvation Army life to realign what we do, to align with the best of what God would have us do.

It's time to not be afraid to be who we are! It's time to stand! God is about to send the rain!

We are on the cusp!

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