The Salvo Way: In Defence of The Salvation Army System
by Major Stephen Court
It’s not trendy. And for those who grew up with it or are quite familiar with it, the Army system, with its unique vocabulary and peculiar traditions, might even been regarded as defunct.
Corps Sergeant-Majors? Recruiting Sergeants? Quarter Masters? I mean, come on!
But our discipleship and leader training system, from junior soldiers through corps cadets, into senior soldier training and local officership and corps council, complete with orders and regulations, followed by options in candidateship and officer training, works.
Part of the problem is that we’ve forgotten what we are. As Major Harold Hill explains, in “Four Anchors From The Stern” (http://www.armybarmy.com/JAC/article2-64.html):
The Army’s own history, the history and doctrine of the church, the pattern of sociology, the Word of Scripture, all testify against any great need to be “a church”. Our own history provides us with a clear precedent for retaining our identity without resorting to denominationalism; the history and doctrine of the church provide an ecclesiological and theological base, the sociology of religious movements provides a rationale, and Scripture provides a mandate.
We are not a social agency only. We are not a church. We are not a denomination. We are an order.
And we have orders and regulations, not suggestions and recommendations.
‘Obedience to properly constituted authority is the foundation of all moral excellence’ (Catherine Booth). That is fine in regard to ethics. But Florence Booth takes it further when she testifies:
Looking back over 44 years of officership, it seems to me impossible to speak too highly of the value and importance of Salvation Army discipline… I realised very clearly that if all leaders had a truer idea, a stricter ideal, of obedience to rules and regulations, a much greater advance would be made throughout the Army world. (cited in A Field For Exploits, 2012)
This isn’t popular today. But the issue is not that obedience to Orders and Regulations has been tried and found wanting but found ‘irrelevant’ and ‘obsolete’ (and maybe a little too ‘hard’?) and not tried.
Our desperation for success has sometimes led us far astray from Salvationism. You can possibly see for yourself corps in your division more or less imitating the Baptists, Pentecostals, and Anglicans and others (including poor substitutions of ‘church’ for ‘corps’, ‘service’ for ‘meeting’, ‘pastor’ for ‘officer’, ‘offering’ for ‘collection’, ‘committee’ for ‘council’, ‘member’ for ‘soldier’, etc.). The problem is that most of these methods and terms don’t work very well when clothed in Salvationism.
We are not free to make things up on the fly. We’re part of an Army. We’re actually obligated to apply the Army system. If you aren’t applying it, you are compromising The Salvation Army and limiting the pace of advance of the salvation war.
Applying non-salvo methods and programmes with non-salvo doctrines and non-salvo theology in attempts to mimic their success while we play the role pastor and church is doomed to failure.
Strategically, it is mistaken. The significant majority of Canadians have voted with their feet that ‘church’ is irrelevant. Why would we pretend to be a church?
Biblically, it is near-sighted. There are all kinds of biblical metaphors for the people of God – body, temple, vineyard, building, flock, etc. But the Army of God is not a metaphor – it is not compared to something it is not. We are engaged in actual spiritual warfare. Biblically we are on solid ground.
So, to present as a ‘church’ is neither accurate nor effective.
What goes for church goes for its leaders. In NIV ‘pastor’ turns up once – Ephesians 4:11, though the Greek word ‘poimen’ appears 18 times in the New Testament, 17 times being translated ‘shepherd’. ‘Pastor’ is a biblically rare synonym for the much more popular ‘shepherd’, which it makes much more strategic and biblical sense to use instead of the term ‘pastor’, packed as it is with negative connotative accretions today.
…Oh wait, except that shepherd relates to flock – a metaphor, in contrast with Army, in a very real spiritual war against the forces of evil.
So, let’s agree that ‘pastor’, being unbiblical and unpopular, is another term we should avoid.
Let’s stop pretending. Let’s embrace The Salvation Army. Let’s embrace Salvationism, its leadership system and structure (for more detail on this, see http://www.armybarmy.com/JAC/article11-75.html).
We’re not embracing these things out of tradition or loyalty or some desperate insane stubbornness (or stubborn insanity). It’s just that our crucified and resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has lavished His love on us, transforming us from dreary, hopeless ne’er-do-wells slouching to heaven into mighty warriors who live to fight and fight with love,and has commissioned us to this wonder-working, world-winning mission through this divine marvel called, “The Salvation Army… the extremity of an extraordinary imagination made history. The wildest dream of the wildest dreamer materialized” (Evangeline Booth, The World’s Greatest Romance).