Dear Salvation Army – A disconnected culture or a disconnected Army?

Before I begin, I must say to those who might remark “why would we worry about our current culture?”  That it isn’t the Army’s place to become so immersed in our culture that we lose our mission…however, having said that, there is something to be said about being culturally relevant and engaging of those immersed in it while still preaching the relevance of Christ, salvation, holiness and His wondrous grace!  Do not misunderstand me here, I do not long for an Army fully immersed in culture, but I do long for an Army who understands modern culture and is continually equipped to engage souls who live within modern culture.

soldiership

While it is true that some of our Founder’s methodology from Victorian England might not work today in terms of evangelism, the mold of modern day evangelism is still very much intact!  William and Catherine Booth began a movement that addressed the current needs of their day while engaging the souls of people for Christ.  Their methods were edgy and risky, many “high churches” would never have dreamed of embarking on such methods, yet it met people where they were at and many joined its ranks and the movement swelled.

Today, dare I say, the employment of Victorian era evangelism techniques may not work the way it once did.  I don’t mean to say that we should give up or that we have become an obsolete army, but that we need to modernize and become equipped to engage modern culture.

Questions: 
How do we do this?  What sort of methods do we employ? Which should we avoid?  What are the needs of “the lost”?  Who are the lost?  How do we become more engaged in this culture yet maintain the holy principles and godly purposes?

3 Easy Steps To Becoming More Disconnected With Our Culture:

1) Stay In The Corps And In The Facility And Never Venture Outside Its Walls.  
Long gone (at least in the West) is the use of open-air services and even bar sales of “The War Cry“.  If we wish to become more disconnected with this modern culture then we should further insulate ourselves within the walls of our community centers and corps while we pine for “the glory days” which will inevitably forever be behind us!  horse-blinders

We should also continue to complain about the fact that our attendance is steadily decreasing while we never seek to venture outside the building and into the neighborhoods and downtown streets…in this way we might as well place blinders on our eyes just as horse riders do to prevent the horse from looking around…why should we look around when all we seem to do is look back into the past?  (insert sarcasm here)

2) Pursue More Constricting Federal Dollars, it’s all about the money anyway!

see_saw_fat_guy
We have become very good at modernizing our social services and our national images, so much so that we are recognized as the most respected charitable organization…but is that all we are? A charity?  Do fight for souls of men, women and children?  Or do we simply run to the next fund raiser and spend countless dollars on better social services programming?  I understand we must do both.  I understand that without one we cannot do the other, however is it unequally balanced?  Can we pull back from the “pursuit of money” cliff and say “enough“?  money

Have our hands become more and more bound because of the red ink we have placed on federal and local agreements to service?  Are these agreements now preventing us from engaging spiritually those with whom we serve?  If we desire to become more disconnected with modern culture, we should continue to chase those federal dollars.  We should also continue focusing so much of our efforts on increasing social services programs and inflated staffing while decreasing the size of our worship spaces and perhaps some day leave the bibles and penitent form out of the chapel because we “wouldn’t want to offend or bite the hand that feeds us”.  Again, if we want to become further disconnected from culture…and even worse disconnected from God and His purpose for us, we will push for these things and strive to become the best social service agency in the nation when being a social service agency was never the sole mission of The Army.

3) Forget About The Long-term Needs, Focus Only On The Immediate Needs Of People…And DON’T Offend!

giving-bread
As stated at the beginning, our Founder’s methodology was to engage culture, change lives and win souls for Christ.  William and Catherine Booth didn’t just stop at the “Soup & Soap” of immediate needs, NO!  The souls of people, “Salvation” were the primary targets!  We will cease to be a movement and an Army of Salvation should we lose the focus on “Salvation”!  If we become more concerned with offending people than we do with loving them and longing for their hearts to be changed as well as their physical conditions, then we will have become disconnected!  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV) I don’t propose that we go looking for fights, but we must engage society and that of modern culture if we are to win souls!  We cannot simply worry about offending people because we ask about their spiritual well being…this will (on occasion) take time and trust, but we mustn’t shy away from the long-term needs of those with whom we serve!  We will have done a great disservice to those we are commissioned to serve as well as the Holy Spirit if we merely hand out the immediate “bread” of the day without the lasting impact of His Living Bread!  But…if we wish to disconnect from culture, the world and most importantly our mission for Christ, just hand out bread and food boxes and forget to pray and discuss spiritual things with those we serve.

Finally…
We need to continue to fight!  We must be engaged in culture so that we not only understand culture but we can have the tools to reach those who are lost living in that culture!  We must continually evaluate our “modern methods” and how effective they may or may not be.  We must be willing to take risks, to, at times, throw caution to the wind.  We, as an Army, should not be so bound by governmental constrictions that we place gags on the gospel.  Get out of the corps buildings.  Get out and love others.  Get on with evangelism, relational connections and its vital importance to the lost.  Do not hold back, dear soldier!  We will face opposition.  We will face those who will seek to silence the gospel…but fight on with the power of the Holy Spirit as your guide!  We need holy leaders, holy soldiers, a holy Army if we are to avoid the allure of disconnecting from our mission field!  Go for souls, and go for the worst!  To God be the glory!

-Something more for the Army to ponder today! 

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3 Comments

  1. Birmingham Citadel SA in UK has one of the most effective open air ministries whilst at the same time our indoor meetings are inspirational. Also we have a very practical outreach ministry!

  2. Your challenge is indeed something to think seriously about. I have often said that we (as an organization ) know very well the reasons for the rapid decline of our Soldiery and low attendance in our meetings. Our challenge is that we lack the courage to do what we know must be done. That is to engage souls where they are and to provide bread to people with the aim of of leading them to the Bread of Life (Jesus Christ). Holy Spirit breath on us to become Mission Focused.

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