Dear Salvation Army – Let’s Turn Things Upside Down!

For far too long there has been this imaginary ideological organizational structure which told us (erroneously) that the corps and front-line ministries were at the bottom of The Salvation Army pecking order.  Honestly I don’t really get caught up in “who is first” or “who is most important”, yet at times there is this unspoken notion of “climbing the corporate ladder” even in The Salvation Army.  As if corps ministry and front-line evangelism is somewhat lacking in prestige and importance.  Let me make this absolutely clear – If anyone in our Army has signed up for the express purpose of “climbing the ladder” and to “get out of corps ministry” then perhaps that person should consider finding another army to belong to.


The Army isn’t the only place this happens (obvious statement, I know).  The disciples of Jesus had witnessed many miracles and wonders performed by their Rabbi -Jesus and they began to argue amongst themselves about who would be greater.  You can almost hear their ego driven argument, “No, I’m clearly the better speaker”, “But I’m better looking in uniform” (I had to put that in there), “Well, I am so much better with finances”, “Oh yeah, but I have better administration skills“…

According to Luke 9:48 Jesus knew their thoughts and cut them off -“Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

Holiness & Humility:
If we could only stop this petty self-defeating ladder climbing mentality.  If only we could keep our eyes on what is most important – Being Holy people and from this allowing the Holy Spirit to transform lives through our actions of evangelism.  If only we could stop looking over the fence at that other corps which seems more prestigious and more prosperous than ours as we covet what they have.  If only we could stop looking at DHQ or THQ as “the next step in our careers”.  If only, if only, if only…  Why is it that we humans, as imperfect as we are, always seem to be so success focused?  Shouldn’t we consider what the Lord said to Samuel when anointing the next (God appointed) king of Israel; “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

How are our hearts?  Isn’t serving God with our everything enough?  Isn’t being loved by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords prestigious enough?

I have included a couple of diagrams today to help us understand how the true model of leadership and ministry SHOULD look like…and I hope this helps:

triangle 2What this diagram represents is the way most organizations and businesses are run in our world today.  From the top down.  But, if we are led by humility and holiness, we would understand that “the least of these” must begin from the bottom – up.  Not to imply that we place leadership at the bottom or that administration isn’t important, but rather for us to understand that without active evangelism and the dispensing of God’s love and grace we run risk of losing everything and having nothing to show for our polished efforts.  If the terms are confusing to you then let me illustrate this (in my best hand writing

…please don’t laugh)

The "traditional" organizational flow chart/hierarchical structure model
The “traditional” organizational flow chart/hierarchical structure model
How leadership and administration (and soldiers) ought to view the structure active ministry and evangelism.
How leadership and administration (and soldiers) ought to view the structure active ministry and evangelism.









Turning Things On Its Head:

For far too long men and women of our Army have gone about “position” all wrong.  Yes we need administration and leadership but what is our primary purpose?  What is that one principle upon which we are an Army?  Christ-then Others!  If we only look at Salvation Army structure as ranks and office then we are only reflecting worldly hierarchical organizational -money driven, success oriented models, which are rife with politics, maneuvering, ego-driven leadership, power hungry people.  Are we an Army dependent upon these things?  NO!  It cannot be that way with us!  It should not be that way with us…and yet at times it has become inexplicably linked with our internal identities.   We must continually turn this identity upside down!  We must guard our hearts from pride and arrogance and the pursuit of “position” within our Army.  It was never about what rank was placed upon our shoulders.  It was never about what position we held at the corps or divisional headquarters, or territorial headquarters or any other “headquarters”…it IS about serving Christ humbly and from this one vital relationship (our first love) all things ought to flow in our ministries.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

This is something further our Army must continuously ponder…to God be the glory!

Please, tell me what you think by commenting below and leaving responses…let’s continue this dialogue together!

8 thoughts on “Dear Salvation Army – Let’s Turn Things Upside Down!

Add yours

  1. There are things one comes to expect from secular organizations-overcome with human self importance and control issues. The Army should be different-and it isn’t. Business expert Peter Drucker once wrote that the Salvation Army has the greatest business model EVER! In there lies the human driven diatribe of self importance. The first set of Officers that I worked for-one was raised an atheist-when he found Jesus he had a heart for Jesus in all that he did-not without mistakes-but for Jesus with intent and purpose. The spouse was raised in the Army-she is missing something spiritually-her goal is rank and self importance-her heart needs some reflection… That said the humanness in people always needs to be checked-there needs to be accountability-checks and balances. People have to step up and hold eachother accountable. Officers must be reminded who their work is for-no matter the rank-we all work for Jesus-and all battles are spiritual… When this world is allowed to take over and define systems everyone loses! More of Him and less of Me-that should be reinforced every single day. The light will always win in the end-but to humans may not look like a win-people have to get out of the way- stand up and hold eachother accountable. That is the leadership that is missing-God driven leadership! Darkness is everywhere…

  2. This has not been my experience at all. I work at DHQ and serve on the “front lines” as well. I know a lot of our DHQ officers on a personal level and I’m also related to some of them (so you may have to dismiss this comment as bias.) In my experience there is no place DHQ officers would rather be than serving at the corps. Most of them came in for their love and passion for corps ministry. Most of them will even tell you (and actions will show) that their hearts are at the corps. I do believe you are on to something. I would argue that what seems as a top down power drunk hierarchy is rather this: very busy schedules, lack of great personal, and a lot of disgruntled staff and officers that are all feeling the crunch of shifting cultural tides, needs and resources. I would argue that we have some of the most humble men and women, from the corps to THQ but we suffer from poor personal development and a collection of goals and standards that need to be reevaluated and simplified to work for our current realities. Love the blog and the issues you are bringing to light for us to wrestle with. God Bless.

      1. @ John Aho, The Salvation Army has done some amazing things, I cannot dismiss the amazing work that I did in this organization. I could not have done that work without the Christ lead leadership of the 1st Captain I worked under. Typically when we are right in the middle of the storm we fail to see what others see… I for one am not a disgruntled staff, just very honest about what I saw-however because there are disgruntled staff it is because of the lack of ‘light’, in the organization… I appreciate the leadership wanting to serve the Corps.-but they have already arrived at the top-so staying connected to the mission is part of the ‘job’. I also appreciate your willingness to engage and want to understand. Perhaps the DHQ and THQ leadership needs to live the life of a Corps Officer-walk beside them until the light is restored…

  3. @john aho.
    One of the biggest problems that I see in the Army structure is the lack of Salvationists in Paris positions from the City Commands and up (DHQ and THQ). Since so many staff have a view point that this is just a job, they do not have the reversed mindset that Rich is suggesting here. They are bringing the typical top down secular view to the workplace. I think if the Army were to place more importance of hiring their own (they still have to be qualified) it would make things a little better all around since we would have the fundamental views of what the Army is all about and what we are trying to accomplish.

    I agree that busy schedules and resources are a part of it as well but with qualified Salvationists in these positions, we would better understand the limiting factors since it is something that we deal with at the corps level all the time.

  4. Having being involved in bringing an old corps building from mothballs when officers were planted in our area. [Before I was a soldier] I found then and still see today that DHQ and THQ are more of an obstacle to TSA moving forward than a help.

  5. When a Corps can’t even cut its own check it hinders ministry and wastes resources. When DHQ wants to run every thing it wastes resoources and hinders ministry. When we take our eyes off people, off Jesus, and off our calling to the poor and marginalized it wastes resources and hinders ministry. When we focus on congresses, on institutes, that most soldiers can’t afford we are hindering ministry and wasting resources. When we can’t afford to train, equip, or trust local soldiers for battle because it has no priority, we are hindering ministry and wasting resources, not of money but of people and the Holy Spirit. We no longer do the most good. We have become self centered, not Christ centered or battle focused.

  6. In the early “glory days” of the Army, there was much less administration and much more obeying the promptings of the Spirit. THQ, DHQ, and the corps should all be on the bottom! The living, resurrected Jesus should be on the top. And we all should be encouraged to obey the words of Mary, Jesus’ mother: “Whatever He says to you, do it!”

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