Dear Salvation Army: 3 Wrong Ways We Could Be Wearing Our Uniforms…

If, as it has been said, our uniforms are our priestly garb, or the evidence of the internal change within us; how should we then wear these things we call uniforms?

The purpose behind the uniform’s creation was three-fold; 1) to present a unified army of salvation, 2) to dis-spell class systems in its core body, 3) to model the military only for a holy purpose.

Times have changed, have they not?
The world looks a lot different from the Victorian era doesn’t it?
Society has progressed and at times, dare I say organizations and movements such as our Army has been slow in its modifications and applications.  We do walk a fine line here do we not?  We do want to be attractive when it comes to reaching souls for Christ and adding to our army, but at the same time we do not wish to become an invisible army that has sacrificed its soul for the sake of relevancy.

Afraid Of Change?
Last week the school where my children attend had a major set back.  It has been given the opportunity to relocate into a bigger, better school building and so it is preparing to move.  However, not all of its staff and even parents of students see this as a good thing.  A number of teachers resigned.  A number of parents threatened to pull their children from this school and go elsewhere.  This was the reaction to sudden change.  Change causes fear and anxiety.  Anyone who says that they enjoy change has either become good adapters or are lying.

How does this relate to our Army?  We, in some ways, fear change as well.  Some would argue, “Why change anything, it worked for Booth, it should work for us.“; others would say, “well, it was good enough in my day, why isn’t it good enough to these young upstarts?”   Sometimes these comments and thoughts only seek to maintain things the way that they are due to (even subconsciously) a fear of change, a fear of the unknown.

Switching gears from change to uniform wear
The uniform shouldn’t be completely eliminated from The Salvation Army.  There, I’ve said it, perhaps some might breathe a sigh of relief.  We need uniformity in some shape or form.  We need to be recognized as The Salvation Army.  These uniforms open doors for service and opportunities that others might not have.  That being said, let me highlight briefly today 3 wrong ways that we wear our uniforms.
soldiers4

The Cart Before The Horse?
Both 1&2  (1) No longer is it a public witness

                  (2) It Can Divide and Distract Worshipers:   
I believe the uniform that once united people in the worship setting is now a distraction to the worship setting.  Don’t get me wrong, I wear my uniform faithfully every Sunday, but is the uniform affordable to common people?  Is the uniform something by which newcomers see and feel a part of the body or apart from the body?  Historically speaking the uniform was used as an outside witness tool.  Open airs were staged and uniforms were visible for the public to witness as marching soldiers fell upon a town square and declared the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whosoever.  Souls were brought to Christ.  Active enrollments happened frequently.  It wasn’t a knee jerk reaction or a mandated affair because numbers are down.

Today, the uniform seems to have become predominantly an internal vessel of worship.  Soldiers do not wear these uniforms in public as they used to (maybe a few diehards out there or in places like Africa, India and South America). Officers wear them, most are worn proudly, some out of obligation.  These uniforms identify the officer in public places and they still do open doors.  This is pivotal…but where are the soldiers?  Where are the open airs?

I am not chastising hard working soldiers here, I am just pondering why the uniform has predominantly disappeared in the public eye on the weekends unless you visit a corps building?  I think we have gotten the cart before the horse.  I think we have misplaced the purpose of the uniform.   I have heard of soldiers today who wear their uniforms throughout town and invite people to their holiness meetings.  They use their uniforms in a way that we have somehow forgotten about.  They use them as a means of invitation and witness not as a means of identification in the corps building.  These same soldiers then upon arriving at the corps for worship take off their uniforms and dress in regular clothes so that new members who have just been invited do not feel out of place or aliens in a sea of blue.  soldiers3

3) As A Pharisee and “Law” Enforcer
I will most likely get some comments about this one…so be it.  I have witnessed it first hand.  My wife was even spoken to once rather harshly because her top button wasn’t buttoned in a meeting. (I was like, “Are you kidding me?”)   There are pharisees in uniforms among us.  I do not wish to sound judgmental but Jesus had some very harsh things to say about such people.  I pray that I never become one myself.  I pray that I do not care so much about how my uniform looks or how the uniform looks  upon someone else so much so that the condition of one’s heart is irrelevant.  If we use the uniform to lord position and power over others then I fear we will have lost our way as an Army of Salvation.  We will have become a hollow army only caring about appearances instead of holy living and conditions of the heart.

I am thankful, however, that this third use of uniform is not predominant.  There are pharisees in almost every church and organization.  Unfortunately, some of them are in positions of power and authority.    Fortunately we serve a God of absolute authority and all will be held accountable to Him one day in how we have conducted our lives.  I can work on me, I can live my life for Him, I do not have to ponder long on such people when there is still work to be done.

Are We Wearing Our Uniforms Improperly? 
I do not mean are you wearing white socks with your uniform?  I do not mean is your top button unbuttoned?  I do not mean the use of your tunic…I mean how are you using the uniform for God’s glory?  How are you using the uniform to bring people to Christ?  Are you conscience of the uniform’s detractors?  This may be something we come to disagreement on…that’s fine, but let’s not stop talking about such things and consider such things as we seek to serve One God under One mission!

This is something more to for our Army world to Ponder today.
Some may say I have gone too far here, some may say that I haven’t gone far enough.  What say you?

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12 Comments

  1. Personally, I love wearing my uniform, and I am proud to be able to wear a black top with the red shield on it every day to work. I used to get really upset at how quickly soldiers took their uniforms off whenever they were given the chance, but having read what you’ve said I can see your point and it makes a lot of sense. Maybe our idea of a march with flags flying on the days we hold our informal café church is right on target – thanks 🙂

    1. yes, and that goes back to the roots of the uniform, it was giving people something to wear so everyone would be equal and no one would know who had the money and means to buy a suit. Now, after 47 years in the S.A. i have personally noticed, seen and been told both verbally and by the actions of others, it is not wore to make us uniform, united and equals, all too often it is wore as a status symbol as some peacocks flash what is on their shoulder and look down on anyone who doesn’t have the same signia on theirs.

  2. As a first generation salvationist of only 8 years i would share the following thoughts.

    First, I was impressed by the uniforms my first Sunday in the Salvation Army hall. However, i was more impressed by the friendliness of those wearing the uniforms. I was welcomed and felt welcome. People cared for me and it was genuine. The Gospel was clearly preached and the message was clearly meant for me. That day I recommitted myself to the Lord after running for 20+ years. Thank God for the Chapel at Worthington Woods in Columbus Ohio and for the uniformed soldiers who gathered and ministered from that hall..

    Secondly, I became a soldier and proudly put on the uniform. I wore it (and wear it often). As I have studied SA history I found that true of the early soldiers. Many wore their uniforms to work and play on a daily basis. If the uniform was not permitted, they would wear SA colors or other SA insignia. I found the uniform opened doors for service and witness many times. I remember a trip to the west coast where I wore my uniform to the airport. No less than 5 people approached me and shared how The Salvation Army had ministered in their lives or the lives of a family member. Another two people appraoched me expressing needs. The uniform still opens doors for ministry by soldiers, it it is worn.

    Lastly, I wonder if the uniform would hold more meaning if we went back to being a movement more than a Sunday morning church. It’s true the traditional open airs seem to have faded out in most locations. However, if we went back to the idea of the hall being our “filling station” and our ministry and service happening outside of the hall I believe the importance and value of the uniform would quickly return. More importantly, we would be more effective at reaching the lost and serving their needs. Surely every one of our Corps can identify real needs in our community that the soldiery could respond to. Let’s move away from the “church” model (we are not as good at it as many other churches anyway as we move our officers far too often to really allow them to minister as pastors) and back to the “movement” model of meeting the needs of those with the greatest needs in our own backyards.

    Maybe, just maybe, we would experience revival within our own hearts, our corps, and our overall mission if we simply returned to the basics of that mission and honored God through our service.

    I did not become a Salvation Army soldier to belong to a church. I enrolled in the Army to fight the war!

    I do agree that our uniforms have become far too expensive. i know soldiers who are not in uniform simply because they have worn out or outgrown their uniform and simply can not afford a new one.

    In a nutshell, we have become a Sunday morning church service with a paid social worker during the week instead of the movement God raised up where both officers and soldiers were actively involved in the battle. We hire “professional staff” to do social work instead of requiring both officers and soldiers to participate in the battle. Just my humble opinion. I surely do not write these things to offend anyone.

  3. Great blog – I have been out of the army for 6 years now, working for an Anglican Church and then joining a baptist church since I got married.
    I do however still love the SA’s heart and mission.

    As an evangelist, my reflections are that many corps are in areas of need and for want of a better phrase, ‘working class areas’ which means I think the uniform is a barrier. As people walk past our churches and see people in uniforms, they disconnect. The common ground on which then to build a relationship is hidden by a ‘middle class’ uniform.

    I’d like to think christians are recognised and identified not by a uniform, bands or church brand but by the way they live and serve.

    I’d imagine we would be far better off meeting in ripped jeans and creased Tshirts but each inviting our friends and community to join us. For sure, it’s difficult but Jesus never needed a uniform, do we?

    True Unity is not shown through a uniform but through christians ‘doing life’ together, not just church on Sunday, but in the week, on the rugby pitch, in homes, sharing resources.

    No intention to slate the SA here, just a few reflections from someone passionate about building bridges with those outside of the kingdom.

    🙂

  4. When I first became a soldier, I was really happy to be in uniform. Yes, it’s expensive. No, it is not well-tailored. No, the designers have never seen an actual woman. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. But, I wear mine happily. Or I did. That’s starting to wear off.

    I wore my uniform to any and all Salvation Army ‘things’ – Sunday meetings, Bible studies, Home League, volunteering at the drop-in session. And I soon noticed that I was the only one.
    The rest of my corps only wear theirs on a Sunday. Most of them arrive/leave by car.
    The rest of the town never gets to see them in uniform. It’s there, as far as they are concerned, for the meeting, and then it’s back home, to take it off as soon as possible.

    The rest of the week, if I bump into any corps members other than our CO’s, not a one of them has so much as a red shield visible anywhere about them. It’s as if they’re ashamed to be seen in anything that affiliates them with the army in public.

    I hope my corps is a one-off. That others around the world are happy to treat their uniform as “witness-wear”, and happy to say “yes, I’m in the Army now!”. But, if they’re not, if this is the norm, and I’ve got the wrong end of the stick, then I really don’t see the point. Is the uniform supposed to be a statement of faith, or to show membership of an exclusive club?

    1. People like that in my corps too – so sad! I had a wonderful experience through lent where I made a point of wearing my uniform all day, every day and even now my Salvation Army hoodie is my go-to outer wear.

      I’m lucky enough that I also work in my Corps, and before there was no uniform worn because previous employees had refused to wear it. At my interview I was asked how I felt about wearing uniform, and I didn’t hesitate for one moment. It may only be a black t-shirt but it has the Red Shield embroidered on to it, and I wear it with pride and commitment.

      I often have to get the bus to my corps, and unfortunately there is another family that use the same bus, (we get on one stop after the other) and I feel guilty for saying it but they make me feel ashamed of the uniform, because of the way they act on the bus. However, the people I have been able to talk to whilst I have been waiting for the bus and even on the bus has been great. I like the fact that my uniform means I am approachable, and the stories I have heard of the Salvation Army having their sleeves rolled up and helping is one I am proud to carry forward, uniform and dirt included!

  5. Amen!! I have a dream that when people are enrolled as Soldiers they wear the uniform appropriate to their area of service ….eg Emergency Services/Youth work/ Community support/ SalvoStores volunteer/ etc. etc. And on Sundays …. Only those who are serving need wear one … Eg Children’s workers should be identifiable for safety reasons etc. …..
    I could go on but I think you will understand where I am coming from!!

  6. So glad you did this post, this has been something the Holy Spirit has been dealing with in my personal life and in what i see in the life of my Corps.

    I am wearing mine now only when i am out doing the work but at my Corps not wearing it when i am around mostly salvationist or people who did not come to see a uniform they came to see Jesus.

    I wear it like a service man wears his uniform, when “in the service” out in the field or when at a “special ceremony” but i have just recently felt the Lord emphasizing to me to not wear it just to wear it around all the other people that are also wearing one. Maybe i am wrong and wearing it has some effect on those who want to wear it or…i just don’t know. I am pretty much over the fight i’ve been having in my own convictions and done analyzing it and making a choice.

    I’m also appreciating the the new styles and identification items/clothing from
    http://WWW.SATHREADS.ORG. When in the US Military they wear a different uniform when they are in the heat of battle than what they wear when they are at a special service or funeral for one who has fallen.

    Doing my best to dress appropriately in HIS eyes (Jesus my Commanding Officer) and not worrying any longer about the expectations of others, no matter how insistent and judgmental they may come across to me. If it becomes a real issue and i am told i need to wear it all the time then i am just going to turn it in.

    What it stands for means everything to me but i don’t function well as a clone, i got to be me and all Jesus wants me to be not what anyone else desires. I can’t serve 2 maters and i choose Him.

    2 main things apply for me with my relationship with Jesus here vs. a religion:

    “When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others you won’t be a victim of needless suffering. ”

    “Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.”
    (from The Four agreements by DON MIGUEL RUIZ for the whole thing go to:https://tombeetlebailey.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/you-made-me-do-it/)

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for letting the HOly Spirit guide and direct you in what you write and share with His body.

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