Dear Salvation Army, Is The General Right?

This quote has bothered me, perhaps more than it should.
Is there more to this conversation that has not been quoted here that would cast a different light on this subject?  I do not presume to know everything, but I would like to attempt at interpreting this soundbite with your help.

Are we splitting hairs here, or is this a general assumption?
Photo Apr 25, 7 05 35 AM
I have seen this quote floating around for a day and a half, and I wonder if, perhaps some context is required before jumping to conclusions.

What does this quote mean?
What did the General mean when he said “Worshiping community”?
Are these two mutually exclusive or interconnected?

If I were to simply interpret this quote/sound bite, I would have to wonder why shouldn’t they be interconnected?  And also, what is so bad about being a worshiping community?
Another thought that comes to mind within this pondering then is this; wouldn’t a worshiping community’s bi-product or outpouring/ evidence of fruit be in the complete submission to God and the service of man – thereby being also a serving community?

If, I have interpreted this correctly, (and if I haven’t please correct me) I would have to disagree with the General.  I do not believe the Army’s paradigm has shifted nor has it’s hand to man.  This army of salvation certainly has an ever evolving identity within this world, but it’s mission, in my opinion, still remains firmly intact.

Is there fear that The Salvation Army is yearning to become a full-fledged Church somewhere?  From my small context of the Army world, I do not see that as an issue.  In fact, just the opposite would be my fear – we become, or have become far too Social Work heavy and lacking the “Heart to God” in our service.  With the ever increasing funding sources coming from governmental entities(at least in the U.S.), sometimes there is the fear that our hands become tied to preach the Gospel in His name while meeting the physical needs.

The Balancing Act…
I understand what the General is saying, if the context is correct, but I would have to counter with the notion that this is certainly a balancing act.  We serve the Almighty and through our discipleship, fellowship and worship we begin to understand how to better serve the world around us.   The pendulum certainly can sway in either direction and we must be mindful of it.  If we are properly aligned as an Army,  our worship and adoration of God will lead to the outpouring of service to man.

So is the General wrong?
Perhaps in places of the world this is true, but in this little corner of the world, I just don’t see it.

What do you think ?
Leave your comments below, share your thoughts on this and tell us what you think this means?

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.

*Disclaimer, this blog’s opinions and content does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of The Salvation Army.*

42 thoughts on “Dear Salvation Army, Is The General Right?

Add yours

  1. My thoughts exactly. I don’t believe I could have said it any better myself. Sadly the quote has been ripped from its context and lacks clarity. However, even with clarity, such a statement seems bizarre to suggest that worship and service are mutually exclusive terms.

    If the concern is that we are becoming less mobilized in our mission by our move to look more like a typical church model, that is one thing. However, as you said, I believe the fear is more evident of the reverse; that we are so service minded that our members fail to understand the chief importance of having a relationship with Jesus Christ.

  2. Scott, good for you for simply not accepting every comment as right or perfect. Critical thinking demands a closer inspection. Actually, service can be worship and worship, service. I suspect the unabridged message of the General would have brought that out but it’s hard to know with one isolated quote.

  3. I must confess that the above quote attributed to the General has raised questions in my own mind as well. The opposite situation, more serving than a worshipping community would also be bad. The Salvation Army is not just an humanitarian organisation, like for eks. The Red Cross. What we do in the way of service is because of what we are in relation to worship. When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus answered Loving the Lord with heart, mind and soul. However he added that we must also love our neighbour. Either one without the other would be wrong. The USA Army often used the slogan, With heart to God and hand to man. We neglect either at our peril. Our worship must always inspire and motivate our service. There are those who would say that if anything the Army is erring on the side of service at the expense of worship. The two must go hand in hand. If this balance is getting out of sync. then there is cause for concern and if the General has witnessed an insular Army, spending more time in their worship halls in insular activity then he is right to comment upon it. But remember the order Jesus declared. First worship, then service, or as another General put it, First to know thee, then to serve thee,
    Then to see thee as thou art.

  4. I don’t know the full context of the quote, but just that one statement is very true in our congregation. We have a “Sunday” congregation, very active in Sunday schools, bible study etc. We also have an active social staff (some volunteers, but mainly paid). With the exception of literally 3 people the 2 sides of our corps do not mix. I have even gone so far as to remind our congregation from the platform of our doctrine about giving time etc, but to no avail. We have more of a worshipping corps than a social corps. To meet our social needs we have had to turn into a small business and raise funds to pay staff.

    1. Jo, you are right about that, at my my Corps that is the case, to help our community (our social services), we hire staff, sad to say, as opposed to volunteers from the Corps. To hire Salvationists in our social service department would be a plus, but unfortunately not always possible. Announced from the pulpit for volunteers is a constant at our Corps, we need to keep praying. God bless you!

  5. Perhaps the General is leaning on the vision of General William Booth who never intended The Salvation Army to be a church, but rather a movement. From much of what I have read, Booth wanted to introduce people to Jesus and then mobilize them to reach others for Christ while meeting human need. Could the General be challenging us to not grow comfortable in our pews, in our corps building. Many Corps have become comfortable with their “Corps family” and have ceased to be out finding those who need both physical and spiritual needs. Just a thought to consider.

    1. Hi, I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head with many Corps in the US becoming comfortable in their inner groups, and not reaching out to their communities and meeting needs, mostly sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, for we are Christ’s hands and feet.

  6. Without considering the greater context of this statement, would be a detriment to any reader. I wasn’t at NAOC, and assume there is a lot more to this statement than meets the eye.

    I might argue that I agree with the statement as is, because there does seem to be a trend that we (the Army) is more of a worshipping community, focusing on our “holy cows” (the things we’ve always done) and less on finding ways to trying new things to reach the masses. I also think there are times where we seem to be focused on getting people into church instead of getting our church into the world.

    I might also argue against the statement and say, “The Salvation Army is in every community serving the people even when we can’t afford it.” That is true! However, doing doesn’t constitute serving. We do a lot of things because we are expected to (whether the expectations of others, or ourselves).

    Out of context, I would say that the General may be correct that our people come and worship, yet few go and truly serve. If, as you have said and I agree, we are truly worshipping then the bi-product should be a desire to serve. So maybe the question should be, “Has the Army become a ‘doing Army’ instead of a ‘worship Army’?” An Army so in tune with the will of God through our worship–that we truly know how to serve, rather than just ‘do’.

    “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26). We have many in our congregations that “have faith” but don’t have “deeds”. They go hand in hand.

    I think this is a good challenge and reminder for all believers, not just Salvationists.

    1. Good points Amos, I too believe there is a danger of a “doing” army but devoid of its service to God. I too have seen the sacred cows and have wondered if we have lost the meaning of true worship. Thank you for sharing!

  7. If the concept of service being the natural outcome of worship, there would have been no need for The Salvation Army. While it’s true that the Army should indeed serve out of hearts overflowing with worship and God’s redemptive love, it’s also true that in many places, all of the emphasis, and much of the resources, are focused on the worship only, never quite getting around to the service. In it’s purest form, every act of service would be rendered by a spirit-filled Christian, thereby giving the recipient the extension of Christ’s love almost automatically. Perhaps the General eludes to the giving away of our social service ministry to people who don’t necessarily embrace our ministry, thereby minimizing the powerful impact of “a cup of cold water in Jesus name”. I didn’t hear the rest of the context of this sound bite either. But I can relate to an Army that loses it’s first love.

    1. Very true Bob! I think if that’s the context of the conversation I would tend to agree. In a sense have we sold our birth rite or outsourced what we should be doing ourselves?! Thank you!

  8. I have seen a drastic drop in services provided by The Salvation Army in my community over the last 5 years. To think that if you build the church the outpouring of services to the community will follow is not practical especially when those attending the church are those needing the social services. I think worshipping and service g the community both take a lot of work and to focus on just one isn’t going to grow The Salvation Army.

    1. Very true! In my neck of the woods we have begun the “Pathway of hope” effort in order to attempt to correct our service, mission and heart. I think we sense the need but time will tell if we can readjusting course missionally speaking

  9. I would say it this way: I fear that the Salvation Army is focused too much on social services and not enough on going out and making disciples; carrying the gospel to the lost.

  10. How about this for a possible thought: be part of the band or songsters, practice to near perfection, doing the best with the gifts that God has given, BUT if all this work only results in a focus on worship and the community is not served in any way are those God given gifts being used as effective as they could?

    1. I would say, yes, you are very perceptive. We have band and songsters at our Corp plus the name of “Citadel.” When the General said this, at first I was offended because he was talking about our Corps. But after pondering that, it really was a challenge to me. If all this practice on my horn and voice only result in the focus of worship and sharing, say, only on Sunday morning, what good is that if we are not spreading God’s saving grace with the community? We are Jesus’s hands and feet and we soldiers need to get out into our neighborhoods. God bless you!

  11. I tend to agree with the writer. I believe that the General may have been thinking more generally than specifically. Yes, we in the States tend to do more social work than Jesus’ work but aren’t they one & the same? Jesus said to love one another, feed the ones that need it & shelter those who have no shelter. (Paraphrase mine). It is a very fine line that we walk sometime. God is good all the time. God bless The Salvation Army.

    1. I believe that social work is Jesus work if it leads the served toward Jesus. As I read earlier this week ( and this is a paraphrase of the quote I read from Bill Burke, president of the U.S. National Advisory Board). Service without presenting the gospel is empty calories. Since we have outsourced social service and can’t require the providers be Christian due to govt. funding, much of our social service these days is empty calories void of the saving grace of Jesus

  12. I believe that the early Salvationists lived out the Greek New Testament concept of ekklesia and didn’t want to be know of as a church. However history shows that since then we have gradually moved away from ekklesia and toward the concept of church. Perhaps the general is trying to pull us back from going over the edge and becoming a church more than a community serving others under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. I just wrote a book about this that is full of Salvation Army history and quotes, available at

  13. In the UK a massive effort is being made for our corps fellowships to become more mission focussed rather than be the spiritual navel gazers we have become over the past generations. There is a shift towards localised social services, ideally organised and delivered by the local congregation, with the additional support of external sources as and when required. Of course, this raises many, many very practical issues in areas where the fellowship of believers is elderly and very small in numbers housed in unsuitable premises with having no younger people attending at all.

    Having said this, there are legion examples too of situations where the balancing act is already happening to great effect and purpose. The fact remains that within the average corps setting 80% of any work is being achieved by 20% ( or less) of people.

    General Cox may well have had in mind the old quote: ‘too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use’ – or ‘Get out of your Citadel bound comfort zone in your spotless uniforms and get your overall sleeves rolled up as there are souls to be saved and a Kingdom ministry to be performed’ or maybe even ‘do not forget your roots, stop hiding, become visible again!’

  14. My feeling is that for a number of decades we have been too interested in going to church rather than being the church.

    To me, that is what General Cox is saying.

      1. Christ had a practical ministry, The Salvation Army started with a practical ministry and what the programme the Sally Army and Me has successfully presented is a practical ministry which speaks volumes. No point preaching to a man with an empty stomach. Good for you Andre’


  15. William Booth didn’t want the salvation army to be another church were people would have to meet certain requirements to be a member. Are first soldier’s and officers were reformed drunks and prostitutes and they would go out and find others like them and Witness to them and try to win them over to the Lord.They ran soup kitchens and provided people’s needs. That’s why the SS on our uniform stand for saved to serve.But as the movement grew people who had full time jobs could’t be at the army volunteering all day.So today as soldier’s we have to balance between work home and church. So that means the work at the salvation army is split between volunteers and soldiers .I think the problem in the US is we a known for our social services more then a church. I think what William Booth dream was that of the early church that the apostles ran that everyone was in one a
    Accord and everyone sold possessions and gave the money to the church so it could keep growing. But as Society changed so did the movement .I think the salvation army does the best we can with the restrictions the government puts on us.

  16. I was at the event where this was said. It is out of context. What the General said is that we have become insular – where we are content to wear uniforms, worship and pray indoors while ignoring our calling to be mobilized – to go out into the world to engage in the Great Commission.

    He was prophetically challenging the ‘citadel’ mentality – where it is ironic to wear uniforms and refer to ourselves as “Salvationists” when there is a shortage of “going out into our communities” – whether this be in service, in open airs, in visitation, etc.

    In context, his challenge was brilliantly laid out. Truly the benefit of context and one of the challenges of our sound bite culture.

  17. I believe the quote is accurate both as a stand alone quite and in the original context. The General experiences The Salvation Army on an international level. He has identified a concern and is sharing it.

  18. This seems to be a lot of unnecessary discussion. Why not just ask him what he meant and why he said it? After all, it’s not like he is the Pope or some other earthly monarch. Moreover, he has commited himself to a more “transparent” (his word) Army. Asking him to explain himself and then expecting him to do so avoids putting words in his mouth and gives him the opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to transparency. Personally, I doubt that he will respond one way or the other.

  19. I remember the vision of our Founder, a situation when people are all looking up in a pedestal, begging and reaching up toward God crying out to Jesus, however in reality Jesus is on the water saving drowning people, He is calling out the people worshiping in the pedestal to help Him save the people, sadly none of them response. We need to balance everything, our Mission Statement is “To preach the Gospel and meet human needs in His name without discrimination”. We’re not waiting on a move of God, WE ARE A MOVE OF GOD.

  20. I don’t like it when people don’t use the whole quote. this is what he said (Primitive Salvationism, Facebook), “I greatly fear that we have become satisfied, comfortable and, dare I say, complacent in our halls of worship services. Indeed, I fear that The Salvation Army has become much more a worshiping community than a serving community. I see a great need for the entire Army to be truly energized and mobilized in reaching out to a dying world. We need to be what God calls us to be in this world!”

    My interpretation of what General Cox was saying is “We Need To Stop Sitting and Start Moving Outside Our Buildings.” Being a worship community is not a bad start but we must go out and serve the communities that we are in so that we can share the love of God with them. The question we must ask ourselves is, What are the fruits of our labor if all we do is sit?

    1. Thank you for sharing this, yes, I don’t like half quotes either and I think that’s the crux of the problem, the quotes plastered on images for “sound bite” purposes but they don’t have the full meaning of the quote left intact for others to properly interpret and understand.

  21. Kari Booth is right. These two(worship and service) are inseparable. Worship is our way to have an encounter or a feel of Jesus’ spirit. Quoting from lord Jesus in Mathew 26:11: “The poor you will always have with you,a but you will not always have me. ”
    In order for us to show our love and commitment to Jesus we should show love and compassion to all who are poor in heart spirit and physical needs.

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