Dear Salvation Army: Why Quality Is Better Than Quantity

dusty-feetJesus had more than 12 disciples…yet many left Him. (John 6:66)
Did Jesus call each one of these “AWOL” disciples?  No.
Some joined the band later during the rise of Jesus’ popularity.  But Jesus wasn’t looking for popularity.  He hadn’t come to be lauded and complemented.  He hadn’t come to start a Roman incursion.  He came for so much more.  He taught that purpose to His disciples, those with whom He confided in and hand-picked for such an important calling.

soldiers4Dear Salvation Army, why is it that we feel it necessary at times to place quantity of soldiers and officers above quality?  I don’t think anyone intentionally does this.  I do not think we rush out and pick people off the street and throw uniforms on them just so we have “numbers” the next time the General or anyone else important in our Army comes to town.  But we do see success within our Army as something of a quantitative thing don’t we?

uturnHave we been going about this all wrong?  
Could it be that instead of sheer numbers and all of these “Corps growth” initiatives we must first focus on the ones we already have in our pews who are undiscipled and unequipped for the battle?  We serve many individuals who are marginalized and wounded by life.  Some might be incapable of ever achieving the standards of  “Christianity” that other churches expect of their parishioners. I have heard it said that the church is an emergency room for the sinner.  It should be a place of triage and shelter for the broken and the imperfect.  We serve many in our Army who not only need the spiritual emergency room but also long-term spiritual care!  Some may never walk upright within the spiritual realms of leadership.  Some may only crawl towards incremental spiritual achievements in their lives because they have been crippled by sin, shame and/or other spiritual, emotional and physical wounds in their lives.  Can we accept them for who they are, where they are and mark these limited steps of growth?  Are we patient enough to develop these wounded soldiers with grace, love and at times looooooooooooong-suffering?   Or are we so focused on getting “others” more “capable”, desirable people into our corps buildings?  We, unintentionally, stick up our noses at the uneducated, spiritually inept and broken cases already before us.

I don’t mean to make this an indictment because I too would wear a crown of guilt in this witch-hunt of pointing fingers.  I too have walked the fine line of measurable growth and statistically accomplishments while unintentionally leaving the spiritually crippled of the corps in my dust.  Shame on me.  Forgive me.

What I’m Not Saying:
I’m not saying don’t seek out others to bring into your corps.
I am not saying don’t work to improve the spiritual conditions of your corps.
I am not saying don’t preach holiness and hold the standards high for all who come to the corps.

What I am Saying: 
-Don’t forget those that God has already placed in your corps and on your ministry pathways.

-Don’t lose the emphasis on teaching and discipling your vital few who come week in and week out.

-Don’t lose heart when you look at statistical sheets and only see the same numbers associated with the same faces.

-Love your corps members even if they are incapable of loving you back (as hard as that may be).

-Be the very best representation of Christ to your corps, in your leadership and in your living examples.

-Don’t wait for more educated, better looking and polished people to come through your doors.  Focus on the ones that God has placed within your ministry right now to love and to lead.

Why Quality is Better Than Quantity?
When we become satisfied and confident with loving and serving the few we take off the burden of false success driven ministry concepts.  It’s not about packing your corps building to the brim every Sunday morning.  It’s not about attempting another evangelistic ploy to rope the unchurched into your doors.

binocularsWhen we begin to love and to focus our attention upon those we already have within our corps (the “quality“, no matter how far from quality we may view our corps members) we will begin to truly love them, appreciate them, long to better disciple them, and serve them as Christ would the Church.   When we focus our attention on the “few” and feed them spiritually, the love and “curb” appeal of our corps will become all the more evident in our communities.

We get it all wrong some times in our attempt to become like other churches.  We look over the ministerial fences and long to be like “that” church that boasts 400 or more members on a Sunday.  But the truth is we aren’t THAT church…we were never called to be THAT church.  Our ministry and mission as the Army is very, very unique.  Our mission will contain more elements of serving wounded soldiers day in and day out and maybe, just maybe we will see incremental or phenomenal life improvements both physically and spiritually.  I am not discounting the work of the Holy Spirit here, He can and will perform miracles, and we must  be diligent and faithful to His calling.  Yet in other occasions we must also not give up on soldiers and corps members who never seem to move from their one position of initial conversion.

We know there is more to be had within the realms of spiritual growth and holiness for our corps members…but sometimes it may take a lifetime for that corps member to achieve this understanding as well.  DON’T GIVE UP ON THEM!  DON’T QUIT OR LOSE HOPE!

**Yes, fight for the weak, the hurting, the lost.
**Yes, keep up the evangelistic methods within your communities.
-But don’t forget to employ quality love, support and leadership to the few as well!

Just something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Why The Salvation Army isn’t for everybody, but it is for everyone!

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It was founded as an outreach, a mission, a cause.  

The mobile Army wasn’t created to be another church but rather a fighting force equipped to fight sin and its stranglehold on humanity.  Its members were to fight side by side for the purpose of relieving human suffering while administering the annocuational cure which is Christ to the dying soul.  Life replacing death.  

Humility walks in close step to the sounds of marching feet in an Army of spiritual combatants.  Without this vital component, one might have the temptation to become self-righteous and prideful.   But this fight, if total commitment is the goal and holiness is the aim, offers little time for selfish desires and ambitions.  

Thus, The Salvation Army is not for everybody.  Within its ranks there are few benefits of receiving human praise and awards of personal prestige.  Payment for services as Officers, Soldiers and Lay persons are minimal at best and carry with it responsibilities of a full-time commitment.  If one were searching for a higher paying position which afforded more luxury and freedom The Salvation Army certainly would not be for everybody in search of these physical comforts.  If the mission is at the forefront, which is also an extension of the Great Commission, such desires for personal acclaim and earthly wealth is diminish over time.  Don’t get me wrong, however, these temptations will still occasionally occur, but if Holiness and humility are present as tools for utilization in a Soldier’s armor then that soldier can withstand this assault with the power of the Lord.  

…but it (The Salvation Army) is for everyone!

 In recent years struggles have arisen.  Lifestyle questions have been raised.  Accusations (even at times correct) have been made.  Yet if the mission is still intact, and the purpose for which The Salvation Army was established is still sought after, then the true love of Christ will shine and be seen by all who are seeking love and acceptance.  

Christ came for the whosoever, and as we continue our fight against sin and its stranglehold on humanity we must not lose our identities as first Children of God and secondly Soldiers of the Army.  When we can look at others through the lens of love as Christ first loved us, we then can see both sinner and saint still very much in need of hope and grace.  The sinner and the saint do not need more condemnation and warfare of the spiritual kind flung at them as if they are the opposing enemy.  “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.  

If we are an Army marching ever forward we must consider what it means to truly “march forward” while engaging the REAL enemy of this world that seeks to envelope the hapless victims in sin, hopelessness, and death.  

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but in warfare, even in this spiritual fight, we need Soldiers and Officers who are willing to engage the enemy for the sake of others and with the power of the Holy Spirit…we do not need more sidelines cheerleaders, pretenders, or the “half-committed”.  It’s either all or nothing.  

The Lord doesn’t want a part-time commitment or what is MOST convenient for us.  He wants from us a full surrender, and in our full surrender we may be lead to do some revolutionary things in our time.  It may be uncomfortable.  It may stretch us.  But extending God’s love, hope and grace to our communities and fields of service will mean life or death to ones in which we invest our time, talents and treasures.

 

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-Just a thought.  

An Army Engaged in Battle!

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I was having a conversation with a person the other day about what I do (I’m a pastor/officer with The Salvation Army).  In the midst of our conversation she told me that recently The Salvation Army was featured on a trivia show.  They were the answer to this question:  What is the only Army in the world that has never fought a battle.  This revelation kind of caught me off guard.  Of course I understood the connotation – a physical battle, but I thought to myself in a very real, practical/spiritual sense how wrong they truly were.  The Salvation Army was formed for just the purpose of engaging an enemy that has ravaged this wretched world since the fall of Adam and Eve.  We are at War!!  The public may not know this, but we are engaged in the front lines of spiritual warfare every day.  Sometimes I fear perhaps even some of our Soldiers and (dare I say) Officers don’t know this.   

We must continue to be an Army that is engaged in this battle daily!  Do falter or to fall is not an option!  Ephesians 6:12 says this:  “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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

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There is a very real spiritual adversary that holds many sinners captive still today.  Many people are bound by all kinds of addictions, perversions and entanglements that they cannot break.  Who can save them?  We alone certainly do not possess the strength, nor the power to free them, but girded with the full armor of God, this Army of Salvation can still be vital and effective!   We never stand alone in the midst of the fray, we carry the banner of Christ with us and the Holy Spirit is our ammunition and power!  

So how must we begin?  We begin on our knees in penitence before the Almighty!  We seek His power, His guidance, and His direction.  Only when we have been thoroughly equipped through our conversations with the Father can we then get up and fight on.  Without these necessary daily, even moment by moment conversations with the Father we will not continue to stand against the father of lies.  

Dear fellow Christ-followers and Soldiers of the Army, we cannot simply wear the uniform and pretend to be engaged, we must actively fight for the salvation of other lost souls in our communities and even in our own homes!  Without active soldiers and officers who are willing to fight and willing to boldly stand up, this cause will surely falter and fail.  We don’t need casual partakers or bench warmers, but we need active participants who will stand in the gap for the hurting, the tired, the poor, the wretched and the lost!  This battle for the lost is not over!  It certainly did not end when our Founders were promoted to glory, nor will it end when we grow old and one day meet Jesus face to face!  But in the here and now, in our small corners of the world, there is still a battle cry to be heard!  There is still a fight to be waged!  There is still lost souls to be saved!  Who will go?  Who will serve?  Who will fight on and answer the cries of the broken and the shattered?  May we all hear the cries, but more importantly, may we all hear God’s calling for us to take our stands and to reach out a helping hand to poor souls still drowning in the depths of sin.  

I’m reminded of this Battle Song: 

#718 in the Red Song Book –

Fight the good fight with all thy might,

Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right;

Lay hold on life, and it shall be

Thy joy and crown eternally.

Run the straight race through God’s good grace

 

2.

Run the straight race through God’s good grace,

Lift up thine eyes and seek his face;

Life with its way before us lies,

Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.

Cast care aside, lean on thy guide

 

3.

Cast care aside, lean on thy guide,

His boundless mercy will provide;

Lean, and the trusting soul shall prove

Christ is thy life, and Christ thy love.

Faint not, nor fear, his arms are near

 

4.

Faint not, nor fear, his arms are near,

He changeth not, and thou art dear;

Only believe, and thou shalt see

That Christ is all in all to thee.

John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811-75)

 

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General Cox: A call to a deeper spiritual life!

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Yesterday at the New Zealand Congress, Salvation Army General Andre’ Cox said “He dreams of a Salvation Army that is ‘vibrant, committed and on its knees before God” He went on to say that  “Deepening the spiritual life of Salvationists is essential to moving forward as an Army, he said. “If we want to see our world change, we ourselves must be changed by God.”

Let me first just say “Amen!”  General Cox is spot on in regards to this continued need for personal and corporate holiness in our Army!  We cannot expect to grow or change the world without first deepening these spiritual waters in our lives.  Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction for His people and His Army, we can find ourselves scattered by the winds of discouragement and discord.

It is encouraging to me that General Cox is picking up where General Bond left off.  We are, as an International Salvation Army, One Army and to build on this One Army we first must make sure our walk with the Lord and our maturation of faith continues.  Without it we cannot and will not remain united.

As reported by IHQ’s web page, the New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory celebrated some fantastic growth of Soldiery and expansion in Corps.  Isn’t that awesome?  It really doesn’t matter which territory you belong you, as an Army we too can celebrate their growth within this Army!  Congratulations!

I believe our Army has much to accomplish in the years to come, but without first checking our hearts, motives and righteous intentions these accomplishments could be for naught…yet I too whole heartedly agree with his call for all Soldiers to deeper their faith.

How is your heart?  How is your walk with the Lord today?  May you continue in your walk with Him!  May you also continue to be a light to all who encounter your love and passion for them through  Jesus Christ our Lord!

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News Source:  http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/news/inr260913

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