Thoughts On The State Of Holiness In The
Earlier in this decade at a congress in USW (now Cadet) Erin
Wikle conducted a survey of delegates (you can read the whole
thing in JAC81 -
Holiness and Other Pertinent Matters
by Erin Wikle -
“Of the 160 delegates who participated in an anonymous survey
regarding personal understanding of holiness and discipleship,
the following were represented: 26% Corps Officers, 11%
DHQ/THQ/ARC Command Officers, 53% Soldiers, 3% Adherents, 5%
Non-Soldiers, and 2% Non-Specified Participants spanning the
age range of 14-49+.”
With half a decade separation and the perspective that
can accompany, we’re going to take a run at some of the
results of the survey (and a similar survey) and throw out
3% claimed they did not really have a solid understanding of
what a “holiness movement” is.
We’re a little surprised this number is so low. What IS
a holiness movement?
Wikipedia has a lengthy explanation of it at:
Google spews out 6.24 million links to the inquiry ‘what is
holiness movement’. But 97% claim to a have a solid
understanding of what it means for The Salvation Army to be
part of the holiness movement. This is encouraging
(maybe sales of titles like THE UPRISING, BOSTON COMMON,
HOLINESS INCORPORATED, and HOLY! are better than we thought!)
71% truly believe The Salvation Army strives to help
individuals achieve “Christian perfection” as expressed and
practised through its mission by aid of the Holy Spirit.
Again, this is encouraging. There are some strong
expressions here: ‘truly believe’ connotes conviction;
‘strives’ connotes intense effort; ‘Christian perfection’ is
no watered-down version of warm fuzzies that often passes
these days for holiness; ‘aid of the Holy Spirit’ puts the
focus on the source of our holiness. And still, seven of
ten people are convinced that we The Salvation Army exert
intense effort in combination with the Holy Spirit to help
people experience true holiness. Hallelujah.
The three in ten who don’t? Well, this is less
surprising. There are probably corps that don’t
emphasise holiness, meetings that don’t promote it, leaders
who don’t model it. So 30% is understandable.
24% do not believe The Salvation Army of today is
representative of its founding position as a holiness
¾ of people surveyed believe that the Army today represents
our primitive holiness position and emphasis.
¾ figure we line up in the tradition of Catherine
Booth, William Booth, George Scott Railton, Samuel Logan
Brengle, T Henry Howard, Booth-Tucker and the rest in
unabashedly Wesleyan holiness, promoting instantaneous,
expected, supernatural entire sanctification for all
believers, now, with an emphasis on the Crisis of the
‘processCrisisprocess’ continuum (as opposed to the later
understanding through Coutts of ‘ProcesscrisisProcess’ –
though, please note, pCp isn’t that far different from PcP).
Is it fair to suggest from these numbers that Brengle has come
back in the simplistic Brengle v Coutts holiness debate to a
point of dominant thought in The Salvation Army? (noting
the small survey size)?
79% believe they have been adequately raised up to understand
the concept of holiness.
Nearly 4/5 of respondents are satisfied with holiness teaching
they have received. Wow. Impressive. This is
a higher response than expected. Why?
A few possibilities:
a- small sample size?
b- survey took place at a congress: i. keen salvos would
attend such a gathering; ii. they’d be enthusiastic due to the
crowds and events?
c- the territory surveyed seems statistically to be excelling;
maybe good holiness teaching is a reason for the success?
d- people don’t really understand biblical holiness but assume
that they do and so figure they’ve been adequately taught it?
We believe that most weekly holiness meetings no longer teach
holiness weekly and that the occasions on which holiness IS
taught it may as likely be a non-salvo understanding of it
than Coutts OR Brengle (and that on occasions on which salvo
holiness is taught it is more likely Coutts than Brengle).
Our premise could be wrong. But if we’re right, then
option ‘d’ above is a scary possibility.
We believe that most Salvationists do not learn holiness on
salvo podcasts or conferences or magazines.
We believe that most Salvationists do not learn holiness from
salvo books, even though a large number of salvo holiness
books exist, both old and new. We believe this because
of the sales numbers of the newer books and because of the
general ignorance of the older books we encounter (we know
this is purely anecdotal). So, salvo books are not a key
source of holiness teaching for Salvationists. That
leads us to option ‘d’ above…
If ‘d’ represents reality, what is the solution? We’d
say that salvo holiness teaching, holiness reading, holiness
conversations, holiness prayer, holiness testimonies, holiness
challenges (invitations/pitches) and an all-‘round focus on
holiness would help!
93% claim the ministry of The Salvation Army has helped
cultivate within them a desire to live a more holy life.
Praise the Lord. Now, we’re not sure ‘a more holy life’
clarifies things. ‘More or less’ holy is a bit like
‘more or less pregnant’. There isn’t ‘more or less’,
there is pregnant or not pregnant.
But we guess that ‘more holy’ in terms of progressive
sanctification works (SA terms start with ‘initial
sanctification’ at your conversion and run through ‘entire
sanctification’ at the point you become holy).
And nearly all respondents figure the Army helps cultivate a
holy desire. This is encouraging news.
And for the doubters out there (the slang is ‘haters’ but it
is far too strong for us to use), this is an American survey.
A lot of salvos outside the States have traditionally looked
down on the Army there as a solely social phenomenon.
We’ve argued consistently against such delusion, pointing to
six-digit totals of first time seekers of salvation recorded
EVERY YEAR in that country, to the officers raised up (the
three biggest training colleges in the world are in the USA),
in the spiritual influence of Americans on the rest of the
Army (off the top, think of the biggest selling SA author of
our generation, Henry Gariepy; think of the first soldier on
the International Doctrine Council, Roger Green; think of
spiritual writers from Agnew to Pepper to Needham to Chesham
to Brengle; think of the consistently conservative theological
position in a sea of changing winds of doctrine; think of the
spiritual life commission commissioned by Rader, etc.).
And now, on top of all of this, the survey points to the role
of The Salvation Army in cultivating holy desire in American
When the Army’s holiness doctrine was presented in modified
terminology (I believe that it is a privilege to be wholly
sanctified, and that my whole being (spirit, soul, and body)
can be sinless before Jesus Christ returns):
80% claimed this was true.
17% claimed this was false.
3% did not offer a response.
Of particularly interesting note…
9% of those Officers surveyed do not believe in the Holiness
Doctrine of The Salvation Army
This one’s a little tricky because the ‘modified terminology’
in place of 1 Thessalonians 5:23’s and the official doctrine’s
‘blameless’ is the word ‘sinless’. ‘Sinless’ is one of
the battlefield words historically that we’ve concluded is no
longer helpful to use or defend (like other words and phrases
– ‘baptised in/by/with the Spirit’ being one notable example).
Our suggested alternative is ‘sin-free’. But the problem
with ‘sinless’ isn’t really solved with our solution.
The problem surrounds Wesley’s understanding of ‘sin properly
so-called’, which is a voluntary transgression of a known law
of God. ‘Sinless’ or ‘sin-free’ works in this context.
But if we include ‘sin improperly so-called’ – all those other
sins of which we are guilty – then ‘sinless’ and ‘sin-free’
And so, the 9% of officers who claimed this was false could be
reacting to the ‘sinless’ word, which, without a Wesleyan
framework, is inaccurate, and, even within a Wesleyan
perspective, is beyond both 1 Thessalonians’ and doctrine 10’s
What makes the result even more interesting is that even WITH
the tricky terminology four out of five respondents believe
the doctrine! 80% believe that we can be wholly
sanctified before Jesus returns!
Do you believe that we can be wholly sanctified before Jesus
Are you yet?
If not, why not now?
62% claim they have been/are being discipled by a more
spiritually mature believer and member of The Salvation Army
35% claimed they have not been/are not being discipled by a
more spiritually mature believer and member of The Salvation
2% did not offer a response.
Again, that 3/5ths of respondents indicate that they are being
discipled within The Salvation Army is very encouraging.
That said, it is almost too optimistic to believe at face
value! We’ll tackle this point a few lines down along
with the next question and responses, but before we do, are
you part of the 3/5ths being discipled or the 2/5ths not?
11% claim they do not actually know what “being discipled”
86% claim they do understand that “being discipled” means
3% did not offer a
Only 1/10 indicate that they don’t know what ‘being discipled’
means. This is good. That said, it would be very
interesting to have some more information. We’d like to
see responses to a multiple choice question that ran something
Which of these sentences define ‘being discipled’?
a- I have a veteran soldier at my corps who I look up to and
who influences me by his/her example.
b- I listen to our corps officer preach on Sundays and teach
our Bible Study on Wednesday nights.
c- I’m in an accountable relationship with a veteran soldier
who is intentional replicating his/her spiritual disciplines
and character in me.
d- I took the senior soldier preparation course at my corps
and am active in various sections (Sunday School, Songsters,
Home League) weekly.
We’re afraid that the 3 out of 5 indicating that they are
being discipled might identify with answers a, b or d their
experience and describe THAT as being discipled. We’re
suspicious that the nearly 9 out of 10 of respondents who know
what it means to be discipled also understand it to be a, b,
Of particularly interesting note…
36% of those Officers surveyed claimed they have never been
OUCH. More than 1/3 of officers have never been
discipled (in this survey).
A few quick comments:
We wonder why we don’t advance in the salvation war as we read
about in the book of Acts or in the early Salvation Army or as
we hope and expect. Only 2/3 of our leaders have been
discipled – that’s one reason. The apostolic principle
(think Peter at the Gate called Beautiful without silver and
gold but with the power to heal) is that you cannot give what
you do not have. If you aren’t a disciple, then, you
cannot make disciples. You replicate what you are.
So 1/3 of our leaders are not making disciples. God help
the soldiers, recruits, converts (if there are any), and
sinners in the districts to which these undiscipled officers
OFFICER TRAINING! Yes, officer training has to wear this
scandal around its neck. Sure, you can point to the
corps and the corps officers from which cadets come and say
that they should all be discipled before college – I totally
agree. But we’ve seen from the survey that 1/3 of the
corps are led by NON-disciples so we can’t expect their cadets
to be discipled. The training system provides TWO YEARS
for cadets to be prepared, and a lot of them need discipling.
Whatever else is being taught at the training college is
rendered much less useful and powerful if the cadets don’t
leave as disciples and disciple-makers. God help the
training principals to sort out this travesty.
While we’re encouraged generally (excepting the NON-discipled
officers) by the survey results, we’re a little suspicious
about the content of the holiness and discipleship responses.
We advocate strong teaching on salvo holiness and discipleship
throughout The Salvation Army (and, WE’RE The Salvation Army,
folks – we can’t wait for HQs and publications and periodicals
and curricula to respond – let’s do it ourselves).
Around the same time a different territory performed
considerable research was done through the territory.
Here are some outtakes:
- About a quarter of the officers are estimated to have a
genuine experience of holiness.
- that’s quite low for a holiness movement. So, maybe
we’re NOT a holiness movement anymore? (we have blogged
on this, including here - July 31:
- Or maybe we are not training our leaders effectively (we
have suggestions, including the following leadership books –
PROEVERBIAL LEADERSHIP with Commissioner Harris, A FIELD FOR
EXPLOITS with General Burrows, HIGH COUNSEL with Commissioner
Noland, LEADING THE WAR with Commissioner Knaggs, CHARGE! With
Commissioner Noland…) – you cannot give what you do not
- Or maybe the enemy is deceiving officers that to testify to
a genuine experience of holiness is pride, which is sin and
which in and of itself kills the experience to which they were
- Or maybe it is a combination of all of these factors.
This is what we guess…
About 30% of local officers evidence fruit of the Spirit.
Again, this is terribly low – embarrassing, in fact. God
help us. It suggests that most LOs are struggling to
serve out of their own discipline and energy and ability.
What is not of the Spirit is of the flesh. So we’re
looking at the strong majority of officers and local officers
leading and serving in the flesh. What does that
compose? A flesh army.
Our buddy Curtis coined a term that hasn’t seemed to catch on
(yet?) – to ‘flesh out’. That is when we manifest in the
flesh instead of the Spirit. It is fair to say from the
results that the modus operandi of this territory is ‘fleshing
That said, if only a quarter of officers testify to being
holy, and one understanding of holiness is being filled with
the Spirit, it only follows that just about that number (30% v
25%) evidence Holy Spirit in their lives…
About a quarter of all Salvationists (includes officers, local
officers, and senior soldiers, in this research) tithe.
We know of corps at which ¾ of this territory’s soldiery
(including officers) don’t qualify to be soldiers. Well, in
the spirit of the whole thing, they don’t qualify to soldier
at ANY CORPS IN THE WORLD if they aren’t tithing. But we know
some that actually apply this and a higher standard than this
– praise God.
Why don’t they tithe?
- lack of teaching. Lots of leaders are afraid to teach on
money, but it is important – your cartridge is an excellent
- bad teaching. This comes back to our old soap box about
leaders learning too much from outside the Army and not enough
from within. General William Booth sets the standard for
soldiers in RELIGION FOR EVERY DAY, vol.1. 1987, p92. “You
might work out this rule on a graduated scale, beginning at
the bottom with a tenth, and going on increasing as God
increases... From a tenth you can rise to an eighth, and then
to a fifth, and a fourth, and even further. Make His glory
your joy, your conscience, your guide, and the Salvation of
men, for time and eternity, the supreme object for which you
live and trade and do everything else, and you will not go
astray on this subject” (Booth, p95).
The problem is that most leaders don’t KNOW this and so they
teach something else.
- Bad example. Leaders don’t bother tithing so they don’t
teach others. Again, as Booth notes above, tithing is the
bare minimum for soldiers, but it is at least a place to
start. This is either straight-up disobedience or spiritual
- Spirit of poverty. Lots of salvos individually pick up a
spirit of poverty that has some sway over the movement in some
parts of the world. The deception from the enemy is
anticipated – ‘you are the down and out. You can’t afford to
give money. You can barely pay the bills. You need your
money for food and clothes and… God is meant to give money TO
YOU. Tithing is for those who are rich…’ etc.
- Sense of entitlement. This is a territorial spirit in some
parts of the Army. Corps and the Officer Corps are rife with
it in some places. It is a twist on generosity. The
Salvation Army generously invested in new corps and poorer
corps. Praise God. But over time some of those corps have
come to a place of expectation of that generosity. They don’t
bother to give themselves because ‘the Army’ will pay. Rather
than generosity, it is now expected, it is seen as an
obligation of the Army.
And this goes for a lot of officers, too, financially and in
other ways, too. Insidious.
- They’re unhappy. God loves a cheerful giver. And, the Army
traditionally has been known for its joy. But lack of tithing
is a sign of lack of joy / cheerfulness / happiness.
What’s the solution? Well, holiness is the solution to every
problem (note that the tithing proportion is similar to the
holiness proportion of the troops). But example, teaching,
accountability, and deliverance from the spirits of poverty
and entitlement will also help.
Half of the corps have a consistent, systematic discipleship
So, of course, half of the corps lack a consistent, systematic
discipleship programme. If you happen to soldier at an
odd-numbered corps, too bad for you. You’ll have to sort out
your own discipleship somewhere else. Or, you’ll not be
discipled (see the stats above from America).
The drag here (well, it is that half our people don’t even
have ACCESS to a consistent discipleship programme in their
corps in this territory) is that The Salvation Army has a
great discipleship programme from child to adult all ready to
go. We just have to apply it. But that takes a bit of
work. And it is easier to just enroll people in a uniform and
leave it at that. And discipleship is often messy. And it is
easier to show up for band practice or Bible study or home
league or some other ‘club-like’ activity and kid ourselves
that we’re fighting a war.
Solution? Apply the Army discipleship programmes (e.g. junior
soldiers; corps cadets; etc.). And where you are right now,
start or join an Infinitum hub – infinitumlife.com (and read a
whole JAC issue dedicated to it: