Aggressive Fighting Force?
A lament inspired by
Paul Rader’s “We Must Go Forward” and “A Million Marching”.
“These times call for a fighting force - furiously aggressive
- a militant Army, disciplined and determined to proclaim
Jesus as Lord amid the meanness and misery of world. These
times call for an advancing Army - an Army of aggression.”
Am I a part of an aggressive fighting force?
I’m not so sure. Lately I’ve been feeling like an aggressive
fighting sniper in the midst of a perfectly nice fellowship of
perfectly nice people hanging out in perfectly nice buildings.
All seemingly lovely - but not the stuff of armies.
That might sound harsh, but in the part of
the world where I’m currently situated it’s not uncommon that
words like “rank”, “title”, “order”, “uniform”, “soldier”,
“officer” and to an extent even the word “army” are to some
people almost as shocking as swear words.
But maybe that’s only my point of view - my
experience of the situation. I have, after all, transferred
from a different territory relatively recently, so maybe I’m
just not understanding this particular local expression of The
Salvation Army. Maybe it is an aggressive fighting force and I
just haven't been looking at it through the right lens? Maybe
it’s methods and ways are actually particularly successful and
I’ve been too distracted by my own biases to see it clearly.
soldiers assume the responsibilities of local officership in
corps. Officer candidates must be recruited from among the
ranks of senior soldiers. If we require more local officers to
assume the responsibilities of leadership within our corps, we
must have more soldiers. And well instructed, spiritually
alive and deeply committed soldiers as well. If we require
more officers…, then we must have more soldiers - senior
soldiers, ready to listen to the call of God and make
themselves available to him.”
I was talking not so long ago with someone
who is involved in recruiting people to officership in this
part of the world. She was lamenting that it is so very very
difficult to get people to sign up for officership - a
significant uphill battle. An observation I made was that
perhaps there are relatively few new candidates for
officership because there are relatively few people becoming
soldiers. If people are reluctant to give their lives over to
soldiership in The Salvation Army, how will they ever take the
step into officership?
Some real statistics from my territory - In
2016, the territory added to their numbers: 20 junior
soldiers, 36 senior soldiers and 147 adherents. That is four
times as many adherents as soldiers.
I got myself caught in a somewhat heated
discussion on Facebook recently about what kind of ceremony
should be used for the “enrollment” of adherents. I needed to
point out, among other things, that adherents are not
“enrolled” - but the discussion quickly turned into a
measurement of the worthiness of Adherency - “isn’t an
Adherent just as important and valuable as a Soldier?” As a
person in the eyes of God - absolutely! As a part of a
aggressive fighting force - as part of an Army - not at all.
“Adherency is good. But in and of itself it is not the stuff
of an Army.”
The difference is commitment. And in my
country as with many others there is a battle raging over “a
powerful cultural resistance to organisational commitment”.
What happened to serious unconditional commitment? Is it
simply culturally irrelevant in some parts of the world these
days? Should the expectations be purposefully lowered? Should
we sacrifice quality for quantity?
And what of local leadership then? “How is
that territory getting anyone into local leadership positions
if there are nearly no soldiers?” you may be asking. That is a
good question. In some places it has worked to make adherents
local "leaders" because “commissions aren’t being used anymore
anyway”. In other places it has worked because we no longer
have corps councils and senior census boards and instead have
Small territories, with relatively limited
resources, including resources in persons, often need to
compromise at certain levels, and on certain grounds in order
to maintain forward movement - that makes sense. But have we
compromised in the wrong areas? Have we let ourselves be
overwhelmed by the circumstances and made it harder for
ourselves in the process?
let us be Army! Were there not one, God would raise up a
Salvation Army for just such a time as this. We are only a
‘people of power’ if we are pure, continuously renewing our
confidence in the privilege of all believers to experience the
cleansing, empowering and en-gracing spirit of holiness,
sanctifying our hearts by faith and calling us to a lifelong
quest for higher ground.”
Raise up your Salvation Army God. May we be
furiously aggressive in our efforts to win the world for
Jesus. May we find true fellowship in the fight. God, save us