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Aggressive Fighting Force?
A lament inspired by Paul Rader’s “We Must Go Forward” and “A Million Marching”.
 by Captain Kathleen Johansson


“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.


“Only 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 “leadership teams”.


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?


“But 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 from ourselves.


















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