We Must Go Forward!
by Envoy Roy
I was hired by The Salvation Army Southern
California Division in April 1994 to begin a transitional
housing program for homeless veterans on the grounds of the
West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
I had not been raised
in The Salvation Army (TSA) and did not even know the position
I was being considered for was with TSA until I went to the
first employment interview.
As a seminary graduate I knew something of the
theological lineage of TSA as a denomination in the Wesleyan
tradition but not much else concerning the way ministry was
have no recollection of being concerned/interested at the time
that Paul Rader was elected General in July 1994 and had
articulated his vision for TSA heading to the new millennium
and beyond to the High Council before his election, under the
title “We Must Go Forward!”
In his presentation, future General Rader
wondered if the world heading towards the year 2000 was on
some sort of Armageddon-like path, with the ongoing issues of
racism, poverty, hunger, war & violence, as well as the
cultural devolution connected with a godless media, moral
relativism and the attack on biblical morality.
In response to this, and against the temptation for
retrenchment, Paul Rader’s vision was aligned with TSA
Founder’s call to go “Forward”: to be a furiously aggressive,
militant Army, recognizing the crises, but also seeing the
times as opportunities to advance in increasingly secularizing
societies with the message that Jesus is Lord!
Future General Rader’s thoughts on the way
“Forward” at that time included:
1) cost effective
2) responsible patterns of funding
sensitive response to the AIDS crisis
enfolding/enlisting the lost in the Salvationist cause
5) innovative approaches to
confronting the moral crises and 6) world evangelism.
In order for this “advance” to occur, Paul
Rader believed that there must be a renewal of Salvationists’
faith, with sacrificial commitment rooted in the Word of God
as our authority and a lifestyle of intercessory prayer, while
recognizing our rich cultural diversity and with a focus on
reaching the next generation.
The future General also wondered if more theological
work needed to be done to better understand/articulate our
ecclesiastical identity as a church, while still maintaining
the imagery and Spirit-fueled energy associated with being an
While I was not that aware in the late
1990’s that Paul Rader was the General of the Army I had begun
pursuing the way “forward” in the context of a powerful
infilling of the Holy Spirit that I experienced in 1997 and
struggling with how best to live out The Salvation Army
Mission Statement, which I really only became aware of after I
had been employed by TSA for a number of years.
Most interpreters of the mission statement focused on
the words “preach the
gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name
From this there were those that asserted that some were
called to preach the gospel and others were called to meet
human needs. This
interpretation seemed especially appropriate in my Southern
California context where many of our programs were heavily
reliant on government funding that came with the restriction
of not using those funds for proselytizing.
But, this statement was preceded by the
first sentence of the mission statement:
Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical
part of the universal Christian church.
Who was to preach the gospel and meet human
needs? From the
mission statement, it looked like Salvationists, as an
expression of the universal Christian church, were to be
involved in evangelism and social services.
I looked at the program I was now directing for TSA
and, while we were doing much good for the homeless veterans
in our care, we were not contributing to fulfilling the
mission of the Army.
There were not soldiers on staff and we were not in any
meaningful way connected with a local Corps’ ministry.
So, I started a ministry that evolved into an Outpost
that eventually merged with a Corps to integrate evangelism
and the social services program I directed.
Eventually, a good number of the staff at the homeless
veterans’ program were also soldiers at this Corps.
At some point the Corps’ soldiery was overwhelmingly
made up of formerly homeless and/or addicted persons and their
families that reflected to some degree the racial/ethnic
diversity of Southern California.
Later, a variation of this approach would be associated
in the Western Territory with the Harvest Initiative, an
intentional plan to link ARC participants with Corps (and then
to connect, as well, social services clients with Corps).
I would state that this has been an emphasis
of mine over my years with TSA: how might we connect the
clients that we serve through social services into our Corps’
life and then disciple/empower those so connected to reach out
to the next generation of social services clients.
Major Stephen Court interpreted this for me as “Helping
formerly homeless people help presently homeless people become
formerly homeless people.” I think that is fairly
accurate. I also
think that this is an expression of Paul Rader’s way “forward”
as it “enlists the lost in our Salvationist cause, is an
innovative approach to Corps’ growth and contributes to world
remains a challenge to implement, however, as there are the
ongoing issues related to funding, staff professional
requirements and the procedural differences associated with
social services programming and corps ministries.
And yet, I believe it remains at the heart
of what it means to be The Salvation Army: winning all the
world (the material as well spiritual) for Jesus Christ!
When I first came to the Army I was in late young
adulthood. Now I
am in the early stages of old age.
But, through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit
fueling gratitude for the great sacrifice that was made on my
behalf by Jesus Christ when He died on the cross and rose
again, I can continue to express boldly with General Rader
(and our Founder):
Must Go Forward!