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We Must Go Forward!
by Envoy Roy Snapp-Kolas

 

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 undertaken.  I 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 ministry
2) responsible patterns of funding
3) a sensitive response to the AIDS crisis
4) enfolding/enlisting the lost in the Salvationist cause
5) innovative approaches to evangelism/corps’ growth
6) 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 “Army!”

 

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 without discrimination.”  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:

 

The 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 evangelism.”  It 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):

 

We Must Go Forward!

 

 

 

  

 

 

   

 

 

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