JAC Online

The Salvation Army Does Not Belong in a Box
by Captain Pete Brookshaw


God created the heavens and the earth from nothing[1]. Hillsides. Lakes. Rivers. Forests[2].




God then created living creatures. Fish. Cows. Birds. Alligators[3].


Very creative.


God then created humans[4]. Fingers. Toes. Ears. These things we call noses.


Very, very creative.


After the creation narrative we push a little further into the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament) and we hear about Noah and a humungous flood[5]. We read about Moses encountering God through a burning bush[6]. Then we picture those plagues that tore apart the lives of the Egyptians[7]. What about the parting of the Red Sea[8] and water gushing out of rock[9]?

Before I go on, have you captured the point yet? God is an out-of-the-box kind of God. The miracles and encounters of God are often different, unexpected, dissimilar from the previous encounter. Let me go on:

         The banking up of the Jordan river at flood time[10]

         The walls of Jericho coming down after a shout to the Lord[11]

         A donkey speaking[12]

         Fire falling from heaven to consume Elijah’s offering[13]

         Manna from heaven[14]

         Quail from heaven[15]

         Kentucky Fried Chicken from heaven (ok, that hasn’t happened, but I’m believing!)

Are any of these encounters the same? No. Do many of these take people by surprise? Yes. Let me go on, there’s more:


         God revealing His shekinah glory as a pillar of fire[16]

         God’s presence shining across Moses’ face[17]

         Rivers turning to blood[18]

         A dead person coming to life after Elijah lay prostrate on top of them[19]

         Jars of oil miraculously being filled up[20]

         Saul encountering Christ on the road to Damascus and going blind in the process[21]

         Jesus multiplying bread[22]

         Jesus walking on water[23]

         Casting demons into pigs[24]

         Healing shrivelled hands[25]

         Healing a paralytic[26]

         Spitting in a person’s eyes and curing blindness[27]


God is an out-of-the-box kind of God!!


No miracle is the same. Every encounter is different. God is creative, innovative, adaptive, imaginative, inventive, visionary, artistic, original and full of ingenuity.


So let me ask you a difficult question.


Why are our Salvation Army Corps so boring?!


Why do we lack so much creativity? Why are we so content to do everything the same, year in, year out, while serving a God that is the complete opposite?!  I’m the first to admit this. And if you’re real with me, you’ll realise the same. We serve a creative God, who solved problems in different ways at every juncture. Yet we just copy the ministry of the growing church down the road, or simply replicate a ministry from a previous generation.


Years go by and we look the same, smell the same, act the same, talk the same and then we look around and we wonder why we are declining.

Have we put God in a box?


It’s like we have said, you’re welcome to draw people to church Lord, as long as they sing like us. You’re welcome to save the lost, as long as they understand how we do things here. You’re welcome to help us reach youth, as long as they don’t destroy the carpet. You’re welcome to have people serving, as long as they conform to our ways. You’re welcome to let your Holy Spirit move as long as it’s in our predetermined Protestant rule book.


Forgive me if you think I’m being rash.


I just have a holy discontent. We need to release God from the box!


See, historically The Salvation Army kicks goals. We have all heard stories of ingenuity, raw passion and determination and Spirit-inspired innovativeness of the early Army.


Consider for a moment, The Salvation Army opening the lime-light department to present the gospel using the latest technology of the day. What about the donut girls in World War I, feeding military personnel on the frontlines? What about in 1883 when James Barker introduced the first permanent Salvation Army social institution, namely the “Prison Gate” programme based at Melbourne Gaol (Victoria, Australia)? Think about the match factory where the new style of safety matches meant employees weren’t subject to life and death working conditions. In 1885 Josephine Butler (a women’s rights activist) spurred The Salvation Army on to raise the age of consent in English law for young girls from 13 to 16. What about Frederick Booth Tucker, who in 1882 took with him three Salvation Army officers and landed in Bombay to open the work of The Salvation Army in India.


Let me highlight some practical ways we can be out-of-the-box:


Discover new solutions to old problems


Albert Einstein said that we cannot be solving our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. This means you have to THINK outside the box. Easier said than done. Try brainstorming some ideas. Try gathering around you people who you wouldn’t normally consider to get their feedback. Find a person of peace and ask them to help you. I mentioned the donut girls, who when faced with a situation of not having enough dough mixture, made a hole in the donut to spread it further (creative and innovative!)


Be willing to take a risk


Stepping out into a new venture is always risky. Having the young punk playing drums on Sunday will rock the boat (plus it will rock the music). Inviting the Hindu man out for coffee might be misinterpreted, but if God leads you, you do it anyway.


Trying something new will always cop some criticism. There will always be someone waiting to tell you how it didn’t work when they tried something similar. You need to know who you are in Christ, and be willing to take a risk. Assess your motives, and if it is about Kingdom growth and the salvation of the world, and the Lord is leading you, then what is stopping you? You may gather advice from trusted mentors and leaders, but in the end you have to choose to step into the metaphorical Jordan river and watch God bank the river up behind you.


Consider again the historical roots of the movement to which you are invested in. Salvationists by their very nature are willing to try to do what they can to reach the lost and bring restoration and healing to broken people. They will hear the cry of William Booth to his son Bramwell, ‘Do something!’


Do not fear failure


No one likes to fail. You can picture people behind your back saying things like, ‘I told them that it wasn’t going to work!’ Though we need to stand tall, understand we serve a creative God, and move forward into new endeavours. We cannot fear to fail, or more strictly speaking, we cannot allow the fear to cause us to stop moving forward, even if it means we may fail.


As a Salvation Army we must champion those that try, and cheer on those that are willing. It may seem counterintuitive, because if something is declining, we do the opposite; we play it safe, we create more paperwork, we unwittingly develop more layers of bureaucratic process to protect us from failure. We say that it hasn’t worked the way we had hoped, and so then we pull the plug and give up. But the problem is because of failure, we become comatose, unable to move out of our comfort zone, too afraid to try anything out-of-the-box, lest we fail again.


The truth is though, if you’re not failing occasionally, you’re probably living your Christian walk in a proverbial bubble of safety and security.


The ingenuity came thick and fast in the early days of our movement. The Salvation Army was known for being radical, different, passionate, sold-out for Jesus, a little eccentric and little bit controversial.


Because that’s the kind of God we worship.


I dream of a Salvation Army convinced of its calling. I dream of a Salvation Army willing to lay aside religious and cultural popularity for the work of the Spirit. I dream of a Salvation Army that will put aside petty arguments and win the world for Jesus. I dream of a Salvation Army that will stop talking about how much things have changed and enact change. I dream of a Salvation Army that will be infused with the same creative spirit that rose Jesus from the grave.


God is an out-of-the-box kind of God and if we are to best serve a God of that nature, we should well be out-of-the-box ourselves.


The Salvation Army’s growth depends upon it.



Captain Pete Brookshaw is the Corps Officer of The Salvation Army Craigieburn alongside his wife Captain Jo Brookshaw. He has a Bachelor of Business and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change.

He has been blogging since 2006 at www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith. Reach him on twitter: @petebrookshaw



[1] Genesis 1:1

[2] Genesis 1:11-13

[3] Genesis 1:20-21

[4] Genesis 1:27

[5] Genesis 6:9-22

[6] Exodus 3:3

[7] Exodus 7:14 – Exodus 12:26

[8] Exodus 14

[9] Exodus 17:6

[10] Joshua 3:13

[11] Joshua 6:2-5

[12] Numbers 22:28

[13] 1 Kings 18:38

[14] Exodus 16:4

[15] Exodus 16:13

[16] Exodus 13:21

[17] Exodus 34:29-35

[18] Exodus 7:17

[19] 2 Kings 4:32-34

[20] 2 Kings 4:1-7

[21] Acts 9:1-19

[22] Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-15, Matthew 15:32-39, Mark 8:1-13

[23] Matthew 14:22-33

[24] Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39

[25] Mark 3:1-6

[26] Mark 2:1-12

[27] Mark 8:23








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