JAC Online

Did We Go Forward?
by Major Stephen Court

 

I’ll come at this challenge from a different perspective than the other contributors.  The raw numbers will give us some context.  When Paul Rader was elected General of The Salvation Army, 348885 junior soldiers and 797910 senior soldiers attached to 14907 Corps and led by 25391 officers fought in 100 countries.  By the end of his five year term (1999), 400078 junior soldiers and 947603 senior soldiers attached to 15669 Corps led by 25475 officers fought in 107 countries.  The senior soldier total was very soon to creep over a million.  In 2017, 396130 junior soldiers and 1130400 senior soldiers attached to 14389 Corps led by 24888 Officers fight in 128 countries.  Hallelujah. 

 

But now I’m going to comment on various statements of General Rader’s speech with the benefit of two decades of hindsight.

 

 

PAR: As together we look toward the year 2000 and beyond, are we not sometimes gripped by the sense that we may well have begun a final march to Armageddon? Sometimes the signs seem starkly evident. If not toward the final confrontation with an evil empire on the Plain of Megiddo, then Armageddon in the streets of our strife-torn cities. In homes rent by bitterness and moral failure. In the clash between moral relativism and biblical morality. In the relentless invasion of our homes and the minds of our young by the godless media. In the battle for decency and justice for the poor, the homeless, the hungry stripped of their dignity. Along the border of Tanzania and Rwanda and now in Zaire a million Rwandans have fled their homes.

 

sec- tragically, most of the horrors to which Rader alludes in the start of his speech have been equaled or surpassed in the intervening decades.  And Jesus still tarries, supernaturally patient with us, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.  God help us accelerate the advance of the salvation war and speed His ultimate return!

 

 

PAR: 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 our world. These times call for an advancing Army – an Army of aggression. Our field is the world and that world is aflame! Our sinning, suffering planet is exploding in crisis, while also bursting with opportunity.

 

sec – bracing stuff!  Are we a fighting force today?  How many of the million and a half soldiers (senior and junior) are furiously aggressive in our war fighting?  How many ‘disciplined and determined’ to proclaim Christ as Lord?  How many in our ranks, let alone society in general, see us a ‘an Army of aggression’?

 

We’ve made advances.  We tackled Rader’s challenge to a million marching into the new millennium – hallelujah.  And we’ve advanced such that we’re now fighting in 128 countries.  This season’s US SA campaign is FIGHT FOR GOOD (ties in with the Christmas kettle campaign and America’s ‘Doing The Most Good’ slogan) so there is intentional and public association with the struggle for righteousness.  But we’ve still a ways to go, God helping.

 

 

PAR: The stranglehold of communist domination has been broken for millions. Events such as those in North Korea – for 40 years cut off from the whole of the free world, including the South, just minutes away – gives some glimmer of hope for a final breaching of the Bamboo Curtain. And what shall we say of China, and Bramwell’s promise to his dying father to remember China? Africans are turning Christward in unprecedented numbers, and the evangelical church awakening in Latin America desperately needs the balancing emphasis of the Army’s ministries of clear gospel proclamation, social concern and Christly compassion. And what of the challenge of the increasingly secularised societies of Europe and North America? A very different challenge.

 

sec- This paragraph addresses current issues.  North Korea ominous threats have increased.  The Salvation Army has just this season been officially welcomed back in China.  Rader’s depiction of Latin America in need of balance could have been written yesterday.  And the increasing secularization of Europe and North America is at the point of requiring supernatural intervention to reverse the declension.  The Salvation Army has been unable to date to win these battles.  God give us wisdom and power in these coming years.

 

 

PAR: Can we believe that this is a day, an hour, for retrenchment? Is this a time for settling down comfortably, for bringing up the drawbridges over the defensive moat and hunkering down against the storm of an unfriendly world in our citadels of safe spirituality and Salvationist camaraderie, isolated and effectively neutralised as an aggressive spiritual force? It was the Army Mother’s greatest fear for the future of the Army. What would the Founder say to us here? I think he would say one word: ‘Forward!’

 

sec- Look, the retrenchment / settling down / drawbridges option is one that some of us have taken in the intervening years.  The ‘greying of The Salvation Army’ has seen the boomer generation dutifully and habitually keep their schedules while tragically losing ground as the generations that have followed have slipped spiritually or gone elsewhere to advance.  And that point is primarily about ‘the regiment’ – salvationist families.  The story of first generation salvationists is wonderful – in some places.  In others, it is unusual (not quite fable or old wive’s tale status, yet, we hope).  Booth says, ‘Forward’.  Rader says, ‘Forward’.  Have we obeyed the command?  In some places, yes.  We have expanded into more countries, with more soldiers than we have had in the past.  So advances are being made.  But there is significant decline in traditionally strong regions that cause pause.

 

 

PAR: I am not a proponent of mindless expansionism. I recognise we have commitments to our existing work, often struggling financially, which we cannot afford to ignore. But I am committed to strategic advance. And I believe resources can be found to meet the challenges before us.

 

sec- We suspect that Rader had to include this cautious paragraph to mitigate the fears some might have had of an ‘American’ becoming General, particularly one with a record of such aggressive goal-setting advance.   

 

 

PAR: We must go forward:

         forward in finding cost effective, supportable means for entering new areas of ministry;

 

sec- officially, we still have a system that seems to require a significant commitment of capital – facilities, quarters, operating budgets – and people (typically, vocational Christian leaders) for such advancements.  But unofficially (maybe for a few more weeks or months?) we have the Army Base Network which has an early track record of success that requires no facilities, no operating budgets, no vocational Christian leaders, none of the typical barriers to advance.  Instead, the simple formula – Base = cells + hubs – streamlines salvationism, bypasses bureaucracy (did we tell you the 1943 O&R for DCs indicates that societies – which have been missionally rebranded as Army bases – do not require headquarters approval?), is rapidly replicable, and revitalizes the revolution!  This is an early answer (well, late in time since he made the challenge, but early in proof and acceptance and application) to Rader’s challenge.

 

 

PAR: We must go forward:

       forward in developing more adequate, equitable and strategically responsible patterns of funding – and we must work for understanding and ownership of strategic commitments, within zones, surely, and around the world;

 

sec- Up until this year the USA Western Territory had a department dedicated to helping other territories gain financial self-sufficiency.  Their success is an answer to Rader’s challenge.

 

 

PAR: We must go forward:

      forward in compassionate and creative response to the AIDS pandemic. In this regard the IHQ technical assistance team is breaking fresh ground;

 

sec- As we understand it, Rader set up international health teams to address this and similarly significant challenges and they made an important contribution to addressing these problems.  Answered.

 

 

PAR: We must go forward:

         forward in our efforts to find and enfold the lost and then to enlist them in our great cause;

 

sec- Since the Year Book won’t publish (and, I guess retroactively report) statistics IHQ DOES collect of first time seekers of salvation, we cannot say how we’ve done in response to this challenge.  We are going to guess that Rader’s evangelistic emphasis had a positive influence during his term.

 

 

PAR: We must go forward:

         forward in aggressive and innovative approaches to evangelism and Corps growth, including the more effective use of the media;

 

sec- I have been an active officer since before Rader was elected, but I’m not sure I can point to whole-sale adoption of aggressive approaches to evangelism (we can point to some approaches but not whole-sale adoption) or innovative approaches to Corps growth (again – it is the ‘whole-sale’ but that is difficult).  For evangelism (we’ve blogged heaps on this, so if you are interested, go to the blog and search ‘evangelism’) one innovation has been spiritual readings tables.  For Corps growth (term no longer used widely), we’d point to Majors Linda and Kevin Jackson in USA Eastern Territory taking creative approaches to changing communities.

 

 

PAR: We must go forward:

    forward in our efforts to sensitise and mobilise our people to confront the moral crises in our communities;

 

sec- Again, I’m not sure how we can measure success on this one.   

 

 

PAR: We must go forward:

        forward in our commitment as an Army – east and west, north and south – to world evangelisation.

 

sec- We’ll say that in the past couple of decades we’ve heard leaders talk about winning the world for Jesus more than we did in the couple of decades preceding (anecdotal, yes).  It is to the point that a nominee at the next High Council who doesn’t indicate a commitment toward winning the world for Jesus will not be seriously considered (my take).

 

 

PAR: We must ask ourselves, how big is our world and our understanding of the place of the Army in it? How big is the ‘world’ of our people? Is it as big as our Saviour’s? We must move toward understanding our place – the place God envisions for us in the ‘do-able’ task of world evangelisation. It is only as internationalism becomes for us all an experience of joining hands across the world to march forward together in fulfilment of our Lord’s Great Commission that we can continue to generate the resources for global advance in mission.

 

sec- Remember that as Rader is making this speech the Internet has just been born (we’ll guess that few of the delegates even used email – in that era I’d email my DC and he’d have a secretary print it off for him; then he’d scribble his response on that sheet and have her fax it back to me!).  So Rader is anticipating the operationalization of the global village that occurred during his term (and has intensified since!).  He was a long-term reinforcement officer in a significantly different culture.  And he got us up and running on Lotus Notes (which, I know, those on it today see differently than it was appreciated in the 90s).

 

 

PAR: We must advance in a continuing renewal of faith and spiritual vigour, reflected in the vitality of our response to the word of God and its authority, and our capacity for sacrificial commitment. I believe we should revisit the use of small, task-oriented elite forces within the Army – special forces which, for a limited time, might give themselves to high-risk, sacrificial, innovative evangelistic strategies and services – whatever it takes! It might serve to raise the whole level of our commitment and help to break us out of a defensive and conservative mode, lest, in some places, we die of our own dignity!

 

sec- Yes!  I love this.  I’d love to see it.  The rule of life we crafted – INFINITUM (infinitumlife.com) – was originally inspired by William Booth’s vision of the Companions of the Cross of Christ (which is very similar to what Rader is calling for in this paragraph!)!  So, there has been A response (not a complete one) to Rader’s challenge.

 

 

PAR: We must move forward together in all our rich cultural diversity, women and men, the young and the aging and those in mid-life searching for ministry opportunities which might give their lives new meaning. We have much ground to cover on the issue of women in ministry. But one senses that there is much greater unanimity among us and a rising tide of commitment to finding solutions. Clearly, action is required.

 

sec- Rader gave married women their ranks (if you were married to a man who was a captain, you were also a captain, as it should be, of course, but this was one of the things he improved), and doubled the size of the high council in doing it (all of the ‘commissioners’ wives’ becoming commissioners themselves and thus qualifying as delegates to the high council).  And he and Commissioner Kay Rader worked and continue to work toward an egalitarian realization of the official SA ideals on this issue.  But there is heaps still to do.  Today, we’ve got one married woman officer who serves as CS in New Zealand.  She is the second married woman CS (following a recent one in Germany).  To our knowledge, these are the highest command appointments for married women in history (with the notable exceptions of Emma Booth-Tucker, co-national commander with her husband, and Florence Booth, the British Commissioner).  We expect much more.  And soon.   

 

 

PAR: The young continue to be our greatest challenge and our most profitable investment in our future as a Movement. The remarkable thing is that against the tide of the culture and its obsession with things, thrills and getting their own way, young people continue to respond to the call of God and come bearing the reproach of Christ. Not in the numbers we would like. But they come.

 

sec- Hallelujah.  Since this speech we’ve seen boot camp and battle school and the war college on our local front, and much more in different places around the world.  Young people typically BUY INTO a huge challenge.  It’s on the rest of us to live such lives that we’re in a position to throw down those kinds of challenges.  God help us.

 

 

PAR: I continue to feel that there is great merit in the idea of convening a cost-effective International Youth Forum, perhaps somewhere in the developing world, with less of an emphasis on costly extravaganzas and more on confronting young people with the challenge of the word of God and the world of human need – perhaps along the lines of the student missionary conventions which have been held in different parts of the world. Summer service Corps have proved to be a valuable recruiting tool for officers. I would explore the possibility of forming international youth service Corps teams, which could bring together teams of Salvationist youth from both supporting and supported territories.

 

sec- Of course, Rader did throw an international youth forum (one of my quarters mates attended and married a guy she met at it [she didn’t married him DURING the event!] and moved continents!).  And one of the organisers of the event is currently the TC in UKI Territory (for a few more weeks).   Answered!

 

 

PAR: We must share a common strategic vision as we move aggressively toward the 21st century. The All-India Strategy Commission concept should be utilised elsewhere. Much will have been learned from that initial effort at such an approach. An International Conference of Leaders must be convened at the earliest feasible date, hopefully before the autumn of 1996. It should focus on strategic priorities.

 

sec- International Conferences of Leaders have become a thing, with the most recent one in November 2017 (a handful of months before the next high council).  Challenged and answered. 

 

 

PAR: Sure theological foundations are critical if we are to move with confidence into the future. I would favour the convening of a consultation on the theological foundations of Army identity and mission. Among other things it might well address the issue of our ecclesiastical identity and the extent to which we may wisely identify the local Corps with the New Testament concept of the local church.

 

sec- Now, spiritual life commission was instigated by Rader and its influence has seasoned the generation that has followed.  This is one of his larger legacies.  His last sentence there is timely for me these days as I wrestle with seeing Ephesians 4 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherd\teachers) manifest properly in The Army…  But Rader answered his own challenge here. 

 

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 questing for higher ground.

 

sec- Keeper quote there: “Were there not one, God would raise up a Salvation Army for just such a time as this.”  Praise God.  But how are we leveraging, today, the divine DNA of the Army for world conquest?  Are we lacking the power to which Rader alludes for the reasons he outlines (lack of purity, lack of continuously renewing our confidence in… holiness, lack of sanctification, lack of lifelong quest for higher ground)?  He walks us through the solution.  We just need to follow the instructions.

 

 

PAR: If we find ourselves where God wants us to be in the year 2000 – ‘should Jesus tarry!’ – in strength and deployment, in understanding and efficiency, in purity and devotion, then we must advance on our knees.

 

sec- Colonel Janet Munn wrote a book ‘Army On Its Knees’ based on Rader’s famous call to prayer (which he promises in the lines immediately following).

 

 

PAR: I would issue a worldwide call to prayer and intercession, which can be coordinated with established territorial emphases, with a focus on worship, spiritual combat, claiming of new ground in prayer by actual visits and on-site prayer offensives in spiritual oppressive and resistant areas targeted for advance, on concerts of prayer and a renewed emphasis on the soldiers’ disciplines in prayer.

 

sec- this came and was answered, and has been answered.  And Munn (again), took this challenge to the next level in her non-stop prayer that began a decade into the new century.  It remains the challenge.  And we believe that prayer brings revival that lack of prayer makes necessary.

 

 

PAR: Let the Army in the developing countries of the world and those areas emerging from spiritual and political oppression teach the developed and increasingly secularised nations of the West the secrets of prayer, its discipline and dynamics, which they have learned in the cauldron of suffering!

 

sec- Amen.  We have heaps to learn.  God help us.

 

 

Rader led us to new heights statistically.  He led us to new depths spiritually.  He led us to new frontiers ethically.  Those of us old enough can just thank God for the privilege of fighting under his leadership. 

 

Glory to God. ​

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

   

 

 

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