Monday, February 7, 2011

Do officers primarily serve God or The Salvation Army?

Why do many Salvation Army officers, when they resign, no longer persist in “proclaiming the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”,  “to live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of (their) life” and “to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends”?

Are officers evangelists, preachers and leaders only because it is their assigned role in the Salvation Army?

It struck me that officers, including myself, typically base our reasoning from a starting point based on what we actually do, not from what God has called us to. The Salvation Army expects me to evangelize whereas God calls me to do so. The Salvation Army expects me to preach: God has called me to do so. Duty and the ‘call’ exist as matching, complementary characteristics. .

Could organisations like The Salvation Army possibly define and present ‘being called’ in a simpler, and more easily acceptable format? Might it even become so much simpler to fathom that officers can function with integrity and do so without the claim of ‘being called’? Indeed, contemporary organisations encourage employees to seek their own direction. "Do what the Bible says" is meant for individuals, not for organisations. What The Salvation Army believes the Bible wants it to do and how the Bible defines what it is to do is determined long ago and can hardly be altered. Officers have to fit in. And officers get trained in the hope that they do just that.

Even in The Salvation Army the call of the organisation transcends the call of God.

I hated selling The War Cry house to house. Mainly because the principal motivation was fundraising. Maybe I wasn't an evangelist at all. And yes, we
pretended as if we were evangelising and yes, we prayed for that single person finding Christ. The Bible doesn't say you have to sell War Cry's does it? But don't you dare utter something like that out loud: sacrilege!
So the magazines kept coming. And I kept selling them.

As an officer you have to evangelise whether you have the gift evangelizing or not. And if you have the gift of evangelising you have to lead anyway whether you like it or not. Well, I don't have any gifts (I always say this
to make my wife angry), but The Salvation Army doesn't offer God the privilege to call officers who uniquely have this gift.

If so all officers have to chose sooner or later in their officership career and service to remain sensitive to God’s direction, which by definition supercedes the appeal of any human or organisation – never mind the outcomes – or acquiesce to the wishes and expectations of the organisation. Officers always have to choose  between a personal, God-fearing conflict or to let their dynamic faith cool down and become moulded into a quiet common position.

I’m not grumbling. And for some it doesn’t sound nice. But organisations simply work like this.

We can verify these facts by simply imagine some possibilities. For example, what would Linda Bond do when The Salvation Army would no longer be defining the tasks expected of her. What would she do if she has to listen to God’s explicit direction? Would she be a word leader of some other evangelical mission? I could not say that for sure.

Could you, as I do, call to mind some DC’s and TC’s? In accordance to the mission of The Salvation Army these are godly people and gifted evangelists. What would they do if The Salvation Army suddenly disappeared? Would they again get their soapbox out of the closet, put it in a nearby shopping mall and start winning people over to Jesus? I don’t think so.

How many officer who resigned stand by their promise to soberness and sacrifice and be an evangelist 24-7? The life to which officers report they were called? A few. And they hold on some of these aspects of an officer’s life only because they “accidentally” succeeded to merge into another organisation which again is filling in the expectations of them.

Did God call me to become an officer or did The Army customary practices simply recruit me? After my resignation I continued doing nothing of the things I did as an officer. As an officer I pretended acting like an officer living out the orders God laid out for my life. But when I stopped being an officer I stopped being an evangelist, and a preacher and a leader as well.

No comment on this article will clarify these laws of nature regarding organisation. It seems to be a fact that officers serve mostly an organisation and just fulfil plain instant tasks demanded by the organisation. It seems also to be true that officers romanticize their work in considering it as a post which transcends a profane job. But in reality it’s just that. Without The Army officers aren’t evangelists, preachers nor leaders serving God’s Kingdom. They were all that just serving the Army.
Would that really be all? I’d like to disprove this phenomenon one day with my life.

Pieter Raaijmakers

Former Officer


Colin Machan said...

Pieter, thanks for your post.
I am a War Cry seller and 'pub-boomer', and have been so for the last twenty years. Although there is an element of fundraising involved, my chief motivation is to distribute the Word of God, via the medium of the Army papers. There are also opportunities during the evening to share something of God's love through the relationships I have built up over the years. If I am faithful with my outreach through this particular ministry, I trust God to ensure that the costs of the papers are more than covered. Of course, He does not let us down. :)
Colin Machan
Dartford Corps
United Kingdom Territory

'Fletch' said...

Pieter! There is always a danger in trying to oversimplify things that are not simple. The things that you are seeking answers for, I fear, are not going top be found in this forum, only within yourself, as your last sentence indicates. In the years since I have left it has been a constant troubling of my mind in that many of the things that I did, I now no longer do. But is it my faith that has changed or my understanding of it. Sure I used to do the pubs and genuinely enjoyed the contact with 'real' people as opposed to those that sat under my ministry each Sunday and who I visited in their homes. Yes they were real people but many of them too had been shielded from the world and felt similar to me. Despite what many of our leaders are supposed to have said I was never under pressure to Fundraise, and I never looked at selling the War Cry as a financial imperative; but simply a great opportunity to be out there ...'Where the Darkness reigns..'.

Call me a simpleton but I believe that the vast majority of officers heard the call as William Booth once noted as a response to a seen need. How many people not connected to any form of faith organisation can really say it was 'God' who called me. However I believe that God raised up the Army and used it to encourage me to follow his leading as I understood it then within the ranks of Officership.

Despite having been left for nearly 20 years I still count that vocation as my greatest blessing and still provides me with a lens through which I see my world. When I read my Covenant; there are some of the words that are never going to be fulfilled, am I disappointed? Yes of course! Am I overwrought with guilt? No as I have found that in the field that I am in now I can still use all the skills that I used as an officer for the good of mankind.

I am really glad that I knew people who were good pastors, good preachers, good organizers, good leaders, and so we could go on; were they all in the same person? Obviously not but there were enough of them that were simply 'good enough' to be, and do, what God wanted them to do.

It is so individual but there is always a tendency when we see someone who can do things better than we can to believe that is what God requires. There was a guy in my session who gave the best sermon I have ever heard, and I nearly went home because of that sermon. I knew that I could never do it that good. I learned later that he nearly went home the first time we went a pub to sell War Cry's because he saw me just bowl up to the patrons and start a conversation, he was so timid and he 'knew he could never be like that'.

If we all wait for God to call the perfect ones, or if we wait to be perfect before we 'allow him to call us' our ranks will diminish far more rapidly than they currently are. "The woods would be very quiet if only the best songbirds sang".

When Farewell orders came round s regularly as they did in past generations, our first reaction was the human one but overall that was the knowledge that for us it was Gods way and we approached each appointment in that way.

I am not worried about what 'Bond... Linda Bond' would do if she didn't have to do what the Army expected of her, from what I have read she would have stern words with God and start it all over again and we could the have TSA version 6385.

It is never a matter of what is the norm and what is supposedly expected by God. Army or our fellow SAO's, it is individual; what do you believe that God expects of you?

Now go and do it!


Anonymous said...

I understand your thoughts and questions Pieter. You have given yourself to much reflection. I also commend Fletch with his response and advice. For all formers I would agree. Find out what God wants you to do. You don't need an organization to tell you. God will lead you.

Blessings !

USA East , former

Anonymous said...

Different Officers have different skills. I know some officers who have been in admin positions their entire officership - you could count on one hand how many times they've been in the pulpit since college. Others in Corps work, others in social etc. I know there are a lot of expectations placed on Officers, and much of that is wrong. But you are right - it is part of organised religion in the whole. As liberal as I am, even I shudder at the thought of the wackos that would come out of the woodwork if everyone claimed to be doing 'just what God explicitly told them to do'.

I personally think that a lot of the questioning comes from our understanding of our covenant. For me, I would not be where I am today if I had not gone into Officership (I know that sounds a bit redundant - but it's true). I would not have gone into Officership if I did not believe at the time that it was going to be a life-long vocation. It was in Officership that I began to truly study theology and The Word - which led me to my liberal position. It was in Officership that I realised the passion I have for certain work. And just as I believe God called me into Officership to lead me to where I am today, I believe God called me out of Officership.

I'm not in a ministry position now. But it's amazing how many opportunities open up at work to witness and minister when you tell someone you used to be a 'priest' (most people don't understand what a SA Officer is). I am currently working in a job just to pay the bills so that I can study to get qualified to do in the secular world the work I loved with a passion in Officership. So, for a season, no, I'm not fulfilling my covenant as I was in Officership. But this has to be the case so that God and I can work together to prepare me for a new work.

That's the way I make sense of it.

Yours in Christ,
Graeme Randall
Former Australian East.

Anonymous said...

I think that one issue that came up over the years was proper placement and evaluation of each individual officer. Many years ago a field secretary stated that the gifts test that we just completed would be placed in our officer files and that the results would probably never be reviewed. That was sad. People should be placed where their talents and gifts abound. I know that can be a bit challenging but for the most part it should be practiced. The system as it was (or is) failed.Along with the practice of going where you are told with little or no input brought much frustration and many departures. There was always the burnout factor also. These are just a few areas that I have thought of with Pieter and Graeme's comments.

USA East, former

iz said...

Hi there folks,
I was doing a bit of research on the salvos and stumbled on this site.
I'm not a former salvo, though I guess you could call me a former 'institutional' christian, i.e relying on a particular denomination to lead me in the way.These days, while I strongly believe in christian fellowship, hang loose with regards to being locked into one particular denomination or groups way of doing things. We all need to fix our gaze on Jesus,feed on His word, and walk in love. We don't need a church or a leader to show us the way- that will always fail and dissapoint.The salvos, it seems, are not much different from any other denomination- certainly suffer from the same problems. I'm glad Jesus is coming back soon-no more denominations in eternity!

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Dear Pieter,

One question in relation to your article. Can God's call be dynamic? I, as an active officer, certainly hope so. And even my understanding of the covenant might be seen in the light of an dynamic God, and a dynamic calling.

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