There is a thin line between cult and covenant says Joe Noland
Steve Court is someone I respect very much. An exceptionally talented, committed and visionary Salvation Army officer leader he has a huge following. I just don’t happen to agree with everything he says, and for the sake of balance, feel obligated to present an opposing viewpoint now and again, especially for those of us Jesus liberals who seem to represent TSA’s minority voice these days.
I refer specifically to his July 5, 2009 post and comment on George Scott Railton’s instruction over at ArmyBarmy Blog - www.armybarmy.com:
“I intend carefully to instruct my children that if at any time they see The Salvation Army a wealthy, respectable concern, the majority of whose “soldiers” simply go where they please to attend its’ “ministrations,” leaving the godless undisturbed to perish; and if they see another set of people, however they may be clothed or despised, who really give up all to go and save the lost, then they must not for a moment hesitate to leave the concern their poor old dad helped to make, and go out amongst those who most faithfully carry out what the founder of the Army laid down in his writings and acts, may God preserve them from such a day by keeping the Army free from the love of money and ease” - George Scott Railton, An Autobiography, Full Salvation, Jan. 1, 1894.
I’m OK with Court’s comments up until he writes, “Covenant demands it” (that they don’t leave). I’m not sure what covenant he signed, but the one I signed at the altar, on my knees, June 1965, had only one clause in it that concluded with the phrase, “all my days,” and that was “to love and serve him supremely.” Mine did not say additionally, “as a Salvation Army Officer.”
Now I made the choice “to love and serve him supremely all my days” as a Salvation Army Officer. Technically, even in retirement I am still an officer, even though I am now loving and serving him through a non-Salvation Army medium - a faith-based Film Production Company: www.hallowedgroundproductions.com. Another retired Army officer friend is pastoring a church in another denomination, but technically he is still an officer. So the covenant line blurs a little bit here, doesn’t it?
On the other hand, I have other former officer friends who have left the Army, but are still “loving and serving him all my days,” only in another evangelical venue. Honestly, have they really broken their covenant?
Now, I am in agreement with Court’s statement, “to stay in and fight and transform the movement so that God could optimise its potential again.” I would have probably added the words, “where possible.” In fact, I made that choice, even when there was reason and good opportunity presented to do otherwise. Obviously, historically, if others had made this same choice with their denominations, we wouldn’t have some of the great evangelical movements available to us today, the Protestant Reformation and TSA notwithstanding. Don’t bother to set me straight on this; I know all the arguments, and would even be so bold to suggest that sometimes “Covenant Demands It!”
I have written previously, “There is a thin line between cult and covenant” and we should always carefully and prayerfully divine the difference. For me, personally, my covenant is with God, contracted to love and serve him supremely” through TSA…until, when and if he decides to call me elsewhere. For the moment, with Steve, I prefer to stand fast, “fight and transform the movement within.”
Writer: Commissioner Joe Noland’s ministry can be summed up in three words: chaos, creativity and controversy - three elements implicit in any successful innovative endeavor. Cecil B. DeMille, renowned producer of Biblical epics, once wrote, “Creativity is a drug I cannot live without.” Joe’s mantra reads, “Creativity is my drug of choice.” Access Joe Noland’s complete bio, among other things, by clicking into his website.