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    The Soldiership Dilemma

    Have we missed Jesus’ missional intent? August 14, 2018 by Captain Peter Hobbs
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    Photo: Timothy Cheng

    To be a disciple of a rabbi in a Jewish system, you had to be the best of the best. You had to jump through a lot of hoops for a temple rabbi to invite you to “follow me.”

    It’s interesting that when Jesus started his ministry, he changed the reality of disciple making. He shifted the requirement from being about moral motivation, to himself being the motivation.

    He empowered people who didn’t fit the established temple/disciple mould. He connected with “unclean people,” those whom Jewish society wouldn’t have allowed to get anywhere near the temple to worship God. For example, the tax collector, Matthew, would not have made the cut because his profession and the port where he collected taxes were a disgrace to the Jews.

    Jesus called the disgraced Matthew to “follow me.” “Follow me” is what a rabbi says to the best of the best.

    So, when Jesus called the worst of the worst to follow him, he sent a strong message to the Jewish religious establishment that the mission had shifted. It was now not only for the Jews, but for everyone. This not only showed Matthew how special he was to God, but even more radical, that he could be a respected missionary of the gospel and socially reconciled because of Jesus.

    Jesus opened up the requirements for what it meant to be a disciple.

    He simply saved and then sent, simplifying discipleship to what he originally intended.

    Why did he do this? I believe it was for intentional missional strategy. He made this change because God’s answer to problem solving is involving all kinds of people.

    Jesus recruited people who spoke the cultural language of those around them and didn’t let anything get in the way of his movement. He started a passionate and internally motivated kingdom movement, got rid of the movement blockers, and empowered people to share the good news that the Trinity would restore everything.

    He recruited everyone to be involved in his mission without discrimination. In a Salvation Army context, the idea of becoming a disciple is similar to becoming a soldier. To become a Salvation Army soldier, you have to do soldiership classes, promise to live a high and moral life where you’re not going to drink alcohol and smoke, etc.

    Here’s the problem: Jesus would make a great adherent. Soldiership not only excludes Jesus but it also excludes the majority of people within our society who don’t wish to make these lifestyle promises. Many people will say, “What’s the problem? That’s why we have adherency, which caters to people who don’t want a ‘higher calling.’ ”

    However, this higher calling creates a two-tier exclusiveness, which Jesus opposed, and allows for unbiblical power and segregation problems within community.

    The adherents in my ministry setting are as equally passionate and active followers of Jesus as our soldiers, except the adherents can’t become officers because they are not soldiers. They would argue that they are genuine soldiers because they have encountered Jesus, and he has transformed their lives to the point where they now partner in the mission of God.

    Photo of Captain Peter HobbsCpt Peter Hobbs (centre) asks whether we have made soldiership too exclusive
    So, I ask the question, is soldiership as it exists today similar to temple discipleship in Jesus’ day? A movement blocker? If so, how do we fix this?

    Well, the answer is to be like Jesus: remove the blockage and model a different reality. Soldiership would then be something close to: Anyone who follows Jesus and acknowledges his presence in their life and who is part of our Salvation Army family on mission together is a soldier in The Salvation Army.

    The benefit of empowering all people into a soldiership journey with Jesus like this is that it creates an environment of equality without condemnation, simplifying soldiership to what Jesus originally intended.

    When soldiers are raised by being on mission with Jesus, we will also see a radical increase in spiritually mature apostolic and prophetic leaders in The Salvation Army—the type of leaders who pioneer movements.

    I’m aware this is a controversial topic within The Salvation Army, but no more controversial than it was for Jesus when he introduced it to Judaism 2,000 years ago.

    Imagine existing volunteers as partners in the mission. And those faithful adherent elders and leaders at our centres who have never been able to be soldiers because of a few lifestyle choices, now being seen as mainstream missionaries in The Salvation Army. Not only mainstream missionaries, but our future leaders and officers.

    If ever the world needed a movement of soldiers it is now. The only requirement is Jesus, and he is enough. 

    Captain Peter Hobbs is a corps officer at Bellarine Peninsula in the Australia Territory.

    Reprinted from
    others Magazine (Australia).

    Comment

    On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, Rob said:

    I’m thankful for this article and its author. I realize, from reading comments here and elsewhere, that some people think it champions a low view of SA soldiership. In my view, nothing could be further from the piece’s point. How much higher of a view of soldiership could one have than to equate it to discipleship and want everyone who follows Jesus to be included in our ranks?

    A “worst of the worst”,

    -rob

     

    On Monday, September 10, 2018, Major Robert Kean said:

    I commend David Woodbury and Capt Scott, on their explicit comments on soldiership, you have hit the nail right the head. Dion Dudley I agree with you. Dianne Hill I'm wondering why people leave other churches or denominations. That's the lest i can give to Jesus .. is my commitment of my whole life and habits to Him after what He did for me on Calvary

     

    On Sunday, September 9, 2018, David Woodbury said:

    I would want to affirm Peter for his enthusiasm and commitment, and his courage in raising the issue of soldiership. Some of the points he raises are quite valid and worthy of discussion, if we were a church, but we are not; we are a mission and there is a vast dichotomy between the two. It may well be that this is the identity crisis, the real issue, the Army needs to address at this moment in its development. If we are an army on a mission, and that is my belief, then our structure, ethos and operation is vastly different to that of a mainline church. The push to make the Amy just like other churches is not new; indeed, The Founder himself had to address it in the early days of the organisation. He said in part: The formation of another Church is not my aim. There are plenty of Churches. I want to make an Army. Those among you who are willing to help me to realise my purpose can stay with me. Those who do not must separate from me, and I will help them to find situations elsewhere.'" (The Authoritative Life of General William Booth, - George Scott Railton Chapter IX - Army Leading) Most modern armies have specialised and highly trained shock troops, like the SAS; highly trained, adaptable, very dedicated and willing to make extraordinary sacrifices to achieve their goals. While all Christians, like Paul, are soldiers (2 Timothy 2:3) in God’s army, soldiers in The Salvation Army are called upon to be highly trained, highly committed, highly mobile and adaptable, very dedicated and willing to make extraordinary sacrifices to win the world for God. William Booth’s shock troops went were most Christian of the day would hesitate to venture; to the gin palaces, the poverty-stricken slums with all their social problems, to the “unclean people” who would never darken the door of the church, willing to suffer and sacrifice, even, for some, to the point of death. The requirements for membership in such a force is different and in some ways call for more stringent and demanding standards; higher levels of commitment, dedication and sacrifice; and perhaps it is this requirement of sacrifice that may well be the sticking point in today’s society. I’m not sure about some of the theology of Peter’s claims; He claims that Jesus opposed a two-tiered structure; in fact, it would seem to me that he created one, by calling twelve men from out of the many who followed him, to be in the forefront of his ministry. It would appear that the early church had a multi-tiered approach to ministry which Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 12:28. “Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers” etc. (NLT) What needs to be understood is that these levels are not indicators of our standing before God, but rather that of function in ministry roles. Likewise I am not sure about Peter’s assertion Jesus “recruited everyone to be involved in his mission without discrimination”. Any reading of Luke 9:57-62, or similar passages in the other gospels, make it clear that Jesus had very rigorous conditions on discipleship. No where do I read that Jesus downgraded the conditions of discipleship just to increase the number of his followers. John 6:60-70 records that many deserted him because of his teaching. I am aware that in some Salvation Army centres a new level of membership or discipleship is locally created to allow those reluctant to put their name to The Soldier’s Covenant, to be in leadership. It may well be that the terminology; discipleship, is used very loosely and perhaps those who truly wish to be authentic disciples should read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book; The Cost of Discipleship. If we are to look at the Army’s call for total prohibition on the consumption of alcohol, which may be the elephant in the room in today’s membership debate, then we might like to consider its reality in a world awash with substance abuse, including ethanol (alcohol) and all the attendant problems and misery it brings. For me personally, the abstinence from alcohol goes beyond the Article of War that I signed. I believe that some part of the Christian church needs to set the example that a meaningful and fulfilling life can be lived without the need of such a drug impacting their brain. I believe that still is the calling for The Salvation Army.

    On Saturday, September 8, 2018, Roger Webber said:

    Interesting view I agree with a lot of what is said But just get back to basics I was always told we should treat all people who enter our corps as equal, but this does not happen and therefore we have lost so many. When things go wrong we just exclude people. Lots of officers appear to treat being an officer as a career and thinking too much about their next oppoinment. We need to change otherwise the Army will die and just be a charity.

     

    On Saturday, September 1, 2018, Hannah said:

    Having been brought up in the Salvation Army in the UK, I have known many people who just become a soldier to be able to be in the sections or become a soldier and yet still drink alcohol and smoke. All of the military jargon/uniform etc is not Biblical and yet (as mentioned in an earlier comment) very important Biblical things such as baptism, communion and tithing are ignored. How incredible it would be, if instead of band/songster/YP section practices - the SA had Bible studies/house groups to build community and get to know the Bible. I left the SA having discovered that other churches prioritise the Bible and teach the Bible - to the letter. There’s no need for all this additional rigmarole. All we need is Jesus, His teaching, His grace, commitment to serving others (without having to be a member or wear a particular uniform) and without being able to sing or play an instrument in a section. Let’s stop making all of this about us and simply point to Jesus through the way we live our lives. I grew up in the SA and never once had the Biblical concept of tithing explained to me...

     

    On Sunday, August 26, 2018, Jackie Jarrold said:

    I grew up in the Baptist Church and at 18 felt called to commit my life to God. I was baptised, my life now belonged to Jesus. No uniform needed. Several years later.....after joining our local SA I felt called to Officership and now serve as an Officer in the UK. I struggle with the whole uniform thing. Are we saying that those in other denominations are lesser Christians because they do not wear a uniform?

     

    On Wednesday, August 22, 2018, CATHERINE ROBINSON said:

    My thoughts exactly Dion Durdle,lets be positive,on reading the article i felt uncomfortable that is why,the writer of the article was very negative

     

    On Wednesday, August 22, 2018, CATHERINE ROBINSON said:

    I have been a Salvationist for most of my life and a Local Officer for 8years.I do agree with Russell Howards comments,i do think in these days' anything goes'.We not forced to be a soldier,if we have a recruits lessons,agree with them,sign our Covanant,like any Promise we make to God Trying in His strength,we should want to keep it.Many of the comments on this subject have made me feel uncomfortable.

     

    On Monday, August 20, 2018, Dion Durdle said:

    Truly disappointed The Salvation Army in Canada would endorse such an article and negative view of Soldiership. I certainly respect anyone’s decision to not want to commit to Soldiership and I know it’s not the only way to live out discipleship, but let’s stop discouraging something that The Lord has ordained as being a catalyst to win souls and let’s encourage as much as we can for children of God to Be All They Can Be for Jesus! Why not consider how we can make Soldiership even MORE Relevant and Attractive to youth, instead of ‘shooting our selves in the foot’!

     

    On Monday, August 20, 2018, Chris Lyons said:

    As an adherent at my corps I have the best of both worlds. I have been welcolmed into the fellowship and play in the band and sing in the songsters. I do enjoy a drink and most weeks am able to go to the pub after practice for a couple of pints where I am able to tell my fellow drinkers that I am a Salvationist. I am a local too having a warrant to be the Corps Treasurer, which reminds me I save money by not having to buy a uniform. Being so integrated into Army life as an adherent why would I ever want to be a soldier?

     

    On Friday, August 17, 2018, Steve said:

    I love the article. I love the man who wrote it. I love the desire to include rather than exclude. I love (and am surprised) that the Army hasn’t become dust yet because of this theme. I love the Army’s potential. And more than anything, I love the Lord. (But I sure do wish some of the Army’s grumpy “theologians” would rent or borrow a heart once in a while.)

     

    On Friday, August 17, 2018, Shaw Coleman said:

    Firstly, Jesus had different levels of intimacy, authority and responsibility - He had the 3, the 12, the 72 and the rest. So that argument is not sound.

    But I think we miss the point of the Soldier's Covenant when we reduce it's significance to 'a few lifestyle choices'. Abstaining from drinking and smoking is by far not the hardest thing in that covenant, which begins with the promise to be sensitive and obedient to the work and leading of the Holy Spirit in my life - that's a promise I don't think anyone can claim not to have broken. But it's still a great standard to strive to live up to!

    So it seem this article is simply trying to question The Salvation Army's no-alcohol policy, which is for most people less about personal discipleship and more about living in community. In teaching the baby Church how to live in sacred community, Paul emphasised the importance of not engaging in activities that could lead our brothers and sisters into sin or doubt. Abstaining from alcohol is not first and foremost about legalistic personal holiness, but about solidarity with those in our movement who are in recovery from enslavement to those vices. I would argue that anyone who doesn't see the importance of that has not had enough contact with the front line of The Salvation Army's work with the lost, the last and the least.

    Jesus came to give people abundant life. I have seen too many lives destroyed by alcohol to doubt that it is one of our society's biggest enslavers. If as an Army it is also our mission to help people find abundant life, the small self-sacrifice of not drinking or smoking is a small price to pay for the freedom of our brothers and sisters.

     

    On Thursday, August 16, 2018, Peter Nunn (Revd) said:

    My wife and I have 'lived' with TSA since I retired. We volunteer with them each week and rejoice at the way in which they get into the local community where the love of Christ, both practical and spiritual, are so greatly needed. But we're not soldiers, not even adherents! Paul had his Damascus road experience followed by years of prayerful study concerning its meaning and eventually recognised that the death and resurrection of Jesus was the sign of God's kingdom breaking into the whole world with the welcoming of the gentiles into God's plan. Paul created new communities where there was 'single table' fellowship, jew and gentile sitting down together in a united fellowship that acknowledged the lordship of Jesus. But elements in Jerusalem said this was wrong and that gentiles could only share at the table if they were circumcised i.e. became jews. Paul got rather annoyed about this as his letter to the Galatians reveals. But it is in that letter too that he makes the clear statement "there is no longer greek or jew, slave or free, male or female". Should TSA be adding 'soldier or adherent' to Paul's list?

     

    On Thursday, August 16, 2018, Jane said:

    I love wearing my uniform & been a solider,but I don't at heart agree with the manmade army rules of no drinking,smoking etc,And coming from a non army background can't understand why you ignore parts of the bible like baptism & communion which Christ called his follers to do,but get hang up on drinking which Christ also did we can assume,I think removing this rule & just calling soilders to live a Christ like life would lead far more people from adherants to soildership.But I feel soildership is still a calling I certantly didn't want to be a soilder but know God called me to become one & so I obeyed,& wear informal uniform as a witness & I also would like to see all soilders wear uniform,as there is informal & formal both will be a witness as people see folk gathering on a sunday,but it also has to be a lot cheaper,I think Booths idea was to make everyone equal & not see the well dressed folk from the poor,but now onlt the rich soilders can afford the full uniform if they want to wear it.So I say get rid of manmade rules keep a life that shows Christ to the world & lets all be in some form of uniform so folk know we excist still & not just as a chairty

     

     

    On Thursday, August 16, 2018, Simon Paul (UK) said:

    An interesting read with much to ponder on many levels. By definition, the very nature of two different membership "type" descriptors (soldiers/adherents) for members (of the congregation - rather than say, officers) within a hierarchical structure causes challenges. By its very nature, it demonstrates a "difference" between the uniformed and non-uniformed, that as this feed suggests, is something that cannot be clearly or simply answered. From a different perspective, there are so many variations on the uniform these days (within same country context), that to the general public, the "uniform" element is very confusing. Dissolving the SA "brand" in this way, further exacerbates the problem, both inside and outside of the organisation.

     

    On Thursday, August 16, 2018, K.H. said:

    As somebody who attends the Salvation Army with a spouse who grew up in it, and has been employed with them before, some of you all need to realize how much of an idol you've made the uniform and soldiership.

    This article calls out a real truth that is woven into the fabric of so many corps. Some of you might be truly altruistic about it, and congratulations to you. But in my time I have encountered so much suspicion of non-soldiers. Its prohibitive.

     

    On Thursday, August 16, 2018, Carl king said:

    So for all of you that are in this disgust maybe you don’t know what some challenges in life are like and how hard it is to be a soldier. There are many people in the army are soldiers but yet how many people can honestly say from the second they make that promise they have never had a drink? Never done any drugs? Always read there bible? See these things are apart of the promises you make to be a soldier of the Salvation Army. Me I was in uniform as a junior soldier when it was time to change at 15 into a senior soldier instead I chose to come out of uniform because I wanted to know what I would miss out by making those promises but also I couldn’t 100% make that promise and garentte that I wouldn’t break them especially because I suffer from high levels of depression and anxiety, so that’s apparently wrong in many people eyes yet let me ask you this, do you know what it’s like to go through such stuff as this and stuff what it leads to usually is some sort of self harm? Because when you have that’s when you can maybe give your opinion on that group of people, I’m only 16 yet I have probably seen more people with problems like I have then soldiers and lots of people won’t become a soldier because of these problems. And also the culture for some cores is different then others some can drink in uniform which is an adaptation to people’s natural wants in life and as long as it’s not too much how is it bad to have the odd drink?

    Second of all I’d like to point it out from a youth suspective, it’s all well and good having these set promises but as a kid and even at my age what your expecting from us is a lot. Do you know what it’s like our days to call ya self a Christian in the modern world as a child? Do you know how hard a life can be within school rn? Can you honestly say at 16 you would make the commitment and garentee you could stick to them? Me personally Ik I couldn’t and that’s why I didn’t choose it so am I now unwanted to the Salvation Army because I can’t make a part of a commitment? God wants everyone to join him and we are shown how by repenting for our sins god will forgive us but also we are shown how god is willing to adapt for people if they are willing to adapt also, when the promises were created for the Salvation Army over 20 years ago when the world was far different, and there are many changes which means if we as the Salvation Army won’t adapt as well how can we expect more people to join us or more people to be soldiers. Truthfully in many peoples eyes we are nothing but people stuck in old times.

    Jesus yes picked out his disciples but what was there mission? In the bible we are told they was to spread the world and gain men for gods army, what is one of the most important things a army needs? People that are willing to fight for the same cause but if you can’t adapt whilst keeping everyone with the same goal then at some point a Army is forgotten.....

    So for those who disagree maybe you need to not just look at your country but the world around you and maybe you also need to gain peoples opinions and read your bible more before you just disagree.

     

    On Thursday, August 16, 2018, Robert Callet said:

    I did no grow up in TSA. I made a decision as an adult to join. I was raised in another church, but after study, prayer and literal salvation at the mercy seat, I made the decision to become a soldier. It meant that I accepted the doctrines, and regulations set forth by the Army. I WANTED to be a soldier, no one forced me. The uniform was part of the “ package.” I saw the reasoning and by wearing it, witnessing came easier. I don’t see TSA as elitist. There are so many other “ arms” in Christ’s church on earth. Some of our younger members don’t want to follow regulations, they want to do what other churches are doing - my suggestion, join the other churches. TSA has been and is still called to be the militant arm of the overall church. If one is not ready to commit to that life, then by all means go where you think God wants you. If the Lord tells you that tTSS is where you belong, then follow regulations, werar the uniform and fight for souls!

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Justin Steckbauer said:

    Jesus didn't include everyone in his mission without discrimination. He wasn't inclusive. Nice use of modern language though, to try to fudge over some difficult facts about Jesus. Jesus called people to the most radical lifestyle. He called people to take up their cross and follow Him. He didn't just include everyone, he carefully picked out disciples. And he told the rich young ruler that you must set aside everything, and give up all your treasures if you even want to be my disciple. Jesus calls us to a higher way. That's exactly what Jesus does. Truth by it's very nature is exclusive.

    The reason people leave the church, is because we don't live out our faith anymore. We don't live a higher calling. We're hand in hand with the world, and live double lives, with one foot in the world and one foot in the church. It's sad.

    "Everyone is included, everyone is a soldier" sounds great. It sounds so "diverse" and "relevant" and "inclusive" but it would simply invite a new level of luke-warmness into the church. So glad that when I joined the army, I was invited to go deeper, to become a soldier. And that is open to all who are willing to give up the ways of this world, and embrace Jesus. Jesus would make a great soldier. Not an adherent. He would make a great officer. But he's none of those things, He's our King and Savior.

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Concerned said:

    My initial reaction to this article was one of shock and mild disgust; I thought those emotions would dissipate over night but this was not the case.

    I will reserve expressing my more trenchant thoughts; suffice to say that if we are going to be an Army then lets be one. If people don't want the demands of soldiership then that is their right. They can still substantially contribute to the Army's mission, but "Come join our Army" should not read " Come and tailor your obligations to our movement-dedicated to preaching the gospel saving souls and serving suffering humanity in the manner in which we do-to whatever suits you"

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Jonathan Raymond said:

    TSA began as a movement of the laity, then as an Army jumped into a form of elitism with no theology of the laity to date. Ey?

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Lauren Picken said:

    There is no Salvation Army in the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we have to wear the uniform. We need to separate the two. Wearing a uniform doesn't make you a Christian or a follower of God. It also doesn't make you any less of a Christian or any less committed by not being a soldier. Some of the people in my corps don't wear uniform and they still bring people to faith. Helping to save others comes from showing people the love which is inside you and being a true example of a Christian, nothing to do with putting on the uniform. There is no hierarchy in God's eyes, we are all equal and that stands for soldiers and adherents. Soldiers are no better than adherents and vice versa.

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Bob said:

    There is a significant disconnect in the relationship between what you call “temple discipleship” and soldiership. During Jesus day, everyone was part of the community of faith who claimed God as their God. Those who were “Gentile” were so based on their faith position concerning their faith system, not on access to specific elements of the Jewish faith. Matthew was not able to worship in the temple not because some guys thought he was unclean, but because there was a seperation caused by real sin, i.e. a break from the holiness that God calls all to. Mathews inability to enter the temple was not about discipleship but about repentance and righteousness. Thus, Jesus made accessible salvation apart from the Temple and then the freedom to pursue discipleship and mission would be made available. Anyone who embraced God would not have tried to break away or participate in faith apart from the community. To do so was suicide because they knew that God had created faith and life to be lived in community where mutual dependence created accountability and sustenance.

    I agree soldiership has some issues, but as stated above, there is something that goes along with making the choice to join a specific community, you don’t get to have it both ways. You cannot desire to be a part of a community and not expect to live within its structure. Maybe church membership in the TSA needs to be reconsidered, but on what grounds. The idea of a “higher calling”. Well, while this may seem exclusive, it actually has parallel in the Scriptures. God-fearers were people who wanted to claim The God of Israel as their own, but did not want to relinquish some of their Gentile customs or fully commit to becoming a Jew. The issue, again, is not access but commiting to all the covenant to God entailed, especially the character of holiness as a result of repentance.

    When Jesus came he made it clear that salvation was available to all through a life of holiness. Soldiership is a post-salvation commitment to holiness as a member of the TSA. If you want to debate making changes, fine. But the example given above is a poor one as it makes contemporary assumptions on a people who do not think independantly as evangelicals but in community with all the elements that go along with that commitment, which Jesus NEVER eliminated but made access to the community through salvation more available.

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Keith wheeler said:

    Is there a Salvation Army in heaven?

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Gilbert Ellis said:

    There are more advantages in uniform wearing than I can mention here, but if this is a problem for others, then let them be part of a congregation that does not wear a uniform. The Army exists to win souls, grow saints and serve suffering humanity. We are an Army for Christ and wearing a uniform is part of that concept. If someone believes that they can do the same work without a uniform, let them do so in the ranks of another part of Christ's church. The subject isn't really up for discussion.

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Grant Janes said:

    So wonderfully and at the same time so truly said. So many including myself grew up in the army their entire lives, follow in their hearts, mind and so the value, love and mission of the Salvation Army however due to what the Salvation Army views as flaws in their and even my forming/creation are now no longer able to be an active soldier, although I once was a soldier and youth pastor. I do long, pray for and faithfully hope that with time our Army of One Heart will review these areas and become less restricting and more accepting.

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Alan Linden said:

    The Salvation Army is exactly that an ARMY. Armies have soldiers who are called upon to fight on the frontline. Adherents are not frontline soldiers, to be a soldier you are committed to service in every way, those who are not soldiers can opt out, there is NO OPT OUT CLAUSE in being a Salvation Army soldier. Lets hope we never see Salvation Army soldiership disappear. God bless our Salvation Army, together with its Officers and Soldiers.

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Stuart Farmer said:

    A thought provoking piece. I desire that we nake our church inclusive and let soldiers, adherents or those who don’t fit either label be included in all activities. We are losing people who feel second class because they aren’t soldiers because they don’t want to sign up to lifestyle choices that aren’t biblical. I am a soldier and would rather we teach a sensible approach to alcoholic etc alongside being generous (do we need everything we want), putting others before ourselves & as much time spent reading the bible as practicing our brass instruments.

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, DENNIS W HALL said:

    Wonderful article and so very true.

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Paul Boyer said:

    Spot on, and I hope it article will not just be swept under the carpet. I was once a soldier but felt called to be an adherent as I was involved with the Alpha course. I was involved with people whose understanding of God was a million miles away from SA expectations. Thanks for your article, let’s hope it makes our leaders think. Highest regards

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, SG said:

    I don’t know what kind of Salvationist Jesus would have been. I’m not in a position to judge how good or otherwise any soldier is at being a soldier. And I think that is where we all too often go wrong.

    The religious leaders at the time of Jesus didn’t really think he was a “good” Jew did they? They didn’t think that he fulfilled the Jewish obligations in the way they thought they should be fulfilled. And those people were often the topic of criticism from Jesus himself. So maybe that’s the lesson here: not that Jesus would be a rubbish soldier because he kept turning water into wine and didn’t stay in one place long enough to commit to a corps programme, but rather how many of us would have been condemned by his stories had he been telling them today in an army context.

    I think we need to look again at our understanding of each other and if what it means to be in that soldiership covenant. It seems to me that we should be more interested in building each other up than in holding each other to account over the rules of our organisation. Not lowering standards, if “lowering” isn’t too controversial a word, but in accepting that we all do soldiership differently. And “different” brings a whole new range of experiences, opportunities and colour to our sometimes monochrome church life.

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Pauline Bateman said:

    In my small corps in UK the majority of people are adherents. I have always thought that it creates a 2 or even 3 tier system which suggests that the adherents and friends are 2nd class. In other churches we would all be members. Personally I think it requires a change because of the inequality of the system.

     

    On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Mark Daniels said:

    A thought provoking but very interesting article. I guess there are pros and cons to both sides of the argument. However, I do believe that we must give thoughtful consideration to the argument and be willing to adapt to the 21st century without compromising on our values and principles.

     

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Captain Scott Murray said:

    I think it's flippant and dangerous to say "Soldiership not only excludes Jesus but it also excludes the majority of people within our society who don’t wish to make these lifestyle promises." Wow... this really shook me to my corps as a soldier and as an officer. These are NOT lifestyle promises -- soldiership is not a promise, it is a sacred covenant with God. Absolutely it is not for everyone. Absolutely it excludes the majority of people within our society -- so what? The same argument is made about Christianity as a whole -- it marginalizes people who don't believe certain things, it is exclusionary on an exponential level, it highly discriminates against those who don't believe in Jesus, it requires complete & absolute belief in Christ as Lord & Savior, etc.etc.etc...

    Soldiership does NOT exclude Jesus, but embraces Jesus in a unique way that is immensely meaningful & important to certain people -- it is absolutely not an essential for salvation, but a bold proclamation of faith and covenanting with God to be a member of His church as expressed in The Salvation Army – other Christians make this proclamation & covenant through baptism. The difference with Salvationists is that many choose to wear the uniform as an outward sign. The preamble to the Soldier’s Covenant says it best: “HAVING accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, and desiring to fulfil my membership of His Church on earth as a soldier of The Salvation Army, I now by God’s grace enter into a sacred covenant.” Key concept - this is a PERSONAL CHOICE to embrace membership in the church expressed through The Salvation Army.

    Slight jog off the path... Church membership / soldiership is not all that important to the church / corps, or at least it shouldn't be. I have "plain people" - not soldiers, not adherents - who I encourage to take on corps leadership roles because the love of Christ shoots out from their pores! Our threshold is not (OR SHOULD NOT) be soldiership but a clear devotion to Christ and, yes, a knowledge & understanding of our theology. Without theology, we're aimless and pointless.

    Soldiership also does not admit believers into a higher hierarchical level within The Salvation Army, although this is certainly something promoted by egotistical soldiers who believe themselves to be better and more holy than those who are not soldiers (perhaps that is the problem). Soldiership demonstrates (or should demonstrate) the soldier’s desire to more fully understand Salvation Army theology & our belief system – it is not an initiation ritual or something akin to learning the secret handshake. Actually, as I reflect, I realize how many "holier than thou" soldiers I know or have known who should never, ever wear the uniform ever again -- and I am reminded of more soldiers who have probably never worn a uniform or only wore it once.

    Soldiership is vital and critical to a healthy, vibrant and growing Salvation Army. Does it exclude certain people – yes. Is that a bad thing – no. Does it effect salvation – no. I was a baptized & confirmed Catholic and much later in life a baptized member of the Assemblies of God Church – that put me in a different category than some others who attended the same church. Not better, different – I made the decision to enter into a sacred covenant to outwardly express my faith. Church membership – which is essentially all that Soldiership is – is an essential element of virtually all Christian churches and it is exclusionary by its very nature and IS NOT A BAD THING.

     

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Keith Johnson said:

    What a refreshingly honest look at the Soldiership question. As a Church we need to become more inclusive, following the example of Jesus and the early day founders of our movement. We are becoming a dinosaur, simply because we refuse to, or maybe we are afraid to, look at the challenges of 21st century discipleship.

     

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Kathie Chiu said:

    If it’s hindering the mission then we need to reconsider its value. Good article and I applaud the Salvationist for putting it out there.

     

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Robert said:

    I was a soldier who made the choice to drink alcohol (I never did as a Soldier) and gave up my soldiership voluntarily, and I understand it. The only difference between adherent me and soldier me is having a drink from time to time. In fact, my relationship with Jesus is better than it was then. There are many Soldiers who don't meet the many requirements of Soldiership but they don't drink or smoke, they continue to wear the uniform. It is too exclusive for sure. The Army is not growing.

     

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Glen canning said:

    I agree with captain Hobbs. Wearing a uniform and calling one self a soldier doesn't make one any more worthy then an adherent or anyone called to service. It has everthing to do with being compelled to ministry through the work of the holy spirit. Allow him to direct you in your service for Jesus.

     

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Joe Noland said:

    Kudos to Canada and Salvationist for printing an important, contemporary article with a controversial theme!

     

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Heather said:

    I feel strongly in favour of this article. I have come to the same conclusions.

     

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Howard Russell said:

    For many years the SA has been fo using upon the less important lifestyle choices in accepting soldiers. Many of the more important lifestyle choices like integrity, honesty, respecting ones body in the broadest sense of the term, maintaining healthy relationships etc have been almost totally ignored in the soldier ship test. Focus upon the traditional 'lifestyle choices' e.g alcohol and tobacco whilst ignoring far more detrimental lifestyle choices let alone any genuine searching for spirituality has made not just soldiership a much abused and often irrelevancy but also hindered the true and proper development of mission and social and spiritual relevance.

     

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Wesley Robinson said:

    This article may appear radical to many in the army but truthfully it speaks to the fact that Jesus wouldn’t make the grade as a soldier. As adherents we are not less committed to the mission or somehow lacking the commitment, on the contrary adherents count themselves salvationists just as much as a soldier. I was a soldier and move to an adherent because in all honesty I couldn’t support a two tiered approach. If you put your trust and life in Jesus what else is there?

     

     

    On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Dianne Hill said:

    As a former fifth generation Salvationist, turned minister in another denomination, I whole heartedly agree. I always thought the Army was too elitist. And I believe we all need to get back to the way Jesus called his disciples. Is it any wonder people have left the church.?

     

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