Saturday, July 11, 2015

9 Reasons Why I'm a Salvationist


9 Reasons Why I'm A Salvationist 
by Captain Peter Brookshaw

I love The Salvation Army. Now don’t hear me as being someone who lacks the ability to critique a movement to which I have committed to serve my life in. Far from it. But, that being said, I love The Salvation Army. Maybe we don’t say that enough. We are so ready, as we would say in Australia, ‘to take the Micky out of it’. That is we are quick to find the negative and let that be the content of our conversation. Repentance and humility is needed. Absolutely. But let me take a different approach right now.

The list I offer to you is not ’9 reasons why I chose Salvationism over something else…’ I’m not attempting to compare the mission and ministry of The Salvation Army with that of the church down the road. I want to point out ideas, concepts and reasons why I feel absolutely connected with the work of this movement.

I want to offer to you, in no particular order, 9 reasons why I’m a Salvationist. I surely should have some reasons; I mean, I had put aside other ambitions in life and sacrificed other things to become a Soldier in The Salvation Army. You may have your own list.
Here is mine. 9 Reasons why I’m a Salvationist.

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 1 –
 I want to fight to make a difference in the world. Salvationism best expresses my own inherent desires to stand tall and advocate against injustice, to work to rid the world of sinfulness, through Jesus Christ. There is an alignment between what I desire to do in my life with the mission to which God has called The Salvation Army to participate in, and that which the Lord would have us do. I’m still ok with the para-military nature of this ‘Army’. I can hold the tension between a pacifist, compassion-filled, Jesus-focused kind of ministry, with the need to fight. To water down the ‘fighting’ aspect of The Salvation Army, I believe dilutes the passionate, aggressive drive within us to combat injustice and right the wrongs of a broken society. We can reconcile a call to compassionate ministry, with a resolute commitment to speaking out against discrimination and fighting for the rights of the last, lost and the least. In fact, to not fight for such things is not compassion at all. 

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 2 – 
I have joined a movement that has agreement on foundational doctrinal statements. I don’t aim to be theologically controversial in this article. We have tried and tested doctrinal statements that provide a great foundation for the faith to which we profess. One may critique the wording and the nuances of such statements, and I welcome that, but that doesn’t alter the fact, for me personally, that such beliefs undergird my commitment to this movement. See, we believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe people can be sanctified. We believe people need justification from sin that only Jesus provides and they need the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. We believe in the eternal happiness of the righteous and the endless punishment of the wicked. The ground hasn’t shifted such that we no longer uphold the nature of God, original sin, justification, holiness, and the like. I love the consistency of theological belief across this global movement.   

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 3 – 
We integrate the work of evangelism and social justice. We don’t separate the two and place them in two different buildings with two different line managers and never the twain shall meet. No. As William Booth said, they are like Siamese twins. As I wrote in a recent blog post, ‘When the gospel is only about the salvation of souls we deprive Salvationism of the fullness of the work of Christ. When the service of God through The Salvation Army is only about cups of cold water to those in need we can let people go spiritually thirsty. Captain Andy Miller III in his new book Holistic Hospitality says, 'The way in which people understood [the] balance between what is social and what is spiritual was an issue in the beginning of the Army and is still an issue today.' He mentions that in some points of The Salvation Army's history we had 'dynamic holistic missiology'.’ See the post: Controversial Ideas The Salvation Army needs to wrestle with. I love when I witness the amazing power that happens when someone follows Christ and at the same time is finding shelter, forgiveness, food and reconciliation.

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 4 –
 I have joined a global movement. I believe we are yet to grasp the significance of having global interconnectedness. When a powerful move of the Holy Spirit impacts enough territories within the Army, it will spread like an Australian Bushfire through the entire movement. In today’s technological culture, let’s not sleep through an era in which there is so much potential. Can I be honest for moment? I am disappointed there are not more Salvationists using the platforms of social media to make a difference in the world. I wrote a blog the other day and it had 1,700 readers in two days. That’s more than my Grandma and Great Aunt. Your God-ideas can go global in minutes. Why are not more Salvationists embracing it? Why are there not more Commissioners with Facebook pages, using their God-given position and the ‘brand’ that that represents and use it to grow the Kingdom of God? Why are there not more social justice advocates with far-reaching twitter accounts? We have global connectedness in The Salvation Army. It is largely underutilized and over bureaucratized. Speak out about Jesus! Advocate for the oppressed! Use all the avenues given to you to make a difference!

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 5 – 
What grabbed hold of me when I first became a part of a Salvation Army community of faith (when I was 18), was the welcome I felt within that community. This wasn’t some manipulative welcoming that was intended to simply grab another recruit or fill an empty chair on a Sunday morning. There was something alive within the Corps that made me feel alive. People would join together every Sunday night after the meeting and go out for pizza and pasta. We would laugh until our bellies hurt and eat until our bellies hurt. I couldn’t go past the welcome that these particular Jesus-people offered. See, I didn’t receive that welcome at the local sporting club, and I sure didn’t have that kind of community in my schooling years.
Some of your hear this and say, ‘Well, I haven’t been part of that kind of welcoming community. In fact, where I was, there was only judgmentalism.’ I’m sorry if that was your experience. But, what I am saying, is that one of the core reasons why I personally am a Salvationist today is because of that amazingly warm welcoming spirit that engulfed me at that local corps. May we replicate such inclusive community in our local expressions of Salvation Army ministry.

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 6 –
 The history of The Salvation Army fires me up and still does. The explosive growth of The Salvation Army, in particular the years 1878 – 1890 absolutely grips my heart. How could God raise up a movement that radically expanded into scores of countries within years? What was it that drove a 16 year-old girl named Eliza Shirley to move from the UK to Philadelphia, U.S.A. to open fire in a new country? Why would Edward Saunders and John Gore be so passionate about this Christian mission, that in the late 1800s they stood on the back of a greengrocer’s cart in a park in South Australia and preached the gospel and offered people a meal? Why would Salvationists be praying ALL-NIGHT and even run out of room in the prayer meetings, because the facilities were not big enough to accommodate all those attending the prayer meeting? Why would Salvationists like William McKenzie be in the trenches in World War I, praying with Army soldiers, leading funerals, running out into battle with the troops and being a chaplain in such a volatile, horrific situation like WWI? What drove William Booth to travel the world to raise up such a movement?

The passion, tenacity, focus and faith-filled dynamism of such Salvationists still inspires me today. They lived for something that drove them to their knees in prayer, that called them to leave the comforts of their own lifestyles, and to partner with God with vision that sparked a world-wide movement. God, may we replicate the passion and drive of such Salvationists today.

 I think of Eugene Peterson’s version of Romans 12:1-2, ‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.’

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 7 – 
One of the reasons why I’m a Salvationist is because of what I believe God wants to do through The Salvation Army in the days ahead. This is a faith thing and isn’t related so much to what has gone before and what is even happening now (as good as that has been and is). There is a little belief that pounds on my heart that won’t go away. I liken it one of my children, sitting in the car, saying, ‘Dad. Dad. Dad… Dad… Dad! Dad. Dad. Daddy. Dad. Dad.’ The little voice is constant. I believe it’s the whisper of the Holy Spirit and the regular reminder in my mind of what the Spirit has said. The best days are still ahead for The Salvation Army. I’ve said that 37 times and I’ll say it again. It’s not that God is not doing great things now. Sure. God is. I love it. I celebrate that. I’ve heard some of the stories. I agree. That’s awesome. Though, imagine the days when the Holy Spirit is spreading through this movement in new and radical ways. Muslims are becoming followers of Jesus by the thousands. Officer numbers are increasing one hundred fold. Corps planting is hard to keep up with. Conferences are jam packed. Homeless shelters are being established like no tomorrow. We are raising up new hospitals, rehabs and communities of faith in low-socio economic areas that makes the past pale in significance.

Call me delusional. Call me crazy. I believe that when the Spirit moves afresh upon us (as we allow Holy Spirit to do that) and when we move from an institution to a movement ethos we will witness global transformation. Sometimes you have to build an Ark in a desert because you know sooner or later God is about the send the rain.  

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 8 –
 We have a radical, sold-out commitment to the last, the lost and the least. Jesus clearly expressed a leaning towards helping the poor, the outcast, the rejected and the seemingly unlovable. His first public speech, as recorded in Luke’s gospel, is one where he quotes Isaiah 61, and he affirms his commitment to preaching good news to the poor, to healing the brokenhearted and to setting the captive free. He then stirs up the crowd and suggests to them that the people of God are sent to be a blessing to more than just the Israelite people, but to even the Gentiles!
I admire employees, Salvationists and volunteers who have laid down their life to serve the most vulnerable of our communities. The stories I hear are of chaplains sitting for copious amounts of time listening and mentoring broken people. They include stories of volunteers giving lifts to people who are stranded and employees going to great lengths to encourage an alcoholic to reform the way they think and behave. The commitment I see in these workers within our movement is inspirational. I’m a Salvationist because I align the call of Jesus to minister to broken people, and see The Salvation Army as an amazing vehicle to fulfil that mission.

Why I’m a Salvationist: Reason 9 – We do stuff. Yes, that’s right. We don’t just sit around in our ecclesiastic structures intellectually debating controversial theological issues. We do something about that which we believe. The pragmatism of The Salvation Army motivates me. Some have critiqued The Salvation Army for not being intellectual enough; for not wrestling enough with theological ideas and concepts. There’s probably truth to that. Those with the gift of teaching should fan their gifts into flame and continue to wrestle with what discipleship looks like in a rapidly changing 21st Century. Though the pragmatic, ‘do something’ kind of culture of The Salvation Army is exciting. Someone is in need and we want to help them. Someone is homeless, we want to house them. Someone is addicted, we want to set them free. We are pragmatic to the core and that’s one reason why I’m a Salvationist.
There is always more to be said. Some of these ideas may inspire you. I hope they do. As we align our hearts with that of God’s, I pray that God truly would grant the desires of our hearts!

This article was also published in Journal of Aggressive Christianity

Pete Blogs Regularly at: www.petebrookshaw.com
Twitter: @petebrookshaw

3 comments:

  1. Great reasons, Pete! I agree with all of them. Reading this got me even more motivated to follow and obey Jesus today!

    ReplyDelete
  2. 100% of my signature under EVERY word of this witness! Thank you, dear brother! This kind of statements I wanted to hear at the last session of the Boundless Congress!!!!! You did it! God richly bless you, Pete!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. 100% of my signature under EVERY word of this witness! Thank you, dear brother! This kind of statements I wanted to hear at the last session of the Boundless Congress!!!!! You did it! God richly bless you, Pete!!!

    ReplyDelete

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