Friday, February 19, 2016

Why The Salvation Army is in Decline and What We Can Do About it!


This may well be my most provocative blog yet. Sometimes things are just painful. If you don't like pain, please turn away now. And this blog comes with a warning; these are my thoughts and my musings, not that of The Salvation Army, nor those of my wife. My children are only 2, 5 and 7, so it sure ain't theirs either. You can blame me if you disagree.

The Salvation Army is in decline.

The quicker we acknowledge the truth, the better.

Stephen Court highlights some sobering statistics in a blog back on January 20th at Army Barmy. Let's look at the facts:

1. Number of Corps
2015 - 15636

2016 – 13826
Decline of 1810 in one year.
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2.
Junior Soldiers  
2015 - 385994
2016 – 378881
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3. Senior Soldiers
2015 – 1174913
2016 – 1056722
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4. Soldiers (combined)
2015 – 1560607
2016 – 1435533
Decline – 125074
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5. Officers.
2015 – 26497
2016 – 26675

Before I highlight why I believe The Salvation Army is in decline, we might as well admit that it is. One does not deal with their alcoholism until they admit they're an alcoholic. 

Let me suggest some reasons WHY I think The Salvation Army is in decline and this is the bit that gets controversial:

  • We have promoted music over mission
  • We have placed the Holy Spirit into the pentecostal don't-dare-go-there basket
  • We have created an unnecessary divide between evangelism and social work
  • We have failed to call people to follow Jesus
  • We have relied on our Public Image, more than our Image-giver
  • We have taken our eyes off the radical mission God calls us to, and watered it down to a pew-warming, lovey-dovey envrionment that celebrates mediocority. And yes, I spelt mediocrity wrong, because I couldn't be bothered fixing it. Call me apathetic.
  • Hmm... Should I go on?
  • We lost sight of the identity of the Army, within the trappings of the Army, and are only now seeking to reclaim the identity that we so quickly dismissed.
  • We call people to less than full salvation in Christ.
Maybe I've said too much and maybe the list is incomplete. Maybe we don't need to focus on such things? Maybe I'm being too pessimistic for once. Well, it's difficult to fix a problem you don't believe exists. 

Have a read of this:


Major Darren Elkington offers these provocative, yet insightful words, 'Sociologists would tell us that we are now living in a new age … that the old is gone … replaced by a new reality … that we are no longer living in the age of Christendom … but rather a new erathe post Christian era where every area of life is steadily being divorced from Christian ideals and re-interpreted in humanistic terms. Meaning that for many today, that the things that we cherish: God, Christ, grace, the cross, Easter … the church … is considered meaningless, irrelevant, and for some they would even go as far as saying to believe in that stuff is just strange or bizarre.


Now, like all new ideas … this is all debatable … and it’s certainly not my intention to debate whether or not this is indeed our new reality  … except to say … if it is true … then surely it requires a newness, a freshness, a new way of thinking and doing … Because if we simply continue operating under an old premise … or that this new division becomes no more than just the old division re-badged as new … then my prediction is that this new division will go the way of the old … each year producing less Soldiers, smaller congregations, fewer conversions, less ministry and more closures of corps.   

And so we need to embrace the new … new leadership, a new way of doing, new ideas, news initiatives, new possibilities, and as we do, I don’t believe it means that we have to re-invent ourselves.  This time last year, I arrived in back in Australia after being out of the country for the last 6 years … and what I’ve encountered on my return is a busy army, a diverse army, a social army, a uniformed army, a caring army, a fundraising army, a compliant army … and these are all good things in themselves to be … But God raised us up to be a Salvation Army … William Booth said it best.  This is our speciality: Getting saved, keeping saved, and getting someone else saved, and then getting ourselves mightily saved again and again.
 
So what can we do about it?

We need to be The Salvation Army. We don't need more facebook groups celebrating old Salvation Army buildings that have closed down, brass bands that had glory days in the 1970s and social media communities that are designed to have a whinge about the past, the present and anything worthy of trying to better the future. 

Fix your eyes upon Jesus, Salvation Army. God raised us up for more than good music, good social work and a comfortable Sunday morning. We are called to win the world for Jesus. Anything less is an insult to William Booth and a kick in the guts to Catherine. Re-embrace a radical, passionate, courageous faith in Christ, that causes you to substitute what is good, for what is great. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Pray like Jesus is coming back tomorrow. Live like you only have days left on the earth. Commit to sacrificial giving, disciplined obedience and compassionate gospel work.

Come on. Let's change the world.

Repent. Pray. Believe. Radically respond.

50 comments:

  1. While all the above is very valid, I believe we have lost the ability to genuinely care for people, to value them and to treat them with dignity. In many places we have lost the ability to develop meaningful relationships. If we want people to have a relationship with Jesus, I believe we need to model Christ-likeness in how we build and develop relationships with others. You can have all the best missional programs in the world, but if people don't see Christlikeness and experience it in their relationships within the church, it will be for nothing. Relationships take time and our modern culture of electronic relationships is a challenge we face. For me, the issue of decline within The Salvation Army is multi-facetted and needs an holistic approach evaluating all aspects e.g. our programs, our relationships, our worship style and an understanding of how people come to faith in the 21st Century.

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  2. Thanks for speaking the truth in love, Pete! Here's some encouraging news: The "Southern Spirit" of the Southern Territory USA just published a positive review of my book "Beyond Church" about getting back to the fiery days of the early Army. Major Stephen Court wrote the foreword to the book. Here's a link to read the review: https://stevesimms.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/the-salvation-armys-southern-spirit-reviewed-beyond-church/

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  3. All of the things that the author of this article list as things we need to work on are true but I put this forward, we as a Army have grown apart, the separation of Officers and Soldiers continues grow further and further apart the time was Soldiers and Officers we in the same boat so to speak, we as a Army are generally a membership of lower income people so it has always been easier for us to empathize and minister with the people that we deal with as the Salvation Army. As Soldiers we still have to deal with the daily struggle making ends meet but on the other hand Officership at least here in the US has become financial windfall, extragent quarts, utilities paid for, new vans every 100.000 miles, gas cards, tax grants and all the other perks that comes with Officership, now I am not saying that Officers do not deserve a decent pay, not by any means it is hard work with long hours and many responsibilities, but it has gotten to the point that we no longer understand each other's lifestyle, when you put two sets of people in the trenches for battle that for the most part no longer have the common struggle that tied us so close together for so many years it causes a separation that is killing our Army. The Army needs to look at what it has to do to bring the Soldiership and Officership back together into a common understanding of each other and when this happens we will remerge as a united and fired up soul winning Army of God

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    1. Jesus preached for free so should the preacher today. There are followers of Jesus today that do not collect a salary but have income to cover expenses only. Time to follow Jesus.

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    2. All true. We have left the identity of the Army of salvation for a luke warm, worldly, feel good and leading people to hell church..I miss my Salvation Army..just sayin

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  5. I have always had the same analysis and it's so sad that our leaders just sit and watch. I have noticed the same trend here in our territory Zimbabwe our numbers are dwindling so fast and we used to be the biggest church in terms of numbers and the general fire is just dying down.. It's sad that when u try to point it out to people u are then termed a 'rebel' but seriously I'm being pained by the turn our army has taken. Thank you for writing this article. God bless you

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  6. Good blog with some excellent points. I'm not a fan of Major Court's ideas or neo-Salvationism so while I agree with your thesis I have reservations about the conclusions. I believe the ethos of the Army is 'mission' and doing whatever it takes to win the world for Christ. So while I would encourage the zeal and message you challenge Salvationist to attain to, I would say that we need to do so within the context of our community. Win the world for Christ, yes but start by winning the community around your church. If you can't do that then you have the problems this article points out so well! Keep up the good work brother, the Army needs people with your enthusiasm for mission.

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  7. Well said. I was a civilian employee of TSA for over three years, but recently left for another religious/social service organization because the TSA as I know it has lost its focus on grace and serving the kingdom of God. Establishing legacies and placing appearances before attending to God's kingdom -- by which I mean His people and the relationships we have with each other, which allow us to save and serve -- is nothing more than pride. While there are many humble servants in TSA, there are also those who focus more on their insular ministries rather than the kingdom outside their walls. While being an officer is admirable, unless officers take utmost care of the people who are on the front lines, so to speak, TSA will continue its slide into irrelevance. Right now -- and again, this is only insofar as my exposure has been -- TSA is like the Catholic Church before Pope Frances: more concerned with its corporate image, existence, and (self) preservation, rather than salvation.

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  8. Gosh well let's look how the TSA it's self is worried about offending anyone. Also we take way to much federal money that limits the ability to move forward for God's truths. After working for this organization I see clearly there is not enough accountability or transparency.Its only after certain problems people can't believe what went wrong. Also now leaving the organization and looking into it, I see a false history. With roots connected to Rothschilds an other millionaires.This help given came with comprises.I say now that the Salvation Army is a good community group but NO ministry. It wants to do the most good but doesn't really know how.

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  9. Your stat number five is key.....about officers numbers going up. Until we stop promoting that being an officer is the highest calling and that everyone else is secondary.....a) there will always be a divide and b) local corps will continue to lose good leadership.

    With a 50 percent success rate at keeping officers after 5 years, it's obvious that we worry more about quotas than making sure that local leadership is strong. Heck we have entire thq departments that are created just to reach quotas.

    Although you bring up some good points I would say the music comment might be off a bit. I know some corps where brass does nothing to improve the corps but I know others where it has been an awesome tool. I also know many who have been saved by hearing a good brass band. I'm not saying brass should be a priority but I am saying that it shouldn't be dismissed either. You have to do what works in your area.

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    1. I would only say that he didn't say "brass", he said "music." I do agree that music should fit your ministry and there is definitely a place for brass music, just as there is a place for a rock band.

      I'm not sure that I would agree with the author that we have promoted music over mission. That's a pretty broad statement. I don't know for sure, but I would guess that less than 5% of the Corps in my territory (USA West) have big music ministries. My own corps has a small music ministry, but it is definitely mission focused.

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    2. Mission focused in music is the key. The church should have a mission. Where are we going and how do we get there.

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    3. Hey major Chuck.....not trying to be argumentive but he did bring up brass bands of the 1970s and saying how those were the glory years of brass. Unless I maybe read something wrong.

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  10. Thank you Pete! This encourages me and makes me wonder what I can do. What can I do right now?

    Sincerely,

    Christian Smith
    Plymouth, MI, USA Salvation Army
    Program Ministries Coordinator
    christian_smith@usc.salvationarmy.org
    734 453 5464

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  11. TSA is becoming of 'the world'. They have sold God's house to the highest bidder. Some churches are now called "Kroc" churches and the chapels are named for someone who donated money. We cannot be doing this!! The TSA then has obligations to these people and the appearance is that we don't follow God but the person with the money. As we read how strict God was with the tabernacle, how do we think He isn't that strict with His church. We no longer have that reverence or fear of God or respect for His home.

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    1. I don't see what's wrong with it being "Kroc Church". Its just an identifier. It's what happens in the church that matters. No different than having the identifier being a city name, (i.e. INSERT CITY Corps).

      A lot of Kingdome good happens at the Kroc Centers.

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    2. I humbly disagree with it just being an identifier and it is very different from using a city name. A street name or a city name would be an identifier to a location. A person's name or a saint's name shows ownership. When the church is identified in the New Testament, it says the "Church in Corinth" for example. No where does it say "Paul's Church". I have heard other Salvationists, as well as non-Salvationists, agree that it is disrespectful to God. With so many people still not knowing TSA is a church, this name change adds to the confusion. Yes, kingdom good can still happen but imagine what more could happen when we give all the glory to God instead of honoring His house of worship with someone's name. I have been a Salvationist for over 35 years and I have been seriously thinking of leaving because above our chapel door it now shows the XXXXXX Memorial Chapel because someone gave a large donation to our church. It feels sacrilegious to walk under that name to go into God's house. What keeps me in TSA is if I leave, there is one less Sunday School teacher, one less youth group leader, one less corp council member, one less women's aux member, one less person to help with nursing home visits and Christmas kettles, and toy workshop. I pray God forgives me for worshipping in a chapel no longer outwardly dedicated to Him because I recall He struck down two of Aaron's sons for improper worship.

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    3. Man if anything the southwest division has never been about the world. I guess possilico brackenberry are great at leading in that aspect too. Pray guys and give the credit to God.

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  12. TSA is struggling under the weight of mediocrity. "Don't rock the boat!" and "Maintain the status quo!" have become our mantras. We claim we want new blood (as long as they're Salvationists) yet rely on archaic and outdated means to reach them. Forget fighting for the lost, our leaders won't even fight for the soldiers in our own ranks! We've traded love for law and compassion for cowardice (sounds a lot like the pharisees and sadducees, eh?). Sad and pathetic. Little wonder people are abandonning ship.

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  13. You state many reasons why you think that the Army is in decline and that they are your opinions. Some would agree with you. The danger in that is that we aren't asking the people who have left nor are we asking the people who won't join us the question - why? We're assuming we know the answer when we may be way off. In Canada we are in decline. When I was commissioned there were around 1750 officers. I think we have about 700 right now. The decadal decline is sad. But we move forward doing the same old same old. We do need a change in how we do ministry, but hearkening to the past is the wrong answer, IMOHO. However we end up bringing Jesus to a new generation, we need to look at community we're in and change whatever we need to change to reach them with the gospel. The only thing that should he non-negotiable is our message of salvation. Everything else is negotiable and we should have flexibility to use whatever is necessary to do so. We have too many sacred cows in our organization. We're too proud of ourselves.

    Good thought provoking article.

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  14. I think most of the reasons given for the decline are true! From experience, when these errors are avoided - mission is first, the Spirit is welcomed and there is a call to discipleship - growth occurs. Praise God!

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  15. What the stats do not include, is the number of people who are not soldiers or adherents either for that matter. For whatever reason, there are many who do not wish to be a soldier or adherent. It's not all about officers and soldiers. So is there a decline - yes of course - but those stats don't paint an accurate picture of the 'membership' of the SA.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the issue of being a 'salvation' army. Although much of what has been said re post Christendom has been said for a number of years now and is not new, we have been slow to address how we are a Salvation Army in this context.

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  16. As a former OK kid... I so agree. THe focus should be on our Lord Jesus Christ and not always the flag or the uniform, etc. In my day, the pressure was better get that uniform at 14..instead of ... SAVED... do we know what that means... do we know what being a Christian really means? is it don't do this and don't do that... don't drink, don't smoke, but overeating is okay? I think most people want to go to church and stop focusing on the things of the Salvation Army but if it is indeed THE SALVATION ARMY.. which my parents fully love...but my dad loved God and believed God is still the God of yesterday that healing is possible and etc. Many are called and few are chosen but the few that were chosen were different and treated differently. Education is great but if God chooses..it doesn't matter about that.. it doesn't matter how I look.. it doesn't matter what I wear. Just my thoughts..

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  17. I am not a soldier, however I have worked in Salvation Army before.

    Let us all focus on loving and worshipping God, love our neighbors and enemies and the great commission.

    Once all this is done well, we will naturally shine and be the salt and light of the world.

    This part of the the article touched me:
    But God raised us up to be a Salvation Army … William Booth said it best. This is our speciality: Getting saved, keeping saved, and getting someone else saved, and then getting ourselves mightily saved again and again.'

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  18. The Salvation Army needs a good Holy Ghost shaking .

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  19. Could the dwindling numbers be as a result of the increasing number of atheists that exist today ??? Now , more than ever , there are more atheists than ever before. There has to be a better way to debate atheists than saying when Christians fall short for answers that " God works in mysterious ways. "

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  22. A good blog.i believe that the Army has been in decline at least in the Western World, I know it is growing in some territories but sadly I believe that is more of a cultural reason than anything else.
    The SA as a whole appears to have lost its focus on Christ. It's more to do with image than anything else.if you ask the man in the street even after 150 years if asked what Tsa is he will say a charity thatched good works, not a church.
    Also it's needed to look after its own soldiers and officers, too many are hurt and cast aside for reasons that is mind boggling. As a former officer Cadet, soldier of a fifth generation who now worships elsewhere I think the hierarchy need to sit up and smell the roses so to speak before the SA has been banished to the history books.

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  23. I praise God for The Salvation Army, if we don't give Him Praise we will lose, all other things will be give to us as long as God is first within the Church The social work is second God will supply our needs government money is our down fall it will kill us we need to read what William Booth said "Try Tears"

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  24. I praise God for The Salvation Army, if we don't give Him Praise we will lose, all other things will be give to us as long as God is first within the Church The social work is second God will supply our needs government money is our down fall it will kill us we need to read what William Booth said "Try Tears"

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  25. Pray in the Spirit for the Salvation Army of today! Fast and pray! Seek guidance and wisdom from the Lord! Bring solutions to the table. Be the solution to the problem. Christ is coming back soon and he will do justice! Enough is enough. The change begins with us! Others will criticize you anyway. Don't pay attention to them! Do what the Spirit lead you to do! We must step out in faith and be that change!

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  26. I worked for 17 years with TSA and i witnessed officer after offIcer with tbeur hand out while most of them hated working with the least of tbese, judging them while living in the suburbs with new cars and big houses, playing church instead of serving it. Look in the mirror, and ask yourself do you care about the kingdom you are called to serve or do you really hate it? Doing the most good is the most arrogant statement as it should state doing the least good! You are to big and arrogant to ask God for forgiveness and he is and will continue to deplete your resources as He knows your heart is dead and your hands are lazy. I'm sure you will remove this cause the truth hurts! Repent!

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  28. “All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they are now getting. If we want different results, we must change the way we do things.” - Tom Northrup

    Applies to business and 'church'. I would add some granularity by suggesting the 'gospel' the TSA preaches is producing the results one would/should expect. But it's not just TSA, it's the overwhelming majority of churches.

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  29. Being are respectful organisation, we need to light up our pentectosal fire which was experienced by the early leaders and march across the divides spreading the Good News in turning this hurting world bleeding in sin and change a life not the religion.It will pain God a lot seeing humankind burning in hell when we the chosen failed to reach them with the Word of hope and salvation in Jesus Name.

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  30. Wow, I'd really like to see the comments you deleted, especially considering some of the ones you allowed to stay. I think we need to see the criticisms others have of us in order to face what we might be doing wrong. I'm an officer of more than 25 years who is concerned for the Army's future as well, and see a lot of the negative things that have been mentioned in these comments. I do think officers have gotten too comfortable. I do grow weary in seeing Facebook posts of our territorial leaders at expensive resorts and restaurants, and "missionary" officers flying home every 3 months for this or that event. I definitely see the divide between officers and soldiers that someone mentioned. Do our kids leave the Army because of that? They are living very comfortable lives that are very different than the "regular" kids in our corps. Our kids are leaving to attend mega churches with others in their socio-economic circles. I honestly can't say that I blame them. I often ask myself if I would still attend the Army if I weren't an officer. It is definitely a "what's in it for me" society that we live in today, and the Army just doesn't have a lot of what millennials and younger generations are looking for...state of the art childcare centers and youth programs mainly. Are we trying to meet those needs with the Kroc centers? Is that even the Army's mission to try and meet those needs? Just random ponderings...

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  31. I left for many reasons, including you are treated like a second class citizen unless you can play li,ethe evil or sing like an angel. I am I charge of youth work for a national charity but was constantly told I knew nothing about children or how to reach them because I wasnt in a section!

    I also feel it has become too middle class and politically correct and shouldn't take money from the goverment when it comes with strings attached.
    I think it should go back to its roots and not be afraid to stand up and say no we do not agree that is not right but won't because they will lose the government funding and are afraid of offending secular society.

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  32. I was brought up Salvation Army, became an Officer and now am a Baptist Pastor. I love the Army very much still and my wife works as an office worker for the local corps.
    I would love to serve in the Army but find I could not. Too many things make it too bigger change to serve in a too restrictive environment.
    Just to give you several reasons why:
    1 I have discovered the depth the Lord's supper and baptism helps identify people with the universal church. It has more meaning than being uniformed, and so much value in growing people in faith.
    2 When in the Army I had believed the uniform had value, but now when I look at the uniform it just looks strange. It's smart and tidy, but irrelevant. It's more like a walking ad than a real connection to the gospel.
    3 the music thing is a struggle even in our fellowship, but the added dimension of the Army's musical dynamics would be even more demanding and difficult.
    4 the Army social work is watered down and why should God honor anything that does not have as its top agenda the salvation of souls from the horror of hell.
    5 it's not about the Army, it's about building the church. That is what did my mind in, we talk about the Army all the time, like it's that important, it's not. No denomination is. The Army should know this. William left a sleeping denomination that was inward looking to produce a movement that was outward looking. After going through church growth teachings while being trained as an officer I wondered how it became so inward and worried about relenance to a paganising world.
    Any way here are some thoughts.
    I remain deeply respectful for all I have learnt and grown from this great movement, but grieve what I believe is a movement with out momentum any more.

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  33. I was brought up Salvation Army, became an Officer and now am a Baptist Pastor. I love the Army very much still and my wife works as an office worker for the local corps.
    I would love to serve in the Army but find I could not. Too many things make it too bigger change to serve in a too restrictive environment.
    Just to give you several reasons why:
    1 I have discovered the depth the Lord's supper and baptism helps identify people with the universal church. It has more meaning than being uniformed, and so much value in growing people in faith.
    2 When in the Army I had believed the uniform had value, but now when I look at the uniform it just looks strange. It's smart and tidy, but irrelevant. It's more like a walking ad than a real connection to the gospel.
    3 the music thing is a struggle even in our fellowship, but the added dimension of the Army's musical dynamics would be even more demanding and difficult.
    4 the Army social work is watered down and why should God honor anything that does not have as its top agenda the salvation of souls from the horror of hell.
    5 it's not about the Army, it's about building the church. That is what did my mind in, we talk about the Army all the time, like it's that important, it's not. No denomination is. The Army should know this. William left a sleeping denomination that was inward looking to produce a movement that was outward looking. After going through church growth teachings while being trained as an officer I wondered how it became so inward and worried about relenance to a paganising world.
    Any way here are some thoughts.
    I remain deeply respectful for all I have learnt and grown from this great movement, but grieve what I believe is a movement with out momentum any more.

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  34. Why is The Salvation Army in decline?

    In addition to the author’s post, there are currently over forty comments, all of them speaking about the future of God’s Army, none of them dealing with the elephant in the room:

    YOU ARE FORCING YOUR YOUNG PEOPLE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN THE SALVATION ARMY, AND THE WELL-BEING OF THEIR LGBT LOVED ONES.

    30% of evangelical youth will leave their church over its treatment of LGBT people. There is no single issue that is more important to your continued existence as a religious organization, and none you are more inclined to ignore.

    The leadership of The Salvation Army have chosen the hill they’re going to die on - namely, fighting against the equality of LGBT families - and, surprise, surprise, your young people are NOT inclined to follow them on their dated mission.

    How many 21st century Millennials want to be dragged into conflict with their LGBT classmates, family members and friends because of an already-lost 20th century Culture War over 19th century Methodist mores? Precious few, when they're seeing more of Jesus in “spirituality” than they do in Evangelicalism's never-ending political maneuverings against their loved ones.

    And they’re not wrong.

    If you want to continue the Army's decline, just keep analyzing reports about membership without doing anything that might change the numbers.

    Namely, recognizing that the equality of LGBT families is a good thing for society, and making this clear to Salvationists everywhere.

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  35. I disagree I think the army should take a stronger stand on the issue of lgbt, love the sinner but hate the sin. Being lgbt is not normal nor should it be encouraged it is not the third choice in my opinion.

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  36. As a long time Senior Soldier in 3 of the 4 USA Territories for just over 54 years now...what is stated has taken root and like an oak tree what the author describes has taken a long time to grow and get to where it currently is. The Solution is to rely solely on & upon God the Holy Spirit( i prefer Ghost) And do things as Christ did...aside from dealing with "Establishment denomination leadership" a vast majority of Christ's dealings was what ? Training People,Sending them out and when needed...took a hands on approach in dealing with people, many times one on when called for... Did Jesus depend on and get involved with government funding, accumulated large holding globally of property,buildings & holdings,grants the philanthropic grants ? Can the same ministry Jesus did then be done today ? YES it can...but it will take the next leader/General to have the gall,heart,and faith & trust in God the father,Son & holy Ghost to do it ...question is will he or she do it ?

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  37. Hillsong has had great success with its music. Perhaps the salvos could change from embarrassingly anachronistic brass bands to modern rock music. Drop the songsters choirs and bring in sexy dancing girls. Oh and another thing, stop sexually abusing children, you dirty bastards.

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  38. I have often wondered why Jesus never seems to have publicly dealt with Judas during the brief years of his ministry together with his disciples. He most certainly was fully aware of his dishonesty and self serving tendencies. Shouldn't he have rooted this potential out of his small band of ministry by publicly calling Judas out. Certainly if he, being God in the flesh, expected to build his "church of the future", he must aggressively and publicly deal with this! And then there is that matter of some of his disciples wanting to call down fire to destroy those other people. How in the world can it be that Jesus would choose such an imperfect group of people to carry out his divine plan for the world? Ann then there is the matter of the Jewish chosen people earlier. Why doesn't God seem to learn??? My answer is God knows exactly what he is doing. He delights in choosing the weak to overwhelm the strong, the foolish to confound the wise. He is after all a God who finds nothing too hard for him. The Army and the rest of the "believing, chosen" family of God may be "flawed" and mixed like "wheat and tares" but God's purposes are best served ny focusing our attention upon the miraculous and mundane work of God among and through them. Major Ronald Gorton (R) gibberhoffer@msn.com

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  39. I think that one of the issues that has kept people away from church is money.
    Whilst I very strongly encourage people to give what they can afford, I believe that they need to be taught to seek God in their own time and contribute according to their incomes, budgets and responsibilities.
    I also believe that the tithing message needs to be seriously rethought.
    An examination of the tithing laws reveals that it was a form of taxation applied to farmers, not those of other occupations.
    Some would point out that there were some who committed to give 10 percent before the law was applied - but that isn't tithing. They were blessed materially and decided of their own accord - or maybe between them and God.
    Fast forward to modern times and the nature of money had changed dramatically. Tithing territories were applied in England as late as the 1800s by the British Government.
    Also the nature of money and employment have changed in only the last 100 years. Tithing to someone on minimum wage could make the difference between a balanced or unbalanced budget, whilst to someone on a much higher income 10% would be barely noticeable.
    This can open up a whole range of other emotions such as pride, arrogance, shame or guilt.
    Here's a couple of scriptures to consider - Matthew 6:1-4, " Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
    Notice that the main theme is that giving should be done as an act of kindness and not as an act of pride. For that reason, I'm uncomfortable to take on a leadership role that requires participants to be "tithers" because I feel that by default I would advertise my giving.
    Also James 1:27-
    "Religion that God or Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
    Notice that pure religion is not teaching that everyone should tithe.
    Many corrupt churches with a strong emphasis on prosperity also (surprise surprise) place a lot of emphasis on tithing, even to go so far as to imply that regulars have a "commitment" to it. This could be a deterrent to those who ate visiting and looking for a "home" church.
    Conversely, there's an increasing number of churches which have eliminated all forms of tithes, offerings, collection plates, etc choosing instead to rely on God's promise to provide. And it's working! People are intrigued to find a "non-monetary" based church. Believing them to be more sincere, in the fullness of time, members begin to approach church staff requesting methods to make contributions. And the income generated is even greater than when they were taking up tithes, offerings, etc.
    Maybe the Salvation Army could try the same? Trusting God to provide (Philippians 4:19) seems to work. If churches (ALL churches) are teaching congregations to trust God to provide then maybe it's time for the church to put their money where their mouth is.
    In conclusion - I encourage everybody everywhere to give as generously as possible. But don't feel guilty if you can't give a certain amount or percentage. Obey God in your giving and he will provide for you AND your church.

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  40. one thing the SA could do is to stop expecting such extreme devotion from its officers and soldiers. the kind of time and energy commitment expected is completely unreasonable and anything less than total commitment is frowned upon and questioned. i witnessed people regularly being told to rearrange their work schedules to accommodate corps activities. what?!

    i'm a former OK and i admittedly have a lot of criticisms of the SA. however, the army is not going to hold on to people if they demand this sort of unwavering loyalty and reject any sort of constructive criticism. the army needs to live in the world, be visible, and be based in reality.

    it also might be wise to think about how former officers and their families are treated. soldiers and fellow officers tend to form alliances, to engage in letter-writing campaigns to tear down new officers or officers who don't give them exactly what they want, and speak poorly of and shun those who finally give up and leave or are forced to resign for political reasons. this is poisonous and traumatizing for those of us who suddenly leave.

    lack of visibility is also killing the SA. i can't tell you the last time i saw an officer in uniform in my community. i'm not sure i've seen one since i was 17. i wish i was exaggerating.

    this decline will continue because the army has prioritized all the wrong things.

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