2006—A year of change

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From the desk of…

by Donald Bell, Lt. Colonel – 

A new year brings with it great opportunities to change our world. This, of course, will be a significant year of change for The Salvation Army. This month will see a new General elected by the High Council, and in April a new national commander will be appointed. Prior to the High Council, General John Larsson will be addressing the General’s Consultative Council on “The Army Today,” followed by meetings on the theme of “The Army Tomorrow.”

This High Council will be the largest group of international leaders ever called to elect the next General of the Army. What excitement fills our organization when we come together from all parts of the world to praise God and discover new ways to “save souls, equip saints, and serve suffering humanity.”

One of the discussion topics prior to the High Council will be thoughts presented in a paper by Lt. Colonel Graham Durston of Australia. The colonel has been identified as a good listener who has analyzed many voices in regards to what the Army should be. Perhaps you fall into one of the following categories: traditionalist voices, Pentecostal voices, seeker-sensitive voices, voices of radical change, and/or voices of neo-Salvationists (aka radical or primitive Salvationism). Tensions, at times, arise between these voices, but what a miracle that God has raised up the largest Army in the world to proclaim the good news of the gospel to the whosoever.

William Booth has been quoted as saying that he would stand on his head if it would save a soul. In this next year of change, what changes will you personally make to save that lost soul? I know I would be physically challenged to stand on my head, but there is much we can do. First, we must ask God whom he specifically wants us to speak to about his/her spiritual life. Perhaps it is a family member (parent, brother, sister, nephew, niece, grandchild), or someone with whom we attend school, perhaps a co-worker or neighbor, maybe even a total stranger. Pray that the Holy Spirit will make us sensitive to the spiritual needs of those we come in contact with on a regular basis, or even on a one-time occasion.

We must reach outside of our comfort zones and the safety of our corps’ walls. In this territory, we have an unparalleled opportunity to share with those in our social service programs and institutions. Many years ago our leaders made a great decision, to accept government funding to build safe and secure housing for senior citizens. We call these facilities Silvercrest residences. Those same leaders also required that these residences be built adjacent to our corps buildings in order to provide spiritual support and program. This is really an open air meeting come to the corps building. If you are fortunate enough to have one of these facilities next to your corps, what an opportunity to offer weekly Bible studies and perform individual acts of kindness.

Last year we were blessed by the leaders and young people at the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Youth Councils who visited the Silvercrest (on what would have traditionally been their free afternoon) and washed all the windows for the seniors. This provided an opportunity to share a personal witness with the residents, as well as extending an invitation to the corps. Similar opportunities are available at most of our institutions to volunteer and at the same time demonstrate in practical ways, the love of Christ.

In this new year we can make a commitment to visit those who have contact with our corps, either in worship meetings or through social services. People know you care when you take time to visit them in their homes. This should become a priority. How much time can you carve out of your schedule to help your corps officers with visitation? Have you ever really thought about and evaluated what you do with your time? It might be an effective exercise.

Don’t forget those traditional Army outreach programs (Home League, men’s clubs, Girl Guards, Sunbeams, Adventure Corps, vacation Bible school, day camp, youth and senior drop-in centers, SONday’SCOOL®, etc). Tremendous resources are available through your corps officer to promote, plan and run these programs. For example, afterschool programs are much needed and can be a real attraction to the Army.

In this year of change, locations for new Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers will be decided. The San Diego Center attracts thousands of people to the Army each and every week––a field white unto harvest. We can’t all have a Kroc Center, but we can offer needed programs to our community.

May I remind you of a challenge I issued two years ago? As we move into this new year of change and opportunity, I challenge each one of you to win one person to Christ and the Army in 2006. If we all accept this challenge, our Army will be twice as large next year. Whether we are traditionalist, Pentecostal, seeker-sensitive, radical, or neo-Salvationist voices, together we can make the Army better.

There is a wonderful Sunday school chorus that tells us we can change the world, “You in your small corner, and I in mine.” I will do my part; how about you?

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