Advancing the Kingdom
by Ted Horwood, Captain –
The deployment of newly commissioned officers to communities around the territory is an event filled with hope and expectation. Since 1921, the Western Territory has commissioned 84 sessions of officers.
Over the years, 2,737 new officers have stood before the territorial commander to receive their commission. This rather understated document is evidence of ordination and bestows legal authority upon its recipient; it is a reminder that covenants were made and it articulates a commitment to the advancement of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Advancing the kingdom would have been on the hearts and minds of that first session of commissioned officers as well. One would imagine there to be a stark contrast between the societal landscape of 1921 and 2005. But two indicators of cultural values stand out: in March 1921, an edict had to be issued requiring skirts to be at least four inches below the knee. And, later that year, census statistics showed that there was a 100 percent increase in the divorce rates over 25 years’ previous. Today, the issues may be more complex, but the principles remain the same: when popular culture goes head-to-head with religion, popular cultural always seems to win.
As the newly commissioned officers assume leadership in the body of Christ through The Salvation Army, they will be immersed in issues that affect the communities around them. And most of the volatile judicial and cultural issues facing America today involve sex. Whether it is the Federal Communication Commission regulating what plays on cable and network television, the abortion argument, the homosexual debate, even stem cell research, they all have a common cultural denominator.
Furthermore, the church of the twenty-first century seems to be pushed further to the societal margins. Although there still is a “chaplaincy” role to play (prayer in service clubs, Congress and inaugurations), the church no longer has the influence it once had; it no longer has the authority to play the role of society’s moral compass. The problem is that the more we look like the dominant culture, the less we are able to speak to the culture. In addition, the more we tenaciously hold onto the traditions of our 135-year-old institution, the less relevant we are in society. So, how do new Christian leaders effect change, attract disciples and advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Perhaps disengaging from the culture, and reinventing new ministry methods will be the challenges awaiting the Preparers of the Way Session. Society doesn’t need to depend on the entertainment industry for heroes and standards. Nor should pop culture drive the issues of the day. God has empowered the Bride of Christ to advance his kingdom, an advance that will penetrate culture and community.
Uniquely poised, the Army’s Spirit-led ministry of transformation is a perfect antidote to a society vicariously living through fictional characters and practically living in ways that are neither necessary nor realistic. Today is a wonderful time for the enthusiastic and fresh spirits of the newly commissioned officers to strengthen the ranks of the nearly 650 officers in this territory. And together with almost 18,000 soldiers and 10,000 employees in communities around this territory, we can look forward with hope and expectation to pursuing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our Lord.