Forty years and counting
This year I complete 40 years service as a Salvation Army officer. I was a member of the session known as the “Soldiers of Christ.” Ours was the first of the two year sessions. I would like to tell you that it seems like only yesterday, but I would have difficulty saying that with a straight face and looking you straight in the eye at the same time. No, its been a long time and it certainly feels like it.
There are still quite a few of us around. I will be careful not to mention any names but you can easily spot us. We are the ones with that surprised look on our faces. Surprise at the fact that we lasted this long. Some of us were not expected to get beyond 40 days, much less 40 years. We are just as surprised as those who did not hold out high expectations for us.
It is obvious from looking at the new captains of the “Ambassadors of Grace,” the session commissioned this year, that unless something changes that will affect the age of retirement, it is unlikely that any of this number will do 40 years active service.
Longevity of service versus quality
This is a sign of the changing times. First of all, people are coming into officership at a much older age. Secondly, I gather that unlike our generation that placed great store on longevity of service and regarded officership as a lifelong commitment, this new generation of candidates does not see officership in similar terms.
While I still prefer the old ways, for there is something to be said for longevity of service, I must admit that over the years I have often come across individuals who might have been around for a long time but whose service left a great deal to be desired. If quality of service is what is being sought after, then I am all for the new way of thinking.
The past is important insofar…
As one is inclined to do on occasions like this, I found myself trying to think back to what this Army was like 40 years ago and suddenly stopped. Apart from the fact that I was having some difficulty really remembering without some documented help, it occurred to me that the past is only important insofar as it impacts the present and influences our attitudes towards the future.
What is of vital importance now is trying to envision what this Army is going to look like 40 years from now and working towards that end.
That is difficult to do. We can hardly tell what it will look like 10 years from now, much less 40. We can only guess. What we can be sure of is that it will be different. What we can hope for is that it will be better.
Ways to impact the future
We can positively influence the future by making sure that our attitudes towards the future are right and proper. This Army will continue to grow and be more effective as long as we maintain an attitude of hopefulness. Our best years are always ahead of us. We have faith for “greater things” yet to come. We expect God to do a “new thing” in our midst. We try always to view the future through God’s eyes.
This Army will continue to grow and become better as long as we keep our minds focussed on our God given mission–saving the lost, making disciples and meeting human need in Christ’s name. From our very beginning we have been mission driven. Methods have changed and will continue to change, so that our ministry will remain relevant to our times. We should not fear change as long as those changes serve to accomplish the mission.
I believe that this Army will continue to grow and become better as long as we do not lose that sense of who we are and of that which God has called us to be. As part of the Body of Christ–ours is a unique witness to the freedom that is to be found in Christ Jesus. We have a unique contribution to make and over the next 40 years with God’s help and by God’s grace we are going to make it.
What will we look like 40 years from now? Like the Salvation Army of course ! Only a much better tool in the hands of God who has called us, who sustains us, and who leads us.
Let us pray for the “Ambassadors of Grace.” They have a big task ahead of them. Pray that God will help them to develop those attitudes that will have a positive impact on the future of this Army.
That we never lose our sense of mission
That we will never lose our sense of hope
Our best years are always ahead of us. God is always doing something new. Do not be afraid to change.