“My wish is that you

National Social Service Conference–Philip


“My wish is that you would be so powerful a
force that when people are asked ‘What does the real
church look like?’ they would say: ‘That’s easy! It looks
like The Salvation Army’ “

Philip Yancey, award-winning author and editor, urged delegates to the National Social Service Conference to confront the un-grace passed on throughout the world like a genetic defect and become a “new sign”–for the church and the world.

“You understand that brokenness is attached to grace. There might be some temptation to forget that lesson as you become more sophisticated. You must always remember that social work and evangelism go together. Church history is littered with those who can’t remember the link. It’s easier to take care of people’s bodies than it is to care for both body and soul. Jesus knew we run by the rules of un-grace. You must be God’s plumbline for the church,” Yancey said.

Yancey revealed the debt of gratitude he felt for the Army due to the role it played in his own family. He disclosed how a Salvation Army Rescue Mission helped his own grandfather, “a mean drunk,” who had abandoned the family for decades but who found Christ at the Army. “Un-grace” revealed itself as images of early abuse led one of the daughters to reject his apology. The hate, generated in that absence of forgiveness, spread through following generations.

People and cultures war and rage at one another over distant and historic issues the facts of which have been forgotten, but not the un-grace, Yancey said. He quoted Gordon McDonald: “The church has only one thing for the world–to dispense grace,” he said. “We are not doing a good job of dispensing grace. General William Booth, the Army’s founder, understood grace.”

Yancey finds that too many churches are guided by the belief that they should “forget this grace nonsense” and that, instead, they will be judged by “how obedient they are.” He states that The Salvation Army is uniquely poised with society as an ideal organization to combat this thinking. He urged the Army to be visually identified, and then chuckled as he saw the uniforms spread through the room. He believes that the Army is like a two-legged stool with its strong commitments to an active social conscience and an evangelistic fervor. “Your genius,” he said, “relates to your ability to stay balanced on the stool.”

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