On the Corner

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The call

by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief –

“Can you hear me now?”
“Can you hear me now?”
“Can you hear me now?”
Sometimes I wonder if God has a new cell phone service—one with weaker power—less coverage—more static—more drop outs. Does “the call” still go forth with the same clarity—the same intensity—the same demand that thousands have heard in the past?
He does require our attention. After all, he speaks in many voices—sometimes booming—sometimes still and small. He says something like: “Listen up!”
I can’t imagine God slipping up on an issue of such magnitude. The real question asks: are we listening with the same motivation evident in earlier generations?
I’m interested in increasing the enrollment at Crestmont and discovering why there are declining numbers in officer training over the past several years. The Crestmont training school campus certainly doesn’t look anything like the fourth floor of 101 Valencia Street, where both the THQ and the training school were located when I grew up. Somehow, they housed and trained large sessions of 40 to 50 members.
I’m delighted to see the 15 members of the Witnesses for Christ Session of cadets. They’re getting ready to move forward with a unique ministry. Session size isn’t everything. Quality matters, too. I want to get to know them individually. Right now, I simply want to thank them for the dedication they demonstrate in a lifetime commitment to an all-consuming ministry in which multiple identities, spiritual leadership, taxing tasks, challenging intellectual responsibilities, numerous skills and strenuous physical demands are called for on a daily basis.
By the way—officership also provides one of the most rewarding, growth producing, stimulating professions available.
I’m told we need around 50 cadets each year simply to keep up with attrition—retirements, deaths, resignations. We’re not keeping up and haven’t kept up for years.
I guess it’s human to want to know why this declining interest in officership exists. I think there are many reasons—some probably cultural, some personal, some geographic, some economic, some spiritual.
Nevertheless, it seems to me our beloved Army shoots itself in the foot quite often by imposing regulations that fit perfectly into prior centuries but don’t fit at all in a postmodern era. I think we need to discover what they might be to determine whether or not any of them inhibit men and women responding to the call for officership. Is anyone even exploring this issue? Do we even know what questions to ask?
For instance, does any other profession demand a lifetime commitment to regulations that require abandonment of some key areas of personal choice and the sacrifice of much personal power? If so, does that profession have difficulty maintaining membership? If so, why? What about mandatory retirement at 65—does this still work? If one is married, why is it essential that both go to training—especially if one does not feel called?
Many young adults with special skills and interests who love the Army and its mission seek full-time employment in its work. Many of them fill positions formerly occupied by officers. They also work diligently in the cause of Christ within their own corps. The U.S. Army would make them warrant officers.
The call of Christ is not limited to Salvation Army officership. Eric Leidzen’s memorable classic
“The Call” did not focus on the call to officership. It concerned the shepherd Christ alone on distant hillsides calling for his lost sheep—the primary goal of Christ’s earthly ministry. In Leidzen’s interpretation of this goal, the solo voice of a single cornet pleads:
Come with thy sin,
Come with thy sin,
Jesus is calling,
Come with thy sin.
The solo instrument reminds us of Jesus’ soft and tender call—his patient waiting and watching—for you and for me! Later the ensemble echoes the call with the poem:
Come home, come home!
Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!
It’s a plaintive plea sung by a musical voice—played by mostly non-officers, but soldiers in a salvation army who have not rejected the call they heard and now join.
That’s where it starts—the penitent answering the call—articulated in a simple, straightforward manner by individuals who genuinely care about the spiritual life of the flock.
I only know statistics at one corps, where we’re enrolling new soldiers at a healthy pace. In the past 12 months over 20 have stood before the flags and pledged firm commitment to God as a soldier of an army of salvation. Other corps have far surpassed this figure.
In our corps, about one-third of the new soldiers have come to us through the Adult Rehabilitation Center in our town. We’re active there in multiple helping roles.
We get to know the men and women who attend from the center, and we try very hard to make them feel welcome. If they seek God’s forgiveness and guidance at the altar, the penitent’s bench, a soldier prays with them. Several of those soldiers were graduates of that program years ago. We work to follow-up that decision in conjunction with the ARC program.
Those interested in soldiership demonstrate over a year or two a changed lifestyle. They take a training class, and, invariably, they want a uniform.
We need officers. It starts in corps programs that communicate love as opposed to judgmental condemnation. It takes time. God’s voice is as clear and strong as his messenger articulates it. What he needs are soldiers who listen with their hearts.
Now is the time to begin!

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