on the corner “You’ll find me in The Salvation Army”

By Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief

“I want to be a soldier of the cross

Brave-hearted and true…”

Once we were “red-hot and righteous”—now we are “The Most Effective Organization in the United States.”

I’ve been wondering—what does that mean? Does it indicate progress? Maturity? Growth? Keeping up with the times? What’s it mean to be red-hot? Do we really measure effectiveness? How?

I’m proud of this Salvation Army—most of the time—and love it all of the time. It’s where I’ve spent a significant portion of my life. It’s where I found my wife and helped raise our children. It’s where I’ve made my “best” friends and discovered my spiritual self.


“I’ll never let the old flag fall…”


No, I won’t…although I might suggest that we change the words on the flag because we fail to communicate to the public their original intent (heresy—heresy). Here’s a thought. How about…Love and Justice.

So you see, I’m an enigma. Somehow, I have this passionate commitment to our Army’s traditions of working with the total person—facilitating development in the entire human organism: mental, physical, emotional, social and spiritual. The last is what everyone else leaves out. I’m glad we’re not serving any particular class, race or gender structure. We’re committed to anybody and everybody. We don’t forget about saving and serving the poor, the destitute, downtrodden and marginalized. That is the Jesus plan.


“And we’ll roll the old chariot along…”


I don’t think we’re dragging on behind, but I don’t know about everything we do. I’m grievously disappointed when we close programs serving the poor on skid row or any other part of town. I’m saddened that we have given up elements of foster care for difficult young children and adults who tend to act out their dissatisfaction with a society that turns its back on them. I understand the rationale for such decisions, but have a difficult time accepting it. The explanation for almost any program closure seems shrouded in dollar signs.

Personally, I believe the Army should always be just a little bit in debt, and then turn the responsibility for raising the difference over to God.

Simultaneously, however, I want to be an instrument of significant change, and am delighted when territorial leadership approves and invests in programs that have “future” written all over them. That’s the way I perceive Jesus, and I want to walk with him…


“All the way to Glory.”


Being red-hot and righteous and highly effective are not mutually exclusive. We can be both. We must, however, be passionate if we are to be red-hot. Also, we must be knowledgeable and skilled if we are to be effective. They must be combined.

So, how does one measure organizational passion? I believe we measure it by the quality and leadership of programs serving a designated population.

We need programs that stimulate soldiers to be in helping relationships with those in need, and we need more soldiers with a passionate willingness to sacrifice some time and effort to meet that need. As soldiers, we have become overly willing to delegate all social services. We lose a vital opportunity. We fail too often to minister to those to whom Jesus called us. We might not be willing to return to the days of the “Slum Sisters,” the “broom brigades” or the “boozers parades,” but soldiers still need to feel motivated to be much more than simply church members.


“Launch out into the deep

O let the shoreline go!”


In my judgment the current territorial leadership loves action and moves without fear into uncharted waters. This is a perfect time for action.

We’re great at disasters. Shortly after terrorists destroyed New York’s Trade Center towers and portions of the Pentagon, an article appeared in Worth magazine titled “Calling in the Troops.” In it, John Sedgwick and Loch Adamson said: “The Salvation Army has been called the most effective organization in the country. New York City now knows why.”

The “why” described an immediate response appropriate to the problem, a focus on mission, a stimulation of volunteers, perseverance of commitment, and an application of Christian love—delivered with passion.

The same thing happens with every other manmade or natural disaster.

There are disasters, however, that receive much less attention. They are the unpublicized, small-scale human disasters generating one small story in the morning paper. It only touches a few. Somehow, we need to study various such circumstances, determine what can be done, and train responders to do it.


“I’m a soldier should you want me,

You’ll find me in The Salvation Army.”

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