Rise of The Salvation Army preacher
by Lawrence Shiroma, Major –
Major John McRae, a Canadian medical officer attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade in Belgium, performed the funeral ceremony for a friend killed by enemy gunfire. McRae had seen enough blood, pain and suffering in his medical field station to last a lifetime. After the graveside service, the officer wrote this memorable war poem in 1915:
“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow between the crosses that mark
Our places, and in the sky, the larks still bravely singing, fly scarce
Heard amidst the guns below. We are the dead, short days ago we
Lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow. Loved and were loved and now we
Lie in Flanders Fields, where poppies blow between the crosses.”
The seeds of the red poppy lay dormant in the ground for years. But when the ground is disturbed as in a battle, or dug up to bury the dead, the seeds germinate, take root and flourish.
Like the poppy seed, a believer may lie spiritually dormant for years. Suddenly the ground of his heart is broken by the cries of the fallen. Then the word of God takes root in his soul and he rises to preach with urgency because, “the love of Christ compels [him]” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
The need for The Salvation Army officer to preach God’s word coincides with the rise of atheism in America. The word “atheist” comes from the Greek “atheo,” meaning, “without God.” Atheistic writers are reaching the best-seller lists. Some of their more recent books are, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, by Christopher Hitchen, The End of Faith, by Sam Harris and The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. The book by Sam Harris has sold over a million copies.
How have you responded to God’s call in your life? Is it for such a time as this that God has called you to be his strong preacher of the gospel in The Salvation Army? John MacArthur said, “Now is the time for the strongest men to preach the strongest message in the context of the strongest ministry.”
But there is a cost to being a preacher. “The pulpit calls those anointed to it,” wrote Bruce Thielemann, “like the sea calls its sailor and like the sea, it batters and bruises.” How many of our battle-weary officers have fallen in the heat of conflict over the years? The Apostle Paul no doubt realized the weakness of the flesh when he wrote, “I discipline my body, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Corps officers who faithfully preach God’s message each Sunday know from experience that, “To really preach is to die naked a little at a time, and to know each time you do that, you must do it again” (Thielemann).
Conscious of the Army’s emphasis towards humanitarian aid and social services, General Evangeline Booth’s plea was that, “Preaching is the big job in the Army. It isn’t sitting by a desk. It isn’t delegating authority. It’s the preaching. You’ve got to preach!”
Paul said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). The calling of the preacher is, “the big job in the Army.” Is it for such a time as this that God has called you as an officer to preach the gospel? Perhaps even in far off places like Flanders Fields, where poppies once blew between the crosses.