Visioning Sets Future Course
Finding the Outside of the Envelope
by Commissioner David Edwards –
Our world is moving at an ever increasing pace. Change is thrust upon us. New technology and broader and faster communication bring increased global awareness, while simultaneously isolating us more in our own communities. Values become blurred. In isolation, people have more difficulty choosing what is right. There is today a sense of urgency. The Army must keep pace. Nineteenth century thinking, planning, timing and programming won’t help us identify and meet the needs of 21st century living. We must change. There is no choice.
In 1991, when MISSION2000 was launched, the USA Western Territory indicated: “We will know that MISSION2000 has been accomplished when…The Salvationists of the Western territory are seeking the mind of God for 2020 VISION. The momentum of MISSION2000 will be projected over the first two decades of the 21st century into Kingdom-building ventures that are visible to the eyes of faith.”
We are embarking on a process intended to:
- engage the whole territory in a journey of spiritual discovery;
- challenge every Salvationist, adherent, advisory board member and employee into becoming personally involved in this effort to discover from God what he wants this Army to be and do beyond the year 2000;
- give a sense of empowerment to all our people, young and old, women and men, whatever their race or culture, whatever their rank;
- and encourage total commitment to the pursuit of the vision God will give to us, his people.
As we begin the process, it is important that we remind ourselves of who we are, what makes us who we are, why we are an Army, what we value most and why these things are important.
The International Mission Statement of The Salvation Army succinctly addresses these issues…
“The Salvation Army, an International Movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church.
Its message is based on the Bible.
Its ministry is motivated by love for God.
Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination.”
This statement is worthy of closer examination.
We are an Army: We have been called by God to be an Army and “to fight against the forces of sin.” Thus we are The Salvation Army. An Army on the march, never in retreat, always going forward. We are an Army sustained and directed by God.
We are a church: An “evangelical part of the universal Christian Church,” members of Christ’s Body holding to the historic faith of the Church centered on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
We are a worshiping church, praising the one God, Creator, Preserver and Governor of all things.
Our emphasis is on evangelism– bringing people to a personal knowledge of Christ.
Our message is based upon the Bible: So, too, is our motivation and mission. Our foundations are Biblical. We are deeply committed to the doctrines of The Salvation Army which are founded on the Word of God. We have always been a people of the Word, what we are and all we do being firmly based upon God’s Word.
Our ministry is motivated by love for God (and by the love of God): “Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11).
Our God is a God of compassion. Like him we, too, are people motivated by our compassion for others.
Our mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name without discrimination: We are called first to preach Christ and him crucified. Ours is a ministry of reconciliation, motivated by God’s transforming work in our lives. It is an obedient response to the great commission of Jesus Christ to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
We are also called to serve others in Christ’s name. Our ministry is our Lord’s…
the cup of cold water to the thirsty,
bread to the hungry,
clothing to the naked.
It is a compassionate ministry that reaches out to the untouchable and in love to the unlovable.
It is a ministry to the ‘whomsoever.’
WHY ARE WE AN ARMY?
The name The Salvation Army determines not only the way in which the world sees us but has contributed to the way we see ourselves.
An Army is uniformed, it is disciplined, it has officers, it has ranks, it has soldiers. The symbolism may seem archaic or useless, but it has value. We are an Army unlike any other Army. We are a church unlike any other church. As such…
We are a people called to BATTLE: We must never lose the sense of being an Army called to battle against sin and darkness and the need to clothe ourselves in the “whole armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:10, 11)
We are a people called to HOLY LIVING: Called to be holy even as God is holy. It is our privilege as believers to be “wholly sanctified.” We are to be people filled with the Spirit of God, purified by his indwelling and empowered to do his will. We witness to the world that it is possible to live in a corrupt environment without being corrupted.
We are a people called to EVANGELIZE: This must always be the principal focus of our mission in response to the mandate of the Great Commission to “make disciples of every nation.”
Everything we do, even the way we live our lives, has as its objective “to win the world for Jesus.”
We are a people called to SERVE: to minister to the whole person, “with heart to God and hand to man.” We are called to be wherever there is human need. Our intent? The total development of persons, individually and in community.
We are called to be people of THE WORD: The foundations of what we teach and practice find their basis in the inspired Word of God. This is a distinctive of our movement. We cease to be God’s Army the day we cease to be obedient to his Word as we understand it.
We are called to be a people of PRAYER: God has called us into fellowship with him. We are called to be people committed to prayer… it is the breath of our existence. The enemy of our souls welcomes our neglect of the source of power. Victory over sin and evil is assured a praying people. Success in building the Kingdom is ours if we but pray. We must pray without ceasing.
What do we value most? Given our Mission and those things that are essential to who we are, the question would be, what do we as a people value most?
We value PEOPLE: We consider people, all people to be infinitely valuable, created by God with whom, through Christ, they can have fellowship.
Every human life, born or unborn, has value and should be viewed with wonder and a sense of expectation as God unfolds the plan for their lives.
We treat them with respect because of their potential for being transformed through an encounter with Christ.
The Army exists for ministry to and with people. People are our priority.
Programs, procedures, structure and tradition must all be in the service of people.
We value our DIVERSITY: We are an Army for all people, everywhere. All peoples, all nations, all races, all cultures are of equal value in the Kingdom of God. We are called to build a world free of racism, tribalism and cultural imperialism. We must be an example of a community in which such barriers no longer exist.
We value our FREEDOMS: Called to freedom in Christ Jesus, as members of his Body his Church we have, to the rest of that Body, a unique witness of the freedom that is found in him. Salvationist officers and soldiers by their very lives bear witness to God’s saving grace and baptism by the Holy Spirit into that Body.
We are not second-class citizens in the Kingdom.
God has called us to be his Salvation Army. If we have lost it, we must rediscover our confidence as a spiritual force within the Body of Christ. We must continue to use our God-given freedom to worship the living Christ in every way culturally appropriate.
We value our INTEGRITY: Called to be witnesses to the Truth, we believe in the integrity of Christ’s Word and of our witness. We must prove ourselves worthy of the trust of the public who donate gifts in support of our programs and trust us to do what we say with those gifts. We must guard diligently our integrity, not entering into any partnerships or endeavors (however worthy or simple) that would compromise that integrity.
We value our RELATIONSHIPS: We are called to be in partnership with God, advisory boards, auxiliaries, government bodies, other churches, and development agencies to further the ministry.
Officers and soldiers, too, are partners with each other in our ministry to others. We value these relationships. We will safeguard them. Without them we would fail miserably.
Why are these things important?
We live in an unprecedented time of change and in times like these people need an anchor, a sense of their Creator, of him who never changes.
The strength of an Army lies in its discipline, in its commitment to a common cause and values, and in its ability to respond to urgent need at the time and place of that need. It needs to to be readily identifiable to those who seek its aid and protection. It needs to be recognized, too, for the ministries it pursues and the manner in which it pursues them.
I have sought to identify those things I believe make us unique so that, no matter where we find ourselves fighting the common enemy, we know clearly what we stand for and can respond in an appropriate and effective way.
At this point in the journey, we urge every person first “to hold fast to the principles for which we stand and the characteristics that make us who we are while, at the same time, impacting today’s generations in a relevant way” and to covenant with us in the pursuit of God’s vision for the Army beyond the year 2000.