Chosen to be a soldier
Chosen to be a soldier
3 October 2018
Chosen to be a soldier, Chosen by God;
Chosen to be a soldier, Washed in his blood;
Chosen to be a soldier, Lost ones to save,
Chosen to be a soldier In the Army brave.
– Edward H Joy SASB 1020
Stirred by the singing of this chorus, and challenged by Paul’s charge to Timothy to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, I stood beneath the corps flag and lifted my right hand to promise “God helping me, I will”.
Thus was I enrolled as a soldier of The Salvation Army – a teenager brought to Christ by the witness and influence of Salvationist neighbours.
Edward Joy’s poetry clearly defines God’s sovereignty in providing my salvation through Christ and my duty and privilege to share the good news of Jesus with others by service to God through the Army.
My parents were not professing Christians and did not attend church except on special occasions at the corps. Both knew they were welcome and valued. Late in life my father became an adherent.
Dad was a self-employed tradesman and occasionally met the corps flag sergeant, who was a glazier, as they worked at houses in the neighborhood. A friendship was formed and eventually Dad took his seat beside Bram during Sunday meetings.
The Salvation Army is officially described as “a fellowship of people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and Lord and whose common aim is to induce others to subject themselves to the lordship of Christ”. (Chosen to be a Soldier – Orders and Regulations for Soldiers of The Salvation Army).
Being saved and getting others saved cannot be sidestepped on the pathway to soldiership.
The doors to our halls and our hearts must always be open to all comers, saint and sinner alike.
So Captain Peter Hobbs, in his article “The Soldiership Dilemma”, is right in being a champion for everyone who wants to mingle with Salvationists.
He is intentionally provocative in characterising Jesus as being qualified only for adherency but not soldiership and, in so doing, has challenged us to rediscover the passion for souls that gave birth to our movement.
Believing usually starts with belonging. Informal contact with a corps often leads people to want to belong.
People need to receive not only a friendly welcome when they enter our halls, they also need to find friends. Growing corps intentionally encourages friendships to develop.
Social, sporting and cultural groups are also keen to recruit newcomers to membership. Sooner or later new arrivals will be invited to join up. At that point they discover that the organisation has membership conditions. So it is with our Army.
Does the newcomer profess faith in Jesus? Then let’s offer soldiership! If their lifestyle choices limit formal membership to that of adherency then encourage them in that direction.
Or they may choose to simply attend and join in those corps activities appropriate to their needs and interests. Let’s ensure we provide suitable points of entry. It is vitally important that people are accepted unconditionally without any hint of class distinction.
The spiritual and temporal wellbeing of those God entrusts to the Army must be our constant aim and endeavour.
Soldiership has its foundation in the Soldier’s Covenant, which describes a Salvationist’s faith and lifestyle. The terms of the covenant are radically countercultural.
The promises made give no encouragement to being mere pew-sitters or nominal corps section members. Nor are we permitted to see ourselves as belonging to a supposed elite entitled to admiration by imagined lesser souls.
Having signed up to soldiership our total reliance will be upon the Holy Spirit who equips and strengthens us to fulfil our commitment to God through the Army.
This is not something for the faint-hearted or indifferent. We are to witness by our behaviour, character and spoken word to the presence of the Lord Jesus in our life.
We will be conscientious stewards of all God’s good gifts dedicating our resources of body, mind and spirit to his service.
Our lifestyle choices and pursuits will be attuned to the disciplines of our walk with the Lord. Our devotional habits will constantly form and inform our values and character.
We will welcome wholehearted fellowship with all those who are Jesus’ people whether or not they are soldiers or adherents.
The Army will be a more effective mission when its soldiers fulfil their covenant. To elevate the status of soldiership is not to inflate the ego or sense of superiority of Salvationists but to mobilise the Army to more effectively live, love and fight to change Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus.
Commissioner Doug Davis is a former territorial commander of the Australia Southern Territory.