Sunday, October 4, 2015

Justin's Calling: Are you called to be a Salvation Army Officer?

Justin Steckbauer is an employee of the Salvation Army Central Territory. This is Justin's personal blog. The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners.  This blog is not associated with the Salvation Army.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8

God is real. God is really here. He is among us. And every word in his book is the truth. We have amongst us here the answer to every question in the world.

I did not know God when I was younger. I didn’t think he was really there. I thought it was a fairy tale. I lived and grew up among a church. I didn’t understand any of it. I just went because my parents made me. I didn’t think it had any bearing on life. I thought it was just some sort of backwards tradition that we had to honor.

After my parents divorced at age 15 I got into trouble. I had many struggles. I went very low. Depression came about, addictions came about. As things got worse I was forced to ask some very difficult questions.

Many people, if they were asked: Why do you exist? Why are you here? They would have no answer. They don’t know, and they never really thought about it.

I didn’t think about it either. But then I had to. My life was collapsing, my addictions were growing worse, and my heart was empty. I was filled with the ever-present agony of the everyday blah!

So, at rock bottom, I got on the floor, on my knees, and I cried out to Jesus Christ. I didn’t know if he was real, if he was really God, if God was even real, but I took a little leap I suppose, I cried out desperately, just desperately. Jesus save me. And do you know how I know God is real today?

Because Jesus answered that cry for help. He set me free from my addictions, depression, and most importantly from the long list of my wrong doings. I was reborn. He saved me in every way imaginable...

  • He saved me physically from addiction
  • He saved me emotionally from crippling depression
  • He saved me spiritually from the just penalty of my sins.
  • Jesus took my place on the cross. And he reclaimed his life for my eternal life.
I didn’t cry out to Muhammed, Buddha, Krishna, Zoraster, or the universal spirit. No. Only one name: Jesus Christ, or in Hebrew: Yeshua. So if anyone tells you there are many ways to God,to heaven: They’re wrong, there is only one.

As my life continued to change, there was something I became certain of, almost immediately: I need to serve God. I felt immediately, an intense insatiable urge to full time ministry. I loved to write, I loved to read poetry at open mics. I loved to explore deep questions. I loved to read books. I loved to talk with people and help them with problems. It all started to make sense.

So if you’re wondering if your called to officership, the first thing to watch for is the urge to serve.

Some might call it a “burden on the heart.” It overflows out of your heart. Every fiber of your being cries out for the need to serve, to love, to carry the gospel. Because deep down having been changed, made clean, you know it is the truth of life. Do you have that?

Around 2013-2014 I was working at a homeless shelter in Wausau, Wisconsin.  At that time I was reading a biographical book on the Salvation Army by Henry Gariepy. He lists a quote in the book from a conversation he had with the famed evangelist Billy Graham. Billy was shooting hoops with the boys at the corps where Henry was serving and after they were done Billy Graham looked at Henry Gariepy and said,”The Salvation Army is Christianity in action.” And it’s true.

I knew, Justin needs to be a minister. He needs to carry the message. Why? Because Christianity is the truth about everything. It’s the truth about EVERYTHING. Jesus Christ is really real, heaven is real, hell is real, and people need to know now, not later, now!

If your called to officership, don’t be afraid to let God change the course of your life. Don’t be afraid to let God take you in a direction that makes you uncomfortable.

I know that sounds odd. But often times we're trying to control things, and we’re missing the direction God wants to take us. I didn’t want to be an officer, I thought it seemed like too much paperwork and not enough ministry. It seemed way too hard, insurmountable.

But God didn’t seem too concerned with what I wanted. He seemed to say,”So Justin doesn’t want to? So what!” 

So when searching to know if your called to officership don’t necessarily “trust your feelings” or “use your best judgment.” That’s worldly garbage, don’t trust yourself, don’t trust how you feel. I felt very discouraged and dissuaded at times. Don’t trust those feelings, trust the guidance of God. Ask for his wisdom. Pray, and trust the leading of the Holy Spirit. Forsake yourself, and your way and instead take his way. 

It was quite logical to me, at first: I’m here worshiping Jesus, I’m alive today because of Jesus, and Jesus is really real, and really God. Given that, what else would I do with my life but serve him in full time ministry? If the Bible is the truth about everything, the truth of life, then everyone needs to know especially people my age.

Still, there are many organizations out there proclaiming the gospel.  Many are doing it quite well too.  So how can one discover if they are called to the Salvation Army specifically? If you believe you may be called to officership in the Salvation Army, the first thing you need to do is pray, pray, and pray. I must’ve asked God over one hundred times:Is this where you want me?”
Pray, pray, pray. Search the scriptures. Watch for opening doors.

I was only saved by the mercy and love of Jesus Christ three short years ago.  I wasn't raised in the Salvation Army.  I was originally raised Catholic, a.k.a. atheist in my case.  Eventually I was baptized in a Baptist Evangelical church.  But as I studied the word, prayed, learned, and took classes I became transfixed by a question: What is real biblical faith?

I became more and more caught up in the idea of “What does it mean to have a real faith?” What is faith in action?  Is this it, just church on Sundays?  Or is there more we could be doing?

I was praying about finding work around then. I applied at the Salvation Army homeless shelter in the Wausau, WI area. A friend worked there and said I would be perfect for the job.  I started working there and as I like to tell people, I became terminally involved.  I had to work weekends, so I couldn't go to my baptist church.  I started going to theirs.  Eventually that spring-boarded into other areas, like leading a young adult Bible study, participating in youth events, and attending conferences.

Eventually a retired corps officer asked, “Have you ever considered becoming an officer?”

I really hadn’t thought about it. But it started to make sense and line up. Meanwhile the work at the shelter was awful, just terrible. Very stressful. Very tough.  I imagine to this day that I may always recall the rotating shift work at the shelter, while trying to balance full time college, as the most stressful part of this journey.  Probably just because I was so new.  I didn't know what to do when under spiritual attack.  I was a new Christian, inexperienced.  I was a child in the furnace. Truly, truly. Nightmarish.  Lots of spiritual attacks.  The enemy really wanted to wedge me out. But the ministry there was something powerful. And it was real.

I learned a very simple method to confirm a call:

1. Are you on board with the call?

2. Do your family and friends support your call?

3. Are doors opening?

My first reaction to the Salvation Army? Nerdy. Was I board with that call? Not really! It seemed very stressful, given my experiences at the homeless shelter. But it started to seem like it was “of God.”

One of the best things that I did was I started going to Salvation Army conferences. I got a feel for what it was like. 
Three times at Salvation Army conferences they had “calls to officership” sessions. Every one of those three times I felt moved by the Spirit to come to the front, declare my calling, and step up to the mission God had placed on my heart.  What in the world was I doing, walking to the front?  I have no idea.  I must've gone crazy... or maybe it was God.

I had my heart set on doing apologetics, online ministries, and evangelism heavy ministries. I envisioned myself as a traveling speaker/evangelist. But no doors were opening in those areas. In the Salvation Army, every door was opening in front of me. I become a soldier, I went to conferences, I applied for an internship, and was accepted into the Ministry Discovery Program.  It's been an amazing experience so far, unparalleled in my walk with God.  It's like being rocketed into a new dimension of ministry, service, work, adventure, and satisfaction.  There is nothing like the feeling of being within the will and plan of God, headed in the direction you were meant to walk.  There is nothing like it.   

I was at a candidate conference last weekend. It was an awesome experience. Overwhelming, inspiring, fear inducing, courage stirring, a plethora of thoughts and emotions raced through my mind. Yet also present was a transfixing wonder, an awe at the presence of God. One of the teachers said, "If your afraid that you can't do it, it's because its true, you can't." And he followed that by saying, we can know this calling is of God, if it's more than we can handle. We can be assured it is of God, if we are certain it's too big for us alone to handle.

Someone once said,”If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”  It has been very, very challenging.  As C.S. Lewis said, “If you’re looking for a religion to make you feel comfortable, Christianity isn’t it.” But part of being a man is taking the challenge. God coaxes me outside my comfort zone. It’s scary, it’s challenging, it takes courage, but God can do great things through our most feeble efforts.

With God the impossible becomes possible.  He lights my passion for his mission on fire with hope, faith, and love.  I've learned to believe in spite of the most dire circumstances.  And as William Booth said: “God loves with a great love the man whose heart is bursting with a passion for the impossible.” 

Yet sometimes I pause and think: Lord, this is actually quite awkward, I had very different plans for my ministry. And I’m reminded by a still quiet spirit, His will be done, not mine.

He wants all of us, his paintbrush is time to make us into the people he wants us to be.  He has called me a man unable and will make me able in his power, in his time, to change the world with the gospel, and just because I can’t see that doesn’t mean it’s not a reality. 

"There are several billion people rushing headlong into hell. Many have died between the day this was written and the day it was published. Many of them are living in your backyard. Don't you want to make a bigger difference? We're not saying that the bigger difference must be through officership. And we're not saying that full surrender leading to being filled by the Holy Spirit leads to officership. But what we're saying is not "business as usual." This is not last generation's officership that we're pitching to you here. There is no better means for someone to make a bigger impact in the world than officership as vocational extremism. Pray it out. If God is not calling you to be investing your hours and years and skills and gifts and abilities and passions in your current employment, train up and offer yourself for officership- as vocational extremism. Is God tapping you on the shoulder?" -James Knaggs & Stephen Court, Leading the War: Salvation Army Officership as Vocational Extremism, p.14

Related Posts:
  1. Reflections on the Salvation Army Regeneration Conference
  2. Spiritual Journey | Dreams, Darkness, False Light, a journey in Ideas
  3. Am I called to Ministry? How can I know? 
  4. The Servant Leader: A Radical Concept 
  5. Life after Death: Law, Eternity, and the Changed Mind
  6. Wisdom from Above: Living in Light of the Victory of Christ
  7. The Mindset of Christ: Teach Me How to Live, Lord
  8. Who I was and Who I am: A Poetic Observation 
  9. Liberty University Graduation, Young People, and God
  10. Christianity in the Public Square: The Apologetics & Philosophy Renaissance