Thursday, June 9, 2022

10 Reasons Why Soldiership is More Important than Ever in 2022

"...convinced that the love of Christ, who died and now lives to save me, requires from me this devotion of my life to His service for the salvation of the whole world; and therefore do here declare my full determination, by God’s help, to be a true soldier of The Salvation Army." -The Covenant 

More than ever in these difficult days in which we live, am I convinced that the love of Christ, who paid the ultimate price for my sins and is now alive at this very moment, requires from me a clearly defined and honorable commitment. It requires me to be all I can be for Him, devoted, committed, and in covenant. 

It requires articles of war, laid out plainly, for the seasoned heroes of 25, 40 and 50 years running to live by til death, and for the raw young recruits, wondering just how they can make a difference in the broken world today, as a road map and guide to the battle, as they take their positions on the firing lines in the war for the souls of humanity. 

As The Salvation Army overall we've devoted our movement to His service, in many glorious vocations, and included in this glorious manifold, is the calling of soldiership. What does it mean to be a soldier in The Salvation Army? 

It means we've made a commitment, a commitment not created by some institution or organization, but a commitment inspired by the Holy Spirit, in Christ Jesus, to dedicate our lives to serve God in the body of Christ. Soldiership defines our theological worldview, and defines our Christian practice in response to that worldview, in clear terms. 

Some in our day and age have denounced the concept of soldiership as old and outdated, something that excludes people and causes harm. They've called for it to be dumbed down, changed, or removed altogether. Should soldiership be changed or removed? Is it outdated and in need of adjustment?

I believe soldiership more than ever is vital, dynamic, and wise for the modern day Salvation Army movement. So let's talk about that. Let's consider soldiership together. Why does it matter? Why is it of value? Why is it biblical? Why is it something worth preserving? I humbly submit to you 10 reasons why soldiership is more important than ever to God's army today:

10. Soldiership means I've committed to a set of biblical beliefs - In a world that is increasingly confused about everything, and redefining everything to suit personal preference, it's more important than ever that Christians make a firm commitment to say, these are my beliefs, this is the biblical truth that I'm building my life on, when they sign the covenant, they say these 11 truth statements are how I see God, the world, and myself. 

9. Soldiership means I've committed to a Christian lifestyle - In a world where people increasingly do whatever feels right in the moment, its more important than ever to have a starkly different lifestyle laid out clearly. Here is my lifestyle: I will live by the Spirit's leading. I will live by kingdom values. I will maintain Christian integrity. I will uphold the sanctity of marriage and family. I will be a faithful steward of all I have. This is my calling as a Christian. It's powerful to lay it out step by step and then practice it daily.

8. Soldiership is not a high calling, but a low calling - Maybe some want to disassemble soldiership because we've made it out to be a holier than thou calling, but it certainly is not. It is a lowly calling. When we look at the wording, its radical surrender to God, and denial of self. It's a meek calling, a calling to live like Jesus, and if we have the proper mindset as soldiers, we do not see ourselves as above anyone. We are servants of the lost and hurting. We are saved to save, humbly, knowing that at the end of the day we are unworthy servants, simply doing what is required of us. 

7. Soldiership is putting on a uniform and declaring here I am to Help - When a soldier puts on his or her uniform they become a target, a target for needs, an open declaration to a community, I'm different, come hear about Jesus Christ. I'm available to pray for you! Why would we ever want to lose this? Often, the same voices that call for the diminishing of soldiership also insist the uniform should be done away with. But I say this: The uniform reminds each of us that we are called to be different. So let's be different! 

6. Soldiership reinforces the fact that we are a Christian movement - Some movements, like YMCA or Goodwill, which began as Christian movements, lost their way, and became little more than secular charities. Thankfully we have not lost our Christian DNA yet. But with every compromise we make, every position statement we tweak to please the culture, every shift of our mission away from Christ and toward social services, we become less and less who we are, and what a deep dive it would be into secular waters to tear up the soldiers covenant... Tread carefully brothers and sisters, every seemingly tiny compromise can quickly lead to another and another, and a pattern of behavior forms, leading down a road to ruin.

5. Soldiership reminds me I'm a warrior for Christ - I sign my document, I'm enrolled, I put on my uniform, I get on the firing lines as we make war on the gates of hell, and signing my articles of war remind me that I'm here to make war on a very real and deadly enemy: Satan and his demonic forces, which attack lost humanity day and night. Have we forgotten we have a real enemy? We do have a cunning adversary. And this enemy is always whispering in our ear: "Did God really say?" Perhaps our enemy now whispers in our ear: "Soldiership isn't very inclusive is it? Get rid of it, or you aren't loving!" But we must not listen to that voice. Our call is holy warfare. Don't get distracted by the lies of the enemy. 

4. Soldiership reminds me I must never compromise with the world - Soldiers of TSA are set apart heroes of God in their communities serving day and night to spread the gospel and meet human needs. Can we be the same as the world, toss aside our doctrines and soldiership commitments, and still be that? No, we certainly can't. But maybe that's the real issue, behind calls to remove soldiership, maybe it's really compromise in another guise. Some in our ranks have lost their way. They are more in love with worldly concepts like inclusivity and cultural ideologies, than biblical truth, Christ-like love, and set-apartness in a fallen world. So does abandoning soldiership become akin to abandoning biblical truth? They might be more closely connected than we realize. 

3. Soldiership shows me my place in the corps - There are various positions in the ranks of soldiers, from welcome sergeants, to the YPSM, CSM, and many others. Soldiers in TSA serve in so many ways, from visiting nursing homes, to ministering at ARCs, to doing home visits, handing out bulletins, jail ministry, and dozens of other roles. Why depart from this system when we each find definition, meaning, and instruction for our roles in these ranks, from soldiers to officers? 

2. Soldiership is the time honored and successful pattern handed down to us - There are many reasons that The Salvation Army has been such a success in the body of Christ and operates in over 130 countries worldwide. One of those reasons is soldiership. It was the system setup by leaders of the past, and it has been a success. And I see no reason to believe it will not continue to be a successful model in the future. The real danger we face is not that soldiership is outdated, but perhaps the real danger we face is that we no longer really believe that God is really there, or that people will really want to make that kind of radical devotion to Him. But turn again brothers and sisters, God really is real, and His word will not return void. I repeat, it will not return void. It will accomplish all He has for it to accomplish.

1. Soldiership is how God designed The Salvation Army church membership to operate - Let's just cut right down to the bottom floor of this discussion: We can tell from the victories of The Salvation Army from William and Catherine to the rapid growth in the 1900s in the west, to the current booming Salvation Army corps across the continent of Africa today, that The Salvation Army was indeed raised up by God himself, a living and true God who we can certainly know did inspire the development of the systems of officers and soldiers, and the church membership structure of The Salvation Army. It's biblical, it's Spirit-filled, and it's worked.

If God inspired it, then why would we ever want to change it? 'Well, perhaps God is doing a new thing' they cry. 'Perhaps this is a new reformation!' But no friends, this is not a new reformation. A reformation drives the body of Christ closer to Jesus, closer to truth, closer to the Bible. To abandon soldiership drives us away from God. But there is another word for a cry that drives us away from God's will and plan, this we call heresy. And heresy we ought to reject at all costs, not to be mean or cold or exceedingly exclusive, but to hold fast to God's perfect will and plan for The Salvation Army. Glory to God. Amen. 

So, as for you, do what you must, but as for me, I will recall the commitment I made, and reaffirm:

"I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of Salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution." -The Salvation Army Soldier's Covenant