The last part of the preamble of the Officer’s Covenant reflects on the ministry outlet in which God’s calling takes place – “…as an officer of The Salvation Army…” It is through The Salvation Army and the role of an officer that Salvation Army officers find the means for fulfilling God’s calling in their life.
Only Officership Will Do
I can honestly say from my experience in The Salvation Army and God’s calling in my life that only officership will fulfill that calling. I have known for many years that God wanted me to be a Salvation Army officer. You can read a little bit about my calling here. I have understood that The Salvation Army is where God wants me to serve him, but even if that had not been made clear to me, I would still only find The Salvation Army as the most effective way to exercise God’s calling in my life.
Before I go any further, let me say that this is not to make it sound as if Salvation Army officership is elitist or the only way ministry can be done. It is also not to say that other denominations are inferior. The reason I state that officership is the only way to fulfill my calling is because that is what God has called me to and I must be obedient.
Why officership and The Salvation Army? First, The Salvation Army takes a holistic approach to ministry. This is one of the most significant things that pushes me towards officership. The Salvation Army understands the relationship and necessity of both physical and spiritual care. The two are not mutually exclusive. Many churches focus heavily on spiritual care while physical care may not be a primary focus. Others, such as parachurch organizations, may focus on physical care with a spiritual bent. The Salvation Army, though, emphasizes the necessity of both and tries to find that balance. Does every Salvation Army location do this well? Of course not! We are not perfect and we are in a constant state of development and learning. That’s why the officer’s role is so crucial. It is his or her responsibility to find and maintain that balance. Trying to find that balance is not an easy task, but the fact that The Salvation Army officer works diligently to find this is commendable. The Salvation Army is not the only church who does this, and I would hope that other churches and denominations would work to find that balance as well.
Second, The Salvation Army is the only church I can fully agree with doctrinally. Now, I know, many would say that this is a result of me being raised in The Salvation Army. They may say that I don’t know any differently and that I would, of course, lean that direction. While this may be partially true, I have read about and biblically tested other doctrinal theories and am still most convinced by The Salvation Army’s doctrines and teachings. One of the things that I enjoy most is looking into the doctrinal distinctives of The Salvation Army. I have spent extensive time studying things such as women in ministry, the sacraments, Wesleyan soteriology, and the doctrine of holiness. Those things that may be different in The Salvation Army than in other theological traditions are intriguing to me. I have wrestled with (and continue to study) each of these things and many others. Given the theological mix of The Salvation Army, I know that there is no other church or denomination (at least that I am aware of) that holds to the same theological mix. Thus, God’s calling for me to be a full-time minister as a pastor would find its logical outlet through Salvation Army officership.
On Choosing Officership
The choice to use officership as one’s ministry outlet is a significant decision. Let’s face it – officership is hard! If you are looking for a long-term desk job with a moderate salary and evenings and weekends off, then officership is not for you. Officership means working with young people after school to help improve their grades. Officership means standing outside with your van at midnight giving water to firefighters. Officership means comforting the mother whose child suddenly passed away. Officership means eating lunch with a shelter guest when you have a thousand other things to do. Officership means running to the hospital on your day off to pray with a soldier. Officership means running a church, a community center, and a social services organization all at the same time and sometimes with little or no staff. It’s not an easy job!
Officership also means sharing the love of God with a family coming for Christmas gifts. Officership means kneeling with a teenager who’s done with his rebelling. Officership means engaging in the life of a fellow believer who comes to you for spiritual guidance. Officership means preaching the Word of God every Sunday. Officership means loving as Jesus loved, serving as Jesus served, and seeing lives transformed by him. It’s not an easy job, but the reward is grand!
If I could give one bit of advice to anyone considering officership, it would be this: weigh the costs before you jump in. I think many officers would agree with me on this. Before jumping into this beautiful, messy thing called “officership”, know what is required of you. Know that there will be difficult days ahead. Know that there will be times of immense joy. Know that it will mean leaving things behind. Know that God will guide your steps forward. It is better for you to take the time and contemplate what being an officer means before you begin the journey than to find out 5, 10, or 20 years down the road. You do not need to rush your decision. God will prompt you when the time is right.