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Wednesday, September 06, 2006


The 3 biggest challenges facing the Salvation Army

Yesterday I started a look at what I see as the 3 biggest challenges facing the Salvation Army into the future.
Today, I want to focus on the first challenge, maintaining our own theology and organisational distinctives.

We all know the story of the ugly duckling.
There was a little duckling who was unlike all the other ducklings in his family.
He had big feet and he couldn't quack.
All the other ducklings made fun of him.
All the bigger ducks were so disappointed that he wasn't like the rest of the ducklings.
As he grew he just become more and more different to the other ducklings.
Then one day some swans came to the lake and the duckling realised that he wasn't a duckling.
He was a cygnet, a baby swan.

I want to contend that the Salvation Army is like that ugly duckling.
When our movement is put alongside other churches, we don't fit in.
We are the ugly duckling compared to the other ducklings, we can't quack and we have big feet.
The other ducklings look at us and make fun of us.
They laugh at how we look (our uniform), they laugh at our quack (our two pronged mission strategy, wholistic mission) and they laugh at our big feet (our organisational structure).

In Australia our response is to try even harder to be like the other ducklings. We apologise for who we are and we try to become something we are not.

I heard a Salvation Army officer say that the distinctives of the Salvation Army only make sense when we are engaged in mission to the marginalised.

Our theology was shaped pragmatically. The two questions William Booth asked of anyone wanting to do something new in the Salvation Army was "is it Biblical and does it work?"
When we remove the Salvation Army from ministry to the poor and marginalised, it is no wonder that our young people no longer understand Salvation Army theology, instead chasing after the theology of other denominations.
When one works with the poor, one sees God in the poor.

When I went to India last year I came to a greater understanding of the Salvation Army as an international movement.
Other than the Catholic church, we are the only Christian movement that can rally its members on a world wide basis.
The upcoming prayer weekend for victims of Sexual Slavery is a case in point. The General has directed Salvationists from all over the world to come together and pray for an issue of Global impact.
A global problem requires a global response.
The Salvation Army is able to respond to this issue primarily because of its organisational structure.

Now this doesn't mean that there aren't problems with the structure of the Army, but that comes under tomorrows challenge.

The Salvation Army's theology and its organisational structure are key challenges in the future of the Salvation Army.
They are key challenges because to get them wrong is to be the ugly duckling.

When I sit and read Booth's "In Darkest England" I realise how it all falls together.
Booth set forth what became known as the Cab Horse charter. (Remembering it was written in a time before cars)

If someone sees a cab horse fallen over in the street, their first reaction is not to ask "how did it come to fall over in the street?" We don't stop and ask whether the horse has come to fall over due to exhaustion due to overwork. We don't stop to ask if the horse has fallen over because it is lazy and decided it couldn't walk any more. We don't stop and ask whether the horse is deserving of our assistance.
No, we immediately go and assist the horse to its feet. We find an apple or some sugar and feed the horse.
Booth then asked, why is the same not so with the people we see in destitution around us?

The theology and organisational structure of the Salvation Army only make sense when we are engaged in the lives of the poor and marginalised. The theology and organisational structure of the Salvation Army only make sense when applied in a local context, but realised on a global scale. The International Salvation Army is required to operate so that our local Salvation Army can operate.

What do you think?

I don't really know much about the in's and out's of the Salvo's, but from what I do know...I think you've done it a great service! The Salvo's are really an important part of society as a largely recognised part of social welfare, poverty and homelessness. Mmmm...
Well, even though i am a salvo, honestly i do not know much about the theology stuff, I do know however, that at school we studied the salvo history, the salvo's changed my life, and i know that they are changing others lives... I believe that you are right, and the metaphors actually allow me to understand, i think that this was written well and is an eye opener to the Salvo's! Well done, your a good writer!

That is a great challenge to the salvo's! What are we gonna do about me???

Hmmm, i dunno, do u?
btw: the last word me??? should be it, i guess i had myself on the brain! oops! i just read it n i was like WHOA! TYPO badly... anys
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