Becoming a Salvation Army Soldier: Do You See Exclusive or Inclusive?

becoming a salvation army soldier
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Summary

Would Jesus be excluded from becoming a Salvation Army soldier? Does soldiership exclude most people in today’s society, or is it meant to be inclusive?

Introduction

Becoming a Salvation Army soldier demands that the individual covenants to lead their life in a particular way. As a holiness movement, The Salvation Army calls on its soldiers to emphasise holy living. Is that still relevant today?

Is Becoming a Salvation Army Soldier Exclusive?

Some Christians, Salvationists and Salvation Army leaders believe soldiership is too exclusive in today’s society. They argue that to be a disciple of a rabbi in first century Palestine, you had to be the best of the best. In contrast, Jesus called the worst of the worst to be his disciples. What Jesus required of his disciples was not a moral motivation but he himself was to be their motivation. Jesus simply saved and then sent, regardless of the disciples morals. Jesus, and the majority of those in our society today would not become a Salvation Army soldier because he and they could not or would not live up to the lifestyle choices laid out in The Salvation Army Soldier’s Covenant. The requirement for membership in The Salvation Army should be Jesus. He is enough.

William Booth’s Intention and Practice

This argument suggests that Salvation Army soldiership is now exclusive, and has somehow returned to the Temple discipleship of first century Palestine in calling only the best of the best. That should not be The Salvation Army’s intention. General William Booth said:

Go for souls and go for the worst.

(Quoted in The Life of General Booth by Hulda Friedrichs)

No One Should be Excluded

William Booth targeted the “worst” in our society: the poor, the marginalised, those whose morals were well below what was expected of a Salvation Army soldier, and he called them to follow Jesus. No one was to be excluded. The Salvation Army connected with “unclean people”, those whom the established churches wouldn’t allow in their doors, or if they did, would restrict them to the pews at the back out of the way. Christian discipleship and fellowship was for all as far as William Booth was concerned.

The Salvation Army should continue to “go for souls and go for the worst”. It shouldn’t be exclusive. Becoming a Salvation Army soldier should be inclusive. If it is not, then in my view, that is not a problem of soldiership, it is a problem of missional intent.

Calling the Worst of the Worst to be the Best of the Best

I have noticed in recent years that some Salvationists (including me on occasion) have reduced being a Salvation Army soldier to “don’t drink and don’t smoke” and these are the only aspects of the Soldier’s Covenant that we refer to. The Salvation Army Soldier’s Covenant is full of other lifestyle choices too; the kind of high moral code that Jesus taught too.

Living Soldiership Lifestyle Choices Remains Relevant

We will look at some of these lifestyle choices next week, and see how becoming a Salvation Army soldier is still highly relevant today. And the choice should be inclusive, not exclusive.

Photo by The Salvation Army USA Central Territory at Why the Uniform?

Becoming a Salvation Army Soldier FAQ

What does it mean to become a Salvation Army soldier?

Becoming a Salvation Army soldier is a deep commitment of faith and to a local expression/church of The Salvation Army. Soldiers sign the Soldier’s Covenant, which sets out what The Salvation Army believe and the lifestyle a soldier will endeavour to lead as a result.

Who wears a Salvation Army uniform?

Salvation Army officers (ministers/pastors) wear Salvation Army uniform when on official business. Many Salvation Army soldiers will wear uniform to worship (particularly if they are taking part in the band or choir, for example) and for certain other events, but many also choose not to. In many places around the world, The Salvation Army also produces informal branded wear, which some members will choose to wear on occasions.

Do Salvation Army members get paid?

Most Salvation Army members are volunteers and do not get paid. That is particularly true of Local Officers who are usually responsible for a part of the ministry in their local Salvation Army church (e.g. music ministry, children’s ministry), which is different to some other churches, where people in those roles might be paid. Some Salvation Army members are employed in particular roles, either at a local, area, regional, national, or even international level (e.g. church youth worker, property manager, learning and development officer, international finance officer).

Can anyone join The Salvation Army?

Anyone can attend our worship meetings. Anyone can join as an adherent member of The Salvation Army, if they are willing to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, align themselves with the mission of The Salvation Army, and view their local Salvation Army centre as their spiritual home.

What religion is Salvation Army?

The Salvation Army is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church.

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