At the start of my sixth-grade year, my parents were sent to Fayetteville, Arkansas to open the Salvation Army work there. Today, it might be called a church plant. But, as my father told me again and again, we (the Salvation Army) are more than a church.
I was in the school office with mom while she was getting me enrolled. The secretary was gathering basic information including what daddy did and what church we attended. When mom answered Salvation Army for church the secretary corrected her by saying “that’s not a church”.
I’m not sure if mom was able to convince the woman that, yes, it’s our church. But daddy was right, it’s more than a church.
Like the school secretary, you probably didn’t know it was a church either. I’d be surprised if you did.
When asked what the Salvation Army does or is the most common responses are: a thrift store, soup kitchen/homeless shelter. Some say they help people or they do good things.
Those are true. But, as you’re about to discover in this overview – we’re more!
For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Matthew 25:35-36
Started in London, England in 1865 by a Methodist minister, William Booth wanted a church that would serve the least and the lost. He’d had enough of churches who required members to pay for their pews or congregations who made the poor sit in the back or worse, not welcomed them at all.
William Booth saw a need for the saving grace of Jesus in places other churches of that day ignored. This was his calling.
Stories of the early days of ministry include street corner preaching by Booth and his followers They weren’t immune from having food hurled at them while he preached and others sang.
From the earliest days in the Salvation Army, women’s voices were heard preaching the good news of Jesus. The founder’s wife, Catherine, was in every way a partner to her husband. He considered her to be a better preacher than himself. After his death, she became the international leader.
It was also Booth who engineered the idea to put new words to the bar tunes. He knew the familiar melodies would draw their attention. He adapted their methods to reach the heart of people. He is credited with saying, “Why should the devil have all the good tunes.”
This was not a status quote group. They didn’t look like other churches as they donned uniforms for their fight against sin and they didn’t sound like a traditional choir as brass horns bellowed, bass drums beat and tambourines trilled to the songs.
This is just the beginning of the Army’s mission. We are 153 years old and it feels like we’re still just getting started.
This month I’m writing about the Salvation Army – the mission and who they are. In the meantime, here are a few links you may be interested in for more in-depth information:
- Statement of faith and programs – www.salvationarmyusa.org
- Music Sunday
- More Than an Officer
- Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of The Salvation Army