Sunday, February 17, 2013

Saved to...?

I was interested to see the revived discussion on Major Stephen Court's Facebook page about the original intent of The Salvation Army S's worn on their uniforms.  Do they mean "Saved to Serve" or "Saved to Save"?  

As a Junior Soldier growing up in a working class Salvation Army Corps in the Melbourne Central Division I remember being taught that the S's represented "Saved to Serve."  This fitted the image I had of The Salvation Army in my small corner of the world and the emphasis of the busy program of our Corps.  In fact, as an older teenager who had a passion to share my faith in a lost and broken world, I remember coming to odds with some of our leaders at a Corps Council meeting who angrily declared, "Robert, we don't have time for evangelism!"  Less than content with this dismissal of a burning passion in my soul, a small group of us formed a team called "The Blitz Brigade" and hit the streets around our church to tell people about Jesus!  The irony of our bold attempts to evangelise our community is that the primary response we got at the door was, "Hang on, I'll go get you some money."  The public were more than willing to contribute to our mission of service, but showed little interest in our message of salvation.  It seems that the "Saved to Serve" ethos I grew up with was not only embedded into the culture of our Corps, but was strong in the psyche of our community.

Years later as a Salvation Army Officer, I attended a Brengle Holiness Convention in 2009 where I heard a message from Major Stephen Court who presented an alternative historical and biblical understanding of The Salvation Army S's as not representing "Saved to Serve," as I had grown up to believe, but "Saved to Save."  He quoted then, General William Booth writing in "The Salvationist" publication in 1879 as saying:

“We are a salvation people – this is our specialty – getting saved and keeping saved, and then getting somebody else saved, and then getting saved ourselves more and more until full salvation on earth makes the heaven within.”

More recently, Stephen offered further evidence of a "Saved to Save" mission from Major Allen Satterlee who shared a story from the "Officer" publication in 1922:

"The motto refers to the well known story of our Founder's visit to Buckingham Palace, London, when he was asked to write in the Autograph Album of one of the Princesses. The simple inscription, 'Saved to Save, William Booth,' produced such an impression that the next day Queen Alexandra sent her Album with a request that the same entry might be made in it."

In my estimation the shift from a "Saved to Save" mission to a "Saved to Serve" mission is indicative of a significant shift of emphasis from the spiritual mission to the social mission of The Salvation Army.  While one is not complete without the other, it does seem that a "Saved to Serve" mission dominates our public image at the expense of a "Saved to Save" mission.  Maybe this is why the statistics in the Australia Southern Territory show a decline in church membership and the number of people getting saved, while our social programs have increased in size and complexity.  At this point, I should make clear that I believe strongly in William Booth's assertion that our social and spiritual mission are "joined together like Siamese twins, to divide them is to slay them" and the biblical understanding of real religion; "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27).  However, when our service precedes or precludes our salvation, the core of who we are as The "Salvation" Army is seriously compromised.

If we are a "Saved to Serve" Army, it suggests that the primary goal of our salvation is to serve others.  What then is the end purpose of our service?  What eternal difference does our service make in the context of the Great Commission?  What distinguishes The Salvation Army from any other philanthropic or religious organisation who share a platform of service?  

If we are a "Saved to Save" Army, then it suggests that the primary goal of our salvation is the salvation of others and service becomes the means, not the end in itself.  This presents a holistic view of service that is concerned about the salvation of the whole person.  Our service becomes an incarnational message of salvation.  In other words, service is salvation with skin on! 

For me, "Saved to Serve" is an incomplete mission that ultimately does a disservice to the people we serve, robbing them from the power of a complete gospel that presents a holistic salvation message.  I fully embrace a "Saved to Save" mission as it gives my service power and purpose as I "live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life."

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