It always encourages me how God affirms something He is stirring in my spirit through the alignment of what He is simultaneously saying to others. Last Sunday I wrote the blog post Imagine If... reflecting on what could happen if The Salvation Army invested the same level of energy, resources and time to mobilize Salvationists to engage in a week long salvation campaign as we did with the Red Shield Appeal. At the welcome to the new Territorial leaders for the Australia Southern Territory, Commissioner Floyd Tidd asked the question, "Do we still believe that people need to be saved? Don't answer with yes or no, show me the actions that reflect the answer to that question." This morning I presented the same question to our congregation and spoke passionately about the SALVATION mission of The Salvation Army, referring to Jesus response to the disciples in John 6:28-29. So, I was excited to discover after church that a New Zealand Officer friend preached from the very same passage this morning as well!
Coming back to the Commissioners question, "Do we still believe that people need to be saved?" The default response of our congregation this morning was an overwhelming "Yes", however, if we were to measure the priority of our activity during any given week against our response, our results would suggest otherwise. Like most Corps (churches), we are very busy serving people, meeting temporal needs, building relationships, running programs, etc. but how intentional are we about sharing the Gospel and inviting people into a relationship with Jesus? When was the last time we led someone to faith? Are we content with people just finding community rather than Christ?
Before I am misunderstood, let me be clear that I genuinely value the process that leads a person who is far from God to a place where they are open to engage in a spiritual conversation. I celebrate compassionate ministry that cares for the most vulnerable people in our society. I fully embrace a relational model of evangelism that takes us on a faith journey with people and recognise that this is a long journey for some. And I believe that Holy Spirit is preparing the hearts and minds of unbelievers towards salvation and that our role is to connect with where the Spirit is already at work. However, as I look around at the priority of activity in The Salvation Army, that is, where the majority of our time and resources are invested, the focus of our public relations and the tone of discussion on social media by Salvos, I'm not completely sure that our activity aligns with our rhetoric? While we would agree there have been some less than helpful "methods" of evangelism that have devalued relationships and has presented something far less than "Good News", it seems to me that Salvationists have largely wandered far from the priority to "live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life." That includes me!!
In the process of serving people we must remember that service is not the end goal but the means through which we can fulfill our primary mission of the salvation of the lost. William Booth clearly articulated the priority of our salvation mission when he said, “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.”
Lord Jesus, reignite a passion for the lost in the spirit of every Christ follower. Grant us the courage and wisdom to fearlessly and relationally share the Gospel in everything we do, making the salvation of the lost the first priority of our lives.