Ten Things I Have Learned about Salvation Army Officership

It is about being called. By that I mean it is knowing that God for His own reasons has decided that the best possible use of my life is to serve Him as a Salvation Army officer. What God’s will is for other people I cannot say, but for me it is about being called. There is no way that service as an officer makes sense unless there is a call.
The needs of my people demand better than my best. I remember hearing of one of the grandchildren of the Founder telling him she had done something and that in doing so gave it her best. He looked at her and thundered, “Your best? You must always give better than your best if you are to serve God and His people.” To give my best means I use all my resources. To give better than my best means I exhaust these and draw on His.
I do not live to myself. If I compromise, if I am unfaithful, if I become self-absorbed, my personal bankruptcy not only affects my spiritual life but it hurts the people I am called to serve. Whether I like it or not, whether it is fair or not, what I am goes beyond me.
The Salvation Army has made only one promise to me. When the cadets are commissioned, you will not hear it said, “You will be a territorial commander; divisional youth secretary; training college officer, etc.” The only promise the Army makes to the officer is the opportunity to serve. Although I have had some ideas of what I should or should not do, I have to remind myself that no promises were ever made except I would be allowed to serve. The Army has kept its promise.
If I am willing to accept the good that comes as an officer, I ought not to complain when something bad comes.  There was a time when it seemed to me that the Army was terribly unfair. I complained angrily and often to whoever would listen. Then in a quiet moment I heard the Lord speak: “How is it that you received the good without reservation and now you complain because you received something bad?” Only the most self-centered can think that the sun ought always to shine on their picnic.
There have been costs I could never imagine. My wife and I served as the corps officers in Bradenton, Florida for seven years. During that time we watched many healthy people weaken and then die. As I served longer the funerals were harder and harder to do because the people had grown much dearer to my heart over the years. The cost of loving them was the pain of grieving them. There have been many other costs as well that I did not see but was called upon to give.
There is no resting place. I have known a great many officers. None has “arrived.” None have reached a place where they couldn’t go deeper, couldn’t learn more, couldn’t be stretched. We are pilgrims, not settlers.
My heart must be broken regularly. I hate the times when my heart has been broken but find that if it is not it too soon becomes hardened against the bleeding of the world, that it becomes deaf to the whisper of the Spirit, that it can look at the wounds of Christ unmoved. Better to weep bitterly than to not weep at all.
The Salvation Army is one of God’s good ideas. Because people are involved and we have a nasty habit of bringing our fallen natures into the picture the Army sometimes fails to be all that it should. But it remains one of God’s gifts to the world. I kneel with it at the altar with the penitent, I feel it in the hugs of the Home League women, I see it in the eyes of a young person who yields to God’s call, I rejoice in it when it opens its arms to the hurting of the world. If there were no Salvation Army the world would be poorer place. With all its faults, it is a privilege to serve in an Army like this.
I would do it all over again. I have made mistakes that still haunt me over time. I have failed time and again. But I have marveled at those times when God saw fit to use me while wearing this uniform. I am human enough to wish some things had come out differently but honestly, I cannot think of anything that has been more of an honor than to serve God through The Salvation Army. My only regret is that I haven’t done it better. My great joy is that I have been allowed to do it at all.