I have known about the Salvation Army all of my life. Most of us only think about this organization as the people ringing bells outside of stores during the holiday season. Aside from that and their thrift store, what exactly is the Salvation Army and what do they do?
The Salvation Army is actually a church organization which began in 1865 in London, England by William Booth who was a Methodist preacher. Soon after beginning his ministerial career in England in 1852, Booth abandoned the concept of the traditional church pulpit in favor of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ directly to the people. Walking the streets of London, he preached to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute.
When fellow clergymen disagreed with Booth’s unconventional approach, he and his wife Catherine withdrew from the church to train evangelists throughout England. The couple returned to the East End of London in 1865, where many followers joined their fight for the souls of lost men and women. Within 10 years, their organization, operating under the name “The Christian Mission,” had over 1,000 volunteers and evangelists.
Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among their first converts to Christianity. And soon, those converts were also preaching and singing in the streets as living testimonies to the power of God.
When Booth read a printer’s proof of the 1878 “Christian Mission” annual report, he noticed the statement “The Christian Mission is a volunteer army.” Crossing out the words “volunteer army,” he penned in “Salvation Army.” From those words came the basis of the foundation deed of The Salvation Army.
From that point onward, converts became soldiers of Christ and were known then, as now, as Salvationists. The clergy titles are recognized by military ranks such as “major” or “lieutenant”. You will also see many of the officers wearing special uniforms in accordance with serving military service. This is to show their purpose in bringing salvation to the world. Their purpose is to bring salvation to the poor, destitute and hungry by meeting both their physical and spiritual needs.
The organization is currently in 131 countries running charity shops, homeless shelters, providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to countries in need. The Salvation Army raises $2 Billion a year worldwide which 96% actually goes to their causes.
If you would like to read more about the Salvation Army or support their charities, please visit their website here.
I don’t know about the military stuff but I think the Salvation Army has the right idea of what the “church” should be. It shouldn’t be a building where people come to gather once a week in a building, but the church should be people like those in the Salvation Army who go out to help people in need.
There’s a lot more to them than ringing bells and thrift shops.