Good News!

‘Extraordinary acts of courage,’ ‘Radical acts of kindness’

On Sunday morning of the Candidates Seminar, Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, territorial commander, challenged the congregation to be like Jesus’ disciples, who demonstrated “extraordinary acts of courage” and “radical acts of kindness.”

From the outset, seminar delegates had been bathed in worship. Music from the College for Officer Training (CFOT) Band, a Scripture presentation (Psalm chapter 8: 1–9) by the Territorial Arts Ministries Team (TAM), a monologue by Jonathan Schafstall entitled “Beggar,” as well as the CFOT Gospel Choir and heartfelt congregational singing set a God–honoring tone.

Twice called

Nate Hinzman, an accepted candidate and a 25–year–old soldier at the Spring Valley, N.Y., Corps, shared how God had called him twice before he finally said “yes.” As a child of officers, Nate said, “My entire life had been spent going to Sunday school, Bible study, playing instruments, going to and working at camp, and all that good stuff.” But Hinzman said none of that “stuff” really set in.

Then during the summer of 2010, Nate joined the Hands–On team to Kenya. “And that was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” he said. Seeing the world outside the borders of the United States challenged, rewarded, and fulfilled him in ways he could have never imagined.

“As a member of the team, I realized that I wasn’t doing everything I could do for God.” He said that in Kenya, he encountered young people who were on fire for God and were unafraid to preach the Gospel and to take risks—despite limited resources or support.

“As a member of the team, I realized that I wasn’t doing everything I could do for God.”

Nevertheless, when Nate returned, he pursued what he hoped would be a career in the secular world. But as he saw the final door to that world close, he received a call from his corps officers who offered him a part–time youth ministry job in Ohio.

Swallowing his pride, Nate finally took the job. To his surprise, things worked out far better than he had anticipated. “God revealed to me that this is where He wants me to be. I was challenged, shaped, and molded to share my faith. I was strengthened in ways I didn’t think I could be strengthened.” Nate concluded, “Today, I am humbled to be an accepted candidate for the Messengers of Life session.”

‘Be relevant’

“There is no way that the early followers of Christ could have been considered irrelevant to their society,” said Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, territorial commander. “And that’s what I like best about the book of Acts.”

During his message, Swanson said he expects that The Salvation Army will encounter criticism for its stand for Christ, or on other issues. But he said what he is most concerned about is when people return blank stares at the mention of the Army. “They don’t know who we are or what we are,” he said. “My concern is that, as with the Christian Church today, [the world] will see us as—irrelevant.”

Swanson said that the influence of the early disciples was such that “people watched, followed, and joined them!” Swanson said although the disciples were ordinary men, they demonstrated “extraordinary acts of courage” and “radical acts of kindness.”

Swanson challenged his audience by asking, “When people see you, do they take note that you’ve been with Jesus?”

Swanson concluded his message by reflecting on a visit to a small Salvation Army corps in the south of London. Although it appeared to be of little significance, he soon learned that, because of its “Mercy Seat in the Street” ministry—whereby individuals prayed at a mercy seat in the open air—an entire community had been transformed, evidenced by a lower crime rate and fewer instances of domestic violence, among other societal yardsticks.

“So many people wanted prayer, they would line up,” said Swanson. “The local police asked, ‘Whatever you’re doing, would you keep on doing it?’”

Swanson said that such spiritual influence only comes through the Holy Spirit. “It’s not our organization, or our resources, or our ability—it’s the Holy Spirit of God who makes the difference!”

While everyone sang the chorus “All There Is of Me,” Swanson issued an invitation to the mercy seat. The area quickly filled. “You can come up to the platform and kneel if you need to,” he said. And many people did.

by Warren L. Maye

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