‘The Call’ to soldiership
“We call Salvationists worldwide to recognize that the swearing–in of soldiers is a public witness to Christ’s command to make disciples and that soldiership demands ongoing radical obedience.”
“We affirm that Jesus Christ still calls men and women to take up their cross and follow Him. This wholehearted and absolute acceptance of Christ as Lord is a costly discipleship. We hear our Lord’s command to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe that soldiership is discipleship and that the public swearing–in of a soldier of The Salvation Army beneath the Army’s Trinitarian flag fulfills this command. It is a public response and witness to the life–changing encounter with Christ which has already taken place, as is the believers’ water baptism practiced by some other Christians.”
In the “Call to Soldiership” (taken from the International Spiritual Life Commission Report, Called to be God’s People by Commissioner Robert Street), the Commission carefully looks at why The Salvation Army needs soldiers and how a soldier’s role is an active rather than a passive membership. It’s important for people wanting to become soldiers to know the extent of the commitment they are making when signing the Articles of War.
This Call states that being enrolled as a soldier is a public profession of faith and a witness to an encounter with Christ, which has already taken place. The ceremony itself is not a part of the conversion process. The ceremony of becoming a soldier happens only after the person involved has experienced the life change that comes with a relationship with Christ. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is paramount to becoming a soldier.
Primarily, the call to soldiership is an invitation to a radical obedience to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and to committed discipleship. The Salvation Army’s ninth doctrine says, “We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.”
If we as soldiers are to be obedient to Christ, who was obedient to death (Phil 2:8), we must “take up our cross” and follow Him. The Commission draws attention to the wholehearted and absolute acceptance of Christ as Lord by every soldier and describes it as a militant, costly discipleship. If discipleship isn’t costly, it isn’t real discipleship. This is the type of obedience expected of a soldier.
Christ asks His disciples to “Follow Him” (Matt. 4:19) and then commissions them to “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19). The same is required of soldiers.
First, soldiers are to grow in grace through worship, prayer, service, and the study of Scripture. As spiritual maturity comes with the commitment to these spiritual disciplines, there should also come a desire to share the love of God and to help people grow in the same way. Showing Christ’s love to people is a consequence of the growth that has happened from following Him.
The Commission is quick to point out that soldiers must recognize both the Army’s uniqueness and its place in the life of the Church universal. Soldiers are called to be part of a movement that serves others, fights the battle against evil, follows God’s guiding hand, trusts the Lord with their lives, and knows how to obediently say “yes” to Him. The Army needs soldiers. Whoever heard of an Army without soldiers?
by Matt Hodgson