Sunday, 10 March 2013

One Salvation Army, One Mission!

Worship at this year's One Mission
This weekend the South Australian Division of the Salvation Army held it's bi-annual One Mission conference. Our guests were British/American pastor/ author, Jeff Lucas and respected journalist and Salvationist John Cleary. These conferences, once known as Congresses, are a Salvation Army tradition and provide an opportunity for Salvationists from all walks of life and regions around the state to come together to celebrate being one army with one mission. The highlight for me was a staff and officers/pastors session where the need for christian mission to address the whole person was discussed. Out of this session a few pithy ideas were thrown around and some great quotes (the sources of which I didn't record but I suspect came from members of the Booth family) such as,
  • A man may be down but he is never out.
  • The world is not interested in your problems but will happily use them.
  • By all means aim to reach heaven but be like Jesus and take a thief with you.
The main idea that was touched on by both Jeff Lucas and John Cleary (quite coincidentally I might add) was the importance of the Jewish concept of 'shalom' to, not just the mission of the Salvation Army, but the mission of Christ's followers as a whole. Wikipedea, that infallible source of all knowledge, describes shalom as 'a Hebrew word meaning peace, completeness, prosperity, and welfare'. This is what God seeks to bring into the lives of people and what we endeavour to bring through the ministry of the Salvation Army. We don't seek to sell some kind of heavenly insurance policy while watching a person's life crumble into despair. That's hardly salvation. What we seek to bring to people is salvation of a 'shalom' kind, were people come to experience God's 'peace, completeness, prosperity, and welfare'. It can't be 'save the soul but burn the body'. The good news that Jesus wants us to bring is a message of hope that encapsulates body mind and soul. It's about us loving our neighbour, not just in words, but in action. It's about us standing up for the abused and oppressed, loving the broken and vulnerable, and working with Jesus to bring people to wholeness, not just after death, but in the here and now. God loves the world he created and loves his children, the good, the bad, and the ugly. He wants them to come into relationship with him and experience shalom: peace, completeness, prosperity, and welfare. We stand with Jesus when he quotes the words of the prophet Isaiah,

 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
     because he has anointed me
     to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
     and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed, 
     to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." 
(Isaiah 60: 1, Luke 4: 18-19)

Shalom!