What is an Officer?
What is a Salvation Army Officer?
A Salvation Army officer is a senior soldier who has responded to a calling from God to devote all their time and energies to the service of God as a commissioned and ordained leader of The Salvation Army.
Salvation Army officers enter into the following covenant with God:
CALLED BY GOD
- to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as an officer of The Salvation Army.
- I bind myself to him in this solemn covenant
- To love and serve him supremely all my days,
- To live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life,
- To care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unloved, and befriend those who have no friends,
- To maintain the doctrines and principles of The Salvation Army, and, by God’s grace, to prove myself a worthy officer.
What makes an effective officer?
An officer promises to live to win souls; to care for the poor and feed the hungry; love the unlovable and befriend the friendless. They are asked to exercise a particular kind of leadership within The Salvation Army, so what kind of qualities does it take?
That’s a tough one: we have and we need officers of all kinds of backgrounds, personalities, skills and interests. But here are a few ideas on common qualities found in effective officers:
- a willingness to give your life to serving God
- compassion—an officer will encounter people in the midst of deep hurt and profound need
- an open mind, a generous heart and a bold imagination
- a willingness to stand up against injustice and for what’s right—especially when it’s hard
- a sense of humour (trust me on this one)
- the ability to use your time wisely
- humility—it’s not about you!
- flexibility—the life of an officer is full of variety and the unexpected
- the ability to see the good in others even when they don’t see it in themselves
- availability to go where you’re sent and love the people you find there
- being prepared to change your approach when you’re shown a better way—and to look for the input and involvement of those you lead, rather than doing it all yourself.
Is there more? Of course! Good, godly, faithful, resilient … so many words to choose from. We don’t need perfect people, but we do need people of capacity and character to inspire, lead and serve. Might that include you?
What does it mean to be ‘called’?
‘Not called, did you say? Not heard the call, I think you should say,’ said The Salvation Army’s co-founder William Booth.
Let’s get one thing clear: when Booth wrote these words, he wasn’t referring to officership. He was speaking of God’s call for every believer to proclaim and live out the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you sing in the worship team, help in the kitchen, support the youth group, or join in outreach to the homeless, you are called to embody the good news that Christ came to set people free to live lives of holy love and purpose.
That being said, we often use the language of ‘calling’ about officership because it is a specific calling from God to become available wherever and whenever to lead mission that builds the kingdom of God through The Salvation Army. For some, this comes as a clear and unmistakable message; for others, as a growing awareness that nothing else seems to quite ‘fit’. Chances are, God will tailor his call to you to fit who you are.
Whatever God’s calling you to—officership, or getting more involved with your corps, or bringing grace into the lives of your workmates or your neighbours—make sure you answer!