Are we losing the importance of Salvation Army fellowship? Attendances at large events are dwindling, yet we need to meet together regularly.
Salvation Army Fellowship
This month (September 2018) has seen a flurry of events where Salvationists have met together to worship and enjoy Salvation Army fellowship. Last weekend (23 September) saw the welcome to the 21st General of The Salvation Army, General Brian Peddle and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle at William Booth College in London. This Sunday (30 September) The Salvation Army in the United Kingdom with the Republic of Ireland will be welcoming their new territorial leaders, Commissioners Anthony and Gillian Cotterill at the Regent Hall in London. This year alone we have also shared Salvation Army fellowship as we said Farewell to our retired General, General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox and welcomed the High Council to elect our new General. We have had Symphony Sounds (the successor to the old Music Leaders’ Councils Festival), the Youth Makes Music and Territorial Music School and SAFE (Salvation Army Fellowship of Endeavour) final festivals and Commissioning of the Messengers of the Gospel cadets, amongst other events.
I have attended large Salvation Army gatherings for many years, from international events such as congresses (including Boundless 2015 in London), to territorial events (like Symphony Sounds) and divisional events (such as Welcome to New Officers) and so on. With one or two exceptions, I have noticed over the years that attendance at these events has dwindled.
I am sure there are some practical reasons why that might be the case. Certainly, The Salvation Army is smaller and older than when I first started attending these events in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Many of the events I have listed are live streamed, meaning there is no need to attend the event in person.
I understand that costs can be prohibitive. Most tickets to territorial or international events are carefully priced, and I would suggest are often less than the cost of a cinema ticket these days, but travel costs (and sometimes accommodation costs) have to be added. But I can attend most large gatherings for the cost of, for example, a premiership football match, and attendances have dwindled at free events too, so cost cannot be the only reason.
A Symptom of Individualism?
I wonder if the lack of attendance at large Salvation Army events is a symptom of the individualism found in western culture in particular? Society in general seems to be losing the importance of community. Do we simply reflect this? Gail and I attended Symphony Sounds in Birmingham in June. I really enjoyed the music I heard during that day, but what I enjoyed even more was the Salvation Army fellowship that surrounded the whole event. I was able to catch up with Salvationists I hadn’t seen for a while, and that brings an important sense of community and fellowship. It reminded me why we should make the effort to meet up when we can.
The Importance of Salvation Army Fellowship
So let me give you five reasons why we should meet for Salvation Army fellowship in large gatherings as often as we can:
Fuel for Faith
Meeting fellow Salvationists will fuel your faith. Being present with other Salvationists at a large event encourages us to listen and engage with what we see and hear, whether it’s music, creative arts or God’s Word. We miss out on these means of grace if we are not present. But being with fellow Salvationists who are also eager to fuel their faith from what they see and hear can encourage us to do the same.
To Hear God’s Word in a Salvation Army Context
It is easy to access sermons from popular speakers from around the globe, and these can be helpful in our Christian journey. But for the Salvationist, nothing replaces the opportunity to hear Salvation Army preachers expound God’s Word to The Salvation Army in particular, and to apply it to our corporate life together. Whether it’s your Divisional Commander, territorial leader or the General, there is something important about hearing our leaders preach into our unique context.
The Power of Personal Connection
This year, I think I have been to at least five large Salvation Army gatherings. They were all different, but for me, they had at least one thing in common: I came away from all of them encouraged and energised by the power of personally connecting with fellow Salvationists. There is an energy in the room of gathered Salvationists that cannot be experienced anywhere else. I have been moved by worshipping together with other Salvationists. I have felt the collective stirring amongst us as the Holy Spirit has prompted and prodded us through God’s Word. I have laughed. I have eaten, and drunk copious amounts of tea. And I have been blessed.
A Sense of Accountability and Support
When we gather together in Salvation Army fellowship in a large gathering, we are reminded we are not alone. Whatever our local context, it is good to remember that there are other Salvationists around the country or in the world who face the same joys and challenges as we do. We are reminded there are millions of Salvationists out there that we can rely on for help and strength to obey God’s purposes, sometimes practically, but oftentimes through prayer.
Gathering together in large events helps Salvationists to grow together as Jesus’ disciples. When The Salvation Army family hears the General preach (or when your territory hears your territorial leader preach, or your division hears your DC preach) then it begins conversations about what was said and how we should apply it. This leads to spiritual growth as we wrestle with God’s Word together.
So the next time you see a poster on your corps noticeboard, or see an advert in The Salvationist, or get invited to a Facebook Event for one of these large gatherings, rather than dismissing it, why not think about going? Let’s not lose the benefits of Salvation Army fellowship. See you there!
If you found this post helpful, would you please do something for me?
Why not check out these posts from around the blog?
- Self Denial: The Salvationist’s Most Effective Weapon
- Salvation Army Soldiership: A Radical Lifestyle
- Salvation Army Soldier’s Covenant as a Missional Strategy
- Putting the Bible into Practice
- We Believe | Onward, Christian Soldiers (1 Peter 2)
- Salvation Army – Saved to Save
- We Believe | It’s All Gone Pete Tong (Genesis 3)
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