What is discipleship? How did Jesus make disciples? How can I become a disciple? How can I be a disciple-maker? Why should I prioritise discipleship? How can I be discipled in The Salvation Army?
If you are asking these questions, you are not the only one. In fact, I think you would find many, who are asking the exact same questions. This three-part series of articles contains some insights into discipleship.
“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Discipleship in The Salvation Army
[This is the third article of the three-part series on discipleship, written by Colonel Janet Munn]
Salvation Army Programmatic Structure in Relationships
The Salvation Army has a tradition of discipleship built right into the structure. Have you been a part of the following, consider:
- Cradle Roll
- YP Company
- Junior Soldiers
- Corps Cadets
- Senior Soldiers
- Soldiers’ meetings
- Local officership
- Officer Training
From birth through adulthood, including every age group and vocation, The Salvation Army has already in place a context for discipleship. Add to this list, Women’s Ministries, social service recipients, children’s and youth programmes galore, as well as musical sections, and the potential for highly effective discipleship of the multitudes that come within our influence, is profound – were there intentional effort applied systematically and in authentic relational ways.
Orders and Regulations for Ward and Penitent-form Sergeants, 1922
There was in place in 1922, a remarkably systematic strategy for disciple-making in The Salvation Army in the form of Wards and Ward Sergeants. These were “for the purpose of following up, encouraging, and helping the Converts, making them into Soldiers.” Every seeker at the Mercy-Seat would immediately be introduced to the Ward Sergeant, who would “look after their spiritual welfare in every possible way.” This responsibility for spiritual development by the Ward Sergeant of the Seeker/Convert would continue “both before and after . . . enrolment.”
Every Soldier was also to be involved in a Ward, according to neighbourhood, and the Ward meetings were to take place once a week, and were “for the unconverted people as well.” Each Soldier and Recruit present was to speak of their spiritual condition and their work for the Lord in soul-saving. The Ward meetings would end with an invitation as needed. The Ward Sergeant was to “keep the Ward Meeting on strictly spiritual lines” and in the hope that every person was able to “go away feeling right with God and man.”
The Ward system was intentional, systematic and relational, and that, nearly one hundred years ago. The Ward system demonstrates Salvation Army DNA coming from John Wesley’s methodical small group accountability system that brought about societal transformation.
Where are we now?
An example from Denmark: Transformers - Discipleship, Leadership and Mission
The purpose of Transformers is: To help teenagers do and experience a transformation spiritually, physically, emotionally, creatively and socially; for teenagers to be inspired by God’s Word and a desire to help others to a better life.
Transformers is a 12-13 week course, run as an addition to the everyday lives of teenagers. It is important that school is not neglected because of Transformers, and it is therefore designed to recognize responsibilities, such as homework.
Three weekends with teaching, worship, prayer and fellowship are shared throughout the Transformers programme; one weekend at the beginning of the 12 weeks, one after 8 weeks and one final weekend.
Each teenager is given a mentor, who will support, encourage, give feedback and help the teenager to reflect.
The following is an overview of the Transformers course contents:
- A weekly logbook
- A selected book to read
- A group chosen project
- A selected mentor
- 3 weekends of teaching and fellowship
- 1 mission day in a selected city
The results and impact of the Transformers programme is clear and visible throughout Denmark. Of those who participated in Transformers, 45% have made a commitment as a Disciple of Christ in The Salvation Army, becoming Salvation Army soldiers. Out of the remaining 55% of programme participants, most are moving toward Soldiership. These young transformed disciples are some of the 46% of soldiers enrolled in Denmark in 2011 under 25 years of age.
Reported by Louise Wahl and Major Joan Münch
An example from Australia Eastern: LIFE Groups
The LIFE Leadership handbook by AUE says:
“Life groups are all about relationship – about doing life together. They’re about developing trust and accountability, and they’re about having a safe place to talk and ask questions. They’re about developing Kingdom of Heaven life skills like encouragement, serving and praying for one another. And they’re about engaging with and learning from Scripture”
A phone survey of every corps in the territory was conducted prior to the launch of LIFE groups, and then again two years later. The results showed:
- The number of 13-25 year olds engaged in a discipleship program from 2009-2011 had increased by 111%.
- The number of 13-25 year olds being discipled with a Salvo resource has risen by 230%.
Reported by Claire Hill and Ashlee Sheppard
In recent years The Salvation Army has seen the creation of incarnational training communities such as Saved 2 Save, Revolution Hawaii, The War College, Railton School for Youth Worker Training, 614 corps, and Transformers -- that are dedicated to equipping young adults for ministry and mission which makes for effective discipleship.
The renewed emphasis on prayer throughout the international Salvation Army is an evidence of grace among us in these days, and a hopeful sign for the future regarding Salvationists’ participation in the Great Commission. With more than 500 Salvation Army centres throughout all five zones involved in 24/7 prayer and 121 territories participating in the Worldwide Prayer Meeting on Thursday mornings, Salvationists are activated and systematic in prayer in greater ways than in the generations prior to the existence of the internet. Surely this investment in prayer is nourishing discipleship the world over.
Advantages of Prioritising Discipleship
- It doesn’t cost money.
- It is applied in the real world, in local communities and contexts.
- It is gender and age inclusive.
- All learning styles are engaged (thinking, feeling, and doing).
- Literacy is not essential.
- It is inclusive of the non-believer and so has evangelistic impact.
- Already built into Salvation Army structure – just needs the relational priority
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
I would like to finish this three part series with a quote from Captain Rowan Castle, Territorial Youth Secretary, from the Australia Southern Territory:
“We need a revolution of ordinary discipleship in the real world for the long term”
Will YOU be the Revolution?
Colonel Janet Munn
Download a PDF version of the article here