Ignite Forum opens conversation on reconnecting with Army‘s ’Why’
By: Dan Childs
As the Ignite Forum neared its conclusion Saturday, June 2, at the Atlanta Temple Corps, Commissioner Willis Howell was reflecting on what had taken place over the two days of the gathering. About 225 Salvationists from across the Southern Territory had spent Friday afternoon and evening and Saturday morning seeking answers to questions that all pointed to one issue: How can The Salvation Army reconnect with its “Why,” the prime motivation that drives its mission of saving souls.
The territorial commander has observed that the Army’s “Why” has gradually become obscured in the movement’s preoccupation with its “Whats” and “Hows” – the necessary but often cumbersome tasks involved with carrying out the mission, including fundraising, social services, youth activities and the like. The result has been a gradual drifting away from the Army’s passion for bringing people to Christ. But how can the “Why” be recaptured?
“To ignite something, you put it into contact with something that is burning,” Commissioner Howell said. “Are you burning?”
The Ignite Forum, facilitated by psychologist Steve Yungerberg, included officers, soldiers and employees and divided them into six groups, each meeting in separate rooms over the two days of work sessions. The delegates in each room were further divided into several smaller groups. These nucleus groups provided the venues for courageous conversations about the course that must be followed for the Army to rediscover its “Why.” Each small group was given a series of questions to consider, discuss and respond to. Their responses were then shared with the remainder of the room.
In addition, each room was asked to identify two issues or challenges of critical importance to The Salvation Army as it seeks to reconnect with its driving motivation.
A number of issues surfaced repeatedly among the groups throughout the two days: Personal holiness and the importance of discipleship; the challenges associated with the Army’s dual mission of ministering to both physical and spiritual needs; the need for effective communication; a strong focus on Christ’s example for us; tradition versus innovation; and the importance of determining the programs and outreach that are most effective and most relevant.
In his remarks at the conclusion of the conference, Commissioner Howell noted that when our nation finds itself at a crossroads, it invariably asks, “What would our founding fathers do?” Likewise with The Salvation Army, he said. “I think there s much for us to learn from our founders and framers.”
He shared observations from Founder General William Booth about the true nature of the corps (“a band of people united together to engage and Christianize an entire town or neighborhood”), General Bramwell Booth (the salvation of his fellows – without that ambition, no one can be a good Salvationist), and General John Larsson (“A corps is not a flock led by a pastor, but a fighting force led by a captain”).
Commissioner Howell pledged the ideas advanced over the two days would be closely and seriously considered by the territory’s leadership. He asked that the delegates pray for those involved in that process. “If we do this right,” he said, “I believe this is a spirit-of-Christ thing.”