Messengers of the Gospel challenged to live out their name
By: David Ibata
The Messengers of the Gospel, 29 cadet graduates of Evangeline Booth College, were encouraged to courageously live the name of their session – and audience members, to emulate them – as they were ordained, commissioned as lieutenants and given their first appointments June 3 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Major Thomas Louden, president and principal of Evangeline Booth College, called the graduates “on fire, sanctified, enthusiastic and focused cadets. These messengers have displayed the marks of Christ in every facet of their training, service and sacrifice. They have displayed a devotion to their training to become Blood and Fire officers of The Salvation Army.”
“We have committed our lives and chosen to go out into the world and share this blessed news,” said Lieutenant Kelsey Meredith, session representative speaker at the Ordination and Commissioning service. She quoted Isaiah 61:1: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
“Are our hearts bursting with a passion to go out and share the good news? Are we fired with the fire of the Holy Spirit? We have been ordained by God to bring people to the foot of the cross. As an Army, we can rise up and be the people and soldiers God desires and longs for us to be. Today and every day, we can take the opportunity to be bold and go out into the world, sharing what the Lord can do and will do in the lives of so many people.”
In the Marching Orders service, Commissioner Barbara Howell, territorial president of women’s ministries, told the graduates, “We are asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray you’ll live well for the master, making him proud of you as you work hard.”
The commissioner prayed for strength for the new lieutenants to endure over the long haul – “Not the grit strength of gritting your teeth, but the glory strength that God gives. It’s the strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy. Whatever appointment you receive now or in the future, may you consecrate yourselves to God and dedicate yourselves to the people.”
Bringing the message to the Ordination and Commissioning service, Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, told how he collects old Orders and Regulations. “It’s interesting to read the headings as to the issues we deal with in The Salvation Army then and now.”
One from around the turn of the 20th century may have been written by William Booth himself. The headings: Hate, riots, mobs, police, saloon keepers, prosecution of officers. “But what if they kill you?” the booklet says. “Well, you must die.”
“Make up your mind to the worst, then perhaps he that would lose his life, would save it.”
“This is not in there anymore,” Commissioner Willis said. “The regulations for officers now include these headings: Visitation, retirement and pension, correspondence.”
The territorial commander spoke of the Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, established in 1786 to rescue survivors of shipwrecks on the rocky shoals of New England. Volunteer members manned lifesaving huts with boats up and down the coast. They braved ferocious storms at risk of injury or death to save others from drowning. Their motto came to be: “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.”
In 1878, the government created the United States Lifesaving Service, a forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard.
“Once that happened – once professionalization took over – volunteers no longer went out to rescue those who were shipwrecked,” Commissioner Willis said. “They sat back and let the ‘experts’ handle the work.”
The Humane Society still exists as a nonprofit organization. “They have long since left the life boats and beaches behind. They give out cash awards now and recognize the actions of others.”
“I can’t help but wonder if there is not a lesson for us in this,” he said. “It’s far easier to sit in our climate-controlled and comfortable buildings and sing about our stormy ports and that we love Jesus and pray someone will be sent to those who are dying. Isn’t that why we have professionals and officers?
“I wonder what it would look like if our Army re-embraced a ‘You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back’ mindset. Risk everything to reach everyone. I wonder what kind of difference that behavior might make in our communities. What difference would it make to the kingdom? Is there anyone here who would like to find out?”
Citing Romans 10:13-15, Commissioner Willis said, “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. … But how will that happen unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him if they’ve never heard about him? How can they hear about him unless there are messengers of the gospel to tell them?
“We are not simply commissioning 29 Messengers of the Gospel. We are commissioning an auditorium full (of people). We are all commissioned, as of this day, to be messengers. … Instead of just sitting in our sanctuaries – all of us shining lights of Christ singing how nice it is to have the light – let’s take that light to where it’s most needed.”