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Finding meaning

Major Gregory Morgan* says ‘life is best lived in relationship. We note from a growing body of research that emerging generations find their sense of meaning in the “everyday”. Social connections and relationships provide a key place to find such meaning. As Jesus said, the kingdom of God is among us.

‘Mission is grounded in people’s lives. It’s incarnational in our experience of God. It’s embodied in the people we meet. Those with whom we laugh, and cry. Those we help, and those who help us. Those people we encounter as we live our own lives. The manifesting of compassion through social engagement, advocacy, social justice – these manifestations are increasingly understood in The Salvation Army and in the wider church as being integral to Christian faith and practice.’
* Major Gregory Morgan spoke to e-connect. This article is based on reflections upon, quotations from and inspiration by Partnering with God: Being a Missional Salvationist (2017), written by Majors Lyn Edge and Gregory Morgan. Read more below

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Gregory Morgan * says life is best lived in relationship

We note from a growing body of research that emerging generations find their sense of meaning in the ‘everyday’. Social connections and relationships provide a key place to find such meaning. As Jesus said, the kingdom of God is among us.

Mission is grounded in people’s lives. It’s incarnational in our experience of God. It’s embodied in the people we meet. Those with whom we laugh and cry; those we help, and those who help us. Those people we encounter as we live our own lives.

The manifesting of compassion through social engagement, advocacy, social justice – these manifestations are increasingly understood in The Salvation Army and in the wider church as being integral to Christian faith and practice. Those paths lead us to mission just as surely as other paths, such as worship and prayer and study of scriptures. Mission is our participation with the work of God, impacting and transforming people and the world around us.

The kingdom of God is about the totality of life. As we pursue meaning and answers and grace and purpose – as we pursue God – we become more fully human, and we are connected to God more fully as well. It is both mystical and practical.

We are called to mission; to draw the strands of life and faith and experience together, and integrate our lives into God’s mission. Faith cannot be solely spiritual, nor can it be solely intellectual, or solely practical. Finding Christ in others and in ourselves – living incarnationally – is always critical for The Salvation Army, which combines faith and works for Christ’s name for the sake of God and God’s creation.

The Salvation Army arguably started out with a primary focus on spiritual needs. However, by the late 1880s, its understanding had evolved to the point where they had theologically integrated a broad mission, where they sought to care for people in crisis and all aspects of their lives; not just the spiritual, and not just the material. 

The Army’s co-founder, General William Booth summed this up neatly in 1890: ‘I saw that when the Bible said, “he that believeth shall be saved”, it meant not only saved from the miseries of the future world but from the miseries of this also. That it came with the promise of salvation here and now; from hell and sin and vice and crime and idleness and extravagance, and consequently very largely from poverty and disease and the majority of kindred foes.”

We see this not as Booth abandoning his spiritual beliefs, but rather fulfilling them: it was a growth in The Salvation Army’s understanding of the mission of God’s kingdom. The Salvation Army was never intended to be a spiritual club to care for the needs of privileged insiders. It exists to respond to the spiritual, physical, emotional and societal needs of people.

The Army, at its best, has a strong focus on the transformation of the physical and spiritual world; its words, thoughts, and deeds – its songs and its people – are infused with hope.

As decades passed, however, and as we lost that founding vision, we got sucked into the mentality that ‘It’s only about evangelism’; focusing on the spiritual, to the exclusion of other aspects of life. There have been epochs in our history where the movement has been insular, focused on our culture and suspicious of difference; also, we have often been suspicious of pursuing an intellectual understanding of our faith and mission.

But I believe there is a growing acceptance now, and an awareness, of the need to think through what we do as The Salvation Army and why we choose to do it. Having a solid, in-depth understanding of who we are, and where we came from, will help us guard against tribalism and work through the issues that face us.

Where are we at now? I think we are getting back to the point where we have a holistic focus on both ‘evangelism and social action’, the spiritual and the material. Holistic mission is a key issue for our future and the future of the people we look to serve. The people with whom we look to live our lives alongside of, knowing that life is best lived in relationship with each other and with God.
* Major Gregory Morgan spoke to e-connect. This article is based on reflections upon, quotations from and inspiration by Partnering with God: Being a Missional Salvationist (2017), written by Majors Lyn Edge and Gregory Morgan.