by Lt. Colonel Philip Maxwell, Secretary for Program
Just over a century ago Evangeline Booth, then a commissioner and national commander of The Salvation Army in the United States, wrote immortal words that underpin our mission to this day.
In the wake of World War I, Commissioner Booth enlisted the services of the romance novelist Grace Livingston Hill to capture both the historic details and the motivation behind The Salvation Army’s involvement in the “war to end all wars.” In the prologue to this epic manuscript, The War Romance of the Salvation Army, she penned:
When moved to activity by the apparent need, there was never a thought that our humble services would awaken the widespread admiration that has developed. In fact, we did not expect anything further than appreciative recognition from those immediately benefited, and the knowledge that our people have proved so useful is an abundant compensation for all toil and sacrifice, for service is our watchword, and there is no reward equal to that of doing the most good to the most people in the most need.
With the precision of a surgeon, Commissioner Booth cut to the very essence of the Army’s existence: doing the most good to the most people in the most need. “Doing the most good” is not so much a successful marketing campaign (branding) by a public relations firm as it is the hallmark of Salvation Army ministry.
Doing the most good is a journey, not a destination.
Despite a century of refinement and development, we as an Army have not made it yet. We are still on a journey. We live in a world marred by its own humanity. There are broken lives all around us. Even with our very best efforts, we fall short of our intention.
Another Booth—William, our Founder—compelled his generation, “While there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight, I’ll fight to the very end!” Against the backdrop of need that surrounds us, there is a warning not to grow complacent or to rest on our reputation. The term “Salvation Army” provokes two distinct appreciations: one hope; the other, engagement. We have a message that offers hope to a fractured world, and a conviction and calling to engage with it.
Doing the most good provides the drive for our mission.
Doing the most good is not a statement of accomplishment but of aspiration.
It is the measure we seek to attain. Embedded within the Salvation Army’s DNA is the capacity to look past the situation of those who come through our doors and see the potential God has placed within them. It is the willingness to walk with them, to let loose the chains that hold them back and to unlock their God-ordained potential. Doing the most good gives the definition to our ministry.
Ultimately, doing the most good is not a program but our passion.
General John Gowans captured the heart of the Army with these words found in our Salvation Army Songbook:
I believe in transformation,
God can change the hearts of men.
And refine the evil nature
Till it glows with grace again.
Others may reject the weakling,
I believe he can be strong.
To the family of Jesus
All God’s children may belong.
These statements define our service and reflect our heart—a heart that believes in transformation, that seeks to make grace real, that holds to wholeness only found in Christ.
It is this desire that compels us to do the most good.
Though a century may have passed, may we live up to the words of Evangeline Booth for “there is no reward equal to that of doing the most good to the most people in the most need.”