Thrift Stores, Ringing Bells and Red Kettles

The Salvation Army operates thrift stores.  These stores resell donated items such as clothing, furniture, household items, and toys.  They even have trucks which will pick up donated items from  your house.  The revenue is used to fund their Adult Rehabilitation Centers, known as ARCs.  Many kind, generous people give to these stores.

The Salvation Army is most visible during the Christmas shopping season.  Volunteers and paid workers stand in front of stores ringing their bells, soliciting donations into their red kettles.  Across the nation, there are about 25,000 bell ringers.  Many kind and generous people volunteer to ring the bells.  Many kind and generous people give to these red kettles.  Almost $145 million was raised in 2014.  The revenue is used for Salvation Army charity work and disaster relief in the local community from which the donations came.

However, many who volunteer to ring bells, and many who give to The Salvation Army do so, not realizing that they are contributing to the work of a religious organization.  The Salvation Army is not simply a community charity (as Goodwill now is. Though, Goodwill used to be a work of the Methodist Church).

The history of the organization starts in England.  William Booth was a Methodist minister.  “He came to the conclusion that the masses of the non-church goers could not be reached through methods of the churches, so he resigned his pastorate, he began the Salvation Army.”  (The New Standard Encyclopedia).  He formed the East London Christian Mission in 1865.  The name was changed to The Salvation Army in 1878.

The Salvation Army is a religious group (Mead, Handbook of Denominations).  It is organized on military lines.  It operates in 127 countries with a worldwide membership of 1.5 million (Wikipedia).

What is its purpose?  Wayne Jackson has written, “According to its charter issued in New York State in 1899, the Salvation Army is an organization… whose paramount purpose ‘is to lead men and women into a proper relationship with God'” (Jackson, An Analysis of the “Salvation Army,” christiancourier.com).  Booth wanted to provide “soup, soap, and salvation” (salvationarmy.org).

What do they believe?  They have an organization structure which is foreign to the New Testament(soldiers, corp officers, including – envoys, cadets,  lieutenants, captains, majors, lieutenants colonels, colonels, commanders, commissioners, chief of staff, and a general).  They have a method of fund-raising which is foreign to the Bible (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2).  They accept women preachers (cf. 1 Timothy 2; 1 Corinthians 14).  They worship with mechanical instruments of music (cf. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).  They believe in Hereditary Total Depravity (cf Ezekiel 18:20).  They believe in a direct operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion (cf. Luke 8:11-15; Acts 2:2:36-38; 8:12-16; 19:1-6).  They do not baptize.  They do not think baptism is necessary for salvation (cf. Acts 2:38).  Salvation is by faith only ( cf. Mark 16:15-16; James 2:24). They do not observe the Lord’s supper (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).  They believe that external rituals are unnecessary and dangerous.

My advice?  We can be benevolent on an individual basis (e.g. Luke 10:25-37).  We can be benevolent through the church (e.g. Acts 4:34-37; 6:1-7; 11:27-30; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:13).  We can be benevolent through others (e.g. Philippians 4:18).  However, may we never help empower false teachers, or an organization of false teachers (cf. Romans 16:17; 1 Timothy 6:3, 5a; 2 John 9-11).  Let us not contribute to the Temple of Diana even if they do some deeds of kindness.  Let us do nothing which glorifies such organization that are in competition with the church.

Moreover, let us think beyond the physical.  Benevolence can help satisfy physical needs.  It can also open up opportunities to speak of spiritual needs (e.g. John 5:8, 14; Acts 3:6-7, 11-ff).  When we show kindness, it is an opportunity to tell others about why we do such.   It is an opportunity to tell others about Jesus.  It is an opportunity to tell others about Jesus.  It is an opportunity to address the fact that man has greater needs, spiritual needs.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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