We just got back home from loading the minivan with stuff.  Tomorrow morning early we take our stuff to St Louis to set up for the Army’s exhibit at Urbana 2012.

Every three years Urbana takes place and The Salvation Army is there with an exhibit booth.  We hope that some of the tens of thousands of college students will see us, stop, talk.  Why?

We’ve been talking about that for some weeks now.

We are probably not going to do anything radically different from what we’ve been doing for decades at that exhibit booth.  But what concerns us is whether there’s a place in the Army for a young adult who wants to make a difference in the world.

Are we looking for Urbana delegates to be interested in the Army, or interested in the mission of the Army?

People are at least as interested if not more than ever in spiritual life.  But organized religion has not been doing all that well in North America.  Young adults now have greater interest in doing something about poverty and injustice.  But not necessarily by joining an institution.

I think the great challenge is to present our mission, then let young people discover that Salvation Army might be a place God is calling them to preach the gospel and meet human needs.  Rather than try to persuade them to first love the Army then go find something to do in it.  The first approach is focused on mission.  The second, on the institution.  Sure, the institution is important.  But the institution serves the mission, not mission the institution.

What would be one of the most effective ways to demonstrate mission?  People.  People of the Army who are engaged in mission like many of our Soldiers or Officers or Employees or Advisory Board Members … We confess that too many of us are merely enamored of being part of an organization where we can dress up in uniform and march around.  Uniform and marching can be part of mission.  But too often that’s all many of us think is the Army.

Or that doing ‘church’ defines the Army.  If we think so, that just puts us back where we were before we were kicked out of churches.

Perhaps the best defining moment in Army history is one Christmas over a century ago when William Booth allegedly sent a one word telegram to every Officer around the world.  One word because that’s all he could afford.

Others.

When young people at Urbana see that others mean more to this Army than marching around in uniform, more than desperately trying to be ‘church’, more than a reputation as America’s favorite charity, then God may call them to an Army as a place for them to make a difference in this world that He so loves.

That’s our job this week in St Louis.

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