Thanksgiving is over and the “sounds of Christmas” are being heard, special music on the radio, stores having pre-Christmas sales, etc. Among these are the bell ringers outside many stores with their red kettles. Many volunteer to help right the bells, and many more put money into those red kettles. Do you? if you do, do you know what you are supporting? The funds that are contributed are for the Salvation Army to enable them to raise funds for their various activities. We readily admit that this organization does a lot of good in helping through disasters, either natural or man-made—fires, hurricanes, floods, etc. However, did you know that the Salvation Army is a church? That is not the face we normally see but I remember clearly working with a congregation in Australia back in 1968 whose building was just around the corner from the Salvation Army church building and often we heard their band playing during their worship services that were at the same time as those of the church. The proximity of the building caused much difficulty one Sunday morning as we began to sing a particular hymn when the band started playing the same tune at precisely the same time!
The Salvation Army was established in the East End of London, England in 1865 by William Booth to take religious teaching and benevolence to the downtrodden. It started life as the Christian Mission but in 1875 its name was changed to the Salvation Army. In describing this church, the Abandon Dictionary of Living Religions states: “The Army is generally described as ultra-conservative Protestant. Its conditions of membership include conversion, acceptance of its doctrines, abstinence from alcohol and a pledge to support energetically the Army’s principles and work. Membership is divided into commissioned officers (ordained ministers, male and female) and soldiers (laity). No sacraments are celebrated but emphasis is placed on public testimony and militant evangelism.” (p. 646).
The teaching of the Salvation Army with respect to conversion is that of the “faith-only” position of many Protestant denominations. Note also the statement in the quotation, “No sacraments are celebrated” which means they do not practice baptism (sprinkling, pouring, or immersion) and that they do not partake of the Lord’s Supper.
Also, the quotation states that both men and women serve as “ministers” thus having women take a leading role in the worship of that Church. The question then arises, with respect to dropping money into these “kettles” is: Can a Christian contribute to this cause? Further, the Salvation Army has been known to ask for contributions from churches. Thus, we would ask: “Can a Christian or a congregation of the Lord’s church give even a dime to this organization and be pleasing to God?”
Since the organization is clearly a “church,” would it not be a matter of having fellowship with them by contributing to their work? Indeed, Scripture shows that our giving is a matter of fellowship (2 Cor. 8:4). Can we fellowship those teaching false doctrine (2 John 9-11)? Would it not be “bidding them Godspeed” to contribute to their work? Clearly their work is done in the name of the Salvation Army and not that of the Lord or His church. We are taught: “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). The Salvation Army teaches false doctrine and their works are unfruitful as far as the salvation of souls is concerned, theirs and those they seek to help. As Christians, we have, therefore a responsibility to “reprove them.” This we cannot do when, either congregationally or individually, we contribute to their causes, for to do so is to have, to that degree, fellowship with them.
Similar things could be said with regards to other religious groups that seek contributions from the general public for their work. They all may be doing some good, but we cannot bid them God speed in any way to their works and be pleasing to God when they teach and practice false doctrine.