Unringing the Bell: Why You and Your Church Should Avoid Partnering With the Salvation Army

As Christmas Day approaches, the familiar sight of the Salvation Army’s red kettles has once again appeared outside of retail outlets all over the United States. As Shoppers approach these stores to make their holiday purchases, Christmas gifts and Christmas dinners, the sound of ringing bells reminds them to share their blessings with the poor by donating to the Salvation Army. Accompany each Kettle bell is a representative of the Salvation Army: sometimes a hired worker and sometimes a volunteer donating his or her time. It is not uncommon to find an entire family giving up its time and standing out in the cold to help the Salvation Army raise money. Local churches often partner with the Salvation Army to provide a force of volunteer labor. Perhaps your church has led you to volunteer to serve the Salvation Army at Christmastime as an act of Christian charity.

If so, it should stop. The Salvation Army is outwardly and purposefully disobedient to Jesus Christ. Many people are unaware that the Salvation Army is not a secular charity (such as the United Way or Goodwill Industries) but an institutional church which claims to be part of the body of Christ. Not only does it offer charity to the poor but it offers membership in the body of Christ to whomever would profess faith and agree to live by its “soldier’s covenant“. The Salvation Army does not, however, offer the professing Christians who join its ranks the opportunity to identify with Christ in baptism or remember the sacrifice of Christ through the Lord’s supper. The Salvation Army has issued the following statement in its handbook, which it defends on its website:

“Early in our history, The Salvation Army was led of God not to observe specific sacraments, that is baptism and the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, as prescribed rituals.”

Before he left this earth, Jesus Christ commanded his church to baptize all those who come to faith:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20

Jesus also instituted the Lord’s supper as a remembrance of his sacrifice for his church. As recorded in the gospel of Mark:

While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” 23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Mark 14:22-25

The Salvation Army, in direct disobedience of the Lord Jesus Christ, leads its converts and members away from experiencing the fullness of Christian life. Bible-believing Christians should not stand in partnership with any “church” who so blatantly disregards the instruction of the Lord. The various good works performed by the Salvation Army do not make up for their aberrant doctrines (which are not limited its stances of the Ordinances of the Church), rather they obfuscate them. Christians who are thinking about partnering with the Salvation Army should consider how their own churches could take local action to alleviate material and spiritual poverty, serving the Lord within the bounds of orthodoxy instead of in partnership with an aberrant sect. It’s time for Christians to unring the red kettle bell and stop partnering, in the form of volunteer labor, with the Salvation Army.

Other erroneous Salvation Army practices include teaching that saints can lose their salvation, the ordination of women to the pastorate, and the permissiveness of aborting viable pregnancies in emotionally difficult circumstances. For more information on the Salvation Army see this article.

If your church or pastor is currently partnering with the Salvation Army, please share this article with them.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.


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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant

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