The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.
The Salvation Army began in 1865 when William Booth, a London minister, gave up the comfort of his pulpit and decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.
His original aim was to send converts to established churches of the day, but soon he realized that the poor did not feel comfortable or welcome in the pews of most of the churches and chapels of Victorian England. Regular churchgoers were appalled when these shabbily dressed, unwashed people came to join them in worship. Booth decided to found a church especially for them — the East London Christian Mission. The mission grew slowly, but Booth’s faith in God remained undiminished.
In May of 1878, Booth summoned his son, Bramwell, and his good friend George Railton to read a proof of the Christian Mission’s annual report. At the top it read: THE CHRISTIAN MISSION is A VOLUNTEER ARMY. Bramwell strongly objected to this wording. He was not a volunteer: he was compelled to do God’s work. So, in a flash of inspiration, Booth crossed out “Volunteer” and wrote “Salvation”. The Salvation Army was born.
The rapid deployment of the first Salvationists was aided by the adoption of a quasi-military command structure. Military terms were also adopted. For example, churches are called corps, recognized ministers are called officers, and members are called soldiers.
By the 1900s, the Army had spread around the world. The Salvation Army soon had officers and soldiers in 36 countries, including the United States of America. This well-organized yet flexible structure inspired a great many much-needed services: women’s social work, the first food depot, the first day nursery and the first Salvation Army missionary hospital. During World War II, The Salvation Army operated 3,000 service units for the armed forces, which led to the formation of the USO.
Today, The Salvation Army is in more than 120 countries worldwide and operates more than 7,700 centers across the United States. Its efforts include food distribution, disaster relief, rehabilitation centers, anti-human trafficking efforts and a wealth of children’s programs. The Salvation Army’s work is funded through kettle donations, corporate and individual contributions and the sale of goods donated to Salvation Army Family Stores. Eighty-two cents of every dollar the Army spends goes to supports its various missions across the United States. The Salvation Army continues to work where the need is greatest, guided by faith in God and love for all people.