Book Review: "One for All" by Knaggs and Court

“One for All” by Commissioner Jim Knaggs and Major Stephen Court is a publication of three books in one:  two previously published ‘One Day – A dream for The Salvation Army’, ‘One Thing – Win the World for Jesus ‘ and the new publication ‘One Army.’  The books explore and expound upon a vision for the Army that Commissioner Knaggs shared at an Aggressive Christianity Conference in Australia in 2007.

These men speak about an Army which, in essence, is still to be.  They speak to the very heart and identity of the Army.  Its something that Salvationists love to do and I’ve indulged in a fair amount of that in my time.  Yet the writers aren’t just ‘all words on a page.’  They are men who ‘do the stuff.’  Indeed, the book seeks to help the reader translate the vision into reality.  They are two men that I have engaged with over several years and who have shown the true spirit of Salvationism towards us, especially in our last months of officer service in the Army and beyond.  When I hear their individual voices shining through the joint text, I smile and thank God for them both.

The three component parts are fascinating in themselves, but combined provide a compelling vision for the Army.  In the first book, the elements of Knaggs vision are expounded by a variety of Salvationist essayists across the Army world, officer and soldier alike.  The second books combines the various strands and focusses like a laser on the one major purpose of the Army, to win the world for Jesus.  The final book is a plea for unity around the core salvo principles of the vision, whilst allowing for creative versatility and diversity.

It is the first ‘Army book’ that I’ve read this side of officership.  As I’ve said above, Knaggs and Court pin down everything about the Army that inspired me so much.  The Army is, indeed, a tremendous chapter in the history of God’s engagement with the world.  So as I read, my heart rings out ‘Amen’s and ‘Hallelujah’s’ and evokes a few ‘Blood and Fire!’s   Its edgy, radical, fiesty, incendiary and I’d imagine it will be pretty annoying (if not entirely alien) to those Salvationists who don’t belong the the kind of Army out to win the world for Jesus. 

This is a book that every corps officer, HQ officer, local officer and soldier will want to have on their shelves.  Every vision needs to be fleshed out.  It needs bones, muscle, sinews and blood pumping round it for a reality.  Knaggs and Court need to keep this vision alive.  It is all to easy to assign great books and inspiring visions to the bookshelves and the worst thing that can happen to this book is that it is read and put on the shelf.

Having said all that, I must confess that one of the things that led to me leaving the Army was that I actually bought into the vision espoused in this book, and did so sincerely.  That sounds like a weird thing to say but most folks who read my blog and know my writing from Army days will know the truth of that.  One of the conclusions I have made about my Army life was that I was living in an Army that few around me could see.  The Army in my mind wasn’t the Army that existed around me.  Easy to say now that I should have had more vision or wisdom, should have persevered, but its difficult to hold to a vision in isolation and in the end, isolated was what we became until we felt we could fight no more.

So whilst for me I struggle to see either my part in it or to what degree it can actually become a reality, I don’t say this as a criticism of the book, not at all.   I celebrate the publication of this volume.  My hope is that this book will bring comradeship to many a Salvationist struggling out there.  Sadly it happens and, thankfully, there is reference to this reality in the pages of the book. It brings the vision of the radical Army into the mainstream in a real way.  It gives any visionary leader the opportunity to share this vision with those he/she leads, not just from his or her own convictions, but with the ‘big name’ backing that things tend to need in the Army for people on the ground to take note.  Knaggs, Bond, Burrows, Noland, Court, Strickland, Rader – all the names are there.

But as for Clark, I’d love to think that there would be ‘one day’ where I might be welcomed back into the ranks open-armed and take my place ‘on the field’.  Maybe if General Bond has an amesty, I might hand myself in….

Sell your bed and buy the book.  Available on Amazon and on Kindle.  Probably available from your local trade department.

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