Faithful to Our Mission
William Roberts serves as National Commander of The Salvation Army in
the United States. His responsibilities include being the official voice
of The Salvation Army to the government, private sector and media for
all things pertaining to the Army's activities in this country. As
National Commander, Commissioner Roberts works with International
Headquarters on matters that have national impact on Salvation Army
ministry and service.
WC: How did your experiences in Argentina, United Kingdom and Kenya shape you as a leader?
certainly gave me an appreciation for the world and its cultures and
for the expressions of The Salvation Army in those different places.
They helped me to see that my own world in the United States was not the
whole world. I have seen things I never thought or hoped to see. All of
that has helped me understand leadership a little better.
WC: What is the state of The Salvation Army in the United States?
Salvation Army is trying to be faithful to its mission. Sometimes
there might be a little uncertainty as to what the mission is. The Army
in this country has a lot of promise. After seeing The Salvation Army in
other parts of the world where there are few resources and not nearly
the opportunities for development that we have, I am not sure we are
truly appreciative of the opportunity in terms of resources such as
public recognition and acceptance.
WC: What does The Salvation Army uniquely have to offer the United States during these challenging days?
Roberts: It can certainly offer hope. We are not outside the economic, political
and cultural situation ourselves, not immune from it. We are feeling it
all ourselves. A message that we can give, both to those outside the
Army and those inside the Army, is one of hope. God is faithful. We can
trust Him. He will do what He said He will do. He will care for His
people. Answers and solutions may not be seen readily, they may not be
immediately forthcoming, but we trust God. We can trust God with our
situations. He is faithful.
WC: Is there anything you have seen that defines what The Salvation Army is?
Roberts: In Kenya there was the joy of the Salvationists who had few resources
and had fewer opportunities in terms of development or improvement. But
the Salvationists were happy to be Salvationists. Wherever I’ve gone,
I’ve been asked what is the major difference. Of course, there are
differences in some of those outward external things, but the joy that
Salvationists had in that country not only challenges us but inspires
us. People can actually be happy and proud to be Salvationists. They
were proud to be wearing the uniform and to be known in the community as
Salvationists. The joy they had was infectious. It certainly affected
and influenced me.
WC: What are The Army’s greatest challenges in the United States?
our affluence is a challenge to us. Even those of us who wouldn’t
consider ourselves to be affluent or have too many resources are blessed
beyond most of the rest of the world. Our difficulty in our affluence
is that it may encourage us not to trust God for what we need and
persuade us that we may be able to do with our own hands all that we
need to do. We may think that we have it within ourselves, within our
minds, within our own capability, within our own energy to accomplish
something in life and forget that God is there. Ultimately, we are
dependent and reliant on Him. That is a great challenge for us in this
country, whether we are in The Salvation Army or not.
WC: Any other challenges that concern you?
influence of the church, of religion, is not as strong as it once was.
We live in a secular age when people may not be as interested or
concerned about the things of God. How do we break through that? That is
one of those places where the affluence affects us. People in other
parts of the world don’t have those kinds of things. So, maybe they are
driven to God more for what they need, realizing that they have nothing
else, no place else to go. We don’t have to turn to God. We can turn to
our own ability and our own resources and we forget God in all that.
WC: What are the Army’s greatest opportunities?
are still looking for meaning in life despite their affluence, despite
their accomplishments. The Army can address that. As we are faithful to
our mission, as we are faithful to reclaiming the gospel of Christ,
showing there is hope, we can address the deep inner longings that
WC: What should people understand about The Salvation Army?
have always wished that the community understood our spiritual
dimension. The reason we are involved with our community is because of
our spiritual lives. I wish that more people understood that the reason
we serve is because Jesus served and we follow Him. He is our Lord. The
reason we care for those in need is because we are doing it for Him. He
said that when we care for those in need that we are doing it for Him
and to Him. I wish more in our community had an awareness of just who we
are. Maybe it’s because we have not always been quick to say that’s why
we do what we do. That is a major challenge. We are well known and well
liked for the things we do, but we would like people to appreciate us
for who we are as well.
Interview conducted by Major Allen Satterlee, Editor in Chief and National Literary Secretary.
It's Not Just About Tim
began writing PHIL 4:13 in his eyeshades when his University of Florida
team played Miami. “It was the first verse that came to mind: ‘I can do
all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ If somebody asked me
about it, I’d have a chance to talk about things of eternal
Students are doing it. So are nurses, firefighters, fathers, mothers,
athletes, tourists, truck drivers, youth leaders, pastors, children,
young professionals, grandparents and grandchildren. They are striking
the same pose of prayer and humility before God that Denver Broncos
quarterback Tim Tebow routinely assumes during pro football games.
His determination to honor God in all he does has brought him much
notoriety. Some admire Tim’s desire to publicly give the praise due to
God on high. They also admire Tim’s genuine desire to live a good,
God–honoring life. He likes to seek out those on the margins, who feel
left out, so he can encourage them. He supports orphans in the
Philippines and explains to young people whenever he gets the chance why
the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is such good news for all
people. He thrives as a football player by contributing all he can to
the growth and development of his teammates. He honors and loves his
family. He wants to mirror the love God has for humanity.
Some criticize his public demonstrations of faith. When Tim took over
as the Denver Bronco’s starting quarterback earlier this season and led
his team to several astounding comeback victories, the media spotlight
focused on Tim himself and the faith he professes. Debates raged about
his ability to play quarterback and his public demonstrations and
statements about the Christian faith. The media has feasted on the
phenomenon of Tim Tebow, some secretly hoping to boost ratings in the
chance that this icon of traditional values might at some point fall
from grace and be exposed as a hypocrite.
It was not a big surprise to Tim. Jesus also knew that His message
and His very being confronts people to consider a new world of
understanding only entered through spiritual rebirth. That world is not
easy to see, because it is foreign to the natural inclinations with
which each and every person is born.
A Plan for it All
The media focus is ironic, since Tim does not want the attention to
be all about him, but about the qualities of faith, hard work,
perseverance, love and loyalty that each and every person is called to
exhibit in whatever they do, whether it garners fame and wealth or not.
In that sense, Tim Tebow is a leader, even a hero. He considers his
influence as a role model to be one of his most important callings. As
Tim puts it, “My parents always told me, from an early age, that we all
have the ability to influence others, and that we have a responsibility
to use it in a positive, encouraging and uplifting way. One thing I’m
confident of is that the Lord . . . has a plan for it all. That is
something I’ve learned to have the utmost assurance of and faith in—His
daily, weekly, monthly, total and eternal plan for our lives.”
Tim is a child of faith in a most literal sense of the word. Doctors
thought he should have been aborted while in his mother’s womb. His
father and mother were serving as missionaries in the Philippines when
they began planning for the arrival of their fifth child. Robert and
Pamela prayed to God to bless them with a preacher, and settled on the
name Timothy, which means “God honoring.” But an infection during
pregnancy and instances when the doctors thought the child had been lost
led them to recommend an abortion to save the mother’s life. The Tebows
left the doctor’s office in shock, but Tim’s mom soon was overcome with
God’s peace. They decided immediately to have the baby. Their faith
sustained them through the pain and uncertainty of eight months of
pregnancy. When Tim was born, the doctor told his dad, “Your son is a
miracle baby. Only a small part of the placenta was attached, but it was
enough to keep the baby nourished.”
Growing up on a farm in Jacksonville, Florida, Tim’s parents
instilled in him values of hard work and loyalty and encouraged him to
bring God glory. Tim became “farm strong” doing chores and playing
sports with his brothers. His parents home schooled their five children,
teaching them not only school subjects but fundamentals of the
Christian faith. Competitive by nature, Tim learned to over–prepare,
especially when it came to sports. Today Tim stands 6’3” and is 235 lbs.
of muscle, the result of a lifetime of physical conditioning. Even as a
boy he always wanted to play quarterback.
Early on, Tim’s coaches thought he should play other positions, such
as linebacker, due to his size and strength. With his father’s backing,
Tim persisted in his goal to be a quarterback, at one point transferring
to a different high school to stick to his dream.
His persistence paid off. About 80 colleges offered him scholarships.
After much prayer and seeking God’s will, he chose the University of
Florida. His record there is legendary. He led his team to two national
championships, and his long list of awards includes receiving the
Heisman Trophy, the first sophomore to receive the sport’s highest
What Honors God?
Through it all Tim seizes opportunities to speak to people about the
Good News of Jesus Christ as well as to contribute to charitable
efforts. He is comfortable speaking in public, a skill he learned early
on during many missionary trips to the Philippines, starting at age 15.
Frequently asked to speak to young people about his faith, he developed
a special love for orphans in the Philippines, due in part to the
orphanage one of his uncles founded there. His current passion is
building a hospital in Davao City, the Philippines, by 2013, a joint
project of the Tim Tebow Foundation and CURE International. “We share
the same heart for kids and sharing the Gospel,” says CURE’s CFO Mark
Knecht. This project will allow us to heal more impoverished kids and
impact more lives than ever before.”
“When we were young, Mom and Dad talked to us about sticking up for
those being bullied, or befriending a kid who wasn’t popular at church,”
Tim says. “They told us God honors that action of showing His love to
others as much as anything else we might do for Him. The least I can do
is stand up for those who don’t have others to do it for them. Dad
always said to us to try and make others feel how important they are.
The message was always about simply doing the right thing. That honored
Tim Tebow is exceptional. He loves to win. But when he bends to the
ground in prayer, or proclaims His thanks to God or leads the Denver
Broncos to a seemingly miraculous win, its not just about Tim. It is
about people honoring that which is good, loving, true and God
glorifying, in whatever circumstance or trial they face. And it is about
keeping the right perspective through all the scrutiny, the training
and the defeats.
“I can’t even remember how many times Mom had to tell me to give my
disappointments to the Lord,” he says. Tim prays “Lord, I know it’s Your
plan. You’re going to handle the stress . . . You’re pulling the yoke .
. . You’re the one plowing this field.”
If the prophet Jeremiah were alive today, he would probably join
those who strike a Tebowing pose. Jeremiah lived at a time when his
nation had turned from the virtues and traditions of the past. They had
forgotten their relationship with the God who had reached out to them.
Jeremiah told his people: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the
crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way
is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’” (6:16).
Tim Tebow is passionate about wanting people to understand their
identity as children of God. He is passionate about God’s call to love
one another, to build one another up and to do His will. The goal is not
fame, wealth, comfort, dominance, but to bring glory to God and to
bring each other into the healing, nurturing, soul affirming light of
Jeff McDonald is Managing Editor for the War Cry.