Commissioner David Jeffrey understands the scope of his new leadership role as National Commander of The Salvation Army in the USA. He served as National Chief Secretary at National Headquarters from 2007–2011. Both he and Commissioner Barbara Jeffrey, appointed National President of Women’s Ministries, are well grounded in Salvation Army outlook and ministry. Their previous appointments were as leaders of the Southern Territory. Here Commissioner David Jeffrey speaks with Editor–in–Chief Major Allen Satterlee about his unique introduction to the Army, people who influenced him and what it means to keep the Army moving forward in purpose and mission
Q: How did you find the Lord?
A: I found the Lord as a young child in Sunday school. I was five years of age, and in those days I was going to a little Methodist church down at the hollow. It was in Grandma Reese’s Sunday school class. She was no relative of mine, but she was an older lady we called Grandma. The church had one room.
Q: How did you meet the Army?
A: I met the Army through the youth meetings. I was invited to play a game of pool by the corps officer. He made a bet that if he won I had to come to church on Sunday. I took one shot and missed and never got to take another shot. He cleared the table. I was hustled.
Q: Who most influenced you?
A: There are a lot of people who most influenced me. But I have to say that the first corps officer, Major Omer McKinney, was just terrific. He was my spiritual father and I really looked up to him. My dad was good and a hardworking man but my life really changed when I met Omer. Of course, the second most influential person in my life is my wife. She is a great lady and I’ve learned a lot from her.
Q: What is your favorite Scripture?
A: Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” That verse says you have to seek the Lord. He’s already sought me, but now I have the opportunity to seek Him. My second favorite verse is the calling of the disciples where Jesus simply said, “Follow me.” I believed down through my service that if you seek God, His kingdom, His righteousness, and follow Jesus, then it all comes together.
Q: Define the role of the National Commander.
A: The National Commander represents The Salvation Army to other national groups and religious bodies. He helps coordinate and chairs the Commissioners’ Conference. He helps bring The Salvation Army of the United States together, and to help move things forward in unity. There are a number of other things, such as this wonderful publication of the War Cry that comes out of National Headquarters. The National Commander helps stimulate efforts so resources for the field keep flowing. For me, one of the most important things is really what do we do to help the corps? If there’s not the corps, then there is nothing. I am reminded of the speech that the late General Douglas Macarthur gave at West Point. He said, “When I cross the river the last thought in my mind will be of the Corps, the Corps, the Corps, the Corps, the Corps.” Of course he was talking in a different context, but in The Salvation Army, there is a lot we do at National Headquarters for the corps. The War Cry is for the benefit of the corps. The development of published materials is for the benefit of the corps. Crest Books benefits the corps. We have the real opportunity in all of these and other areas to put the right resources in the hands of soldiers and officers.
Q: What is the Army’s role in the United States?
A: That’s a big question. Our mission is clear. We are to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to serve mankind in His name without discrimination. In Salvation Army ministry, we ought to be serving people. We ought to be reaching out to people and serving them in the name of Christ. We ought to seek to win people to the Kingdom of God. That’s our two-fold motivation. When it works together, and is done right, God is glorified and His kingdom grows.God has given us a splendid mission. We need to do everything we can in order to grow it forward so that we can honor Him and serve people in His name.
Q: Is there any specific incident that most clearly demonstrates what the Army is?
A: I think of a story of a good friend of mine, who was not necessarily a person who was down and out. He was one of the up and outs. He had a lot of opportunities, had gone to law school, became an attorney at a successful practice and also had a construction company. But because of a double addiction to alcohol and cocaine, he eventually lost all of that. One day a member of his family took him down to The Salvation Army and said, go in there. He went in and went through the program and came out and began, unfortunately, to slip back into the old lifestyle. That happened a second time. Again he went through the program and developed into the same lifestyle. But the third time he went through he said to me “I really found what the secret was. It wasn’t just the program. It was meeting Jesus as my Savior.” I was talking to him the other night. For 22 years he has been clean and sober, and he now ministers in one of our major Salvation Army shelters in this country, helping other people. He doesn’t miss the life, or the success and the glitter and the gold he had as an attorney. He feels like what he’s doing now is what God wants him to do.
Q: If you had the opportunity to say what you wanted to the nation, what would it be?
A: That there’s hope and that hope is found in knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There is not any hope in religion per se, but there’s hope in a relationship with Christ. God desires that we all have a relationship with Him through His Son because He loves us. That’s why He sent the best gift that He could ever give, His Son, Jesus Christ. And, He desires that we know Him. I think the Presbyterians have it right in that the Westminster confession says we are to love God and enjoy Him forever. That’s possible. A lot of the hurt that we have in the world today is because people are searching and they’re thinking, “if I just earned enough money I’d be happy,” or “If I do this I’ll be happy,” or “Maybe I just need to drown it all out with drugs or alcohol to make the pain go away.” But the answer is Christ. We sing that old song in the Salvation Army, “Christ is the Answer to My Every Need.” He’s the answer to everyone’s every need.