Thinking Out Loud

May 2, 2013

Reblogging: Salvation Army Invented Missional

It’s only been a year since I posted this, but this had a profound affect on me, and I hope you enjoy reading it for the first time, or reading it again.

I’m currently reading The General Next To God: The Story of William Booth and the Salvation Army by Richard Collier. Don’t go looking for this, I’m reading a used copy of the book published in 1965 by Collins Publishing that was left unsold at a recent fundraising event.

Although I’m only at the half-way mark, I am amazed at the degree to which William Booth carved entirely new ministry territory. I am now convinced that if anyone wants to understand the missional ministry philosophy that rose to prominence on a parallel track with the emerging church or Emergent Church movements of the last decade, they really need to begin by reading a history of the Salvation Army.

The thing that is most striking in what I’ve read so far is the contrast between what William Booth created and the revivalist movement of the day. While Wesleyan and Methodist meetings encouraged personal repentance and turning from sin, it was generally among the church people that such penitence took place. When it came to world at large, nobody wanted to get their hands dirty. Or their church building dirty, for that matter.

Booth was forced to go it alone. Here are some of the things that made what became known as The Salvation Army stand out:

  • Street Theater — The street preachers did whatever it took to draw a crowd: Counting on the curiosity of onlookers, outrageous stunts and costumes, the use of signs and banners, etc.
  • Connecting With Popular Culture — The early history of the Salvation Army — though the book doesn’t use this term — really defines what it means to be “in but not of.” Army volunteers stood apart and yet dwelt among.
  • Use of Secular Spaces — The book credits Booth with being the first to rent space in public and private buildings for his meetings, transforming those secular spaces into sacred spaces. Heretofore, in order to hear the gospel, you had to “come inside our church.” (I’ve phrased it that way because it should sound all too familiar.)
  • Celebrity Fascination — Booth’s meetings would include conversion testimonies by both the famous and the infamous.
  • Music — The brass band had never been part of the sacred music genre; it was therefore distinctive among religious sects, it was bright and lively, it worked well in outdoor settings. Salvationists also adapted popular pub tunes, giving them Christian lyrics; Booth originated the phrase, “Why should the Devil have all the music?”
  • Press and Publicity — Booth’s edict was that the emerging organization should get as much space in the pages of the newspapers as often as possible to keep awareness high.
  • Uniforms — While undergoing re-examination constantly in today’s environment, theirs was a culture of uniforms, so it simply made sense. One officer slept with his “S” pinned on his nightclothes to indicate that he was on call 24/7. Today, identification in the larger community remains a key value.
  • Attitude — Booth’s followers believed that as an army, they were triumphant. To the date the book was written, the Salvation Army flag had never been flown at half mast, because Christ was ever victorious.
  • Partnerships — From the outset, Booth was never trying to form another sect, but originally envisioned a ministry that work in tandem with existing denominations; and although he did in fact create a new church, his ethic of parallel ministry continues to this day.
  • Women in Ministry — From the first Sunday that Catherine Booth made her way to the pulpit and told her surprised husband that she had something God had given her to share, The Salvation Army has celebrated the role of women, and elevated women to the place where they can enjoy any rank in the organization available to a man.
  • Patronage — Booth realized from the outset that the very people he was reaching would not be able to financially support the ministry, so he sought to enlist from among the wealthy, people who would be patrons of the new work, not all of whom were necessarily believers.
  • Meeting Needs — Of course, the list would be incomplete without mention of the social services ministry which earned the street preachers the right to be heard. Food, clothing, shelter and health care (and health education) were all provided.

This list is far from complete; just a few things I scribbled before sitting at the computer to prepare this. But I have to ask myself and my readers:

  1. How close does our/my church come to reaching out to “the least of these” in our community and our world?
  2. What are we/What am I doing to be part of taking the gospel beyond the church walls?
  3. Money talks. What is my church doing with our budget to reach out? What am I doing with my personal giving that goes beyond benefit to other Christians, or merely pays for the programs our family utilizes?

Again, for those who believe in missional community, for those who strive for social justice, for those who prioritize world evangelization; a history of The Salvation Army is must reading.

And nearly 150 years later, the story of the Salvation Army is still being told.

Update: More on this book published on June 8th here at Thinking Out Loud.

Related post at Christianity 201: William Booth Quotations

February 27, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Bart Simpson - Love Wins

Link and the world links with you…  The cartoon? See item 4 below:

For Heaven's Sake - Feb 4 2013

January 23, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Christmas production at  First Baptist Church in Curitiba, Brazil as seen at Church Stage Design Blog.

Christmas production at First Baptist Church in Curitiba, Brazil as seen at Church Stage Design Ideas Blog. That’s one huge choir.

It all begins with a design template that looks like this.

It all begins with a design template that looks like this.

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama Crashes the Party Exactly One Year After His First Visit Here

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama crashes the party exactly one year after his first visit here

For the last couple of weeks there has been a weekend link list here. Some of the most interesting articles this month have been listed in those two editions.  So be sure to check them out.

  • I never know for sure when I check out new blogs if the writer is on our side or not, especially when the first post I see looks like this one at Loon Watchman.
  • Deans at other schools are fighting the possibility of accreditation for what would be Canada’s first Christian law school at Trinity Western. 
  • Why swear an oath on one Bible when you can swear an oath on two?  A writer at Think Christian notes: “What I like about these [Bible] selections is the way they point to public and private figures who influence or inspire President Obama, and whose faith probably all shape the way he approaches his faith and his work.”
  • You’ve heard of the dog who shows up for daily for a church service its late owner regularly attended. If not Fr. Z blogs the story, but notes that the dog’s appearance at the altar risks affecting the church’s ‘sacral character.’ 
  • Sometimes it’s hard to become a Christian knowing that, if you do, someone is going to starve to death. Here’s a dilemma for missiologists.
  • Don’t miss this one: J. R. Briggs gets an inspiring lesson on grace when he has to ask his 6-year-old son for forgiveness.
  • Tyler Braun notes that summing up the gospel as “Jesus Loves Me” is too me-centered, unless we include spreading that love as part of the gospel mandate. 
  • Zac Hicks has an interesting article about the role of Worship Pastor as Emotional Shepherd and the dangers of manipulating the congregation.
  • A central Pennsylvania Wesleyan church officially opens a $4M expansion including a fitness center, jungle gym, café restaurant and Christian bookstore.
  • So what exactly does it mean when you find a dead bird on the steps leading to your workplace?  Especially when you’re looking for more than, ““A dead bird on the step means either a cat loves you and has brought you an offering of food, or it means a bird flew into the window/door and killed itself…” 
  • By now you’ve probably had occasion to look up a favorite TV show, movie or actor at IBDb, but did you now there’s now a Christian Film Data Base (CFDb)? The site also has a blog that’s updated daily with reviews and interviews.
  • I’m writing this listening to an at least five year old song by Starfield – Reign In Us. Just clicked replay for the fourth time. 
  • And news last week that Jason Dunn from Hawk Nelson has a solo album releasing in May.
  • Meanwhile at American Idol auditions in Chicago Curtis Finch, Jr. impresses the judges with a brief gospel performance.
  • For church leaders and pastors, Dave Kraft’s website, Leadership from the Heart is must reading. Here’s a piece outlining three temptations that can undo you and your leadership
  • And here’s more good leadership advice from 9Marks on counseling people who haven’t crossed the line of faith.
  • Looking for a career in ministry? Check out ChurchJobs.tv
  • I suspect that Christian bands like Sidewalk Prophets love it when bloggers take one of their songs and use it as springboard for a devotional piece; like the writer at Journey of a God-Follower does with their song, He Loves Us Anyway.
  • Not So 31 is the name of a blog based on a reference to “the Proverbs 31 woman.” She does a lot of book reviews and book excerpts in particular, including some recent ones by Steven Furtick and Chris and Kerry Shook.
  • We linked to this picture — one of my favorite images of 2012 — late last year but never included it. Until today.  It was taken by Andreas Solaro for the Getty wire service and is captioned: Pope Benedict XVI caresses a lion cub as thousands of participants in the “Pilgrimage to Rome” festival – circus professionals, carnival people, street artists, pavement artists, bands and folk groups – gather at the Vatican on Dec. 1, 2012.  We think the Pope should have a few kittycats running around the Vatican the way the Queen has her Corgis at Buckingham.

Pope Benedict XVI - With Very Large Cat

May 21, 2012

Salvation Army Invented “Missional” Nearly 150 Years Ago

I’m currently reading The General Next To God: The Story of William Booth and the Salvation Army by Richard Collier.  Don’t go looking for this, I’m reading a used copy of the book published in 1965 by Collins Publishing that was left unsold at a recent fundraising event.

Although I’m only at the half-way mark, I am amazed at the degree to which William Booth carved entirely new ministry territory. I am now convinced that if anyone wants to understand the missional ministry philosophy that rose to prominence on a parallel track with the emerging church or Emergent Church movements of the last decade, they really need to begin by reading a history of the Salvation Army.

The thing that is most striking in what I’ve read so far is the contrast between what William Booth created and the revivalist movement of the day. While Wesleyan and Methodist meetings encouraged personal repentance and turning from sin, it was generally among the church people that such penitence took place. When it came to world at large, nobody wanted to get their hands dirty. Or their church building dirty, for that matter. 

Booth was forced to go it alone. Here are some of the things that made what became known as The Salvation Army stand out:

  • Street Theater — The street preachers did whatever it took to draw a crowd: Counting on the curiosity of onlookers, outrageous stunts and costumes, the use of signs and banners, etc.
  • Connecting With Popular Culture — The early history of the Salvation Army — though the book doesn’t use this term — really defines what it means to be “in but not of.”  Army volunteers stood apart and yet dwelt among.
  • Use of Secular Spaces — The book credits Booth with being the first to rent space in public and private buildings for his meetings, transforming those secular spaces into sacred spaces. Heretofore, in order to hear the gospel, you had to “come inside our church.” (I’ve phrased it that way because it should sound all too familiar.)
  • Celebrity Fascination — Booth’s meetings would include conversion testimonies by both the famous and the infamous.
  • Music — The brass band had never been part of the sacred music genre; it was therefore distinctive among religious sects, it was bright and lively, it worked well in outdoor settings.  Salvationists also adapted popular pub tunes, giving them Christian lyrics; Booth originated the phrase, “Why should the Devil have all the music?”
  • Press and Publicity — Booth’s edict was that the emerging organization should get as much space in the pages of the newspapers as often as possible to keep awareness high.
  • Uniforms — While undergoing re-examination constantly in today’s environment, theirs was a culture of uniforms, so it simply made sense. One officer slept with his “S” pinned on his nightclothes to indicate that he was on call 24/7. Today, identification in the larger community remains a key value.
  • Attitude — Booth’s followers believed that as an army, they were triumphant. To the date the book was written, the Salvation Army flag had never been flown at half mast, because Christ was ever victorious.
  • Partnerships — From the outset, Booth was never trying to form another sect, but originally envisioned a ministry that work in tandem with existing denominations; and although he did in fact create a new church, his ethic of parallel ministry continues to this day.
  • Women in Ministry — From the first Sunday that Catherine Booth made her way to the pulpit and told her surprised husband that she had something God had given her to share, The Salvation Army has celebrated the role of women, and elevated women to the place where they can enjoy any rank in the organization available to a man.
  • Patronage — Booth realized from the outset that the very people he was reaching would not be able to financially support the ministry, so he sought to enlist from among the wealthy, people who would be patrons of the new work, not all of whom were necessarily believers.
  • Meeting Needs — Of course, the list would be incomplete without mention of the social services ministry which earned the street preachers the right to be heard. Food, clothing, shelter and health care (and health education) were all provided.

This list is far from complete; just a few things I scribbled before sitting at the computer to prepare this. But I have to ask myself and my readers:

  1. How close does our/my church come to reaching out to “the least of these” in our community and our world?
  2. What are we/What am I doing to be part of taking the gospel beyond the church walls?
  3. Money talks. What is my church doing with our budget to reach out? What am I doing with my personal giving that goes beyond benefit to other Christians, or merely pays for the programs our family utilizes?

Again, for those who believe in missional community, for those who strive for social justice, for those who prioritize world evangelization; a history of The Salvation Army is must reading.

And nearly 150 years later, the story of the Salvation Army is still being told.

Update: More on this book published on June 8th here at Thinking Out Loud.

Related post at Christianity 201: William Booth Quotations

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