FOCUS – Never in the middle

by Amanda Reardon, Captain – 

by Captain Amanda ReardonGrowing up at the Hollywood Tabernacle Corps, I observed vibrant Salvationism on a regular basis. Every Sunday after church, our band and timbrels, about 50 strong, would march down Hollywood Blvd., to the corner of Hollywood and Vine, where we conducted an open air service. Other corps members walked alongside to support the march and to circulate among the crowd that gathered.

The intersection of Hollywood and Vine was famous for its glamour. In reality, however, it was packed with teetering drunks, half-clad prostitutes, and people, lurking in corners, whom I believed to be purveyors of narcotics. In most American towns and cities, one wouldn’t find people on the streets on a Sunday afternoon. But that was not the case in Hollywood. Our corps had the opportunity to reach out to the most unsavory characters, and we didn’t let it slip by.

On the way to our famed intersection, we would march past the Pantages Theater. Hundreds of people, readying to enter the theater for a matinee, would cheer as we went by, our band booming and our timbrels waving. I’m sure we were just part of the spectacle of Hollywood to many tourists. But there was something thrilling about marching out my testimony in front of so many onlookers. I felt as bold as Moses, as proud in Christ as Paul, as passionate as William Booth.

Once we stood at our corner, we were ready for either insult or affirmation. Dr. Bob Docter, our corps sergeant major, would preach with fervor—and volume. He held a prominent place within the community of Los Angeles, but that didn’t stop him from his street corner preaching. David, king of Israel, didn’t let his position deter him from dancing naked in the streets in celebration of God. Perhaps Bob drew inspiration from him.

Through those experiences, the words of Romans 1:16 were woven into the fabric of my life: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” I learned that when I stand for the gospel, some will cheer and some will jeer. I learned that it takes guts sometimes to spread your witness.

The early Salvationists had little time for anything but spreading the gospel, though they were persecuted for doing so. As “postmillienialists,” their theology spurred them on. They believed that the current age was the “millennial” period of Christ, a time in which the gospel would advance and flourish among humankind through the fervent work of the church, with Christ overseeing this activity from heaven. Once the church had completed its mission of spreading the gospel, Christ could return and God’s plan for humankind could be completed. This is different from what most Christians believe today: that Christ could arrive at any moment, and that a millennial period, with Christ as earthly king, will follow.

I have often thought that if I were a postmillenialist, I’d spend every minute of the day spreading the gospel. What else could possibly matter? But really, shouldn’t that be my conviction anyway? What could matter as much as “to snatch others from the fire and save them”? (Jude 23) I may not be convinced that Christ’s return will be hastened as a result of our fulfilling the Great Commission. But I do know that I have friends and neighbors perishing before my very eyes because they do not know Christ. Whether Christ comes tomorrow or a million years from now, the time is short, because individual lives are short.

Those early Salvationists attended six or eight meetings a week. They shunned entertainment or any activity that might have been perceived as frivolous. Such pursuits would have hampered opportunities to turn sinners to Christ. That level of self-sacrifice is almost unthinkable today. In fact, it sounds like quite a dreary way to live. Yet, they were known for their joy.

How far are we modern-day Salvationists willing to go? Would you preach on the street corner? Would you permanently forego your “Blockbuster” nights for more meetings at the corps, or some form of evangelizing? Do you think God requires us—or you, specifically—to go that far?

This summer at Camp Arnold some of the male counselors invented a cheer. They would holler: “Up high, down low, never in the middle!” At first I thought this was just a silly little cheer. After my son Wes spent a week as a camper, I asked him if he had any idea what the cheer meant. With reference to Revelation 3:16, he said, “If you’re in the middle, God will spit you out.” The early Salvationists were never in the middle. Our founder once said: “…converts are expected to take their place forthwith in every open air meeting and procession…to use every possible opportunity of service, in singing, in speaking, prayer, door-keeping, selling of the War Cry, visiting—in short, to become soldiers.”

Methods may be changing, but the point is the same. Salvationists are extremists. At least, that’s our tradition. What about our future….what about now?

On the Corner

On the Corner

Odds and Ends by Robert Docter –  Some bits and pieces of life fall

If I’m the leader, how come no one is following

If I’m the leader, how come no one is following

BODY BUILDER by Terry Camsey, Major –  WELL DONE!

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