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The Body Builder

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by Captain Terry Camsey –


Eight years ago, I had Catherine Booth, the Army Mother, as my guest for this column. Her article was entitled “Adapting Techniques To Time” and was taken from “Writings of Catherine Booth-Aggressive Christianity: Adaption of Measures.” The article was written in 1880, two years after we became The Salvation Army, and was obviously a defense against criticism from the orthodox church of the day. However, it causes me a great deal of unease, since I fear that we may have become like the orthodox church of her day and, therefore, every bit as much the subject of her comments. Experts of today suggest that “missional churches” working (as the early Army did) on the margins of society are the only ones likely to survive in the emerging postmodern world. Since we are in the process of again re-visioning for the future, maybe Catherine has something to say to us today…

“There is no improving the future, without disturbing the present, and the difficulty is to get people to be willing to be disturbed! We are so conservative by nature ­ especially some of us…

… no person who followed us carefully can imagine for a moment we would hold, or teach any adaptation of the Gospel itself… but when we come to speak of modes and measures (Note: “methods” ­ Camsey), that is quite another thing… We have such a heap of rubbish to carry away ­ the accumulated traditionalism of ages to go through and dig under ­ that it sometimes takes a considerable amount of time, and force of character, and a great deal of the spirit of God to enable us to do it. Nevertheless, it must be done if we are to reach a better state of things…

… the law of adaptation is the only law laid down in the New Testament with respect to modes and measures. I challenge anybody to find me any other. While the Gospel message is laid down with unerring exactness, we are left at perfect freedom to adapt our measures and modes of bringing it to bear upon men to the circumstances, times and conditions in which we live -­free as air.

Adapt your measures to your circumstances and to the necessities of the times in which you live. Now, here it seems to me that the church ­ I speak universally ­ has made a grand mistake, the same old mistake which we are so prone to fall into, of exalting the traditions of the elders into the same importance and authority as the Word of God, as the clearly laid down principles of the New Testament.

…I am not wedded to any forms and measures. To many of them I have been driven by the necessities of the case. God has driven me to them as at the point of the bayonet.

“Here is the principle laid down: that you are to adapt your measures to the necessity of the people to whom you minister; you are to take the Gospel to them in such modes and habitudes of thought and expression and circumstances, as will gain for it from then a hearing. You are to speak in other tongues ( Note: “language they can understand” –Camsey) ­ go look and listen to it! Oh! In that lesson we read what beautiful freedom from all set form and formula there was! What freedom for the gushing freshness, enthusiasm, and love of those new converts!… Should we not pray to be set free from the traditionalism and routinism in which Satan has succeeded in lulling us to sleep.

(Jesus Christ) wanted his Gospel preached to the great masses ­ not to the select few… We are as free as air and sunlight as to our choice of agencies, and it is time the church woke up to this. The Lord have mercy on us! Is there not enough work to do?

… Are all the sinners converted in your neighborhood? While we have been standing on our dignity, whole generations have gone to Hell! ­ if the Bible is true, how much longer shall we stand there?”

A good question!

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