Going, going or gone?
THE BODY BUILDER
I was busy in one part of our house the other day when the sound of music from a television in another room caught my attention. It was “Stand up, stand up for Jesus” with what sounded like brass band accompaniment so that I thought it was an Army meeting and came rushing into the room to see which corps it was. As I got closer, I recognized the scoring to be that of a full orchestra and–as I got even closer still–I realized that the words were not those that I knew.
It was, in fact, not a Salvation Army corps at all but a broadcast service from Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral. From the volume and degree of participation seen it was evident that the congregation loved the song.
It reminded me of somewhat of a paradox where some churches seem to be as aggressive evangelically (if not more so) than some corps. Where “we” seem to be becoming “them” and “them” “us!”
In fact, it took me back to 1995 when–having been seconded to the UK territory for a three year term–I was required to attend a DAWN (Discipling A Whole Nation) conference. That conference was probably attended by more Salvationists than any other denomination. I was shocked…
…not by the Army’s support, but by how “Army” the meetings were. There were tambourines being banged (not by Salvationists), drums being bashed (not by Salvationists), flags being waved (not the red, yellow and blue of our flag but multi-colored all the same and not waved by Salvationists), marching…
Militant songs were very much in evidence and the contemporary version of “Send the Fire” was introduced by its composer. The meetings felt “Army” but were not “Army.” This was a crowd of enthusiastic church planters on fire with the Holy Spirit and motivated to win the world for God. It was the closest I have been to one of the old-time Army “wind-up” meetings since I was a child.
As I listened, some words started to come to mind, at the same time a tune was formulating…“There’s a mighty army on the march, you can hear the trumpets blare…”
It was a clear vision of the Army of God (not just The Salvation Army but the whole Army of God) on the march…with people rushing to join the ranks. As clear a vision as I have personally been blessed with complete with music, color, excitement…I could actually see in my mind’s eye that picture. The song was subsequently submitted for publishing consideration through the usual channels (not USA Wes, I hasten to add!)
Now, I am a realist. I don’t expect everyone (even anyone) to like what I write. I expect to have manuscripts returned for any number of reasons. But the comments on this manuscript surprised me… “some might feel it triumphalistic” (it was for in the end, with God’s help, we win!)…“It is a unison song” (right, it was intended for congregational use)…but then a question was raised to do with its usefulness in light of a “strong pressure to do away with Army concepts.” I never could pin down where that “pressure” was initiated, but it has worried me ever since. Many questions come to mind. Aren’t there times when Armies fight and prepare for war? Should there be? Why do we publish marches if militant songs are to be downplayed?…
It is interesting to note that one of the top (most popular across all denominations and independent churches) religious songs in the United Kingdom was then, and is still, (Western Territory Bandmaster) Ivor Bosankos’ invigorating and motivational “I’ll go in the strength of the Lord.” They love it!
Sure, the church at large has much to offer us musically, especially in enriching our worship. But so, too, has a militant Army much to offer them, with songs that not only inspire but challenge to action. Let’s take the best of theirs, and share with them the best of ours but let us, please God, never downplay the need for an aggressive approach when this Army pursues the hosts of hell.