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Going to eXtreme

by Lt. Amy Reardon – 

It didn’t take too long before I realized this event was, in actuality, a holiness conference. I don’t recall hearing anyone refer to it as such, but that’s what it was: a conference calling the people to holy living.

I have come to learn that I was not the only person who feared eXtreme ’98 was designed to be an “Army-bashing” spree, but those fears proved unsubstantiated. Yes, the leaders and delegates believe there should be changes in The Salvation Army. But, as Phil Wall put it, “I’m in the Army until the day I die,” and “I believe the best days of the Army are yet to be.” He even admonished delegates to stop moaning about what they believe to be wrong about the Army and spend their time living vital lives instead.

There were demands for change at this conference; but those demands were made on individual lives. It was not a militant call to Army reformation, but a call to personal reformation.

It all boiled down to this: are you prepared to do something extreme with your life to exercise a radical (back “to the root”) Christianity? To sacrifice? To move out of that comfort zone? Special guest Dr. Tony Campolo suggested a year-long mission to an inner city neighborhood. He said, “If the Mormon kids can give two years of their lives, why can’t you give one?” Captain Sandra Ryan, of Russia, taught a seminar on how to make a mission out of your own home. This means having an open door policy at your house so that anyone and (almost) everyone may use it as a safe harbor. Surely this is an extreme measure if we consider that our own homes are our last and dearest refuge. In a fresh interpretation of Matthew 14:22-30, Wall pointed out that although Peter began to sink during his attempt to walk on the water, at least he had the courage to get out of the boat. His call to delegates: “Get out of the boat!” In other words, do something!

The weekend was about being completely sold out to God: loving him with our lives each moment of each day of each year; and then being filled with this love, we will extend it to our world. Each one is called on to touch the hurting world in some very real way. That world might be the neighbors on the street (as Major Chick Yuill pointed out), an inner city mission (Campolo) or a new front in a foreign land (Captains Geoff and Sandra Ryan).

Samuel Logan Brengle defined holiness as “perfect love.” The Army has wrestled with, debated over, but almost always claimed the doctrine of holiness. To be “set apart,” to be different, to be filled with a love that burns so intensely that it ignites others as well…this we believe. Though I have thoroughly enjoyed several holiness seminars myself and read myriad books on the subject, I have grown weary of the theorizing and the endless introspection of the recent approach to the subject. The eXtreme weekend made a marriage in my mind of holiness theory and good old-fashioned Salvationist practicality. Though that may seem an obvious link, I think there has been a divorce of the two in Army circles for many years, to such an extent that holiness has been left to the intellectuals and “soup and soap” work has been left to the employees. (Just where the rest of us have fit in is a bit fuzzy).

Extreme ’98 was aimed at people in the 18-30 age range. (There were those of us there who didn’t quite fit into that tight squeeze). But active holiness isn’t only for young adults. Active, sacrificial, selfless holiness is for every believer in the family of God. We all must do something drastic. We must put ourselves on the line. And, as Campolo remarked, if you don’t want to be taken advantage of or manipulated, then the Church of God is not the place for you. So why don’t we all take a risk and come out to the edge? Said Yuill, “If you aren’t living on the edge, then you’re taking up too much room.”

Just before the final meeting, each delegate was given a red a yellow, and a blue ribbon and a nail. The ribbons represented the delegates themselves. At the end of the service they were to nail the

ribbons to one of the three wooden crosses in the room to show affiliation with Christ. Such act was to say, “I’m with you, Jesus.” And though we had reveled all weekend long in the music of Sara Nordenberg (Sweden) and the Praise Works Band (Tustin Ranch), no sound had been so sweet as the final tap, tap, tap of the ribbons being nailed to the cross. It will forever be embedded in my mind as the characteristic sound of holiness.

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