King, Tada, Hybels, Colson, Ogilvie challenge Army identity
BY SUE SCHUMANN WARNER –
DR. BERNICE KING spoke with passion
Congress speakers pulled no punches as they encouraged, enlightened–and at times admonished–their Salvationist audience.
Charles Colson, Rev. Bill Hybels, Joni Eareckson Tada, Dr. Bernice King and Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie all brought a dynamic perspective on church growth and Christian living to the largest gathering of Salvationists ever assembled.
Charles Colson spoke on Thursday morning. “I believe this is the most advantageous time in the last 150 years to proclaim the Gospel,” he stated. “It is a moment of real opportunity!”
Colson, a key member of President Richard Nixon’s White House staff, served seven months in prison due to involvement in the Watergate scandal. While in prison he came to Christ and later started the Prison Fellowship ministry.
Long an admirer of The Salvation Army, he said “I don’t think I have ever visited a prison in my work that The Salvation Army has not already visited before me.”
Colson noted the 1960s were a time of personal autonomy, resulting in the moral nihilism of the 90s. “You can trace a direct line between Woodstock and Columbine,” he said.
He believes the tide is turning, however, noting a recent Wall Street survey indicating 76 percent of the population want a return to traditional values, including faith-based solutions to public policy issues. “People are yearning for something better, something that offers them hope. I believe the 21st century can be a great century for Christians,” he stated.
Rev. Bill Hybels, pastor of the 20,000 member Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, identified key elements of a vital church.does a local church look like if its working right?” he asked. He then called three young adults on stage and and presented five different “pictures” of a healthy local church.
These include: relationally-based evangelism, where senior leaders must model building relationships with the unsaved, perhaps through playing golf or jogging together; discipleship “New Christians must be grounded in God’s word,” he stated; a spirit of openness and vulnerability; serving God through a spirit of servanthood; and giving (having a spirit of generosity).
Hybels told of starting the Willow Creek church in a movie theater 25 years ago with 168 members. He was then 22 years of age. “I sold tomatoes door to door, and finally took out bank loans” he said, as he recounted struggles in growing the church. “We used contemporary music, with drums and guitars–anything we could to relate to a culture drifting further away from God.”
Dr. Bernice King, daughter of slain Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke with a passion and authority that echoed her famous father’s. “Is the anointing upon you?” she called out time and again. “Do you have what it takes to bring life to death? We have been called at such a time as this to bring life to the Lazaruses of our day.”
She explained that anointed people draw needy people to them…they make a heart connection. “Can The Salvation Army be touched by the destitute: Or has it become so self-absorbed, self-righteous that it cannot be touched? Poverty–racism despair–we don’t want to touch them without the anointing. We’ll be doing work, but not God’s work. God’s work only happens under the anointing.”
Punctuated by loud applause, she continued: “I believe The Salvation Army is called to be the Star Trek army. We are not afraid because we know we have a God who already won the victory. I want to change your name this morning. I want to change your name to the Star Trek Army. God is getting ready to release you to a new work!”
that the Army of yesterday is no more. “It’s a new world. The ‘Army Next’ must be more bold, courageous, daring, controversial, confrontational…it must do it all under the anointing!”
Even before she concluded her message, delegates streamed to the Mercy seat.
Joni Eareckson Tada, known to tens of thousands around the world through her art, books, and witness of God’s grace through 33 years of confinement to a wheelchair, spoke movingly about a God who cares, comforts and sustains.
“God’s power shows up best in weakness. I experience this every morning. But I am able to get up and go on his energy and grace.”
Grace was a strong theme throughout her address; she explained that “He gives grace upon grace upon grace to those who humble themselves before him every day, saying ‘Lord, without you I can do nothing’.”