HE BODY BUILDER
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Street with Dwellings.”
(Isaiah 58:12 NIV)
I have for many years wondered if the Army is still only in the “seed” stage of what God wants it to become. A seed many would like to keep just the way it is, while the Spirit wants to bring it to fruition. Seeds come, of course, from plants and–nurtured and cared for–will produce the same kind of plant they were birthed from. In a sense, then, a seed is the halfway stage to reproducing its parent.
This means that having gone through the change process (including “dying” to give birth to the plant) what we see will be somewhat similar to the plant that gave it birth, but a much more robust version. I say “somewhat” similar since, even within the same species, plants are not exactly alike. Oak trees are easy to recognize but are all oak trees exactly the same? No. They have the characteristics in common, but also an individuality of their own.
I believe the scripture quoted above addresses this concept when it talks of raising up the age-old foundations. This is, perhaps, our challenge: That of rediscovering the “foundations” on which the Army was built then rebuilding our own “ancient ruins”!
But what are those foundations? The Chief of the Staff, Commissioner John Larsson, in a talk to officers in council suggested a number of keywords that represent them in our context. He called them “Nineteenth Century Dynamics” and suggested that they point the way forward for us even as they point us back to look beyond and beneath Booth’s methodology…methods which were contemporary and effective in his day. Foundations (principles is perhaps a better word) which–interpreted in methods contemporary to our day and as effective in our time as Booths were in his–can lead us forward even as we glance over our shoulders to insure we stay aligned with them.
Here are the words Larsson suggested, together with one or two of his comments gleaned as best I could while listening and processing the information.
* Going out boldly and looking for new ways to spread the gospel
* Not waiting for the lost to come to us.
* Paul practiced this and so did the early Army, while Catherine Booth warned of not watering down the gospel in such adaptation.
* Catherine also pointed up the danger of exalting the traditions of the elders and giving them the same importance as the Word of God.
* Early day Salvationists adapted their dress and way of eating to identify with the people they strove to reach. Commented Commissioner Larsson, “Music–we have a great tradition but may need to adapt our style.”
* There is, he said, always a danger of “guidelines” becoming “orders and regulations.”
* We need to: be aware of the world around us and adapt to it; have a broken heart for the souls of men and a sense of urgency; have courage to try new things; act with determination and diplomacy.
* “Does our worship, dress, music, etc. reflect the culture of those we strive to reach?” asked Commissioner Larsson… “Salvation Army uniform is all right as a formal uniform but whatever works where you are give it a go!”
(To be continued in my next column)