Revolutions, rebels and radicals

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by Terry Camsey, Major – 

Last month on Independence Day the big celebration in our house revolved around my number one grandchild, who turned 18 months old. What a joy Max is as he daily develops new skills and—like any other toddler—constantly tests boundaries, while younger sister Milana watches his every move. There is, of course, a natural inbred “rebellion” as, in his impatience to conquer new fields and with natural curiosity, he can’t wait to conquer more difficult challenges.

Rebellion doesn’t always have a negative intent when those dissatisfied with a status quo want to see a better outcome. I daresay that the staid, traditional church viewed William Booth himself as a rebel—even more so with the birth of The Salvation Army and its original, yet very effective, strategies that stood previous church outreach techniques on their ear! So rebels are not necessarily all bad. It depends on motive and intent in acting in ways that—not necessarily intentionally—tend to ruffle traditional feathers!
Revolution is one of those words seemingly negatively loaded, implying an insurrection, uprising or complete change. It has, however, another meaning associated with a single, complete movement around a central point. The implications of this are positive since, in suggesting the potential value of “one more time around the center,” it supports the writings of the wisest man who ever lived—Solomon. In Ecclesiastes he states that there is nothing new under the sun, that what goes around comes around—that everything is right for its time (NLT), not for all times.

Wouldn’t it be great for the Army to once again revolutionize our own and other fading mainline Christian denominations as we did in Booth’s day? Maybe (whisper this!) we even see signs that we, today, might have become more like the staid church of those times with our own strategies and methods having lost their luster and effectiveness. Perhaps constructive rebels and a revolutionary approach could enable us to again see the kinds of effective evangelism that we saw in the first years as a Salvation Army.
Then, what thoughts does the word “radical” stimulate in your mind. Do you think of extremists, people who seem to be “over the top,” advocates of extreme reform, holding radical views? That is certainly one way to look at it. It’s my belief that “radical” and “revolutionary” are closely related. If the latter means movement around a central point, the former suggests spokes radiating out of a hub and connected to the circle that a revolution inscribes.

The hub being the essence of an organization (values, doctrines, principles, unique ministry, etc.), and the radiating spokes programs—connecting the hub to the outer circle where ministry touches those we are called to reach. If any spoke is disconnected either at the hub, or at the rim, there is a danger that the structure will fail and revolution will not occur.

So…perhaps it is time for the Army to reassert its independence from other struggling Christian denominations; to discover and use constructive rebels in our movement; to start another revolution (another time around); and to re-examine methods and programs, insuring that each is clearly connected to the hub of what we strive to be.

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