The entry point is love
Commissioner Christine MacMillan, territorial commander for the Canada and Bermuda Territory, spoke powerfully to the 700 assembled NSSC delegates of social workers and officers during the Sunday morning worship service. A trained social worker and counselor who founded programs for the homeless and battered women and children, she made clear from the outset the reality of her “social worker’s heart” and her commitment to the Army’s holistic ministry.
Using the conference theme “Passport to the Future,” she drew from Acts 2-4. She stated: “A passport assures entry into another world. It provides access and breaches boundaries and borders.” Peter and John crossed those boundaries as they met with the disciples, the women, and about 120 people made up of converts and the interested and curious. “And then —in walks God’s Holy Spirit.” It was the day of Pentecost—50 days after the Passover Sabbath—a Sunday.
“We use our Holy Spirit capacities in our own way. On that day the language of the past returned to those in attendance, and the curious among them were amazed and perplexed. This was a movement that pushed out boundaries, a movement whose entry point is love. They became community, and each day the Lord added to their number. It was an asset-based community, vulnerable with the potential of turning in on itself.
“Peter urged them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and to be saved from the corrupt generation.”
BOOTH CROSSED BOUNDARIES,TOO
MacMillan reminded delegates that the press of William Booth’s day ridiculed him as the outlaw Robin Hood and said “he thrived on prancing evangelism.” They feared he would bring his “merry men into their best pews.”
He didn’t. He brought them to a place of salvation.
Then, focusing on the delegates, she stated: “You are the outlaws of The Salvation Army. You dare to break new ground. You get into the lives of people.
“Four men carried a man crippled from birth to the temple gate called ‘Beautiful.’ He was there to beg and sought money from Peter and John. Peter said ‘Look at us!’ and received the beggar’s full attention. They explained that they had no money, ‘but what I have I give you in the name of Jesus Christ. Walk!’
“They helped the man up and instantly his legs became strong.
Do we still carry people in through a gate called ‘Beautiful’?” she asked.
“Those we serve say ‘Look at us—don’t simply give us a voucher.’ One way I measure a program’s effectiveness is by the number of signs in the lobby telling people what they can’t do,” she said.
“During my stay in Vancouver I did street ministry for an extended period of time. I would sit with the poor in the parks and public squares and talk with them. Occasionally, in the background some preacher with a microphone loudly projected a traditional message. Once, a street person asked: ‘Why are they yelling at us?’”
The preacher, you see, had no engagement—no connection. “We don’t need loudspeakers in our counseling rooms. We need engagement. As we proclaim words of healing, the Holy Spirit helps.
“The healing at the gate Beautiful created some difficulties for Peter and John. They were ordered by the establishment not to speak of Jesus again. Peter, filled by the Holy Spirit said: ‘Know this: It is by the name of Jesus Christ, whom you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.’
“Let us continue as believers to lift people up in the name of Jesus. Jesus said: ‘Look at me.’ Let us give him our full attention and allow him to lift us up.”