JAC Online

The Spirit Of Blood And Fire
by Steve Bussey

In 1865, William Booth began his ministry in East London while Catherine Booth preached fervently in South London. The two would join forces to form the “East London Revival Society” - which quickly transformed into the East London Christian Mission. Within five years - their firm commitment to spreading Scriptural holiness through practical religion aimed at “the masses” - those beyond the reach of the church - would be replicated throughout Great Britain and even parts of America as “The Christian Mission.”


As the movement continued to refine its’ mission in the hardest to reach parts of the inner cities of Industrial England by saving souls, growing saints, and serving suffering humanity; it became clear this Society which had become a mission required the most efficient and effective system to accelerate and amplify these goals. Recognizing the limitations of the Methodist Connexional system in 1875, a deep search of organizational models led them to the conclusion that an “Army of Salvation” was the greatest way to fulfill God’s Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations - and so in August, 1878 “The Salvation Army” was introduced to the world. They were a people of God united together under the banner of the Blood of Jesus and the Fire of the Holy Spirit and were firmly committed to living solely for the glory of God and the salvation of the world!


Taking on a military infrastructure, the Army fused the theology of John Wesley with the systematic innovative methodology of Charles Finney’s revivalism and applied the strategy of the greatest military generals to overcome, conquer, and subdue the Devil’s kingdom - wherever he held dominion!


Recognizing that the world’s most significant problems are all rooted in sin and that the greatest solution is the gospel, these Salvation Soldiers adopted what Catherine Booth dubbed “aggressive Christianity” - which stayed FIRMLY true to the timeless and transcendent “pure gospel” while “adapting our measures” to every culture. A fixed and unerring identity and purpose joined with an agile strategy and structure was the organizational system needed to truly win the world for Jesus.


The Booths and their Army were mocked as having an idea that was a “rope of sand,” but within months, young teenage women dubbed “Hallelujah Lasses” with names like “Happy Eliza” and were leading meetings of ten thousand a night replicated throughout the United Kingdom! Women, men, and children regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or class had a role to play as soldiers and officers in this “Gideon’s band” - which required clear evidence of repentance, obedient faith, and holiness. Each abided by a small Handbook of Doctrine and a set of “Orders and Regulations” designed to properly discipline and direct this spread of scriptural holiness throughout the world!


This attracted an Army of critics both within the church and the local communities. The statistical growth from 1878 to 1883 is one of the most accelerated periods of growth in the history of the church - and so this shocked many who were also experimenting with schemes in inner cities. Lord Shaftesbury went so far as to accuse William Booth of being the antichrist because of the novelty! But several came to his defense - clarifying they have not innovated the gospel one iota, just the methodology!


Similarly, because Salvationists believed that the gospel did not just produce eternal transformation, but that this transformed temporal reality - when the light of the glory of God began to shine in the lives of those living in the darkest parts of England, those who were exploiting lost souls trapped in this darkness realized they were going out of business! So they launched a “Skeleton Army” to counterattack!


Despite these attacks - the Army continued to advance. Spreading to America, Ireland, France, Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and beyond! Raising up soldiers from every tribe and nation, the diversity of this Army reflected God’s Kingdom of Heaven, where people come together from the east and west, north and south to play their part is spreading the salvation story! What began in East London now required an international Headquarters by 1883! Wherever they went, these same principles of an aligned and adaptive Army of salvation who saved souls, grew saints, and served suffering humanity was replicated! Despite the attacks, God used these sacrificial servants of all to see the blood-stained banner raised in the four corners of the world! These were not individuals co-opted into a colonial form of British hegemony - this was a truly international and radically contextualized expression of the global church as movement!


By 1885, this scaled revival was producing dramatic reform in societies throughout all the world. While marxists and capitalists attempted through secular means to solve the most “wicked problems” of society - the Booths realized that money, politics, education, or protest would consistently fall short of improving these conditions. In 1885, following a massive legal battle to address the injustices of human trafficking, the Founders realized they needed to double their attack by applying a “pincer” strategy. The root cause of EVERY problem was SIN - and so this required a two-pronged, scaled attack of the devil’s kingdom - addressing both eternal and temporal needs.


From 1885 to 1890, a model emerged to pursue salvation for both worlds - which culminated in the launch of the “Darkest England Scheme” in 1890. Not only was The Salvation Army a revival society, but also a reform society - all aimed at one objective: SALVATION.


By 1891, the Review of Reviews declared William and Catherine, who was promoted to Glory in 1890, as two of the greatest intellectual geniuses of the Victorian Age!


However, what was realized is that what some thought to be a rope of sand - was so ingeniously designed that the very mechanism which accelerated such a Great Awakening could continue on without with the very spirit of Blood and Fire which got it all going in the very beginning on July 2,1865 on Whitechapel Road of East London!


It wasn’t the novel banners and bonnets and bands that was the key to its success. It wasn’t the efficient and effective visionary organizational system that was key. It was that a couple of ordinary individuals resolved that God should have all of who they are - and they meant it! That enabled the Lord to consume their consecration with the sanctifying fire from on high! God took an ordinary couple and did the extraordinary through them! And then this multiplied again and again and again and again in an Army of individuals who have also said, “God will have all there is of me.”


So… today, 158 years later we come to a point where we must evaluate why this organization is still around? We serve in over 130 countries. There are roughly 1.5 million senior and junior soldiers worldwide. What might God do with such a band of brothers and sisters as we look up from the fog of this salvation war to the banner which unites us together and calls us forward to the fight?


Is the world still in need of salvation? Yes.


Is the blood and fire still relevant? Yes.


Are we in need of both temporal and eternal salvation? Yes.


Then friends - it is key that we remember that the ingenious system that has created this legacy is like a giant locomotive brilliantly designed. We must understand its engineering - what makes it work so well! Where parts have come detached, we need to do some repairs.


More importantly, we must remember what fuels the engine. It’s not going to move forward unless we stoke the coals! Ultimately, I pray that we would awaken and realize our desperate need for revival within our own ranks. WE NEED ANOTHER PENTECOST.


So, I want to encourage you to listen to William Booth’s words from his vision entitled, “The Story of Pentecost.” Listen to these words and pray with me that God will once again “send the fire!” - so that in 158 years (the year 2179), people will look back at our legacy and say once again, send the fire! (The Story of Pentecost – Salvation Army Connects <link to article>)














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