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
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
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
Is the blood and fire still relevant?
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