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Aug30TueFrom the east end of London, England, The Salvation Army's evangelistic mission has spread to 124 countries August 30, 2011 by Lt-Colonel Maxwell Ryan
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William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, loved evangelistic campaigns. He viewed them as colourful, exciting and an effective way of getting things done. In fact, the Army—from its beginnings with General Booth—to the present with General Bond―has engaged in a continual campaign to win the world for Jesus. Even though Army language has changed from battles and conquest to worship and relationship, the Movement still proclaims that “we are an Army, mobilized by God.”
During the two decades following Booth's first open-air meetings in England in 1865, the Army's leaders busily directed a Movement that spread like wildfire throughout the British Isles. Drawing heavily on the orders and regulations of the British armed forces, Bramwell Booth and George Scott Railton formulated The Salvation Army's own Orders & Regulations, which provided a cohesive yet flexible structure that ensured the fledgling Army would survive and grow.
The evangelistic energy of early converts meant that wherever they went they became the Army, challenged by a vision that included the whole world. They took to heart John Wesley's phrase: “The world is my parish.” Early Army “war songs” (found in the current Salvation Army Song Book) reflect this imperialistic vision and reveal the motivation behind worldwide expansion: “Salvation Army, Army of God, onward to conquer the world with fire and blood”; “All the world to save, to battle we will go ... with a trumpet voice we'll let the millions know, there's salvation for the world.”
As for mission strategy, some thought it did not exist. When the Army “invaded” the U.S.A. in 1880, the press could not contain its surprise as Railton and seven young unmarried women disembarked. This was an Army? The same year two men, who had been saved through the Army in the U.K., met in Adelaide, Australia, and commenced Army meetings. A year later William and Catherine Booth sent their daughter, Catherine, to one of the worst slums in Paris, France, to “open fire” and establish the Army. In 1882, two young men in London, Ontario, met at a church service and discovered each had been a Salvationist in England. Before long they took to the open air to preach. The same year Frederick Booth-Tucker—a converted magistrate—and five companions planted the Army flag in India, much to the annoyance of the British ruling class.
The same tactics were repeated wherever the Army “opened fire”: go in faith, preach the love of Jesus, be prepared for anything. Is it any wonder that by 1914 four international congresses had been held, with thousands of Salvationists from every country where the Army was at work bringing unimagined pageantry to London?
From small beginnings in the east end of London 146 years ago, The Salvation Army has spread its ministry throughout the world in 124 countries. Recent additions include Togo, the Turks and Caicos Islands, United Arab Emirates and Solomon Islands. Active Christian concern has given the Army a visibility that far exceeds its numerical strength. And throughout the world there are unnamed, yet heroic, Salvationists who have answered the call to service, seeking nothing but the privilege of introducing people to the Saviour and thus healing the world's ills.
Lt-Colonel Max Ryan is retired in Burlington, Ont., where he serves as a part-time hospital chaplain and amateur Army historian.