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Aug8FriWas The Salvation Army's visionary Founder a good father? August 8, 2014 by Captain Scott Strissel
There's no question that William Booth, General and Founder of The Salvation Army, was a man on a mission. He and his wife, Catherine Booth, were pivotal in starting something powerful in the world. Yet I have to wonder what he traded to fulfil his passion. We know some of his famous speeches, such as “I'll fight to the very end,” and the phrase “do something” in speaking to Bramwell about the homeless. There is no doubt both William and Catherine Booth were visionaries and innovators within a mission that ignited the foundation of this Army. They are both revered and loved.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
But there is a danger in being a visionary. There are trade-offs and sacrifices to be made while blazing a trail. We know Booth was a great General, but was he a good father? Most historical accounts reveal a startling contrast between Founder and father.
Booth's son, Ballington, resigned from the Army, and went on to start the Volunteers of America. Why did Ballington leave the Army? He and his father did not see eye to eye. Disagreements happen in families, but William Booth labeled his own family member a deserter to the cause, essentially excommunicating his own kin. I certainly don't think this is “father of the year” material. However, I can understand regrettable comments said in the heat of the moment and the damage being done.
But family is our first ministry, our first priority. I am not blaming our Founder, but I do see the warning signs of overwork and sacrificing family for the sake of a cause. When we overwork, two things can take place:
1) Loss of perspective
Have you ever worked on a project so hard that you had to step back from it to gain better perspective? It's like staring at the bark of a tree. It's only when you take a few steps back that you realize how big the tree is. In our success-driven culture, everyone is guilty of tunnel vision from time to time. Jesus had to get away and be alone with the Father, and so do we.
2) Misalignment of Priorities
We can lose sight of our true priorities when we are overworked. Suddenly the mission becomes the only important thing, and we begin to lose sight of our family. God, family and then mission … if we get our priorities out of order we run the risk of losing everything.
These are two lessons we can take from William Booth's life. Yes, he was a great man. Yes, his wife, Catherine, was the true driving force. Yes, an Army grew and lives were changed … but could they have handled family matters better in the process?
Let's remember that Booth was human, with imperfections like the rest of us, and stop putting him on a pedestal. I'm not saying we shouldn't admire what he and Catherine accomplished, but be careful how much you revere him. Hard work does pay off, but be careful not to sacrifice your children or family in the process.
Live a disciplined life, but give yourself the grace to rest.
Captain Scott Strissel lives in Brainerd, Minnesota. He is an active blogger and contributor for the purpose of encouraging and challenging the Salvation Army world. Read his blog at pastorsponderings.org.