THE ‘GLORY DAYS’ TO COME
Why is that when people refer to the ‘Glory Days’ of The Salvation Army, or any church for that matter, why is it they are always referring to them in the past? What about the ‘Glory Days’ to come? Are we expecting them? Are we working to make them happen? Why does the term ‘Glory Days’ always refer to the past?
I think in some respects its alright for us to look into the past, see the past victories, and remember the sacrifices made by those gone before us that have made it possible for US to continue the mission they started. We look back with fondness at the characters that form the story of The Salvation Army. Characters like the Booths [all of them, William, Catherine and the kids], Railton, Booth-Tucker, Joe The Turk, Ashbarrel Jimmy, Eliza Shirley, and Samuel Brengle, just to name a few. People who gave their lives and dedicated their talents to the expansion of the Kingdom of God through the ministry of The Salvation Army. We look back at the courage and determination of the countless officers and soldiers who literally fought for The Army’s right to proclaim the gospel in the streets. We remember, or read about the meetings where THOUSANDS came to hear William or Catherine Booth preach.
We read about the parades of witness with hundreds of bands marching in the streets. We remember the way the Spirit of God moved in such a mighty way in Army meetings that people were moved to wave or clap their hands, or shout AMEN! A time when The Army was not afraid to SHOW the joy of the salvation they so graciously received from God. But it seems we have moved on from there. The Spirit that once permeated The Army SEEMS to be no more. BUT! The spirit hasn’t gone from The Army! Its still here … we just have to find it! But today, we are more refined, more respectable. There are things that were done in the early days we wouldn’t dream of doing today. Such a SHAME! The Spirit of The Army isn’t dead … no. We just put it in the closet where no one can see it!
Joyful faith. That’s what Salvationism is about! The joy of the Lord is MY STRENGTH, and expressing that joy in word [shouting AMEN!] and deed [clapping, raising, or waving hands, picking up the flag and waving it] is how we let others know we have that Spirit of Joy within us. But we’re refined. We’re respectable, and you can’t do that in uniform. HOGWASH! [The only thing you can’t, or shouldn’t do in uniform is eat powdered doughnuts, and
you can even do that if you’re careful!]
The Salvation Army is a unique worship experience. I’m not just talking about the band, if you have one, or the fact most of the ‘members’ of our church wear uniform. Those things, while different from other churches, are only ornaments to worship. No. Army worship is, or should be unique because of the way we express the joy of our
If you can sit down and sing ‘I believe we shall win’ without clapping your hands with a big smile on your face, then there’s a problem. If you can remain in your seat, and solemnly sing the seventh verse of ‘O Boundless Salvation’ without feeling the irresistible urge to pick up the flag and wave it, there’s a problem. Does the Captain say something in her sermon that stirs your spirit? Does it make you want to shout ‘HALLELUJAH!’ or give a resounding ‘AMEN?’ Do ya do it? Or, are you afraid of shouting ‘AMEN!’ for fear the elder members of the corps would have heart attacks if you did?
I am a traditionalist. When I see [mainly on videos on YouTube] a Salvation Army band marching down the street, it stirs my soul; sometimes even to tears. I remember the days when we went out into the community doing open-air services [we didn’t march from the corps, we took the van]. I remember Easter Sunday morning marches of witness in our corps neighborhood. We took the message of Jesus Christ out into the streets where the people were. Nowadays, the people are on the internet, they join Facebook and read blogs. Times change; methods change, and sometimes traditions change. But, our faith never changes, and neither does the joyful expression of it! I generally tend to refer to the expression of our joyful faith within The Salvation Army as ‘Army Spirit.’
Army Spirit encompasses more than just expressing our joyful faith, it also encompasses a desire to seek out those whom the world has forgotten about, the ones lost, without hope, without a prayer for the future; the ones who believe that even God Himself has forgotten about. But, God hasn’t forgotten them, and neither should we.
In today’s Army, we spend a lot of time trying to be like other churches. In some ways this is a good thing. Other churches are successful in ministry, and we want to be too. So, we decide we need to get rid of things like the uniform, the band, and possibly even the flag. But those things, traditional as they may be, are a part of us, and identify us. We aren’t God’s Secret Service, we don’t blend in: We stand out. We stand out for Christ. Other churches haven’t given up their traditions, they have included more contemporary aspects of modern worship into their traditional worship, and we need to do that too. But, in the process, we cannot continue to quench that spirit of joyful faith that so permeated The Army in its early days. We need to release it once again so others can feel the fire of The Holy Spirit as we worship in our
The ‘Glory Days’ of the past serve as an inspiration to us in the present. We see in our past how God has worked in Salvation Army worship, and how soldiers expressed their joyful faith. We see in the past those who were not just ‘happy to be in church today,’ but people who desired to be there to feel the warmth of God’s Spirit as they shared the worship experience with those around them. They inspired each other to go out and take the message of God’s love to those in their communities, and they were encouraged to do acts of daring that today, we might consider extreme in order to reach out to the lost and suffering of the world they lived in. We sometimes refer to this as ‘the pioneering spirit,’ and rightly so, as this was the spirit that led the pioneers of our Army into battle against Satan. We also refer to these people as being ‘on fire for God.’ And again, rightly so, for they really were immersed in the fire of The Holy Spirit.
But today we have relegated these people, and this spirit of Salvationism to the past. We are firmly established in flourishing corps these days, so the spirit of the pioneers is not needed, right? WRONG! Some believe that we have grown out of touch with those around us, and our former style of worship is no longer relevant. Are they right? If it’s ‘traditional worship’ for the sake of tradition, then they are. If it is blended with more modern styles, then they’re not. [I believe that the band is a part of worship. If worship becomes about the band, there’s a problem.]
But the spirit of Salvationism, that joyful faith that we saw in the early days, the ‘Glory Days’ of The Salvation Army CANNOT remain in the past, or in the closet. We can’t keep it in a back room somewhere and hope that our corps moves forward without it. No. Just as this spirit of Salvationism was a driving force for the pioneers of The Army, so it is a driving force for The Army today. This joyful faith, grounded in Jesus Christ can be the catalyst for today’s Army to move forward. Will this move forward look like it did 100 years ago? Certainly not! But this joyful faith will keep us grounded in Jesus Christ as we blend new forms of worship into our traditions, and as we start new ministries that will take the love of God to those who are without hope. Who knows where the spirit of God will lead us!
When we think of ‘Glory days,’ we NEED to STOP thinking of them in the past, and start ANTICIPATING them in our FUTURE! While we remember the ‘Glory Days’ of the past with fondness, we need to start looking forward
to the many MORE ‘Glory Days’ still to come.