Did William Booth foresee a time of ekklesia in the future of The Salvation Army? I believe that he did and that the time is now!
I just read William Booth’s 1904 dream about the “Companions of the Cross of Christ” (in the Journal of Aggressive Christianity at this link), who Booth saw coming forth in the future of The Salvation Army as a “reckless, daredevil set” and wandering around boldly proclaiming the Gospel everywhere they go. Wow! I’m so inspired and encouraged by that!
My wife and I have also been dreaming for years about a release of spiritual warriors in and through The Salvation Army. God brought us into the Army as outsiders and opened the door for us to start a nontraditional corps. One of our first soldiers, who had never before been a part of The Salvation Army, shared with us that 20+ years earlier, God told her that she is going to be a part of a “reformation” in The Salvation Army.
For eight years we have been exploring the Greek New Testament concept of ekklesia (a Spirit-led, unprogrammed, participatory worship gathering). We have discovered that it is a powerful way to raise up those “reckless” warriors who Booth saw, and release them on society for such a time as this!
Booth described the future spiritual warriors that he saw, saying, “they appeared to manifest extraordinary signs of earnestness and singleness of purpose; indeed, they had every appearance of being a reckless, daredevil set.” He said: “Do not limit the possibilities of the future . . . It seemed all so natural, so possible, so fruitful, and the results so desirable, that I came almost to feel that the thing was not a dream, but an actual occurrence literally happening before my eyes. I thought I was looking at The Salvation Army in its varied future operations.”
William Booth goes on to say: “They were talking, praying, and singing with whomsoever they could get to listen to them; singly, or in company wherever they came. And as I looked, I saw their number, which was very, very small at first, gradually increase until they reached quite a multitude. And the educated and well-to-do, charmed with this simple Christ-like life, swelled its numbers, coming from the universities and the moneymaking institutions and other high places . . . having all the time what was above all and beyond all in worth and desirability — the abundant smile of God, and a great harvest of precious souls.”
Jesus said in Matthew 16: “On this rock (spiritual revelation) I will build My ekklesia (usually mistranslated as “church”) and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Ekklesia literally means “called out ones” and it was the name of the city council in ancient Greek city-states.
When everyday people come together, listen to the living Jesus, and then do what He tells them to, the “called out ones” learn in a safe, loving environment how to hear Jesus. They get to practice obeying His voice through applying the many New Testament “one another” commands in the meeting. As they do, their confidence in the actual power and presence of risen Jesus working in and through their individual lives, grows stronger and stronger. Soon their growing passion and boldness for Christ cannot be contained in a meeting, so they spill out into everyday life knocking down the gates of hell as they go.
I believe that’s what William Booth saw. God is ready to raise up and release multitudes of mighty men and women of God in the 21st Century. The only question is: Are we willing to break out of our programming and surrender our holiness meetings to the literal control of the living, resurrected Jesus? If we don’t learn to totally depend on the living Jesus to personally run a holiness meeting without inserting our program and agenda, how will we have the faith to totally depend on Him in other areas?
Here’s the formula for ekklesia: >1 + tlJ – p = e (Two or more plus the living Jesus minus programming equals ekklesia).
William Booth stood for the priesthood of all believers: “I deny the existence of any order possessing the right to publish the salvation of God . . . I honor the Order of Preachers myself . . but as to his possessing any particular grace because of his having gone through Ordination, or any other ceremonial whatever, I think that idea is a great mistake. And I want to say here, once and for all, that no such notion is taught in any authorized Salvation Army doctrine or affirmed by any responsible officer in the organisation.” –William Booth in The Officer in 1899