|Booth’s grand vision for world transformation|
One of our great Salvation Army legacies is the fact that for Booth, whilst the salvation of the individual was vital, his vision of salvation was always wider. It was man-kind embracing, world embracing. Booth actually believed that the world could be transformed, that society could echo heaven, that the Kingdom could come. One War Cry editorial from the 1890s that I glimpsed at training college had an image of a Salvation Army flag flying from some well known public buildings in London. He believed in world domination.
At first glance, this would make him seem somewhat crazy. However, I’m not sure that the flag just represented the Army to Booth. It wasn’t about the Army. It was a Trinitarian symbol, it was about the Kingdom and the Lord Jesus, his rule and reign. His wife Catherine prophesied that she believed the Army would play a significant part in the winning of the world for Jesus, echoing the words of Jesus in Revelation 11:15. It has been written elsewhere that like many men of his era, Booth was a pre-millenialist. In short, he believed that the world would become better and better, ushering in a golden age where Jesus would reign.
Whilst I’m not so sure of that particular position, I am particularly interested in a wide salvation. Not in the sense of universalism. But in a salvation that sees beyond a ‘scalp claiming’ approach to misson and evangelism. If we see Christ’s work purely as a personal ‘pie in the sky when you die’, we miss out half the plan for those who follow the way of Jesus.
Jesus message was about the Kingdom. It was about forming glimpses, firstfruits if you like, of that Kingdom here on earth. You see, many people can be won by our persuasion and preaching. However, the world will become transfixed and entirely captured by a vision of that which is yet to come…Kingdom community. You see, if you win a soul and don’t place him in community, he can’t engage fully in the Kingdom mission he has been saved for. We don’t form community for community’s sake, however. We form community becuse of Jesus, and because he designed us to fight more effectivly in community because that is how we can manifest love. We’ll be known as belonging to Jesus for the love we have for one another.
It is these communities of the Kingdom, these corps of Jesus followers that should show everyone that another world is possible, another world is coming. I don’t know whether Jesus will return to a near perfected world or whether he will step in at our greatest moment of strife…I do know, however, that he wants the Kindgom fleshed out in the here and now. That is worth fighting for.