Monday, October 30, 2006

Spiritual formation - a rose by any other name?

As I understand it ‘Spiritual formation’ is the process of being shaped in the image of Christ by the gracious working of God's Spirit, for the transformation of the world. Any movement that encourages Christians to grow, study, pray, and to remember that they are accountable for their life and witness to God has got to be good.

However, ‘Spiritual formation’ is not holiness.

In her book “The Way Of Holiness”, Phoebe Palmer (a big formative influence on Catherine Booth) stresses the instantaneous elements of sanctification to the exclusion of the gradual. She also teaches that entire sanctification is not really the goal of the Christian life, but rather its beginning. This is the holiness teaching upon which early SA ministry was based.

It seems to me that ‘Spiritual formation’ is possibly a tad too slow from a Salvationist perspective. Our job is to save the lost and to provide them with an internal infrastructure that sustains their conversion and allows them to immediately begin leading others to Christ.

One can almost imagine the devil telling his lieutenants “If you can’t stop them becoming Christians at least get them to slow down a bit!” When we sing ‘Glory, glory, Hallelujah I have given my all to God’ it terrifies him if but if we were to sing “Glory, glory, Hallelujah I am thinking about giving my all to God’ he would see that as a victory.

There can of course be a process that leads to absolute surrender and there is definitely a process post absolute surrender but absolute surrender can only occur in an instant. To use Alistair Smith’s analogy “I can’t grow into a coat but I can put a coat on and grow in it!’ Finney would say that someone who has sanctified 95% is not a mature Christian but a rebellious sinner! It might seem harsh to us but that is basically what Christ told the rich young ruler. If ‘Spiritual formation’ has a place in SA teaching it must be as something that occurs post absolute surrender.

Salvationists are among the first to expect God to instantly deal with sins in the life of a new convert like alcoholism, lust, gambling, drug addiction – we teach sinners that God can instantly deliver them from such bondage. However, when it comes to things like anger, pride, bitterness (the things most likely to impact upon us) we quickly retreat into the safety of ‘process’.

I am full of praise for people like Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson, and Terry Wardle – at the end of the day contemplative spirituality is better than nothing but in The Salvation Army do we not possess a more rapid form of Christ-likeness?

Yours set apart by Christ, for the lost, in the Army.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Evangelism, S&M and the lost.

The Torture Garden is a fetish club in London – anyone who wants to know more can follow the link.

My 23 year old son and his fiancée go there on special occasions (such as the annual Halloween Ball.)

This morning (at 4am) I picked them up from outside and took them to Victoria coach station.

Obviously my giving them a lift in no way endorses their interest in S&M – indeed I find the club and everything it stands for quite repulsive. I give them a lift to the coach station – one, because he’s my son and two, because in doing so I can guarantee that at least one part of the evening is safe.

The Halloween Ball is held in the crypt of a church – the church is still consecrated and 3 hours after the club closes the church opens for communion.

As I sit outside the club I watch lost humanity being washed along in the sewers of self destructive and transitory nihilistic existence. The people spilling out from the club are not all young – indeed many are in their forties. Some seem genuinely happy while others find a quiet corner to throw up and look disappointed.

Brixton High Street at 4am on a Sunday morning is as busy as it might be on a Saturday afternoon. As I watch and wait I realise that Booth’s submerged tenth has become a submerged nine tenths!

It dawns on me that this immoral majority, helpless and lost as they are have no contact with the church commissioned to be their light – indeed like spiritual vampires they sleep while we wake and retreat into the darkness as we move into the light. Railton’s words (from ‘Heathen England and what to do about it’) come to mind that —

“It is useless to shut our eyes to the plain fact that the awful condition of the masses could not possibly continue for so much as twelve months if the people or God were faithful; but in the Master’s own dreadful summing up, “If the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men." Is not this precisely, what we see today?”
As I drive home I ask God to talk to me about the lost, about the past, about the present, about revival… When I get back home I look up the quote, later in the same chapter the old pioneer describes the infant Salvation Army —

“there is not anywhere today another organisation professing to undertake throughout the whole world a scheme of evangelisation specially directed to meet the need of the most abandoned and godless part of the community; and surely, therefore, we may fairly claim to be the Lord's special force raised up for this emergency.”
Then in the holiness meeting at our insignificant Corps in a part of London many have never heard of, Luke a drug addict and alcoholic moves to the Mercy Seat and quietly whispers midst his tears ‘God forgive me and change me’.

I go home with the knowledge that we had ‘one soul’ today, it’s nowhere near enough but it’s a start.

Yours set apart by Christ, for the lost, in the Army


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Heathen England - Get it while it's HOT!

I have uploaded a full PDF transcript of Railton's 'Heathen England ' - It can be downloaded at

(if the domain name plays up just click on the link)

130 pages of raw blood and fire history - Railton tells it how it is (or how it was and can be)
Study this book and you'll see where we're going wrong and where we could be going right (if we want to!)


Set apart by Christ, for the lost, in the Army!


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Holiday Christian Mission Style!

SaturdayI found myself in Tunbridge Wells with two hours to kill so decided to visit Dunorlan Park. Henry Reed the original owner of the Dunorlan estate was a deeply religious man and a good friend of William Booth. In George Scott Railton’s ‘Heathen England’ there is remarkable report concerning a Christian Mission ‘day-out’ held at Dunorlan Park. The full report is at the end of this posting for those who wish to read it.

Basically, William Booth took 1400 recently converted east end roughs to Dunorlan (two train loads!) for a series of prayer and experience meetings, a love feast and a huge tea! Sadly, Mr Reed’s house was destroyed by a fire just after the 2nd world war but the terrace where the love feast was held is still intact. As I walked around the grounds it was very easy to visualise this large group of barely literate new Christians seeing the countryside for the first time in their lives.

To make things even better the day I visited it poured with torrential rain as it did all those years ago!

On a serious note the visit also reminded me once again of the scope and the cost of true revival. Imagine an SA Officer, today, being appointed to plant a corps in Whitechapel and within 15 years he has started not just one Corps but 500 in the UK and 200 overseas and has recruited 1200 full time evangelists (living largely on faith) working in 16 Countries including Australia, India, Canada and the USA. This is what happened in the period 1865 to 1880 – only fifteen years!


The simple answer is that their success was founded upon an entire consecration of all they were and had to ‘the war’ (24/7) and an unlimited and practical belief that God would fulfil his promises instantly (especially his promise to save the lost). One can’t imagine GSR or Elijah Cadman spending 6 nights a week in front of the TV.

Can it be done again? Of course it can and will be done again in our lifetime once we meet the criteria (the work will all be God’s not our own but as with most biblical promises there are conditions which must be met.)

  • We must seek forgiveness for personal and corporate sin.
  • We must renounce all that is sinful.
  • We must renounce all that is doubtful.
  • We must detach ourselves from worldly amusement and entertainment.
  • We must detach ourselves from materialism and consumption.
  • We must adopt simple, uncluttered lifestyles.
  • We must pray without ceasing.
  • We must look for and pursue instant results.
  • We must preach, teach, administer and live holiness.
  • We must not compromise.
  • We must ‘go out’ and make friends with the marginalized
  • We must confront sin in our preaching
  • We must remember that there is a judgement and a hell
  • We must recognise the need for urgency in our mission
  • We must be identifiable (some form of uniform is essential)
  • We must adopt the principles of spiritual warfare
  • We must love the unlovable
  • We must surrender our human rights in sacred trust to God and the Army by way of covenant and be prepared to do all of this on faith alone if necessary

If we ado all of this we will still be way off what our forbears gave in the 1870’s and 80’s but I believe that if we do this (and whatever else God and contingency demand) then we will see revival – Hallelujah!

Are we up for it?

Yours set apart by Christ, for the lost, in the Army!


Excerpt from Heathen England Chapter VIII

“But our soldiers must take holiday sometimes perforce; and then they look to the Army to provide them with such holy entertainment as their souls delight in. Services all day long, or, at any rate, during the afternoon, open-air de­monstrations, camp-meetings, expeditions to other stations, or to mission some new neighbourhood, watch nights, all nights of prayer, are some of the entertainments to which Army people treat themselves upon extraordinary occasions.

It was by the kindness of Mr. Henry Reed, then at Tunbridge Wells, that the first grand holiday of the kind was enjoyed as here described by a "Labourer in another part of the vineyard."

"A day in the country, among green fields and shady groves, is no slight privilege to the London artisan and labourer, and to the East End little shopkeeper, whose religious principles keep him from desecrating the Lord's day in suburban tea gardens and skittle grounds. The opportunity of making acquaintance with the beautiful scenery of our native land would mark any day as a 'red-letter day' in the calendar of these sons of toil, but connect with a run into the country for an airing among God's blessed sunshine and health-giving breezes, food and exercise for the soul as well as for the body, ample means or religious enjoyment and solemn worship, and we can hardly conceive a happier blending of good things together, suitable for the twofold nature of the Christian who is alive to God and happy in His love.

"Dunorlan, the seat of Henry Reed, Esq., of' Tunbridge Wells has just offered all this to about fourteen hundred of the members and friends of the Christian Mission. They went down from Cannon Street Station in two trains, on Tuesday morning, the 26th July, in a terrific thunderstorm.

" The first train rolled away with its living burden at a quarter past eight, 'singing all the time,' for from almost every carriage was heard thanksgiving and the voice of melody, notwithstanding the pealing thunder overhead, 'which seemed to draw nearer and nearer at every discharge.

"The storm did not cease for some time, and the rain fell incessantly until the train neared Tunbridge. On arriving at the Wells, all was fair and dry; the soft breezes were delicious, and a screen of light clouds kept off the heat of the sun, but left a cheerful warm light in which the newly washed verdure looked most beautiful.

No time was lost in forming a procession of the two train-loads of passengers, and when fairly in marching order, headed by Mr Reed and Mr Booth, with banners exhibiting precious watch words and texts of Scripture, they commenced their march. The sight, as it ascended the hill leading out of Tunbridge Wells to Dunorlan, was intensely interesting and impressive. The distance to Mr. Reed's estate is about a mile. Over the gate rose the ornamental device ‘Welcome to Dunorlan!’ and a text of gospel truth surmounted each postern. The people sang all the way, displaying none of the disorderly frivolity and senseless antics of dissolute holiday seekers, but filled with a sober joy, that beamed in every eye, and pervaded every look and every act. 'I must do all I can for my Jesus, He has done so much for me,' said one good woman who said she had found Jesus in the cellar; and she told forth her joy and her happiness, her trials and her conquests, to her Christian companions. The same spirit pervaded the whole gatheing throughout the day.

"Assembling first on the lawn in front of Dunorlan mansion, the excursionists were addressed by Mr Booth and Mr. Reed, received certain instructions for their guidance during the day, and were then dismissed, with free permission to visit every part of the grounds, — a boon of no ordinary character to East Londoners for the estate is most beautifully situated, and laid out with classical taste and beauty; and beyond, the farm-fields occupying the ascent in front of the mansion, altogether form a little paradise that to many of the poor people might be almost a foretaste of heaven itself, connected as it was with devotions and thanksgivings rising to heaven from every part into which a company of the excursionists strayed.

“A general adjournment to the farm buildings followed the assemblage on the lawn, for there refreshments were stored by the directors of the Mission, to be sold out at very low prices. Thus fortified, the company broke up again into bands, and, electing different spots, held meetings for prayer and praise all over the grounds. Some few pre­ferred to saunter about and see how all the happy people enjoyed themselves; but the majority joined the devotional parties, and so proved how much their hearts were in the proper work of the Mission. Everybody was happy and in earnest.

"Active preparations for feasting the whole company on the grass in a large field near the farm buildings were commenced at two o'clock, and at half-past two the gong was sounded for all to assemble on the terrace, that, after singing and prayer, they might move off in procession to their proper positions. Now came the chief disappoint­ment of the whole day; The gong had not ceased its call when a few preliminary drops called attention to the gathering blackness overhead, and the mutterings of a thunderstorm; and quickly a very tempest of rain came down. The people fled to the farm buildings for shelter, and filled them all, — barn, cow houses, stables, sheds, a commodious schoolroom or chapel, and some of the houses of the farm servants. 'Room was found for all with a little difficulty, though some who were caught by the rain at a distance were thoroughly drenched.

"It soon became evident that it was no mere passing shower, and measures were taken at once to serve out the tea. The way in which help and means of accommodation were improvised was admirable. Mr. Booth was everywhere, looking into every place, giving counsel, a word of direction, or a hint for arrangement, himself wet through, and profusely perspiring with exertion and anxiety; and what may be said of him is true also of all upon whom the duty devolved of providing for the comfort and pleasure of the multitude, but it was due to the active and wise care and generous preparations of Mr Reed that so much could be done in so short a time to meet the emergency. The good humour of the people under the disappointment was beautiful to witness, adding another proof of the power of Divine grace to soften, refine, and elevate even the roughest and most uncultivated when brought under its influence. As Mr Reed remarked, it was worth all the trouble of altering the arrangements to see how the people bore it.

"For two hours it rained heavily. There seemed no prospect of suitable weather for holding the love-feast on the terrace at half-past four, and therefore the happy, good-tempered, good-humoured people, so soon as tea was over, began prayer-meetings and love-feasts or experience meet­ings where they were. The whole cluster of farm buildings resounded with praise, and many blessed and striking incidents occurred. In one of the cow sheds three seeking souls found their Saviour —were born again in circumstances similar to those which surrounded the lowly birth of their glorious Redeemer — songs and shouts of glory and salvation from the saints around taking the place of the songs of the heavenly host over the plains of Bethlehem. It is impossible to describe the whole scene. Such an exhibition of the power of real religion to control and make happy — seriously, earnestly, joyfully happy — a mixed multitude of all ages, must be seen to be appreciated.

"It became fair between four and five o'clock; and soon after the gong sounded for the love feast on the terrace. Nearly a thousand people assembled, formed a ring round a central spot in which stood Mr. and Mrs. Reed, Mr. Booth, and some of the leaders and preachers, and for nearly two hours some scores of persons testified of the grace of God in their personal salvation and the power of God in con­nection with the work of the Christian Mission. The child of ten or twelve and the aged saint of seventy spoke of their love and devotion to Jesus: the venerable proprietor of the estate, standing in the midst, his white head towering above the majority there, told in simple weighty words what God had done for his soul, and his pious lady thanked the good Father of all even for trials and chastisements through which we are perfected and brought into unison with the spirit of the blessed Jesus. It was difficult to conduct a meeting like this, where hundreds of happy souls were eager to tell of their joy; and it seemed still more difficult to conclude it while scores of precious saints were left with unopened mouth on this great subject. But at length the end came: Mr. Booth's well known voice caned attention to a few brief directions for the return to the train, and with much earnestness and feeling he presented to Mr and Mrs. Reed the grateful thanks of the people for the day's entertainment. This was responded to by the people on one side with uncovered heads and joyous shouts, and by Mr. Reed on the other with a few kind and tender words, recommending ' Jesus only' as their motto, their example and their glory. Like a polite, as well as generous host, Mr. Reed attended his guests to the railway station, and saw them safely depart for London.

"The journey home was in perfect keeping with the entertainment of the day, The voice of prayer and praise resounded from every carriage, and even in the train penitent sinners were being pointed to Jesus. Would to God that such sights and sounds were more common in connection with the excursions of His professed people, but judging from the surprised and puzzled air of the railway officials, such demonstrations on the side of Christ and His gospel do not often come across them. Of one fact this annual excursion furnished most emphatic and glorious proof, that the labours of Mr. and Mrs. Booth and their coadjutors have been abundantly owned in bringing souls to Christ. Such a band of living and earnest believers it was never before our lot to meet in one gathering, and we earnestly commend this blessed work to the sympathy and support of all who love the Lord Jesus and desire the coming of His kingdom.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Unromantic Revival!

I have recently been coming to terms with the kind of commitment that revival requires from those evangelists caught up in its midst.

The following quote from Railton’s ‘Heathen England’ expresses a bit of what I mean.

“And once a man is laid hold of he must not be let go for an evening. A hundred public-house doors must be passed ere he gets home from his work. His home may have little attraction at any time. Since his conversion it may have become a very nest of hornets to him. If you want to make it possible for such a man to get established in the ways of God, you must not leave him one leisure evening unprovided for. Reading is not likely to be con¬genial to him even if he had anywhere to go where such reading as he now takes pleasure in could be done in peace. To open any good book at home is to raise a hullabaloo of ridicule if not of blasphemy which, no matter how valiantly withstood, must render profitable reading impossible. You cannot, must not hope to lead poor people to heaven unless you lead them daily.

More than that! The man who is daily fought against must daily fight if he would win, and it makes it unspeak¬ably easier to fight all the working hours alone amongst the immense majority who oppose, if he can at least fight a few hours every evening in line with his comrades.

"You were at that ranting-shop last night, then," said his mate to a man the other day. "Yes, and I'm going again to-night," was the overwhelming rejoinder, "and I mean to keep on going every day as long as I live, for God blesses me there."

How much harder it would have been for that man if days intervened between every attendance at the open-air or indoor service, and if thus each fresh visit became like a separate effort with the prospect of new obloquy and difficulty each time!

But once it is a settled matter that he is coming every day to help to oppose sin and get other people converted, the public-house, the club, the social gathering, the worldly entertainment have lost their chance of catching him. He has no time for such trifles. They are gone - left behind. He is "doing a great work and cannot come down."

Are we up for this? Are we ready to be at the Army every night? Are we ready to spend ourselves in hunting out new converts and chasing them down?

Sometimes we talk about revival as if it were some romantic notion – this is probably because we have never experienced it. Revival when it happens (and it will happen in our lifetime) will involve fierce and constant fighting, it will be tiring, costly – not for the faint hearted or lazy but above else immensely satisfying!

Bring it on!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Atheists us and Hell...Professor Richard Dawkins was recently cited as Britain’s top intellectual in an independent Poll carried out by Prospect Magaz

Professor Richard Dawkins was recently cited as Britain’s top intellectual in an independent Poll in Prospect Magazine.

A quick glance at the Professor’s CV would seem to confirm that Mr Dawkins is indeed an impressive individual.

In edition to his own qualifications Professor Dawkins is the holder of 5 honorary degrees from countries across 3 different continents. He isn’t just a professor at any old university but occupies one of the ivory towers at Oxford.

He is a past winner of the Times Literary Prize, the Michael Faraday award, the Humanist of the Year Award, the Shakespeare Prize for his contribution to British culture; he is also a member of the Royal Society.

Since 1979 he has delivered 65 keynote lectures and addresses around the world. He has penned 8 best selling books and his latest book ‘The God dilemma’ is perched at the top of the UK best sellers list where it will probably stay until well after Christmas.

Richard Dawkins is not very complimentary about God or indeed God’s word, in a recent interview with the BBC he described the bible as being

‘just plain weird… a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries.’
In the same interview he goes on to say

“This may explain some of the sheer strangeness of the Bible. But unfortunately it is this same weird volume that religious zealots hold up to us as the inerrant source of our morals and rules for living. Those who wish to base their morality literally on the Bible have either not read it or not understood it…’
It is equally true that the bible is not very complimentary about Professor Dawkins for it says in Psalm 14:1

'The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."’
Yet, to be fair to Richard Dawkins and his fellow atheists it isn’t really God that they have a problem with it is his followers.

God is love and his latest encounter with humanity (the death and resurrection of Jesus) is an act of almost unbelievable and unmerited generosity. Yet in spite of God’s new covenant of grace the adherents of the world’s three main religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism (all of whom claim to follow the God of Abraham) very often remain characterised by intolerance, sectarianism, cruelty and self-righteousness.

The following quote from Professor Dawkins addresses the recent rise in religious fundamentalism and its political impact upon the contemporary world.

‘Western politicians avoid mentioning the R word (religion), and instead characterise their battle as a war against 'terror', as though terror were a kind of spirit or force, with a will and a mind of its own. Or they characterise terrorists as motivated by pure 'evil'. But they are not motivated by evil. However misguided we may think them, they are motivated, like the Christian murderers of abortion doctors, by what they perceive to be righteousness, faithfully pursuing what their religion tells them. They are not psychotic; they are religious idealists who, by their own lights, are rational. They perceive their acts to be good, not because of some warped personal idiosyncrasy, and not because they have been possessed by Satan, but because they have been brought up, from the cradle, to have total and unquestioning faith.’
It is of course true that no one who calls himself a Christian has a biblical right or a divine mandate to murder anyone – not even those who perpetuate abortion - just as a proper understanding of the Koran cannot provide similar divine authority for suicide bombings. Yet the devotees of the three main Abrahamic religions continue to give their God a bad name.

There are some within the religious right who have already consigned the likes of Richard Dawkins to hell (in spite of Christ’s absolute prohibition on judging others set out in Mathew chapter 7). Yet the bible teaches that Professor Dawkins, like the rest of us, will be judged according to the light that he has received. Again, there are many within the church that will see the Professor’s lack of illumination as being self-inflicted and that he is still therefore likely to burn forever for his militant atheism.

However, can the likes of Richard Dawkins be blamed for possessing a definition of religion which has largely been determined by the behaviour of the religious? In recent years Christianity has excelled at hating the ‘sin’ and miserably failed at loving the ‘sinner’. Adjectives such as intolerant, belligerent, judgmental, homophobic and arrogant have all been accurately used to describe a faith which ought to be more closely associated with words like, humble, loving, inclusive, forgiving, gentle and kind. Are we not called to love the unlovable, to bring the invisible into sight and into mind?

In light of the growth in atheism and indeed the growth in all kinds of immorality and moral anarchy we would all do well to remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:14-16.

“"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
If Professor Dawkins and others like him blame their blindness on the evident inability of God’s people to shine then it may well not be him who finds himself on the downward path to damnation. Didn’t Jesus say something about the last being first?

Yours set apart by Christ, for the lost, in the Army!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Against all odds - a tax on the poor

Britons gambled £50 billion last year - more than the government spent on defence and transport combined. That represents more than £800 for every man, woman and child in the country and is a seven-fold increase on the total gambled in 2001.

· 350,000 Britons admit to having a gambling problem
· Will rise to one million if proposed changes to gambling laws are introduced
· Over £930m was paid out in prizes in Bingo Clubs in 2000
· The Bingo industry made a pre-tax profit of £119m in the same year.
· There are 250,000 slot machines spread across the UK
· New machines with a £500 pay-out allow punters to stake up to £10 per go.
· Britons fed an estimated £10.43bn into slot machines in 2001/02
· That’s an average of £28m a day.
· There are 123 registered casinos in the UK 2nd highest in Europe.
· £3.5bn was exchanged for gambling chips last year in the UK
· The average amount a person spends during a casino trip in the UK is £44
· The amount retained by the casinos each day totalled £1.7m in 2000/01.
· Betting at the bookmakers also amounts to over £1bn.
· Internet gambling ia making it all easier and anonymous.

Railton on gambling:

“You ask me about betting. Betting is universally recognized as a bad and ruinous thing, though none of the silly Governments care to suppress it and the bookmakers, as they ought to do. Betting is money promised for no real equivalent. A bet won means necessarily a bet lost; that is, A takes money from B not for anything supplied to B, but only because a bet has been made. Then this money, not honestly earned, is generally taken away from some worthy object. Betting is, I fear, more widely and radically destructive than drink itself, and renders all who mix in it more and more callous to the losses and sufferings of others.”

“The compulsive gambler dreaming of his yacht…. They need you, they need me, they need Christ…”