We live in a world of new fears and hopes. The world is changing so fast. The threats are increasingly great. The hopes often seem as distant now as ever before. What lies ahead? What lies ahead for the church; for faith? We have often had prophets that have seen the problems to where we are headed. One such prophet proclaimed. “The chief dangers that confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God and heaven without hell.” No, this was not written in the 1990’s as it well could have been, anticipating the start of the 21st Century. No, this was written by one who was a Methodist preacher; a preacher of vision and mission; a preacher who, unfortunately, had to leave the Methodists to start his ministry in 1800’s. The Methodist’s name was William Booth. We know his ministry as the Salvation Army. Of any churches that may have a bigger outreach of mission than the United Methodist Church, the Salvation Army would be one.
And yes, the Salvation Army is a denomination. We may have more members, more church buildings, more schools and hospitals. Our emergency relief efforts may rival that of the Salvation Army. We have not been still in ministry by any means. But why did we have to give up our fervor for the saved soul? Why did we have to exhibit the “chief dangers” he warned about? Surely, mission work did not require giving up these essentials. Had he been able to have worked within Methodism, all that is Salvation Army would be today, in theory, United Methodist. Talk about mission! This brings me to my point.
In spite of the real concerns William Booth had, he persevered in doing the Gospel. He did not use the “errors” of others as an excuse for doing nothing. And, guess what. Even though we have manifested some things of his concerns, that has not kept us from proclaiming the Gospel and doing good. Sometimes we are at odds with each other but so far we have clung together. So what lies ahead? More of the same lies ahead.
Let us learn from Rev. Booth and our own experience. Keep our eyes open to the problems that are real. Let none of those things dissuade us from being faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us persevere in keeping and doing the faith in 2017. -- Ben