Thursday, May 22, 2014

The power of the gospel can turn the hopeless into a force for urban renewal

William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, looked upon the urban poor of England in 1865 and saw a mission field as important as any in the world. Young women falling into prostitution, workers robbed of their wages, fathers addicted to alcohol, children and elderly dying from malnutrition and lack of access to healthcare; all with no prospect for a better life.

Booth sought to rescue the people who were the most desperate and neglected. He lived among them. He wept for them. He prayed for them. He formed an army of Christians determined to fight for the establishment of the gospel by every method love could devise.

Three principles would lead to life change: reconciliation with God, Christ-like living and service to others.

Booth recruited his army from among the folks that he was serving. He relied on the power of the gospel to transform the hopeless into urban missionaries. Even when he had rich benefactors, Booth still expected the poor to contribute their mites. He did not want to deprive them of the privilege of participating in God's work. 

Opposition came from all quarters. Neither the established church nor the “enlightened” skeptics shared his belief that Jesus' love could save the worst of humanity. When Booth's Salvation Army proved to be successful they attacked him personally, questioning his motives but, even. the Paris atheist paper, The Voltaire, praised the results while still rejecting the faith.

While the plight of the urban poor does not seem as desperate in America as it once was, there are still women forced into prostitution, hungry children and elderly, addiction and crime. The gospel is still the answer.

When we meet the physical needs of people to reach their hearts for Christ; when we help the ones who become Christ-followers to develop God-honoring habits; when we give them opportunities to serve others in need; then we can truly begin to transform the lives of the poor around us.

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