Rebirth of the Open-Air
LT-COLONEL LYELL RADER
Has the Army outgrown the open-air meeting? Surely not. Admittedly, times have changed, but has the Great Commission changed?
Salvationists once startled the world as an assault force for Christ. Dare the Army now be content to be merely an army of occupation?
Jesus said, “Go… streets… lanes… highways…. Hedges.” But too many say, “Stay indoors and send them a postcard.” Because of such sophisticated substitutes there is a large-scale defeat “in filling His House.”
1. TRAIN THE FORCE: ACTIVE DISCIPLESHIP
If there is to be a rebirth of The Salvation Army’s open-air ministry, there must first be time spent with its fighting force, training them individually to be soul-winners.
“The multitudes of discordant and bewildered souls were potentially ready to follow Him, but Jesus individually could not possibly give them the personal care they needed. His only hope was to get men imbued with His life who would do it for Him. Hence, He concentrated Himself upon those who were to be the beginning of this leadership. Though He did what He could to help the multitudes, He had to devote Himself primarily to a few key people, rather than the masses, in order that the masses could at last be saved. This was the genius of His strategy.
Yet strangely enough, it is scarcely comprehended in practice today.
The criterion upon which a Church should measure its success is not how many new names are added to the roll nor how much the budget is increased, but rather how many Christians are actively winning souls and training them to win the multitudes.” – Robert Coleman The Master Plan of Evangelism, 1963: 41, 142. (italics Colonel Rader’s)
Salvationists must reappraise their ‘bait.’ Drastic measures are needed. People are so used to the present format they hardly notice it. The Army is an old story to them. Crowds today are thinner and harder as a rule to attract. Mediocre bands, and second-hand testimonies just won’t work. Unless the message is alive, vivid and relevant in its presentation, it will die even as it is communicated.
The open-air speaker must learn to clinch their message. The danger is that the open-air meeting can be as impersonal as second-class mail. For it to be effective, it must be recognized that in the final verdict, it is a person to person ministry which clinches the message. There is no substitute. There is no other valid objective.
4. EMBRACE THE NEW: INNOVATIVE TACTICS & TECHNOLOGIES
It is imperative that new methods be explored of attracting the people, and holding their attention, by the physical set-up of the open-air meeting: i.e., in details of formation, elevation, illumination and amplification.
The Army must fearlessly dare to experiment to discover the efficient format of the open-air meeting demanded by varying circumstances and occasions: i.e., the mid-town invasion, the after-meeting open air, the flying squadron and so forth almost ad infinitum.
THE AIM OF THE SALVATION ARMY
It is easy to get on a merry-go-round and not have TIME to get off. The first correction must be in the point of aim. Is it not true that God raised up The Salvation Army as a remedy and a rebuke to complacent Christendom? So that General William Booth, the Founder said, “We are moral scavengers netting the very sewers. We want all we can get, but we want the lowest of the low.” He therefore commanded his troops to “Go for souls and go for the worst.” This was to be the center and soul of their commission. This must remain the Army’s aim.
Centering a corps program around any other objective is like playing a favorite phonograph record on some other center than its original hole. It will sound like howling cats on a back fence.
The Army makes music in God’s ears on God’s center. It makes no sense on any other center. The world may call Salvationists eccentric, when actually they are concentric with the Great Commission.
Beware when all people speak well of you. If conformity to other than the plan of God for the Army be the price of their praise, let Salvationists dare to be holy non-conformists.