William Booth was born in Sneinton, Nottingham, the only son of four surviving children born to Samuel Booth and Mary Moss. William’s father was wealthy by the standards of the time, but during William’s childhood, as a result of bad investments, the family descended into poverty and his father became an alcoholic. In 1842, Samuel Booth, who by then was bankrupt, could no longer afford his son’s school fees, and 13-year-old William was apprenticed to a pawnbroker. Samuel Booth died later that same year.

William Booth did not enjoy his job in the pawnbroker’s shop, but it made him only too aware of the poverty in which people lived and how they suffered humiliation and degradation because of it. Two years into his apprenticeship William Booth was converted and later became an evangelist. One day in 1865 he found himself in the East End of London, preaching to crowds of people in the streets outside the ‘Blind Beggar Pub’.

Slowly the mission began to grow but the work was hard and William would stumble home night after night haggard with fatigue, often with his clothes torn and bloody bandages wrapped on his head where a stone had struck him. Evening meetings were held in an old warehouse where urchins threw stones and fireworks through the window. It was not until 1878 when ‘The Christian Mission’ changed its name to ‘The Salvation Army’ that things began to happen. The idea of an Army fighting sin caught the imagination of the people and the Army began to grow rapidly. Booth’s fiery sermons and sharp imagery drove the message home and more and more people found themselves willing to leave their past behind and start a new life as a soldier in The Salvation Army.

Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. Sadly, many organizations like the Salvation Army, whose primary purpose began with winning souls and discipling new converts, have either become not much more than another social service program or have altogether dissolved.  Where are the William Booths–the Keith Greens–or the Leonard Ravenhills of today?

I fear they have been replaced with televangelists, computers, and iPhones. Our technology today gives us the ability to reach millions of people at once but it seems we don’t take the time to reach out to our neighbors right next door! And with all of our technology we’re no different today than we were during William Booth’s day:

In William Booth’s own words:

I pray that we all become more serious about the souls of mankind and Stand By The Door…

I Stand at the Door by Sam Shoemaker (from the Oxford Group)

I stand by the door.
I neither go to far in, nor stay to far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing that any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.

Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia
And want to get out. ‘Let me out!’ they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled.
For the old life, they have seen too much:
One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving – preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door.
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply and stay in too long
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.

Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.

I had rather be a door-keeper… So I stand by the door.

 

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