The Bells at Christmas

By: Chris Ebert

chris ebert, great cloud, headshot, portraitWilliam Booth &  Salvation Army

Have you stopped to take note of the people ringing bells in the Christmas season? Ever wondered where THAT started?

William Booth was born in Nottingham, England, to a fairly wealthy family. As his father’s business faltered, the family found itself in poverty. Indentured as an apprentice pawn-broker, young William became a Christian at 15 and studied to become a Methodist minister. In 1865, William abandoned the conventional concept of church and pulpit to take the Gospel message to the people. He and his new bride, Catherine, walked the streets of London serving the poor, homeless, hungry and destitute.

William was invited to hold a series of evangelistic meetings in London’s East End. A tent was set up in an old Quaker graveyard! It seemed, but the overwhelming response to William’s preaching was not shy of miraculous – hundreds responded to an invitation to make Jesus the Lord of their lives.

News of William & Catherine’s work spread and brought volunteers dedicated to fight for the souls of men and women. Many thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among the first converts. Sadly, area churches wouldn’t accept the new believers because of their questionable past. William & Catherine focused on providing spiritual direction. Soon, the new Christians were sharing, singing and preaching in the streets, declaring themselves LIVING testimonies to the Power of God!

While proof-reading an 1878 report, William noticed the statement, “The Christian Mission is a VOLUNTEER Army.” William crossed out the word “volunteer” and wrote in “SALVATION” ARMY. Over the next 7 years, The Salvation Army grew from 10 workers to 1,000 volunteers and 42 full-time evangelists. New converts were referred to as “soldiers for Christ.” The group was officially titled The Salvation Army, with William as acting General.

Their faithfulness and servants’ hearts eventually brought great favor. In his later years, William was received by kings, emperors, and presidents. When he joined the Great Cloud of Witnesses, in 1912, 40,000 people attended the services, including Queen Mary.

In John 3:11, When the crowds asked Jesus, “What shall we do?” Jesus answered, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Today The Salvation Army is active in virtually every corner of the world still answering Jesus’ call. Let’s join them in answering the call of our Lord.