Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and drunkards were among Booth’s first converts to Christianity. His congregations were desperately poor. He preached hope and salvation. His aim was to lead them to Christ and to link them to a church for further spiritual guidance. Even though they were converted, churches did not accept Booth’s followers because of what they had been. Booth gave their lives direction in a spiritual manner and put them to work to save others who were like themselves. They too preached and sang in the streets as a living testimony to the power of God.
In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers. By 1874, the numbers had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists. They served under the name “The Christian Mission.” Booth assumed the title of a General Superintendent. His followers called him “General.” Known as the “Hallelujah Army,'” the converts spread out of the east end of London into neighboring areas and then to other cities.
Booth was reading a printer’s proof of the 1878 Annual Report when the noticed the statement, ‘”The Christian Mission under the Superintendent’s of the Rev. William Booth is a volunteer army. He crossed out the words “Volunteer Army'” and penned in “Salvation Army'” From those words came the basis of the foundation deed of The Salvation Army which was adopted in August of that same year.
Converts became soldiers of Christ and are known as Salvationists. They launched an offensive throughout the British Isles. In some instances there were real battles as organized gangs mocked and attacked soldiers as they went about their work. In spite of the violence and persecution, some 250,000 persons were converted under the ministry of the Salvationists between 1881 and 1885.