Sharper Focus “The 21st century social service”

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By Lawrence Shiroma, Major

The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

The creation of new social service corps is one of the visions of our territorial commander:

It would be ideal to see every social program spin off a corps of some description. Can you imagine every hostel, every rehabilitation center, every thrift store, every job training program, every emergency relief system, every single social program starting, sponsoring and hosting corps? (Knaggs, p. 232)

A social service corps looks, feels and even smells different from your traditional corps center of worship.  Christy Lipscomb writes, “It has the smell of raw humanity, the smell of a homeless man who goes many days without showering. On some Sundays there’s the smell of cigarette smoke wafting in the back door as smokers satisfy their nicotine habits before morning worship” (Knaggs, p. 113).

Are we not all a broken, dirty, messed up group of people (Isaiah 64:6), gathering to find Jesus on any given Sunday? But as Lipscomb continues, “The smell of redemption is always beautiful to those whom God has made holy” (1 John 1:7).

Recently my wife, Vickie, and I attended the official opening of the Bell Lighthouse Corps, the first of a new generation of 21st century social service corps, different from traditional corps, but with the same purpose—that of winning the lost for Jesus Christ. Luke 19:10 tells us that “the Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost.” Can we do any less?

As we sat in the spacious facility of the Bell Shelter listening to the music of the Southern California Division’s brass ensemble, and seeing the happy faces of the new corps members, my thoughts raced back 20 years when my wife and I celebrated the official opening of another Lighthouse Corps, the first of its kind in the West. It, too, was a joyous occasion, with new soldiers proud and tall, dressed in blue, faces flushed with anticipation. At The Gathering this June, we will witness the first lieutenant to be commissioned from the San Francisco Lighthouse Corps.

The newly formed Western Territory Social Service Response Team has been tasked, among other things, with “helping to shape the future of The Salvation Army Social Services in the Western Territory with the intent of further defining the contemporary signature of the Army’s practical theology” (Threefold Purpose of the Social Service Response Team).

What better way to define the contemporary signature of our practical theology than the intentional  development and prayerful creation of 21st century social service corps. May the strong arm of Jesus Christ carry us forward to this brave new world (Proverbs 3:5-6).


Work Cited: Knaggs, James and Court, Stephen. ONE for All.  Frontier Press. Long Beach. 2011.


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