Friday, October 28, 2016

The Top 10 Reasons Why I Love The Salvation Army

CC 2.0 via Flickr
You may or may not know that the writer of this blog, me, Mr. Justin Steckbauer is a soldier and officer-candidate in The Salvation Army.  Though this is my personal blog, and the views on it are mine alone.  What is The Salvation Army?  What do they do?  I'd like tell you the top ten reasons why I love the Salvation Army!  Enjoy. 

10. Vocational extremism - These reasons are not in any particular order, but I would probably place this near #1 if I could.  There are no half measures in the army, there are no token efforts, there is ministry to the extreme.  This lifestyle of very straining, it is certainly not for everyone, but it is missional in the starkest terms.  It means serving with your entire life, meeting needs, and reaching those with the gospel without compromise. 

9. Adult Rehabilitation Centers - millennials like myself, well, we're a bunch of a potheads, pill poppers, and drinkers.  It's a growing trend in our culture, from huge cities to tiny sea side communities like Escanaba.  Young people are literally dying in the streets, overdosing on drugs like heroin, morphine and oxycontin.  One could say meth has gone viral in our communities, dominating the lives of untold millions, slaughtering them over time.  Who will rally to meet this challenge?  The Salvation Army of course (along with many others).  It's a relevant, today, now, sort of challenge and I love that the Army is taking it head on.  

8. Jail Ministry - Have you ever gone into a jail and preached the gospel?  It's something you'll never forget.  It's a place where the gospel can be heard and should be heard.  "Visit those who are in prison" right?  Jesus told us to do it, and we do it.  I can't explain it, I just can't, find some way to get in and do it yourself.  You'll see what I mean.  

7. Biblical emphasis - There could be the temptation for the Salvation Army to drift away from the gospel and simply slip into being just another charity that does social services.  Not so!  The Christian mission of the Salvation Army remains strong and vibrant.  Secular?  Not at all. It's gospel, biblical, evangelical Christianity.  

6. The Lost art of mentoring relationships - Having an older, more experienced individual speak into your life is a blessing beyond measure.  It's become a lost art in communities, in the church, but not so in the Salvation Army.  I've been mentored by some great, towering figures of the faith.  This process is built into the structure of the Army, yet it also happens organically.  There are times when you want to give up, because it's so hard, and so much is coming at you.  But when someone speaks into your life, encourages you, and tells you that they're proud of you, it makes all the difference.  The wisdom imparted is amazing.

5. Feeding the hungry - This is something we've learned to take for granted in the United States.  Everyone has food, no one need starve.  How did that happen? The generosity of churches and charities like the Salvation Army.  Nope, it wasn't the government redistributing your tax dollars.  It was and always had been churches and charities.  The Salvation Army corps across America tend to always have a monthly or weekly food basket program and a kitchen that serves meals open to the community free.  The corps I've served at, have had meals at least five times a week.  An interesting statistic in my area of Salvation Army work, is that 80% of those come and collect a monthly food basket only do so once and never return.  In other words, far from creating dependency, people come rarely and only when in need. 

4. Homeless Shelters - It's amazing how we take stuff like this for granted.  We always just assume that in most cities homeless will have access to shelters.  Isn't it amazing that in most of the 1st world that is the case?  And in much of the 3rd world, that is not the case.  But more so than ever, facilities are being created by organizations like the Salvation Army and Compassion International.  We take it for granted, but it wasn't always that way.  Not so long ago, many homeless froze to death during winters.  Thanks to the Salvation Army probably more so than any other organization, there are thousands of homeless shelters in the United States.  I know, I worked at one.  And it's an amazing experience to work with people and see their lives changed.

3. Women-empowering - Women are quite capable and effective at sharing the gospel.  The Salvation Army is quite aware of this, and empowers women to lead in the ministry work of saving souls from eternal lostness.  Women are strong and effective leaders in the Salvation Army, just as much as men, which is a wonderful thing.  One of the best parts about Salvation Army officership is that man and wife serve together side by side as war leaders in the battle for Christ; Could anything be more romantic?  Didn't think so. 

2. Quasi-Military Structure - Funny interesting fact, the quasi-military structure of the Salvation Army probably led to the insistence at one time by the Russian government TSA was an actual army and a threat to their civil government.  Thankfully those insinuations were finally dropped when Russia came to understand that TSA just wanted to be a blessing to their poor and needy. An arms dealer once said that he'd sold guns to every army in the world but the Salvation Army.  The military structure of the Salvation Army is one of it's key strengths.  It makes it more than just a fluffy religious order.  It's an army, a bold offensive force on a mission.  

1. Red Kettle season - It's a central staple of Christmas culture in the United States, the red kettle bell ringers.  Red kettle season is a magical time of chaos and glory in the Salvation Army.  There is nothing quite like it.  The red kettles are right in your face.  The Salvation Army had the gall to request to ring right in front of major grocery and convenience stores.  Who could believe it?  Imagine the rage of the secular and atheistic groups in the United States?  But the Salvation Army has always pushed the limits and insisted on engaging the culture in a real way, with open air meetings, knocking on doors, parades, and community outreaches.  That's the wonderful thing about it, we're part of the community, not apart from it. 

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