Contractor Mentality

Factually speaking, there are so many groups ministering to the military that there almost doesn't seem to be a reason for me to do so. Once upon a time, a military believer had to rely on himself and a good chaplain (or lay leader), for spiritual growth. However, now the Navs, Campus Crusade, Cadence International, etc, have really come along to make good on the work. I'm not upset by it completely, as a great deal of discipleship is taking place. However, I fear that the discipleship is at the expense of believers in the military learning to lean on themselves for growth. Instead, they are growing more dependent on outside groups than they are on themselves and each other.

By that I mean that the military is growing dependent on outside activities to do things for it. I see this in the church as well. In civilian churches, it has led to weaker Christians who can't, and won't, stand up for their beliefs. They pass around cheap electronic petitions that substitute for real spiritual debate. It saddens me that I've seen more about Chick-fil-a lately than the actual Bible. Again, as I mentioned in the first post on this topic, it seems that all of America is simply more polarized than it used to be.

I long for those times in Japan, when I was fearless and a little reckless, when my buddies Tony, Shawn, Zion, Jason, Steve, and so many others would join with me and literally try to take on hell with a water pistol. Those days are all but over. Faith in the Navy, as far as I can see, is a mile wide and an inch deep, and some places it's more shallow than that. 

Some might try to disagree with me, but they are wrong. I've been there. I'm a veteran of several deployments on two ships, more than half way through my second shore tour, and 16+ years of total service. And I've been a minister for almost that entire time. I preached my first military sermon in Dahlgren, Virginia in 1997 as a Seaman. I've broken bread and given my testimony in several countries since then. I've ministered, or tried to minister, in many different locations. I'm telling you the truth.

In my heart, I think the military believer has to start relying on other military believers at sea and at home. It is a painful thing to write, but it's true. It is painful because I love, with all of my heart, the men who have helped me. I have worked with Military Ministry, Navigators, and Cadence missionaries; all of whom had God's heart as theirs and worked hard to help us. Still, they didn't deploy with me. 

For example, on Wednesday mornings, several of my staff (all instructors) gather together to talk through a part of scripture. They lead by committee, and it works very well. I was there to help get it started, but they hardly need me now. I taught them what to do, and now they are doing it. I believe God has gained the Glory while we have gained the blessing.


What does this mean in the long run? Well, the truth is that I think all of Americans face this same challenge. The average believer in America wants to have the Word fed to them, not go find it themselves. If it wasn't true, then we'd have a smarter church polity.

And I don't mean breaking down theology into big words like pseudepigraphic and transformational. I mean knowing where the book of John is and what it means to them. Hopefully the little Wednesday group of men who meet to get into the word will be the start of something nice for the military as they break up and go on to other commands. At least this is my prayer for them.

We use contractors in the military to get certain jobs done so that we active duty folks can get other things done, not so we can ignore the work at hand. Hopefully the Christians in the military will understand the same thing.

5 comments:

Don the Baptist said...

Sad but true. It is an American phenomanon.

boilt frog said...

How is life in the military so different that only those inside the military can minister there? What happens when those inside go outside?

Did not Paul minister to those in the military?

I am confused by your last paragraph. Could you expand on it?

Blessings,

bf

Dan Smith said...

BF,
Not too sure what you need expanded on in the last paragraph. I simply hope that military Christians will start learning how to use the Scriptures for themselves, not rely on outside people to train them.

Did Paul witness to the military? Is that an effective question to ask? What does it matter? The Roman Empire didn't have a military full of believers who simply needed to do better at diving into the scriptures.

Life in the military is different. The fact is that, for the most part, the various civilian groups can't deploy with us for months at a time. Does this make them bad? No. It just means Christians in the military must rely on themselves.

Surely you can see the benefit of a strong Christian leaving the military and joining the civilian world. Someone who can rightly divide the Word for him/her self? What a blessing for the church!

truebreeze said...

I just came upon your blog after reading your blog about Kwheezy linux, I believe you to be a wise God filled man, who has done something that I wish to do and the person I desire to be, to me what you have written in this article is so true, there is nothing confusing about it, I have been out of the military for so long but I what I found was that good people need good leaders. If that leaders teaches you and shows you through their life how to find God on your own and how to live on his word and plan for you, not the leader but you the servant who must bear his own cross. Our country has this mis-belief that it wants someone to take care of their problems, which has led to even Christians wanting Gods word spoon fed to them, what happens if the Minister breaks both his arms, will you starve because you dont want to feed yourslf? I am very happy to see you take a stand on this, Keep on being the man that teaches how to fish rather than the one who does the feeding! God bless!

Dan Smith said...

I shudder to think about what would happen in churches today if pastors were unable to preach. The fact of course is that many don't preach effectively, and entire churches are suffering because people don't do their own work. That's why I disciple my guys to do their own study, and to lead others in doing the same thing.