What the Marines Can Teach the Church

"While reading [Making the Corps], I noticed surprising applications to the church of Jesus on energetic discipling, identity thinking and cultivating appetites." What the Marines Can Teach the Church

13887 reads

There are 38 Comments

Mark_Smith's picture

Swore often, drank heavily, had sex often with multiple partners, visited strip clubs regularly, and were often divorced.

The blog writer left that part out.

Mark

Corporal, USMC, 1993-1997

Stephen Enjaian's picture

Point well taken, Mark. Yes, I left that and a lot of other parts out, good and bad. Sadly, even Marines have not escaped the degrading effects of culture, popular and otherwise. That many Marines do not uphold the core values does not negate the Marine culture. That culture has been highly successful in accomplishing its military mission. 

My purpose was to draw attention to some positive lessons we could learn as Christians. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I think military folks are horrible role models, especially if they're in the 18-25 range. I also think we're in grave danger of canonizing military members as saints, when they're just like everybody else.

Tyler Robbins

Master-at-Arms 1st Class, U.S. Navy (2002-2012)

By the way, Mark, I arrested a whole bunch of Marine's from strip clubs and bars! I particularly remember one drunken Staff Sergeant who impugned both my mother and my ancestry, and challenged me to a hand-to-hand fight to the death before bursting into tears after he was handcuffed. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Stephen Enjaian's picture

TylerR wrote:

I think military folks are horrible role models, especially if they're in the 18-25 range. I also think we're in grave danger of canonizing military members as saints, when they're just like everybody else.

Tyler,

If all you got from my article is that military people are saints and role models, then please reread it a little more carefully, because you completely missed the point! The Marines are not the church. My point is that the way the Marine culture is instilled in recruits holds important lessons for the church. 

In fact, not even everything about how recruits are taught is exemplary for the church. Drill instructors are not exactly models of gentleness, kindness, and humility! I chose specific elements of Marine culture and how it is transmitted--not everything. How about commenting on what I did write instead of what I did not write?

TylerR's picture

Editor

There are two disagreements I have about your article in general:

  1. I believe you have been influenced by pro-military propaganda in your description of Marine bootcamp. Tom Ricks is a good author. I particularly liked his book The Fiasco and his other work on the surge on Iraq. But, I think there is a very real problem with mythologizing the military in this country, particularly among the Christian conservatives. 
  2. In particular, I believe it is a terrible mistake to equate military culture with Christian service. People become Christians because they have been fundamentally changed by Jesus Christ; they used to be rebel sinners and now they're slaves for Christ. In contrast, people join the military either to get something (college money, travel, trade experience, etc) or out of patriotism. The goals and motivations are quite different, and I think it's a poor comparison. I think it hearkens back to a whitewashing of the military culture in conservative Christian circles. 

Now, to specifics:

  1. Disciple-making. Military culture, in bootcamp at least, is transmitted by threats and intimidation, which is calculated to instill an ethos of camaraderie. If you don't believe me, then you haven't been to bootcamp. My division commander took great pleasure in forcing the entire compartment to awaken each morning to the sound of dice clattering on the floor. If we weren't up before the clattering stopped, he took the sum total of the two dice, multiplied by 10, and made us do that number of 8-ct body builders. More often than not, recruits banded together out of common hatred of the division commander. To put it mildly, this is not a model for Christian discipleship. I would be curious to hear your take on so-called "Christian bootcamps" for rebellious teens. 
  2. Identity thinking. This is where your article makes an excellent point. I will always be proud that I was in the Navy, even if I hated it many times. Are Christians proud to be Christians? Is it a badge of honor? Good question. 
  3. Cultivating appetites. I am on the fence about this one. I believe your overarching point was that "the Marines, for example, not only teach commitment, but also instill in recruits the dispositions of self-discipline and self sacrifice that sustain commitment." That's a common refrain, but I'm really not sure it's true. I believe the disciplined structure of military life itself is more of a factor here than any self-discipline. In other words, MA3 Billy Joe Bob isn't motivated, dedicated and determined simply because he's a great Sailor - he's helped along by the disciplined culture and expectations of military life. If you sever MA3 Billy Joe Bob from the military umbilical cord, will he still perform? Even then, MA3 Billy Joe Bob is one out of 100 - the vast majority of military folks are like anybody else; more thn a bit lazy, shiftless and not too determined at all. I know - I arrested a lot of them.

The bit about cultivating appetites is your best point in the article. Is the local church a place where Christian discipline is being instilled and something is expected of the people? Now, here is some food for thought! The crucial difference though, is this:

  • In the military, a Sailor is under contract to be there and there will be consequences for disobedience. A leader doesn't have to be so good at persuasion to lead well in the military; he can get by with issuing orders on many occasions and by the force of his own example.
  • In the local church, a Christian is there by choice and the consequences for a lazy spiritual life are much less immediate or forceful than the military analogy. Moreover, a Pastor has to really be good at persuasion in this realm. Personal example is key too, obviously, but you can't issue blanket orders. They'll go ignored. 

The key thing to consider going forward is this - how can a Pastor successfully instill this kind of disciplined culture in his local church? 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ben Howard's picture

Tyler,

As a former Marine Staff Sergeant and a current Navy Reserve Chaplain, I agree with what you're saying about the church (especially fundamentalists) being influenced by pro-military propaganda.  That's one reason why I barely mentioned Memorial Day on Sunday and would never wear my uniform to preach in outside of required Navy/Marine Corps functions (which some people on Sunday suggested I do).  So, it does raise the hairs on the back of my neck whenever someone starts comparing the church with the military. I love the Marine Corps and being a Marine, and I love being a Navy Chaplain, but there is no place inside of the church for the most part to bring those attitudes and I have intentionally tried to downplay that side of myself as a pastor (some would say unsuccessfully).  Also, while the way Mark Smith describes the Marines he served with makes me cringe, because I know many who don't fit that description, I do understand somewhat where he is coming from with that comment as another reason why lumping military descriptions onto the church is unnecessary and counterproductive.

That being said, as a Marine I do also get what Stephen is saying, and I have read the article.  I do agree with his first point on identity thinking about the difference that Marine Corps boot camp is at least attempting to make that changes the inside mindset and instills the most important quality of being able to look yourself in the mirror and say, "I am a United States Marine."  That hopefully changes how you carry yourself, do your job, fight, etc.  I know I'm biased, but having spent 11 years with Marines and now 11 years with Sailors, I feel pretty safe saying the Marine Corps does a pretty good job changing your mindset about how you see yourself and the Navy doesn't (at least not at 8 weeks of boot camp).  There is a huge difference in obedience to orders, pride in appearance, and an overall identity as a Marine than that of a Sailor or a Soldier who are far more likely to identify themselves by either their job in the Navy or their unit in the Army.  Because of instilling that identity as a Marine, there does tend to be less need to put in external disciplinary actions for those basics of being in the Marine Corps because they become part of who you are.  As a Christian, there are certain patterns and responses to our life that become part of who we are because of our identity with Jesus Christ, so in that narrow sense, I agree with the point being made.  Also, I am speaking totally in generalities here, you can find bad apples in any service or MOS/NEC (military job specialty), and the average American culture has greatly affected the recruits coming into all of our Armed Forces even since I went through boot camp 22 years ago.  

While I may tend to agree at one point, it is tenuous at best to use the connection between the two since there are plenty of us in the Military who know that the picture painted by an outsider is not always what the reality is, and I completely disagree that boot camp style discipline should have any model in the church for discipleship.  In fact, I would even argue that generally past boot camp, there are very limited circumstances even in a military context where that form of drill instructor discipline is best.  

So, I guess I'm saying that I actually disagree with the section that Tyler agreed with parts of and agreed with the section he disagreed with the most strongly.  However, I completely agree that the military analogy is strained and best not used.

 

Stephen Enjaian's picture

TylerR wrote:

There are two disagreements I have about your article in general:

  1. I believe you have been influenced by pro-military propaganda in your description of Marine bootcamp. Tom Ricks is a good author. I particularly liked his book The Fiasco and his other work on the surge on Iraq. But, I think there is a very real problem with mythologizing the military in this country, particularly among the Christian conservatives. 
  2. In particular, I believe it is a terrible mistake to equate military culture with Christian service.  

Tyler,

I appreciate that you seriously engaged my points. You are right, I have not been to boot camp. But one of my sons recently graduated, so I was able to compare his experiences with what I had read and, to a limited extent, get a fuller perspective. From your perspective, I can understand why you think I have been too much persuaded by military propaganda. But I fear you are still misreading what I am saying.

I was making broad comparisons and drawing general lessons. You are right--military culture is not the equivalent of Christian culture. But they are similar in broad ways that allow us to learn helpful lessons. Perhaps you have read what I wrote the way many Christians read Jesus' parables; over analyzing the details so that the main point is overshadowed. For example, by over analyzing the details of Jesus' parable in Luke 16 you could argue that Jesus used a poor example and you could conclude that He was condoning dishonesty. However imperfectly, I was trying to do something like Jesus was doing. 

You made a valid point about the limits of instilling self-discipline in the military. Even the Marines, a human organization, cannot transform people's hearts. (You might be overstating your point, though). Many people have greatly benefited for a lifetime from military discipline). But my point is the same. The lesson is still the same for the church, even more so because the Holy Spirit is the decisive agent.

I think you are on the right track with your conclusion. In answer to your final question, a good one, I would steer you back to what I said about how Scripture is taught and could be taught.

Thank you for pushing me on this. Hopefully, the exchanges have brought helpful clarity.

Grace.

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Personally, appreciated the article. It's always interesting to me how people want to define a group by its worst constituents rather than its best or average ones... though they do not want people do define the groups they are in that way.  (The famous "Christians are just hypocrites" comes mind. Of course many of them are, but we don't want this to define what a Christian is... and rightfully so!)

One thing I took away from the article: the Marines are not afraid to value discipline, authority, and duty. The modern church could definitely stand to learn from that. (It's clear from a comprehensive reading of the epistles, that the apostles were not afraid of these concepts either!)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Five dollars if you know where that quote is from, and can complete the line . . .

Aaron wrote:

It's always interesting to me how people want to define a group by its worst constituents rather than its best or average ones... though they do not want people do define the groups they are in that way

I have to assume that's directed at Mark and I. I'll say this much, and I beg Stephen's forgiveness:

  • It is a fact that most enlisted military members (particularly the young and single ones) go out together, drink, have pre-marital sex, swear, and commit all manner of immoral acts. This is not maligning the group by the bad actions of a few. It's a fact. Barracks life is immoral and bad. BAD. My characterization isn't a smear job. It's a fact. Take college dorm life, transport it to a foreign country or an exotic foreign port, throw in nonexistent drinking laws, and the excitement of military life, stir, add seasoning and the fact that all parties involved are young, trim and fit, and tell me what you'll get. Anybody who's been in the military can tell you what you'll get, and you can imagine the rest . . .
  • It's also a fact that many Christians know almost no doctrine, are shallow believers, and are not plugged into their local churches. That doesn't mean they don't go to church. It means they aren't discipled and plugged in. That's a fact. 

This doesn't define a military member, but it's an honest and frank look at the lifestyle of an average 18-yr old serving overseas. Likewise for the Christian example. Not trying to be rude, but the rose-colored glasses need to come off when it comes to the military. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jim's picture

We owe them a great deal. It's an all volunteer system. They put their lives on the line for us. 

  • Many are of the lower to lower middle class
  • The pay is not great
  • The accommodations are rustic at best
  • Contrast the private school class of kids with the service personnel 
  • Frankly many churches forget their service people when they go off

A story from my son. After he came back from Iraq I couldn't hardly peel anything about his combat duty from him. One night as we were sitting in the living room there was a very loud crack of thunder from a lightning strike near the house. The house lit up and of course the loud crash. We all jumped including the cats who quickly ran down towards the bedroom to get under the bed. 

Roger said: that's nothing like incoming rocket fire. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Amen to all you said. I'm not so sure I agree with you about the pay. I was a 27 year old E-6, making $58,000 stateside. Downrange or overseas, you make much more. Of course, it's not "enough" to put up with what you do, but it's not bad.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jim's picture

Roger;s experience:

  • At a large airbase (Al Asad) in Iraq; large shipping containers converted into housing. He said the water smelled like sewage
  • Later at Al Qaim (Syrian boarder). In basically a train maintenance shop with plywood laid over tracks. He choppered into Fallujah after the Marines cleaned that rat's nest out. 
  • In Afghanistan. Kandahar was nice but later in FOBs ... often tents and sometimes when out and about sleeping in the open under the stars.

My son is an E-6 but is in an OCS program now

Stephen Enjaian's picture

Ben Howard wrote:

Tyler,

As a former Marine Staff Sergeant and a current Navy Reserve Chaplain, I agree with what you're saying about the church (especially fundamentalists) being influenced by pro-military propaganda.  That's one reason why I barely mentioned Memorial Day on Sunday and would never wear my uniform to preach in outside of required Navy/Marine Corps functions (which some people on Sunday suggested I do).  So, it does raise the hairs on the back of my neck whenever someone starts comparing the church with the military. I love the Marine Corps and being a Marine, and I love being a Navy Chaplain, but there is no place inside of the church for the most part to bring those attitudes and I have intentionally tried to downplay that side of myself as a pastor (some would say unsuccessfully).  Also, while the way Mark Smith describes the Marines he served with makes me cringe, because I know many who don't fit that description, I do understand somewhat where he is coming from with that comment as another reason why lumping military descriptions onto the church is unnecessary and counterproductive.

While I may tend to agree at one point, it is tenuous at best to use the connection between the two since there are plenty of us in the Military who know that the picture painted by an outsider is not always what the reality is, and I completely disagree that boot camp style discipline should have any model in the church for discipleship.  In fact, I would even argue that generally past boot camp, there are very limited circumstances even in a military context where that form of drill instructor discipline is best.  

However, I completely agree that the military analogy is strained and best not used.

Ben,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. 

I understand why the Marines who have commented have been critical. But again, I think you are reading things that I did not write or intend.  I did not say that drill instructor discipline should be incorporated in church. I said that Christians should be energetically and personally discipling other Christians, that each of us should be receiving the energetic and personal discipling attention of other Christians. In that sense, and that sense alone, we should learn from the drill instructors.

I was not making a one-for-one, blanket comparison between the Corps and the church, except perhaps in certain specifically defined ways, as in the above example. By the way, if the Marines should not be used to teach lessons in these areas, then perhaps Jesus' parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16 was an inappropriate analogy for disciple living, since Jesus held up for emulation a man who actually cheated his employer. If you read Jesus' parable the way it seems you are reading my post, that's what you will get from it.

I plead with you and other pastors who read the post, please consider: are you teaching the Bible so that people simply observe what you learned, or are you engaging them directly in the text with provocative questions that give them the joy of discovery? Are you cultivating the identity thinking that Scripture lays out? Are you modeling and fostering energetic, attentive discipling?

TylerR's picture

Editor

No pay would be enough for being downrange. The pay in general, though, isn't bad. My own default idea of deployment means ships, not desert sand, though! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

bobbycook's picture

There is gambling going on in this establishment.

I have always admired the concept of Semper Fi. There is Someone larger than myself to whom I should be willing to give myself and serve faithfully. Sadly, the vast majority of Christians are not enamoured with this view as their life's purpose.

Anne Sokol's picture

Stephen Enjaian wrote:

I plead with you and other pastors who read the post, please consider: are you teaching the Bible so that people simply observe what you learned, or are you engaging them directly in the text with provocative questions that give them the joy of discovery? Are you cultivating the identity thinking that Scripture lays out? Are you modeling and fostering energetic, attentive discipling?

The article was interesting, but lacked examples. I'd like to know more. I'm not getting bogged down into the military disconnect. I am more bogged down by seeing so many personality-led churches and Christians propped up by a pastor instead of having their own walk with God.

So, Stephen, can you give me some specific examples of what this looks like (your paragraph) in practice? I am sincerely open and asking. No foul motives Smile

Stephen Enjaian's picture

Anne Sokol wrote:

 

Stephen Enjaian wrote:

 

I plead with you and other pastors who read the post, please consider: are you teaching the Bible so that people simply observe what you learned, or are you engaging them directly in the text with provocative questions that give them the joy of discovery? Are you cultivating the identity thinking that Scripture lays out? Are you modeling and fostering energetic, attentive discipling?

 

The article was interesting, but lacked examples. I'd like to know more. I'm not getting bogged down into the military disconnect. I am more bogged down by seeing so many personality-led churches and Christians propped up by a pastor instead of having their own walk with God.

 

So, Stephen, can you give me some specific examples of what this looks like (your paragraph) in practice? I am sincerely open and asking. No foul motives

That is a good question, Anne! I'm happy to try to explain. Your point about "Christians propped up by a pastor instead of having their own walk with God" is a crucial observation. I think that is fundamentally a problem of two unhealthy trends in the church. One is that we undervalue what the words of Scripture actually say. So many are simply not being taught how to make sense of Scripture on their own.

So I will lead off by illustrating "cultivating appetites" (for Scripture), combined with "energetic disciple-making." This will be from my experience, so please understand that I don't intend it as normative for everyone, only an example of what disciple life might look like. For the past year I have been meeting with other men, one or two a week, for breakfast and fellowship in the Word. (I'm meeting one tomorrow). I choose a passage, and print only the text with line numbers on a sheet of paper. With pencils in hand, we drill down the passage together.

It goes something like this. Before reading together, I ask the brother to try to read as if for the first time, hold his assumptions and prior knowledge loosely. After reading the passage aloud together, I start asking questions. "What is this?" (narrative, instruction, poetry). Then, "what does it say?" (Start using "the pencil and write observations).

Then I suggest that we put ourselves in the scene in order to see how the people there would have made sense of what Jesus did. I start asking more specific questions that we discuss. If we're looking at, say Mark 7:31-37, the sequence might go something like this. "Where did this event take place?" "What kind of people live there?" "Has Jesus been there before?" "Based on what Mark says, how would we know?" ("Why do these people think Jesus can help a deaf guy?") "What happened when Jesus was there before?"

Then, "What did the crowd want from Jesus, what words did Mark use?" "What is the first thing Jesus did?" "What did that accomplish?" "What did Jesus do next?" "What might the deaf man have thought then?" What did Jesus do next?" (etc.)

Then I will ask some guided questions to try to answer the third big question, "What does it mean?" "Did Jesus have to do all those things in order to heal the man?" Why then might He have done them?" Then a direct question: If Mark had wanted to tell us merely that Jesus had healed a deaf man, how might he have done it?" "So why then did Mark include the details?" "What do we learn about Jesus from these details, about the kind fo person Jesus is, about how He interacts with people?" Then I ask a few questions to help us answer, "What does it mean to me?"

I'm giving you a lot of detail myself, I hope not too much. It's just that this kind of process is used so rarely that maybe I needed to spell out exactly what I meant. Studying Scripture this way with others is one of my greatest joys. It's fun to watch people gain fresh insights for themselves and learn things that poise them for real growth. Christians who aren't taught to understand and enjoy Scripture for themselves will come to church depending on someone else to do it for them, hoping the music will give them an emotional boost, and lacking the resources to help others who might come to them with a need.

Here is a different kind of example of energetic disciple-making. Someone mentions a need to you. Instead of saying, "I'll pray for you," do it on the spot. And before you do, listen carefully to what and how they express. Ask questions like, "What do you think the Spirit might want to accomplish in you through this?" "How do you think Jesus might want to meet this need in a way that will cause His fame to spread a little further?"

Here's an example of "identity thinking." You hear someone say, "well, I'm just a sinner saved by grace," or "I can't seem to have victory over this. I'm a sinful person." In my thinking, there is an identity problem in those statements. An energetic discipler might take that brother or sister to Ephesians 4:17-24 and help them notice what Paul is saying, something akin to the points I made in the article. Building identity thinking is a long process and can happen often because it has to do with how Christians handle sin. It's not just telling Jesus you're sorry and moving on.

Several years ago I began evangelizing a Hispanic co-worker. Due to language barriers I put him and his wife in touch with someone I knew as a student at BJU, another Hispanic. That man introduced my co-worker and his wife to new life in Jesus. But he didn't just "plug them into a church." He spent time with them almost every week for a solid year, teaching them, answering their questions, praying with them. Today that family is a thriving, disciple-making family. That is energetic disciple-making.

This has gone on too long. If it was not helpful, tell me and I will try again, only not so long.

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm certainly not naive about what the average young adult male in the military probably does with his free time. But two things about that...

1. What does the average nonmilitary young adult male do with his free time? So... you could substitute all the criticisms of "military" guys with "nonmililtary" guys and pretty much say all the same things. Which is why...

2. I don't think that's very relevant. ... the article is not about what individuals do when they are, more or less, escaping from the USMC culture, but what is the USMC culture aiming to teach, and what does it do that might be instructive for the church?

I just see increasing #'s of young men who have no concept at all of duty, responsibility, honor, sacrifice for a higher a purpose, the demands of being part of a larger whole. Whether or not it is as successful as we (or or they) would like, I'm glad the military still aims to teach these concepts. The church would do well to teach them also.   (It's not a coincidence that the apostles so often compared the Christian life to the life of a soldier)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Anne Sokol's picture

Stephen, I will be thinking about what you wrote. Here in Ukraine in our church, this is needed.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Stephen:

I wanted to comment briefly on your excellent post, specifically this bit:

But he didn't just "plug them into a church." He spent time with them almost every week for a solid year, teaching them, answering their questions, praying with them. Today that family is a thriving, disciple-making family. That is energetic disciple-making.

This is an excellent model. I just wish I had the time and the trained people to put this into practice.

  • I'm the Pastor of a very small church. Two years ago we had a combined total of 20 people. Now we have around 35-40; including kids. 
  • The folks are older, tired and generally not well taught. They're good people, just not teachers who can disciple others. That's ok. 
  • I only have so much time in the day, etc. 
  • I am only now getting some younger families into this church who I'd like to begin delegating some leadership responsibilities to. This will take a while, but we're on the right track. 

Because I just can't personally disciple folks like you're suggesting, and I don't have the personnel to train and deploy to do it for me, I have to make do with it in my sermons. I intentionally ask probing questions to make people think about context, intent, etc. Sunday School in particular is really a Bible study, not a preaching service. We talk, discuss and learn together. I'm doing what I can with what I have, but I wish I could do more. 

The discipleship method you discuss is indeed energetic, focused and intentional. It's good. I wish I could do it here,, but I'm trying to move us in that direction. If only I could clone myself! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ron Bean's picture

I have been in Tyler's situation as both a member of and pastor to a small church. In the last few years I've begun to realize that discipleship is not as complicated as I thought. 

Encourage your people to develop spiritual relationships with each other. (Every meeting does not have to be a Bible study.) Encourage them to meet one-on-one or in small groups and talk about the things of God, maybe share personal struggles, pray with one another, discuss sermons, hold each other accountable for their individual walks with God.

My mother was a member of a small church with pastors of limited abilities who never had a discipleship class in her life. At her funeral and in the 9 years since, I have heard countless stories of her discipling other believers through prayer, encouragement, or sharing personal experiences with them to strengthen their relationship with God. She would call it "being their friend". 

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Stephen Enjaian's picture

TylerR wrote:

 

The discipleship method you discuss is indeed energetic, focused and intentional. It's good. I wish I could do it here,, but I'm trying to move us in that direction. If only I could clone myself! 

Tyler,

Thank you for reminding me of the challenges of discipling in a small church. Ron made his points well, so I won't repeat. I would suggest though, that while what he mentioned is essential to do, the fountainhead of thriving disciple life is spending lots of time with Jesus in the Word, getting to know what He is like, even what He likes.

With some adjustments for what your schedule will allow, I think discipling those in your small church doesn't differ all that much from how I might do it in my big church. A few years ago a friend taught me to read Scripture well, the way I do and share it now. I got so excited about it (still am), and I wanted to share it with everyone in my church. I asked him how I could possibly do that. He said, "Just start infecting people." He meant infecting people with the joy of seeing Jesus as the treasure, by sitting down together and getting real good looks at Him.

Tyler, would it be possible for you to approach one or two men in your church whom you think might be receptive, and offer to meet with them (early for breakfast maybe), perhaps once or twice a month, and start doing something like that? You know, in His earthly incarnation, Jesus gathered a small group of men around Him with the apparent intention that they would end up doing the things He does. They did, and here we are today. I think that is His intention for us: reproduce in a few others what He produces in us. Most of the people I meet with now are repeats, a few people who were receptive before and might be interested in helping spread the good news that ordinary people can understand and enjoy the Bible for themselves!

Here's an invitation. We have the technology tool of Skype. Would you be interested in using Skype and doing a Bible dig with me? I noticed you said you use probing questions when you teach your church, and I'm assuming you do a good job. But maybe I can share something with you that would be of help and encouragement to you (and maybe vice versa). I have been doing Bible digs with my own pastor, now about once a month or so. It was a little intimidating at first because he is an excellent Bible teacher. But it has turned out to be a wonderful time of mutual building up and encourgement that we both look forward to. If you're interested, either reply or send a PM. 

I'll close with a prayer.

Spirit of God, You know the challenges that Tyler faces at Faith Baptist Church in Illinois. However, we know that You have resources from Jesus that we have hardly begun to tap. You have inspired the living Word, and it is that Word that gives life and growth. I think you gave that Word so that ordinary people could understand it. Would you be interested in arranging opportunities for Tyler to begin investing in a few good men in his church who will teach others also? Would You be interested in showing him who that might be? Would you show him how you want to step into Faith Baptist and stir up things in a good way. Whatever you intend to do, do it for the spread of Jesus' fame. Amen.

Jay's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
I have been in Tyler's situation as both a member of and pastor to a small church. In the last few years I've begun to realize that discipleship is not as complicated as I thought. 

Encourage your people to develop spiritual relationships with each other. (Every meeting does not have to be a Bible study.) Encourage them to meet one-on-one or in small groups and talk about the things of God, maybe share personal struggles, pray with one another, discuss sermons, hold each other accountable for their individual walks with God.

My mother was a member of a small church with pastors of limited abilities who never had a discipleship class in her life. At her funeral and in the 9 years since, I have heard countless stories of her discipling other believers through prayer, encouragement, or sharing personal experiences with them to strengthen their relationship with God. She would call it "being their friend".

I contacted a man last night that I've been interested in 'discipleship' for a couple of weeks now; our lives have been a little chaotic and we haven't been able to touch base.  After we got done catching up and talked a little bit about doing a study together, I hung up and was thinking about it. 

What I do to 'disciplemake' isn't really a formal system as I learned it at NBBC or BJU; I wish I could do that system, but life gets in the way and it's difficult to meet up with people who work radically schedules from mine (I'm a 9-5 guy, he works 3-11).  It's two things - learning to care about people and helping other people grow in Christ.  That's it.  It can be a big bible study with twelve people or something that happens if I go to the gym with another believer and we talk about spiritual things for a couple of minutes.

Don't get discouraged that you aren't 'disciplemaking' in the sense of churning out new widgets for Jesus.  Just find someone and pour some of what you believe into them.

Tyler, I've found that SS as a bible study tends to work a LOT better than 'preaching services'.  It sounds like you are doing the right things - keep it up.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Ron Bean's picture

I liked the reference to infection. If we can encourage our people to have meaningful, spiritual contact with each other outside of SS and church meetings, we've started the process. I work retail and my schedule is random. I send out an email with my availability to those I'm meeting with and we find a way

Corporate worship is an integral part of the Christian's life, but for too many people the passive action of sitting in a room listening to someone else talk continuously about the Bible for 45 minutes is the only spiritual engagement they have each week along with their private devotional life.

I also remember being in a church where the mere thought of church members getting together in small groups without a staff member in attendance (especially to discuss the sermon) was considered subversive activity.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

alex o.'s picture

"If righteousness were through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose" (Gal.2.21)

Then:

"If the Marines' methods can teach true self-discipline (and, therefore true righteousness), then the Holy Spirit is superfluous"

What's the difference? 

This is just a carnal method much like using business practices to grow a church. If I am right, these methods are just wood, hay, stubble. The bible reveals persons: The Triune God. So it is more about relationships (with God) provided by the New Covenant. Fundamentalists however tend to get the heebee jeebees when faced with these kinds of relationships. They are much happier looking for a 'key' or method and saying "we are superior than so and so." This is characteristic of the Bob Jones' type of Fundamentalism. The reasons for division from others was based on faulty biblical understanding of certain concepts. These sounded superior but after careful scrutiny, bogus.

Separation as a method is good but not a key or central to anything except in an internal sense mostly. So separation from Bob Jones type of Fundamentalism would be fine. 

 

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Ron Bean's picture

Sometimes they're wiser than we are.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

alex o.'s picture

Jim wrote:

The Warrior Ethos: Why We Leave No One Behind

In contrast to Kick 'em when they are down

Anecdote: Under rocket attack: fellow Marine threw my son to ground and fell upon him to protect him. To my son, that man is a lifelong friend. 

I love my country and I love business where needs can be met with best practices. Can we apply principles from business and the military to the local church? Not if one wants to keep "life" in the church. You see Jim, the Christian life is "Christ in you, the hope of glory".

The personal example you cited could be due to the soldier's personal pathos and not due to training he received. This is still the Old Covenant way. After all wasn't the law about loving God and humans? Also, one of the main facets of the law was to expose our need: to slay us in a sense. Then the law of the sacrifice took over which pictured Christ's love.

The New Covenant now has "Christ in us" as pictured by the Lord's supper and as promised in the OT prophets. The New Covenant is also anti-hierarchy and anti-institutionalist. This is probably one of the first deviations in church history, institutionalizing the faith. I understand the need for schools and missions but not at the expense of violating doctrine. The Fundamentalists saw this too but for the most part chose faulty principles and became control freaks. This was something much worse than they were trying to avoid.

 

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Pages