We all desire to connect, to be involved, to be needed or wanted, to have others to walk with us through life. We all desire community, relationships that build, encourage, strengthen, challenge, love, and keep us accountable. In a military world, this is difficult.
With our ever-changing locations and continuously fluid life, building community, developing relationships is a challenge that comes with the territory. Talking with other military members and their spouses and looking at military organizations that operate both virtually and in person, we are all looking at how to do this better. How do we create community, how do we develop relationships among like-minded believers that span the globe? Even more personal, how do we develop relationships in a room full of people who only have in common their military association and their faith? How do we become the Church when nothing is stable?
The questions are what I have heard from friends, through blogs, and even from my own mouth. How?
A Church exists in the military community – thank goodness. Strong, faithful, obedient Christ-followers who are answering the call God has placed on their lives, they do exist in our military world. Men and women of integrity and righteousness, humility and morality. God-fearing people who simply want to follow Christ. There are many of them. We have met them.
I tell you, I love to watch the Church at work in our world. But the Church, in practice, makes us think of a group of people gathering in the same place to worship and to serve. In a military world, this does not always work. We are together for a time, but it is constantly changing. Some military folks serve and worship in a local congregation and some in a military Chapel. Many military folks even worship and serve in a tent or other makeshift building in a Forward Operating Base somewhere in Afghanistan, on a ship, in an embassy compound, or in many other places around the world. A Church exists in the United States Military. An amazing Church.
The questions still exists, though – how do we develop relationship and community within that Church?
Chapels attempt to do this through small-group Bible study and fellowship. Military-associated organizations attempt to do this through retreats at their conference centers or neighborhood Bible studies they support in communities around the globe. Still others try to do this through online websites and blogs where they try to provide support and resources for our unique life.
All of these are great ideas, and sometimes they work. We develop relationships with many – some that last for a season and some for a lifetime. We start to build community, but someone moves or retires or whatever. Maintaining that relationship and cultivating it can be a challenge, especially if the ties were not that strong to begin with.
So how do we do it? How do we bring the military Church together to build, encourage, strengthen, challenge, love, and keep us accountable? How do we bond together enough to be real, vulnerable, and honest with each other? How do we keep growing together when we could be thousands of miles apart? This is the question for which I have no answer.
This is really something I have pondered much lately. I have been involved with all of these ideas, and still looking for more. Yes, we have strong Christ-following friends that we will have for a lifetime, but I so desire to truly build a Church for accountability, discipleship, worship, and evangelism, all within the world God has placed me. I know it has to start with Jesus and I must be ready for anything. He is at work. I know it.
I know many of you are military-related and many others of you serve in ministry in so many places, so I am asking you these questions, because I know God is working in your world too and surely you have encountered these questions as well. How? I have listed the questions again below. I would love your thoughts.
1. How do we bring the military Church together to build, encourage, strengthen, challenge, love, and keep us accountable?
2. How do we bond together enough to be real, vulnerable, and honest with each other?
3. How do we keep growing together when we could be thousands of miles apart?
Thank you for your thoughts, but more importantly for your prayer. God continues to work in and through us, He continues to build the Church in my small world and in yours, and He loves us more than life itself. May we continue to seek and to follow.