Several years ago, when I was a brand new Active Duty Army Chaplain, I got a call from an Army chaplain recruiter. A pastor of a Baptist church in Southern California had called to ask about becoming a chaplain. Although the pastor was in a wonderful church and was doing a great job as their pastor, he felt that the Lord might be leading him to redirect his pastoral and discipleship efforts to Soldiers, instead of among civilians.
I asked the recruiter why he was telling me about the pastor, and he said, “The guy’s wearing me out with his questions. He literally calls every day of the week with another couple of questions. And after I answer the question, he has ten more. I’m not exaggerating here!”
I agreed to take on the challenge of staying in touch with the pastor, and I called him. He admitted that he always has lots of questions, even to the point that while he was in seminary, classmates referred to him as Captain Interrogative.
“Here’s the deal I’d like to make with you,” I said.
“Yes, deal. I’m willing to answer every question you come up with, on two conditions.”
“OK, what are they?”
“First, you may call me or email me up to three times a week, Monday through Friday during the workday. Second, you will keep a record of every question you ask and every answer I provide.”
“Oh yeah? Why?”
“You have a right to know everything you possibly can know before making the decision to transition from your church ministry to the military. Since you and your wife need to pray over this potential move together, you need to keep a notebook that you can both review from time to time. And after you have the answers to all your questions, you’ll have a large notebook full of information about ministry in the military, and who knows, maybe you’ll be able to help someone else someday.”
The guy agreed, and boy did he have a ton of questions. In the process of Q&A, he and I became good friends. My wife and I even visited his church to see him in action and meet his wife. After about six months, he had a fat notebook filled with everything he needed to know about military chaplain ministry. He made the decision to apply and was selected.
It’s important to keep in mind that ministry in the military is in many ways the same as ministry in a local congregation. Men and women in the uniformed services have the same needs as those who are schoolteachers, plumbers, mechanics, or salespersons. The context is different and there are some issues particular to the military, as there are in any field. But Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines need someone to teach them the Bible, provide pastoral counseling, visit them when they’re sick, model effective relationship styles, and set an example for how to live for Jesus, just like anyone in any town in America.
The above is an excerpt from the book titled Military Ministry: Chaplains in the Twenty-First Century, written by Paul Linzey and Keith Travis, published by Wipf & Stock.