BCC Staff Note
As Christians we honor those brave men and women who serve and protect us by serving in the military. However, how well do we prepare Christians for military service? Our “Google Search” on “Preparing Christians for Military Service” found few resources. That’s why we’re providing this two-part BCC Grace & Truth blog series to at least introduce us to the topic. Whether you are a young person pondering a military career, someone currently in the military, a parent of someone planning to or now serving in the military, or a pastor or biblical counselor, Preparing Well for Military Service will offer valuable seed thoughts for this vital area.
We’ve chosen a blogger who is well-suited for this two-part series. Mark Worrell is Battalion Chaplain for the 91st Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He joined the US Army as a chaplain after he and his wife Shelly spent a year-and-a-half studying biblical counseling at Faith Church in Lafayette, Indiana. He completed his ACBC Certification this past summer and is looking forward to teaching a workshop on helping military marriages at the BCTC this year. The Worrell’s have a daughter, Scharleen, who is 2.
In Part One, Chaplain Worrell walks us through the decision to join the military, basic training, and how to prepare as a Christian. In Part Two, he introduces us to what military life will be like and how to prepare as a Christian.
John finally decided what he wanted to with his life—or at least the next four years of it. As an eighteen-year-old, he had graduated high school, completed ten credit hours at the local community college, and dabbled at a few local jobs.
At the age of nineteen, he was finally told by his mom and dad that it was time to “do something with your life.” He looked around at some of the options and found out that the military offered a lot of options for the future, whether he stayed in or not. He has the Post 9/11 GI Bill, Tuition Assistance, and with his ASVAB (aptitude test that assesses what your best fit would be for a job) score, it looked like there was a good chance to get the job Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) he wanted.
Then began the waiting game: he would go to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in three weeks, then he would know for sure on the job possibility. Three months later, he would ship out for Basic Training.
He knew that there was a pretty good chance he would go to war. After all, about 75% of the people who enter the military these days do deploy—and even the support roles, intelligence analysts, human resource specialists, and the like have to get around the battlefield to assist at outposts as well. Right away he began to research some of the big questions he had.
The goal of basic training is to break you down until you do not think you can handle it anymore, push you a little further, then get you to work with the guys to your left and right so you function completely as a team. They know they can trust you and you can trust them. Depending on what service you enter, Basic Training can be anywhere from 6 ½ weeks to 12 weeks (Army 9 weeks, Marine Corps 12 weeks, Navy 8, Coast Guard 8 weeks, and Air Force 6 and a half-weeks).
Each branch of service will prepare you a different way, since each has a different mission (or type of Warfighter they are trying to produce at the end). Typically, that will be followed with advanced training to help you understand your specialty better. The key, as a believer, is to depend on your faith in Christ to get through times like this and live out your faith in front of those you serve with.
This concept is essential to all services: if you joined the Army, the first very small but essential unit you would be introduced to is the battle buddy. It is a person that you trust with everything you do. They are the one that will be fighting right next to you in a foxhole or fighting position, someone that typically knows your thoughts, who and what matters to you, and where your shortcomings are (not to exploit them, but who can fill those gaps so that you can work extremely well together). In the Christian walk, we would call this kind of person an accountability partner.
Basic Training will not be easy. There will be times when your faith and walk in Christ are tested. This is where your church and the body of Christ need to work as a team as well. Look around your church and find a Christian “Battle Buddy,” someone you know will hold you accountable in your walk, someone you can pray with before, send notes to when you are struggling, and know they have your back during the difficult times.
When times get difficult, having someone that you know will ask how your walk was when you were in the field or on watch all night, will help keep you focused on pleasing God in all things.
“Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
Find a godly chapel on post and make sure you do not forsake the assembly (Hebrews 10:25) on Sundays. It will challenge you to make God the center of your time in basic training and it sets up a good “habit” or discipline of attending chapel or church at your first duty station. The military is a proving ground for a relationship with God. As people join the military, many say they are a Christian, but fall away from that relationship with God— and many others that pull closer to Him. Spending time with godly people before, during, and after basic training will help your relationship grow stronger as you learn from others and spur them on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)
Expect a lot of Physical Training (PT), classroom time, getting a lot of stuff given to you (uniforms) and thrown at you (information you must know). Typically you will at least see the majority of equipment you will work with. Work to master it so that you can be a blessing to others who are struggling, but do not be “that guy or girl”: the one who asks questions to sound smart, the one who tries to show everyone up, etc.
The Drill Sergeants will know your name by week one or two (very few people can duck them). Make sure they know it in a good way: your testimony for Christ, your competent character, and your love for your battle buddies. The military believes in making the way of the transgressor hard, so if you mess up or want to get out, do not expect it to be easy, even in basic training, they will find many details (extra work to keep you busy every hour of almost every day).
The easiest way out of the military is to keep your word and finish the contract that you signed. As God says, “It is better not to vow, than to vow and not pay (Ecclesiastes 5:5)” As a result of not keeping your word and looking for the easy way out, you may receive a general or other than honorable discharge which will cause many hurdles to overcome in finding jobs, supporting your family, etc.
The large majority of your drill sergeants have been to war. They know the pressures that you will face, the dilemmas that pulling the trigger in combat to take someone’s life cause, and the pain and anguish of losing a buddy right next to you—or the guy that took his spot when he went on Mid-tour leave. They care about you and want to prepare you for what you will face, no matter where the next conflict is.
There may be some Q & A times. Spend those times wisely: ask them to walk you through their unit history. What duty station did they like the best? The worst? What would have made the worst duty station better? How did they help serve others when morale was down?
Join the Conversation
What additional biblical wisdom/counsel would you suggest for the person just entering the military?