As I reflect back on my time in the SEAL Teams, I realize more and more that so much of military life translates to the local church. One of my favorite training drills was “IAD’s” (Immediate Action Drills). This is a training scenario where the platoon is faced with enemy contact. An insane amount of firepower is blasted towards the threat as the team does a sort of dance breaking away from the threat. It is overwhelming to see the amount of lead a SEAL platoon can sling downrange and for a significant amount of time. As the platoon disengages from the threat, in addition to expending a ton of rounds, we will travel a considerable distance. We will “rally up” once it is deemed relatively safe. In the “hasty rally” we will survey one another with two questions: 1) How much ammo do you have, and 2) are you okay? Guys with more ammo will share with guys who are running low and major injuries will be handled. We then quickly move to get out of there. There is no way to convey this experience into one paragraph (click here to see 2 minute video), but these experiences have transformed how I understand church life.
When I look out at the local church in our nation today, it seems like going to church is out for most. For others it is a time to “pay back” God with an hour of boredom (well that was my childhood), or to appease someone like the wife, mom, or girlfriend…if one goes at all. In this process we put on our “Sunday best” in order to show everyone how well we have this life mastered. This is so backwards as the emphasis is on externals, not on our reality. Hebrews 10:23-25 states this, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” I believe these verses paint a picture of church being more like the “hasty rally” in the SEAL teams, than the “doing our hour once a week” culture. Let me explain with a couple of points.
“How much ammo do you have?” Have you ever noticed how many military illustrations the Bible uses? Christians have been enlisted for military service (2 Tim. 2:3-4) and we need equipping for the warfare we face. As this relates to church our ammo could be likened to multiple things, but I will stick to the importance of Sundays worship service. The music and Bible teaching should draw one closer to God and deeper in their understanding of Him. As we grow in our understanding and relationship with Him we increase our fighting power.
“Are you okay?” Humans handle this question in a funny way. Without a doubt we answer, “I’m fine.” I don’t care if it’s the battlefield or the church. We like to hide our problems when things aren’t going well. We need to get over ourselves, let our guard down, and be real about our ups and downs. It’s okay to share your struggles, worries, and needs to fellow believers. We aren’t here to judge one another, but there are times when a brother’s confrontation of your sin can be the best thing for you (Prov. 27:6). The church is supposed to be a close-knit family where we can help and serve one another in this journey.
To the Believer. Choose your church wisely. Find a church where the Bible is taught. I am convinced that a church that teaches the Bible (actually going through and teaching the books of the Bible, not random topical teaching) is the best environment to foster spiritual health. Connect to a local church, be faithful, and don’t church hop. Get grounded in your local church. Part of the struggle is planting roots and developing meaningful relationships where you feel comfortable and there is someone who genuinely cares about you to listen. This doesn’t happen overnight. I’m not against the large church, but the reality is these types of deep relationships are harder to form to form in a crowded setting. Whatever size church you go to, get plugged in and be intentional about developing meaningful relationships.
To the pastor. Preach the Word. Develop a culture of transparency by being transparent yourself. Help the people of the church to develop meaningful relationships…I don’t have the answers of how to do this for your setting, but I am very convinced that we need to foster this in our churches today!