Military to Ministry

Last year while out to dinner, I had a chance to speak with a young Airman who was training to be a Pararescue Jumper (PJ).  As we spoke, the conversation turned to my taking classes for a bachelor’s degree in Theology and plans to attend Seminary, as well as my many years of service in ministry at multiple churches.  The Airman was curious to learn more about my having been a Marine and my transition into ministry.  He later emailed me for further details.

His main question was about being trained to be aggressive and demonstrate power, and that he thought that would be incompatible with being a disciple of Jesus Christ.   Here is what I told him, based on my personal experience:

I was in the Marine Corps for 7 months and was honorably discharged as a PFC (E-2) with disability in 1989. Basic training in the Marine Corps is designed to make every Marine a capable combat rifleman, without exception. While we were trained to be aggressive and exhibit power when in combat, we are taught discipline, honor, courage, etc. The training instills in Marines a confidence that comes through in our demeanor, but we are taught to be very disciplined and not be aggressive unless the situation warrants it, especially when dealing with civilians or non-combatants.
There are aspects of military training that are very compatible with ministry and serving the LORD, and there are things that are not compatible and have to be discarded.  In fact, there are many things about serving the LORD that I learned best while I was in the Marine Corps.  However, the one main thing that had to be discarded and must continually be prevented from taking control, is pride. I am continually learning that humility is actually more powerful.  Servant leadership, submission to authority, developing others, caring about people and doing what is best, but not always what is wanted or liked, are all part of the calling.
There are so many biblical examples, especially our Savior Jesus Christ, Creator God, who became a suffering servant and submitted Himself to the will of God our Father in Heaven, in order to demonstrate true humility without compromise, servant leadership, biblical discipleship.  The Centurion and Cornelius are two great godly examples in the New Testament.  David and his mighty men are great examples from the Old Testament.  (If David had followed God’s command for Kings found in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, he would not have fallen with Bathsheba and been guilty of her husband’s death).  Since we are all children of God through redemption in Jesus Christ, we are all best served in taking those principles to heart in order to be effective servant leaders who follow Christ.
Like Christ, in this life we are to be suffering servants by the leading of the Holy Spirit, so that having proven to be faithful, we will rule with Christ after the resurrection.  (See Matthew 25:23, and Joseph’s entire life in the Old Testament)

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