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Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. — I Timothy 3:14-16
Our beloved pastor preached one Sunday on the Church. I will share only a brief outline, followed by best practices which any church can apply in their own way to serve the military in their midst. But if you want to hear the entire sermon, click here.
The Apostle Paul gave Timothy encouragement and direction in how to lead his church, most likely in ancient Ephesus. The instruction is valid today, and worthy of examination.
A. From I Timothy 3:15a we Remember what the church is:
- It is a family. Paul describes the church as the house, or household, of God, depending on the translation. Paul’s metaphor here is not that of a building—but of a family. Believers are members of a unique and special family, and this same truth is emphasized in Ephesians 2:19: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.” Also in Galatians 6:10 we read, “Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
- It is the assembly of the living God. It is God’s church, His family. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote that the church is “God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:14). Because God dwells in us, when we come together we come as “the church of the living God.” “And in Him you too are being built up together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)
B. Pastor John’s second point was that in I Timothy 3:15b we Recognize what the church does:
- The church is the defender of truth. In other words it guards and protects the precious truths of God’s word. The church has the sacred stewardship of the Scriptures. It is the church and the church alone which has been tasked with providing the solid bedrock of truth as found in God’s word.
- The church is light shining in darkness. Every church should stand against the prevailing tide of a sinful culture.
- The church is stability to the individual believer. We are in accountable relationships, for the good of each other. There should be within the body of Christ a willingness to be held accountable and a willingness to hold others accountable.
- The church is the avenue by which we serve and encourage one another. In Hebrews 10:24 we read: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”
- The church is the agent by which the Great Commission is carried out. Paul writes in I Thessalonians 1:8: “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out . . . “
C. His last sermon point was: From I Timothy 3:16 we Recommit to Whom the church belongs:
After explaining what the church is and does, Paul goes into a praise chorus focused upon the person of Jesus. Why? The more you focus upon Jesus—the more you love Jesus—the more you will love the church and be committed to it. The church will be effective and productive and healthy and useful when glorifying, exalting, and lifting up Christ remains the central theme of all that we do.
The church is the family of God—the assembly of the living God. The church is the defender of truth—the light shining in darkness—the place of accountability and encouragement—the place to serve—and place that helps us to go on. And above all else—the church is led by Jesus—and therefore we say “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20,21)
We can take what Pastor John laid out before us as an exposition of God’s word and apply it in our churches and chapels in order to serve those who serve our country so faithfully. Remember, if you believe in the sovereignty of God, military members come to your church or chapel for a reason—but they will only be there for a season.
So our question is, how will you Respond in order to minister to military members and families during that season so that they go on to their next assignment or deployment at a higher level of spiritual maturity?
Here are some best practices which my husband and I have observed and recorded (we use the word “church” to refer to both churches and chapels):
- Prayer. If your church has a prayer meeting, a prayer team, or a prayer list, make sure your military members and families are on it, at their request. They need your prayers!
- Hospitality. Practice hospitality. Military members and families are delighted to be included in meal times at members’ homes—after church or during the week.
- Small Group. Consider offering a small group Bible study or “life group” for your military members, both as in-reach to provide fellowship with a common bond and as an outreach to bring in other military members searching for spiritual growth.
- Ask Good Questions. A church needs to approach a military member or family and ask good questions: “How can we serve you during your time here?” “How can we pray for you?” “What can we do to get you to the next level of spiritual training before sending you to your next assignment?”
- Marriage Enrichment. Form a Marriage Enrichment Team in your church to serve your married couples with small group and seminar training. Military couples (singles, too) particularly need training in their relationships because of the unique challenges they encounter.
- Special Days. Special emphases (or banquets) on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and 4th of July are always appropriate times to honor our military. Suggest that the military wear their uniforms on one of these days—even the veterans!
- “Commissioning”. Before military members and families PCS, invite them to the front of the church during or at the close of worship for a special time of prayer. This can be considered a “commissioning” as you send them off to minister/serve at their new duty station.
- Staff Training. Provide periodic education to your pastoral staff to ensure they remain keenly aware and appreciative of the unique challenges of military life. Hopefully they will be supportive, encouraging, and open to new ideas for helping.
- Childcare. Anytime a study is formed or group is organized with military members and families include a plan for childcare, if possible.
- Support Groups and Bible Studies. Consider offering a support group/Bible study group for those with combat trauma, or those who have a loved one with combat trauma. The books The Combat Trauma Healing Manual and When War Comes Home are excellent resources for these groups. A Bridges to Healing seminar might pave the way for this group to begin in your church.
- Establish a Reputation. Sign on to the Military Missions Network (MMN) as a “military friendly” or a “military focused” church. Acquaint your Missions Team with MMN’s “The 4th Missionary Journey” and the new web portal MilitaryBeliever.com!! www.militarymissionsnetwork.com
- Relocation Services. Before they PCS, make sure that your military member and families are pointed to a like-minded church from your denomination or the Military Missions Network at their new duty station. This helps them to take steps to get connected immediately upon arrival.
- People of calling. Be aware that the calling of First Responders is very similar to the military calling. Your church may desire to incorporate First Responders into ministry to military.
During the deployment cycle your church can also actively participate:
- Before Deployment. Schedule a time for the military member and spouse to spend with the pastoral staff, Sunday school teacher, or deacons. This is a time to set up accountability, to encourage, and to make sure that the needs of the family at home are discussed and assigned to appropriate church members.
- Before Deployment. Call the service member and family up to the front of the church for a special time of prayer.
- During Deployment. Assign someone to email daily or weekly prayers, devotions and/or sermons to the deployed service members as a group. Our church uses Oswald Chambers’ daily prayers to email to our deployed group.
- During Deployment. Remember the Holidays! The Sunday School classes can send each deployed member care packages and holiday greeting cards. Don’t forget to honor the family at home with special giftings.
- During Deployment. Support those at home. Consider offering a support group for the wives/husbands of those deployed. It might be a good opportunity to do a Bible study like Loving Your Military Man.
- During Deployment. If the military member agrees, make their addresses available to the church body either in the bulletin or on the A-V screen for further communication and as a prayer reminder.
- After Deployment. Recognize the service member and family for their sacrificial service after the deployment. You may want to give them an opportunity to speak, to thank the church for support, and/or to give their testimony of how God worked in their lives during their time of deployment.
In summary, the church is a precious gift from God and we should never take it for granted. To God be the Glory!
Hebrews 10:25—“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Questions to Share:
1. What church “best practices” can you identify as particularly helpful to you and your spouse during deployments?
2. If you are not an active member of a local church, pray that the Lord would lead you to one. If you are a member, consider how you can pray for your pastor and the church.