America’s Greatest Treasures

Before I entered the Army as a Chaplain, I served in local churches as a staff minister. These days it seems the mega-churches with multimillion dollar buildings and audiovisual, publishing and broadcasting resources get all the press and most of the glory.

While these houses of worship do a great work – indeed, I have used their resources, they often have a disadvantage over small churches. I have seen many Soldiers with strong spiritual core. I have seen some solid Christians. But to be honest, I have encountered more Soldiers who are struggling spiritually. Either they have no relationship with God or do not believe in the divine. They have heard of God, and may have even heard and seen programs from America’s megachurches. So those churches’ messages are getting out, but they aren’t getting through to everyone. We have more evangelical big events than we know what to do with, yet we are failing in our mission to reach members of our armed forces – whose job it is to literally protect the freedom we have to our evangelical big events. Suicide rates, numbers of clinically depressed young men and women, and other serious issues are on the rise. Another big Christian worship camp isn’t addressing the issues I’m seeing. Not for the most part, at least.

As a Chaplain, I see that one-on-one trust-building relationships is probably the most effective way to do ministry. Soldiers and their family members could be considered as thermometers that reveal the spiritual health of America’s families. If that’s the case – we are unhealty.

I see that small churches, or communities of faith that emphasize creative neighborhood outreaches as opposed to large, centralized worship events, may have an advantage over the larger churches that focus on the worship service. Yes, worship of God is priority one. But there is the worship service and the service of worship.

I have come to believe – since I’ve been a Chaplain, that what is needed the most in America is Christians reaching out to their neighbors to develop caring, trusting relationships. Discover what the needs are and organize the church’s resources to help meet those needs. Non-Christians are more likely to start attending a small church where someone has shown them love and care, and where they can feel part of a family and not lost in the shuffle.

I wonder if the American Church may have high-teched itself out of relevancy. As a Chaplain, I am better able to share faith in one-on-one relationships than with programs or worship services. Worship services have an important place – but not at the expense of more difficult one on one relationship building.

I would go as far to say that small churches that are outreach minded are America’s greatest treasure. Because you can have the most highly trained, best equipped Soldier in the world. But if that Soldier has a lack of faith or a lack of spiritual core that helps him or her stay focussed and resilient, that is a Soldier who is weak within.

I must say that the health of America’s families are revealed every day in the Soldiers we see. And I must say that I think the largest risk to the security of our nation is the lack of spiritual center. This is more threatening to the United States than terrorist attacks.

Small churches? Pray for the hearts, minds and families of our Soldiers. And realize the small church has an advantage over the mega church. Small churches are able to develop relationships with the lost a little bit easier. Pray for the TOTAL heaths and health of the Soldiers. But even more so, pray for the hearts and minds of the Soldiers. And….do your parts to protect our country from the enemy described in Ephesians 6. Reach out – truly reach out and care for your neighbors. That way, when they do join the armed forces, they might already have a spiritual core that Chaplains can help them nurture!

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