Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) held its second annual Military Community Emphasis Event on September 3-5, 2019. The event highlighted the missional and pastoral role of military chaplains, church planting in the military community, local church military ministry and ministering to military families.
“It is our hope and goal to see students, churches and chaplains equipped to go with the gospel to military communities,” said Jesse Parker, director of student resources and financial aid. “By reaching military communities there is an amazing opportunity to see the gospel go all throughout the world, and we want to come alongside what God is already doing within these communities. It is really exciting to be a part of seeing students, churches and chaplains equipped to go on mission for the glory of Christ.”
In chapel, Chaplain Doug Carver, who formally served as the U.S. Army’s 22nd Chief of Chaplains and currently serves as the executive director of chaplaincy for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), delivered a sermon on Ephesians 6:10-20 in chapel. Carver preached on the importance of standing on the truth of scripture, explaining that believers need to cling to scripture as the standard for truth in a world that will tell them otherwise.
“We must be agents of truth. Why? Because there is a war going on,” said Carver.
Carver also noted that knowing the truth found in the Creator God compels Christians to fulfill the Great Commission.
“You are being equipped to take forth the truth of God to our culture and every culture,” said Carver. “I challenge you this day. May we hold on to truth that is found only in Jesus.”
Following chapel, a Q&A panel took place where SBC Military Chaplains from the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard spoke on their ministry calling and context. The discussion included marriage and family life for military chaplains, the military demographic to whom chaplains minister and whether or not evangelical military chaplains can openly share the gospel within their units.
“Military chaplaincy has always been an extension of my pastoral identity,” said Army Chaplain Joseph “Stoney” Douthitt, commenting on the pastoral focus of this type of ministry.
Wednesday featured conversations about how local churches can better serve military families within their congregations and what it looks like to plant churches in military communities.
Chaplain Doug Carver, formally the U.S. Army’s 22nd Chief of Chaplains and currently the executive director of chaplaincy for NAMB, delivered a sermon on Ephesians 6:10-20 in chapel. Carver preached on the importance of standing on the truth of scripture, noting that knowing the truth found in the Creator God compels Christians to fulfill the Great Commission.
Panelists discussed the ways in which they have sought to minister to military families, including providing childcare for couples to grocery shop, connecting military members to a healthy community and helping veterans and spouses understand what benefits they can receive.
“We’re able to show what Christian family looks like to people who grew up without knowing Christ, the Bible or a family themselves,” said Shannon Terhune, pastor of Raleigh Heights Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va., and president of Faith Bible College. He also challenged pastors of those churches to have a humble, servant heart in helping meet the needs of military families even if that means pointing them to another church that is better equipped to help them.
With regard to local church military ministry, Matthew Bryant, discipleship and missions pastor at Village Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., noted that when soldiers are deployed, that is an opportunity for the church to celebrate the sending of missionaries.
“Our firm belief is that God can change the world from a little bitty base in North Carolina if we can learn how to disciple soldiers and celebrate our sending out as missionaries,” said Bryant.
Church planting in military communities was the final panel held on Wednesday afternoon in which panelists discussed unique challenges to this type of ministry. Discussion points included learning military vernacular and how pastors should go about building relationships with chaplains and service members living on base.
Air Force Chaplain Justin Woods noted that bypassing the authority of a base chaplain to gain access to soldiers is unwise in thinking about long-term ministry among that community.
“A short-term gain is not worth a long-term sacrifice,” said Woods, director of Baptist ministry at the U.S. Naval Academy for NAMB and a founding pastor of Redemption Church and Citizen Church in Annapolis, Md.
Panelists also discussed the relevance of pastors having military experience to plant churches in military community. For someone like Barry Murray, a church planter serving with Point Church in Fayetteville, N.C., God’s call for him to plant in a military community has been a call to depend on God as he learns how to minister to the military culture of which he has not previously participated.
“This is a cross cultural endeavor for our family… For me, to plant a church in a military community is something only God can do,” said Murray.
Southeastern currently has more than 100 military students enrolled and offers scholarships and resources for service members and veterans.
“Momentum is building in military community ministry here at SEBTS,” said Jim Houck, Southeastern’s military affairs coordinator. “As a student and military retiree, the prospect of this institution equipping and sending more graduates to serve the military community as chaplains and local church leaders is so encouraging. The community that already exists in military units and among military families provides a rich mission field where the truth of God’s word can penetrate and spread quickly. I also thank God for the team of external partners he is calling to help us develop and conduct military community ministry events like this one.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Pratt is the news and information specialist with SEBTS. This article originally appeared on sebts.edu.)