Chaplaincy and the Bible

I started a career in ministry 20-some-odd years ago. At the time, I considered a number of opportunities within the bigger arena of ministry.

It is possible to be a missionary, a pastor, a musician (I knew that one was out), an educator, or a number of other options, but one thing I did not consider was being a chaplain. The reason why I moved away from chaplaincy was the knowledge that in this form of ministry one is expected to minister to people with a generic identity. If the person was of a different theological perspective or ecclesiastical tradition than you, then play the role to meet their needs.

I don’t disparage the ministers who take on this task. Nor do I believe it a grievous wrong of them to behave differently than their core identity to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of others. But I also know I do not do ‘generic’ well. When a person asks me for my perspective, they get my perspective rather than an answer measured by what they need to hear.

I will strive to make that answer Biblical. I will try to be led by God. But ultimately I know that answer will come out of my personal relationship with God. Anything else would leave me feeling dishonest.

Chaplains recognize this tension, and know how to balance these two different concerns.

Recently I heard about a chaplain, a hero among chaplains, who was being chastised because he was asked what the Bible said on a topic and he answered. His answer was not so much an opinion, but a review of what the specific statements of Scripture on the topic in question. The Bible is not politically correct. He is being disciplined for accurately answering a question on what the Bible said. Or to put that another way, the Navy has decided that some parts of the Bible are not acceptable for use by their chaplains.

So we must have turned a corner, a horrible corner. The military is now officially censoring the parts of the Bible they do not like. Since that is the case, how long will it be before the government at large begins telling churches what parts of the Bible are no longer acceptable?

White-Crowned Sparrow

Running late on posting today. Never the less I hope you enjoy the white-crowned sparrow.

White Crowned Sparrow 2

 

White crowned sparrows appear across the majority of the United States every winter. There are a few places where they stay year round, but most of them migrate. However, even when they migrate, they always travel on the exact same patterns and places.

This causes the birds to be around the same regions all the time. They learn their calls from the conglomeration of other birds in that region. The end result is, just like humans, they tend to create dialects specific to regions. In essence different populations have created different languages.

This by itself is not unusual, but what is unusual is that birds which live on the border of two different populations are often bilingual. They can blend in and speak the language of either group.

For people it’s really cool to be bilingual. For birds it’s downright amazing. For believers though, being spiritually bilingual is a bad thing. Unfortunately, I think it might be much more common than we want to admit.

How many believers do you know that look, act, walk, and talk in different ways on Sunday morning in church than they do the rest of the week? Perhaps they are cutthroat businessmen Monday through Friday, perhaps they cuss like a rapper, or maybe they drink like a fish six days a week—and then they sit in church cleaned up, speaking in King James English, and singing praises to Jesus.

This hypocrisy is one of the things Jesus took the strongest stance on in His teachings. Yet, I know that many believers go through at least one phase of this in their Christian growth. So we need to respond to it firmly but also with grace. We must help Christians stop living this way rather than speaking judgment on them. Living this double life does great harm to the kingdom.

Consider James 3:10 (HCSB) Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way.

The Unexpected Strain of Spiritual Growth

We have some strong misconceptions about what it means to grow spiritually. We expect it to be an intellectual experience, like memorizing Scripture. Or maybe we expect it be a mystical experience, like feeling God’s touch at a critical moment. We almost certainly expect it to be coupled with an emotional experience, specifically a positive emotional experience.

Unfortunately, these expectations will largely be unmet because spiritual growth is not just about what you know, or about our supernatural connection with God. Spiritual growth is mostly about character.

So what does God do to shape our character?

He puts us under pressure. He sends us into conflicts. He allows us to experience stress. He might even allow us to find some temptation.

Moving through these things will allow us to grow. Better be prepared for some pain along the way though. Sometimes it’s the kind of pain we feel when we are chastised. Other times it’s the pain of being betrayed by friends. It could also be the pain of knowing you failed someone you cared about.

I tell you all of this to give you this advice. Don’t despise the process of spiritual growth by avoiding pain. Don’t pray them away. Don’t switch to a church with less issues. Don’t write off people who challenge you. All of these things are likely to be a part of God’s plan to grow you.