Yesterday I described what a church functioning as boot camp might look like: clearly identifying membership, assigning each person to a church leader, and running a mandatory Wednesday night two hour program with a defined training program.
Yesterday’s post focused more on the academic side of the training program, specifying various courses, etc.
Developing Discipline and Skills
However, perhaps the greater contribution would reside in the disciplinary aspects and skill development of such program. I framed this program in terms of a boot camp. Even though trainees learn a lot of facts during basic training, probably the greatest benefit to them and to the Army is found in the discipline they develop and the skills they learn.
Christian Rangers and Seals
Perhaps a better model for that aspect of training might be a Navy Seal program or Army Rangers. Troops in those programs are enthusiastic about being there and highly motivated. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if every Wednesday night the whole church body was present at the church facility, really eager to train, to grow, to glean more knowledge, to become stronger in their faith, to become stronger in their character, to prepare as effectively as possible for the ministries to which the Lord called them?
Imagine people coming with their Bible study notes from the previous week that included all kinds of questions that they wanted answered, eager to get a grasp on a portion of Scripture or a theological concept, talking about their excitement in moving up to the next level, wanting to know how to pray more effectively, eager to take on challenges that will help them to become better soldiers of Jesus Christ, enthusiastic about learning how to witness to the people around them, frustrated by some failure during the past week and wanting to know how to do better next time.
Purging Polluting Practices
I am convinced that a major reason for lack of spiritual growth in the American evangelical church has to do with ungodly input that prevents the Holy Spirit from doing His work in Christian lives. If a person fills his heart and mind with movies and television programming that include cursing and sexual content, or if Christians read books with ungodly themes and language, or if people indulge at unwholesome Internet sites or involve themselves in video games with ungodly content, I believe that their spiritual growth will be stunted. The Holy Spirit simply cannot work in such a polluted heart environment.
Just like a trainee in a Navy Seal program strips everything from his life that does not contribute to the training, so a church program like I am describing would challenge the trainee to divest his life of practices that hinder spiritual growth. Under the influence of this type of program, finally the church could begin to mold the Christian, and through him the culture, rather than allowing the culture to mold it.
Teen Challenge probably operates the most effective drug and alcohol rehab program in the world. No doubt the key to its success is the extensive and rigorous spiritual discipline at the heart of the program. Though I’m not suggesting that local churches should function like Teen Challenge programs, incorporating many of the disciplinary concepts would substantially accelerate Christian growth.
Imagine a church program where husbands were coached on filling that role effectively and likewise with wives. If every teenagers had a mentor that would not only guide them around teenage pitfalls, but would also help them know how to be a positive force in their schools, that is, instead of being on the defense, being on the offense. Families would have financial trainers that would guide them through wise planning and good stewardship, helping each family to be on solid financial footing. Where coaching on health issues was needed, that would be available also.
It May Have Been Done B and efore
Though this all sounds like a pipe dream, I sense that the New Testament church included many of these features. It may not have been quite as structured as with my description, but I sense that many of these factors were involved in the discipleship emphasis.
In reading the autobiography of John Wesley, it seems that the leadership of groups he established inserted themselves in a wide range of life issues of those involved. Many experts The Church as a Boot Camp (Part Two) believe that Wesley’s ministry saved England from a disaster similar to the French Revolution. I sense that it will require an active, enthusiastic, trained, educated, disciplined church for America to escape the disaster for which we are currently headed at full speed.