Addressing the Misconceptions
I am often asked by curious church members about the role performed by military chaplains. The greatest concerns can be summarized by this question, “Can an Independent Baptist be a chaplain without compromising his convictions?” That question, though inconceivable to our nation’s founders, is now front and center.
There are many misconceptions about religion in the military and the liberties of the chaplain. Some think that chaplains are simply compromisers who can’t preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ or pray in Jesus’ name. Others wrongly lament that troops are not allowed to pray. Some assume that chaplains and military members must embrace the homosexual community as a result of recent legislation, while many suppose chaplains are ministering outside of the authority of the local New Testament church. Because of these misconceptions, most conclude that a military chaplain will simply be swallowed up by the diversity and pluralism of the military and become a wayward minister who can’t really make a difference in the lives of troops.
Can chaplains committed to biblical Christianity truly minister according to their biblical convictions? The answer: a resounding, YES!
Chaplains in the military are fully protected to freely exercise their dearest held beliefs. In addition to the First Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits Congress from making laws against the free exercise of religion, many regulations serve as safeguards at every level of the military’s structure to ensure a Chaplain’s rights.
My mission board and endorsing agent, All Points Baptist Mission, takes great care to ensure that the personal convictions of their chaplains are protected. APBM is unique because they are strictly a local church ministry. Operating under the authority of Calvary Baptist Church in New Philadelphia, Ohio, All Points assists other churches to place their members into the military as chaplains. All Points Baptist Mission will only consider men who are members of an Independent, Fundamental Baptist Church.
As a Chaplain with All Points, I am allowed and expected to preach the Gospel in military chapels anywhere across the globe. Public invitations are given in the chapel ministries. Not only in the chapels, but in all kinds of settings, our chaplains are proclaiming Acts 4:12 ‘Neither is their salvation in any other; for there in none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.’ Many of our military men and women, as well as their families, are saved each year through the preaching and personal evangelism of our chaplains.
Becoming a Chaplain
So what does it take to become a chaplain? There are four major requirements: Education, Experience, Endorsement, and Entrance requirements.
Every prospective chaplain must possess a Master of Divinity degree, a 90 credit hour graduate degree from an accredited university or seminary. Several years of ministry experience is required before becoming a Chaplain in order to ensure that ministers are prepared to face the challenges of providing pastoral care to troops. The Endorser, what many would call a “mission board,” is an ecclesiastical organization recognized by the Department of Defense to prepare prospective chaplains for military service. They represent their chaplains before the senior military leadership at the Pentagon and provide professional guidance, training, and counselling to their chaplains. No person can serve as a military chaplain without an official endorsement. My Endorsing agent is All Points Baptist Mission. Because the chaplain will be a commissioned officer in the military, he must pass military standards in physical fitness, be able to obtain a security clearance, and be younger than 42 years of age at the time of commissioning. Overall, the chaplain candidate must be spiritually, morally, intellectually and emotionally prepared to serve as a Chaplain in the military. The average candidate will spend 8-10 years working to complete their seminary training, gain ministry experience, and complete the military application process.
When the minister is accepted into the Chaplaincy, the real work of ministry begins. Military chaplains are focused on three main ministry efforts to troops and their families. Chaplains “nurture the living” by providing pastoral care, counseling, preaching, and teaching on topics including discipleship, marriage retreats, and suicide prevention seminars. Chaplains also “care for the wounded” during and after deployments in combat areas and assist the troops in their recovery from physical and moral injuries as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Lastly, chaplains are vital in “honoring the dead” by presiding over funerals and providing grief counseling.
The courageous men and women who serve in our armed forces sacrifice their time and treasure to defend America and keep her free. While all have given some, some have given all. While serving our country may cost some people their lives, it should not cost them their souls. Our uniformed service members need Chaplains with solid biblical convictions that will be where it matters, when it matters, with what matters the most – the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As you pray and fast for America – Pray for our national and military leaders, members of the armed forces, and our Baptist Chaplains. Above all, pray that the word of God continues to have free course in the fields of military ministry (2 Thess. 3:1).
US Army Chaplain