Pentecostal Military Ministry and Global Missions
What is military ministry from a Pentecostal perspective, and why should Pentecostal churches near military installations engage in active, international military ministry? The term military ministry is a term with a wide variety of practical applications.
Traditionally it refers to the ministry provided by military chaplains within the military community. However, it can also be applied to religious or quasi-religious organizations that provide social contact through organized dances, social gatherings and entertainment such as that provided by the USO and YMCA during World War II, or to modern activity rooms where military personnel can enjoy free movies, large screen televisions, video games, pool tables and computer stations for surfing the Internet and checking personal emails.
The term is also applied to the work of organizations that establish Christian servicemen’s centers to provide a home environment with fellowship, worship and Bible studies, and those that send Christian literature to servicemen and women on deployment. Finally, it is used to refer to the work done in local churches to provide emotional, spiritual and varying degrees of practical support for spouses and family members of deployed servicemen and women. However, there is a broader reason for Pentecostal churches to engage in intentional military ministry that has global missions implications.
Evangelistic ministry from a Pentecostal perspective is a unique process composed of four elements: conversion, discipleship, Spirit baptism, and personal evangelism by the new convert. L.G. McClung, Jr. described these elements in his entry on “evangelism” in the 1988 edition of the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. He defined “conversion” as presenting the Gospel message to those who do not believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, for the purpose of bringing the individual to a point of placing their faith in Him.
The conversion experience is then followed by a “discipleship” process, through which the new convert is instructed in the intellectual and behavioral tenets of the Christian faith. This discipleship process includes a spiritual experience, subsequent to conversion, called the “baptism with the Holy Spirit,” which imparts divine power to the new believer, empowering him or her as a witness for Jesus Christ, and which is initially evidenced by the individual speaking in other tongues as the Spirit enables. The discipleship process continues with the new believer being instructed in “personal evangelism” and encouraged to do so among his or her peers.
Jesus gave a mandate to the Church in Matthew 28:19-20 to go and make disciples of all nations. The Pentecostal has always taken this mandate very seriously church as is evident by the immense human and financial resources it has always devoted to world missions outreach. When Jesus’ mandate and the Pentecostal church’s zeal for global missions is viewed from within the military context, powerful dynamics and implications are created for the mandate’s fulfillment among people in the United States military, among international military personnel when American servicemen and women are engaged in combined military operations and among the residents of the nations where men and women in the United States armed forces are sent.
Staying Within the Culture
The United States military is first and foremost a war-fighting institution with its own language, values, customs, stresses and needs – in other words, its own “culture.” Because of these unique cultural characteristics, and the necessarily restrictive security environment of military installations, the military community is a people group that makes up a distinct “subculture” of American society and, as such, a unique mission field. To engage in military ministry from a Pentecostal perspective it is essential to understand the military-specific challenges facing servicemen and women, design a ministry that takes those specific cultural elements into consideration, and combine that with the Pentecostal evangelistic process.
Young servicemen and women who have been brought to faith in Jesus Christ, rooted and grounded in the Word of God, baptized with the Holy Spirit and instructed and encouraged to share their faith in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways, then become the “tip of the spear” from a world missions perspective. Because of the highly restrictive security measures in place at military installations these servicemen and women become insiders who carry the Gospel message to their peers within their units. When they are involved in combined military operations with military men and women from other nations they become witnesses to them.
Finally, because of the United States military’s role in providing security in many countries around the world, these Spirit-baptized and empowered servicemen and women have the opportunity to interact with people groups in countries where Christian missionaries are currently unable to enter. Thus, developing and maintaining an active, intentional, and focused military ministry in Pentecostal churches near military facilities is essential to the global fulfillment of the Great Commission.
— Published online in Faith News Network on June 22, 2009