Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Boot Camp

"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." - 2 Tim 2:3 (NIV)

When I joined the US Army in 1976, my first stop after being sworn in was Ft Jackson, South Carolina. This was one of the Army's Basic Training facilities. Every soldier goes through eight weeks of basic training. This was the 'basic' training that a civilian needs to begin the transition to a soldier.

The primary function of basic (or boot camp) is to break down the civilian's individualistic will and teach then to function on a team as one and to obey orders without question. The tactics used are sleep deprivation, verbal (and in my day physical) abuse and endless repetitive training. By the end of the cycle (8 weeks), we were no longer civilians, but soldiers. We knew the language and the protocols of military life and could recite the Code of Conduct, article by article. We could field strip an M-16 or M-60 blindfolded and could be in formation with full field gear within 7 minutes of being harassed out of bed. We could march 20 miles with an 80lb pack on our back, we could function on little sleep, and we could think and act as one. After eight weeks, I was in the best physical shape of my life.

Paul equated the life of a soldier with the life of a Christian. A Christian needed to have the civilian individualism taken out by disciplined training and the 'team first' concept installed in it's place. He wrote "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs" to mean that way of life had to cease. Being a soldier was a serious, full time job.

Have you ever wondered why vets have a special bond regardless of when they served? Have you wondered why men would sacrifice their lives for the good of the mission or for their fellow soldiers? How part of their honor code is "never surrender" and "never leave a fallen comrade in the field"? It is because a special lifetime bond is formed serving together. It is a bond the soldier knows and the civilian will never understand. A trust in the man next to you, one you can depend your life on. It is hard to find that close a bond in blood family or marriage. It is a bond of loyalty drilled into the soldier since boot camp. Team first, mission first, fight and die for each other as one.

About the Church, and Christian in particular, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:26 "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." This implies shared sacrifice, shared suffering, shared duty and shared reward. This is what we learned in boot camp, and what we should learn as new Christians. Jesus understood this concept. He said in John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends".

Our problem is we bring our civilian mindset into the church. "my needs", "my desires" and "my glory" is what matters. Shared suffering isn't tolerated. The mission is clouded by special interest; Everyone wants to give orders, but no one wants to carry them out.

What did the Army teach me? The same thing the bible did, that I must die to self ..... self will and self ambition. I must place myself at the disposal of the team (my brothers and sisters in Christ) and the mission (proclaim the kingdom message), and be willing to give up my life to do so. The team can depend on me and I can depend on them.

I will never forget my Drill Sargent's words at the end of our eight week training. We had in the beginning hated his guts, but now we respected him. He told us it was his job to get us ready for war, to give us the best chance of survival. This is why he was hard on us. My Drill Instructor (DI) was a Vietnam vet, so he understood. He didn't ask any more of us than was asked of him. This was the one thing that turned my attitude toward my DI from hate to respect. When he woke us at 4 am, he would have had to be up at 3 am to do so. When we ran ten miles, he ran it too. He did this every eight weeks with new recruits. It was discipleship by shared experiences. Paul only asked of us what Jesus asked, that we are to endure together. They never asked us to do what they wouldn't...."endure hardness with us......".

As Christians, we too should prepare the new converts for the reality of spiritual warfare. We should give them every chance to survive. Paul understood this. He, like my DI was a war vet. He bore the marks of conflict against evil. He knew the cost of success. He knew that untrained, or under-trained Christians would fail on that battlefield. He knew that unless they were disciplined they would be overcome. He knew the new Christian had to be able to handle the word. It needed to be so much a part of them that they could quote it in prison or under duress. Paul knew the Christians needed the full armor of God and training so they could deploy them blindfolded.

Boot camp was tough, rugged and unrelenting, but it put in me the sense of honor, duty and courage. Christians, have you been to boot camp since you were sworn in to the Army of the Lord? Do you think you can take it?

Jeff Henning
Jan 12, 2010


1 comment:

PMyra said...


Thank you SO MUCH for your words of wisdom.

You identified much of why the Bride of Christ is sick right now. We have so much work to do in the kingdom. The enemy of our souls wants us to be deceived, distracted or delayed regarding our mission.

God bless you richly.