Misconceptions About the Army Chaplain

As a man who has the privilege to serve God and country in such a unique way, as an Army Chaplain, I decided to take a moment on this 4th of July and clear up a couple of misconceptions people often have about what I do.  

Last month at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, I spent many moments talking to pastors who had questions about my work.  I also have the joy of talking to many in the local church who have questions, week in and week out.  I am thankful for those opportunities.  However, I'm also bothered by the amount of wrong information that gets out there.  So, I want to set the record straight.

Basically, as a Southern Baptist Army Chaplain, I am a missionary.  My mission field is the Soldiers and Families of our U.S. Army.  However, I also have opportunities to impact people all over the world through travels and deployment.  I am called and sent by God.  I am an endorsed missionary by the North American Mission Board.  Basically, my mission, as I understand it from God, is to tell others about Him, make disciples, and teach people how to follow Him.  The military is a dark place. Spiritual warfare is rampant!  Missionaries are needed!!

With that said, I also have a role designated by the U.S. Army, as a Soldier in its ranks.  Yes, I do wear a uniform.  I am a Soldier.  (that's one question I sometimes get)
I provide for the religious freedom of the Soldiers in our formations.  Praise God that we live in a nation that gives individuals the right to worship freely.  I ensure Soldiers get to use that right.  A big way that I do this is by providing opportunities for them to worship corporately.  As a Southern Baptist, I lead through preaching, teaching, and worship, as a man that believes the way Southern Baptist Christians believe.  I am not Muslim.  I am not Buddhist.  I am not Jewish.  I cannot perform any of the aspects of those religions.  I only perform as a Southern Baptist follower of Christ.  That's what the Army brought me in to do...not to be something that I'm not. (another misconception)

Now that I've given you a brief overview, let me quickly answer the 2 most common questions I get from fellow pastors and Christians.

Does the Army force you to perform same-sex marriages?  Absolutely not.  First of all, I don't have to perform any marriage ceremony that I don't want to.  Officiating weddings is not my primary job.  It's an extension of what I do.  It is something I give my free time to do.  No one is forcing me to perform any wedding, just like any other pastor.  We do it as a way to minister and out of the love in our hearts.  I have the right to say "no" to anyone who asks me to officiate their wedding.  This goes for same-sex couples, and even for heterosexual couples that I feel shouldn't get married.  

Don't believe everything you read or hear.  The news makes money from sensationalizing and crafting the story in a way that draws attention.

Can you share your faith as an Army Chaplain? Absolutely yes!  First of all, I wear a cross on my uniform!  Soldiers can see where I'm coming from before I even speak.  Secondly, the Army didn't bring me in to be silent about my faith.  They brought me in because I am a man of faith!  That is what I bring to the fight....GOD!  News stories have been circulated that have got some Christians in fits, because it is reported that Soldiers cannot share their faith.  This is untrue.  The Army is not a communist culture.  I can share my faith, and regularly share my faith with the people I minister to.  Now, this doesn't give me the right to show favoritism to believers or refuse to help those who aren't of the faith.  I think that's the heart of certain Army rules that have been reported on.  It doesn't mean we can't talk about the God we serve.  In fact, I shared the gospel more with lost people in the first 3 months of being an Army Chaplain, than I ever did serving in the local church.  (Maybe that's a blog for another time, but it is interesting how the opportunities were more abundant when I left the church bubble and went to the "front lines")

Anyways, I hope to have shed some light.  Bottom line.....I love serving the Lord and I am thankful to be an agent of the gospel and the light to a dark and hurting world.