By: U.S. Navy Chaplain Billy Hardison
After several years of young adult ministry, some time in pastoral care ministry, and completing my M.Div, I left local church ministry behind. With my wife and small children, we pursued a new mission field, a critical one often overlooked by Christian ministers and seminary students. One that would surely bring adventure, but also challenges with sacrifice and suffering. I was excited, anxious, and nervous to fulfill this missional calling.
I am a missionary to the military, specifically a US Navy Chaplain, on my third assignment, serving within Naval Special Warfare.
Before you put this down and say God has not called “me” to this, “I know” about military chaplains, I want you to read on—I dare you.
In my first assignment, I preached every week from a small chapel with no associate pastor to help, just 52 weeks of preaching prep, weekly counseling, and visitation to my people. A few years later, my second assignment, I served in a military brig (prison), caring for the military prisoners and staff.
My Wow Moment
After traveling 18 hours I found myself standing in an airport (in a country I cannot name), trying to make sense of how to get my car rental, and checking my coms (cell and texting ability). I was exhausted but began to reflect on the previous years.
As I walked toward my exit, praying for safety, for open hearts and minds, and for good times of laughter and relationship. I thought of how far God brought me, how much He had taught me, how much more humbled I had become, and how I trusted in Him more deeply now than when I thought I knew so much about “ministry.” I had learned more about ministry than I had ever thought possible.
Just then my phone dinged, “Sir, text when you get close, we’ll send a GPS link for rendezvous spot.” I snapped back and focused my attention, being alert to my surroundings, “good copy—see you soon!” I replied to my US Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft Operator (SWCC for short) contact. I was visiting (on a Battlefield Circulation trip—BFC) a group of my deployed Special Operators—Navy Seals and SWCC’s—to check-in on morale, deliver a talk on character and ethics, develop relationships, offer private conversation/counseling, and provide a “Field” Communion Service.
The Unchurched Future
Rather than presuming you are only called to “preach” from the local pulpit, author books, write catchy blogs, or be a hip youth pastor, consider this very moment in time a test. Maybe you were meant to read this article today? Maybe the Holy Spirit is using this moment to open your heart to an underserved and overlooked population. You may have a father, mother, relative, or friend doing great ministry from public platforms in local churches or non-profits, but does it mean that you are necessarily going to—or that you should? Maybe you are called to something entirely different, yet critical—minister to those who will never walk into your church.
Consider this fact, just as I did. You may be the only person of faith and conviction, a bearer of the presence of God to others, that a Sailor, Marine, Airman, Coastie, or Soldier will ever converse with. Let that sink in.
Yes, there are believers in the military, but most are not. Just as society is growing more unchurched and irreligiously postmodern, so goes the military. These people will never read your blog, your catchy Facebook post, listen to your sermon, or buy your book—they may, however, speak with you face to face, because as a Military Chaplain you are there alongside them, serving together. Being with them you gain a right to speak into their life, offer words of encouragement, prayer, critique, and comfort. Only after serving with them, do you earn influence.
It may happen while walking with them on the flight line, in a desert or jungle, in a top-secret facility, during lunch, in their workspace as you walk around during the day, or in an aircraft (I discussed free will with a pilot while flying backseat in his fighter jet!).
Approximately 1.5 million active-duty members represent a massive cross-section of society’s neighbors, parents, future leaders, and policymakers, etc. In other words, it’s a ripe mission field for the Gospel with massive implications for our future society!
A Military Chaplain, a commissioned officer, has direct unhindered access to everyone, including the senior officer of each command. You will preach, pray with, provide care to those in need, develop ethics lectures, teach suicide awareness, counsel family members, advise commanding officers on moral and ethical issues, and so much more. You will be a missionary, serving those who serve, changing lives with the Gospel, and influencing society.
Can you envision it? Will you consider it? Our military members and families are in need, will you answer the call?
Explore How to Become a Military Chaplain
DISCLAIMER: As a US Navy Chaplain it is my duty to inform all who may read this that I am writing on my own behalf and the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and not necessarily those of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy or the Navy Chaplain Corps.
Billy Hardison is the Command Chaplain with Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He has served in the US Navy Chaplain Corps on active-duty for eight years with various assignments. Prior to becoming a Navy Chaplain, Billy was a young-adult pastor with a large suburban church in Chicagoland area. He and his wife, Amy, are both former NCAA Division I volleyball coaches. They have four crazy, chaotic and awesome kids!