Military Organization

Many strange issues in the church are caused by failing to recognize the military structure of the church. It’s why some groups express outrage when “their” person doesn’t perform a certain role. It’s tragic such controversies exist, for not only did Paul lay out qualifications for certain jobs, but discovering the church should function as a military unit should quiet many of those issues, as much can be learned from the Marines and how they’re organized.

Military? In the church? Some recoil in horror. Aren’t we supposed to looooove everyone? We shouldn’t be offensive by speaking truth, after all Jesus is love, and we should be like Him, right?

Jesus is perfect love. So listen to perfect love:

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? (Matt 23:34)

Oops. Jesus didn’t fail to speak the truth, even if people got upset. The myth we’re all supposed to love each other fails in truth, and results.

When a train barrels down the tracks, wasting time arguing if a person standing on the tracks will be offended if you tell them what will soon arrive gets people killed.

Reality remains simple: a war exists, and if you fail to understand and train, you’ll be a casualty. You ignore that truth at your peril — never forget John Loeffler says “your failure to be informed does not make me a wacko.”

If the church desires to be effective, it’s time to understand military organization of a group. We’ll take our cue from the Marines, as they organize by the “rule of threes.”

  • Fire Team — rifleman (M16), grenadier (M203), machine gunner (M249).
  • Squad — three fire teams.
  • Platoon — three squads.
  • Company — three platoons (and support).
  • Battalion — three companies (and support).
  • Regiment — three battalions.
  • Division — three regiments.
  • Marines — three or more divisions make up the Marines.

The fire team forms the smallest unit. Notice each carries different weaponry for different tactical situations. The machine gunner with the M249 can’t complain he’s not carrying the M203 … or the unit is dysfunctional, can’t function, and gets people killed.

Why does the church argue about who God placed in certain roles? Was Paul not clear? Oh yeah, we’ll “modernize” Paul’s words so we can ignore it, after all parts of the Bible don’t apply today.

For Christians taking their Bible seriously, Paul speaks quite clearly, and if the church wants to be effective, it’s time to heed the words of General Paul. If we want to be effective, it’s time to stop complaining about who does what.

While no analogy can be perfect, let’s apply the Marines rule of threes to the church and see how we should organize.

  • Fire Team — House or family, lead by the father.
  • Squad — Multiple houses, with elder as leader (local bible study).
  • Platoon — Houses join to form local church, with pastor as leader.
  • Company — Group of local churches, usually with a pastor as committee leader.
  • Battalion — A church denomination.
  • Regiment / Division — Denominations working together.
  • Church — All denominations, with Christ as the leader.

Small units form the core (and where ultimately all the work gets done), while larger groups have the ability to perform larger tasks by organizing small units for different purposes to support the larger mission.

The fighting about who does what needs to stop. Everyone has their role; none are more important than others — just different. The pastor isn’t the superior guy over others, it’s just his role as leader.

I’ve been in lots of elder meetings, and not one of the guys ever complained about why he couldn’t be the pastor, or why he’s in charge and we’re not. Ever. Perhaps it’s because (whether they knew it or not) they all understood military organization, and the requirement for one guy to be captain.

Not being able to be in charge is a strange phenomenon some people can’t (but must) get over, and that begins by understanding military organization.

In Numbers 16 a group complained to Moses concerning his leadership — why couldn’t they be more involved? Study the rest of the chapter — it doesn’t end well for those questioning God’s requirements for leadership (hint: the earth opened and swallowed them whole).

Don’t complain you’ve got the M203 instead of the M249 … or aren’t the leader of a group. Everyone has a role.

If we want to be effective, it’s time to understand proper roles and organization, and how the church should be organized as a military unit for effective combat.

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