*I am reposting this from last week. I was traveling and was not able to properly download it. As a result, very few people were able to read it.
Veteran's Day has always been a time of reflection for me. I served in the Navy from 1967 - 1971 and spent three years aboard the USS Enterprise. I've often thought I might have made the Navy a career if I had not been married. I was away from my wife and daughter far more than I wanted and could not imagine doing that for the next twenty or more years. However, this reflection is not about what might have been if I had stayed in; it's more about the lessons I learned in the military. These are lessons that have served me well in life and ministry.
Very quickly, you learn respect for authority. Your first day in Boot Camp will teach you to respect those in authority or pay the price. This is a lesson that is not taught in many homes today. When I hear of teachers being beat up in the class room and unable to defend themselves, it's obvious that there is little respect for persons in authority. People disrespect a police office and hinders him or her from doing their job and wonder why they get arrested shows a lack of respect for persons in authority.
It hurts no one to say "Sir" or "Ma'am" when speaking to another person, especially if that person is in a position of authority or elderly. Showing respect will earn you the right to question or even disagree in most cases. While serving as pastor I had times of disagreement with individuals, but these were able to be worked out because we could engage in civil conversations about those disagreements. If I had been disrespectful they may not have turned out as well as they did.
The military also teaches you to have respect for yourself. Uniforms are clean, you are well groomed, dress shoes are shined. I was recently walking through a parking lot and a young man was getting out of his car. The top of his pants was barely above his knees with most of his boxer shorts showing and his hair looked like chickens had roosted there all night. He had no respect for himself. I was immediately reminded of a Zig Ziglar quote, "I'll defend your right to look like that all day, but I won't give you a job."
Pastors need to respect themselves if they want others to respect them. That's doesn't mean we have to wear suit and tie all the time. That was expected in earlier generations but not so much today. But, at the same time our dress, our language, our demeanor should demonstrate that we have respect for ourselves and for those we encounter throughout the day.
Leadership is a key component of the military. As one advances in rank more leadership is expected of that person. I enjoy reading about military battles and the strategic planning that went into those battles. But, as important as that planning was, the leadership on the ground was even more important because it was there that those plans would be carried out, or it was there that leaders would have to adapt to changing situations to ensure the goals were achieved.
Few things are more important to the success of the local church than leadership. We need pastors who can adapt to changing situations in their churches and communities so the Kingdom of God can be advanced. We need leaders who can cast vision and set goals that will enable that vision to be achieved. It takes leadership to introduce and lead necessary changes, and it takes leadership to confront controllers who would try to prevent the church from moving forward.
Some will argue that many churches do not want such leaders as their pastors, and in some cases that is true. But, if ministry leaders respect themselves and respect the history of the church and others in the congregation, that leadership will be accepted and followed in many churches, and the Kingdom of God will advance.