In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul describes the outfit of a soldier. There are six items we need to possess if we are to consider ourselves fully armed:
A careful study will reveal that each of these actually has its root in the Bible. Jesus said of truth, “Thy word is truth”. Our righteousness is God’s gift at salvation (our position), and our daily acts of righteousness (our practice). The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as taught by the scriptures. The shield of faith comes from “hearing the word of God”. The helmet of salvation is our confidence in Christ as our Saviour so that we are “single-minded”. God doesn’t want His children to doubt their salvation because that would make them less effective on the battlefield of life. And the sword of the Spirit is clearly the word of God because it says so right there in the passage.
All of these weapons are useful when fighting an enemy that is at your front. But how does the Christian prevent an attack or ward off an attack that sneaks up quietly from behind? We all have blind spots. We all have areas in our lives where we are weak. Many times we don’t even realize there is a problem until it is too late; until the enemy has us in his clutches. Peter warns, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” The problem is we don’t have eyes in the back of our heads.
A solder should always be aware of his surroundings. He is supposed to be watching for the enemy to sneak up on him. Yet you still can’t see what you’re not looking for. That’s why we need each other. God never expected His soldiers to walk alone. We are commanded in Galatians 6:2 to bear each other’s burdens, to watch each other’s backs. If you’re walking alone, you’re leaving yourself open to a sneak-attack by your enemy, the devil (I Pet. 5:8).
There’s a great post on the Iron Works website about this very thing. In it, David Dusek talks about the need for a cover group: a core group of people who fellowship together, pray together, and share close experiences together so they can form those bonds of fellowship that the devil cannot break. As independent Baptists, we tend to put a lot of stress on that word, “independent.” But we do so ignoring the fact that everything Jesus did, He did with a group of other guys.
His first call to discipleship was to two brothers. Then He called ten more to be His close companions on His journeys. Then He sent 72 men out two at a time. The smallest unit in God’s army is two, not one by himself or herself. Then in the Upper Room, there were 120. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took His three closest companions apart to pray, with only a little distance between them.
You never read about one man doing a great work for God by himself. He always has a team. The apostle Paul had Barnabas, and later Silas to go with him, along with a group of others who traveled with him on his journeys. Timothy was commanded to find faithful men to follow him so that they could “teach others also”. David had a band of 30 men. Even when he was being chased in the wilderness by King Saul, he had a group of men who went with him.
So why are we so adamant that we can fight our battles alone? Do we not realize that we are setting ourselves up for failure? If you’ve ever watched a nature show, you see that most animals travel in packs. Sheep, especially, are pack animals. We need to make sure that we stay close to the pack because it’s only when we get out there on our own that we become easy targets for the enemy.
In another post, I talk about the fact that the church is somewhat like a business. Everyone should have something to do. The same is true in the army. There are no slackers, no bench-sitters in the army. The Bible tells of a particular campaign David was on before he became king. He and his men had traveled with the Philistines, but the lords of the Philistines expected David to return and fight for Saul when the battle started, so they told him to go back. When he got back to where he and his men were staying, they found all their stuff and all their family had been stolen away. So now they have a hard march in the other direction to catch up with their thieves and “punish” them.
But some of the men were too tired to continue, so David let them stay by the stuff. When he and the rest of the men returned, some of the men didn’t want these guys to get anything except their families back because they didn’t do any of the work. But David realized the importance of having them stand guard over the stuff left behind. Every soldier is important, even if their job is to “stay by the stuff”. It may not look like they’re doing anything, but they are guarding the rear, and that’s important too.
Maybe you’ve got people in your church that can’t physically do much. Maybe they’re old. Maybe they’re too sick or disabled and just can’t physically help the church. But they can still pray. They can still be an encouragement to others. They can “stay by the stuff” and watch the backs of those who are out being physically active for the church, and their importance is not to be diminished!
Every person has a God-given skill that can be used to build His church. Remember that. It’s not your church or their church; it’s HIS church! The best thing a pastor can do for his people is to figure out where God can use them to reach their greatest potential, not for your or your ministry, but for God and His church!
The closer one is to the battlefront, the less information he has to make important decisions. The grunt soldier is tasked with pointing the gun and firing at the enemy directly in front of him. A sniper farther back can see more, but his focus is likewise very narrow. He’s looking for specific threats so he can pick them off before they reach the soldiers. Then there are bomber pilots who must go behind enemy lines to take out military posts, weapons depots, and other important infrastructures before they can pose a threat.
They are all sent from a base where a commander receives orders from High Command. He has a bigger picture of the battle in front of him, and the objectives he has to carry out. He receives orders and then distributes them to the soldiers he thinks are best qualified to carry out those commands. If you’re a pastor, you are like that base commander. Your job is to maintain the base, to make sure it’s a safe haven so the soldier can return and receive new instructions, nourishment, and rest. And it’s also to send those soldiers out to your part of the field of operations where they can do the most good at neutralizing the enemy without getting hurt themselves. It is your job to equip them with the best armor and the best weapons so they can do their jobs to the best of their God-given abilities.
Behind it all is the High Command. The High Commander makes decisions which affect the entire war, not just the little skirmishes. The High Commander knows the best places to send his generals and his troops to do the most good against the enemy forces. Our job is simply to obey His commands and be willing to go where He sends us when He sends us, and for how long He sends us (Rom. 12:1-2). Just like the soldier, our life is to be a living sacrifice for our High Commander so we can bring feedom and liberty to souls bound by sin.
One of the problems with being a pastor is the danger in thinking your ministry is more important than anyone else’s ministry. There is a danger in coveting a good soldier so much that you are not willing to let him leave when God calls him or her to a different part of the battlefield. We must remember that we are not training good soldiers for our platoon or our infantry division; we are training them based on the rules and regulations set forth by High Command so they can be an effective soldier wherever they go!
A good pastor will know his field of operations. He will make himself aware of the strengths (and weaknesses) of soldiers in his “platoon”. He should learn to form small teams of church members so they can become close-knit groups who can call on each other in times of personal crisis. And he should do all he can to equip his church members to fight the battles they face, not only in the local arena of warfare, but anywhere they may be needed by High Command, the Lord Jesus Christ.
My goal is to equip the pastor with the resources you need to be the best pastor you can be. If you have any comments, questions, or words of wisdom, please contact me using the comment form below. I have to view all comments before they are approved and made public, so if it’s a personal note, just let me know. I hope this was a blessing to you.