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Can you teach an Army chaplain new tricks?

That seemed to be the question for our class at the brigade chaplain course.  The last couple of weeks at Fort Jackson were a strange odyssey to say the least. Everything was new and I felt old.  Perhaps ancient would be a better word after seeing some of the newly commissioned lieutenants.  For someone who entered the Army in 2000, little looks the same.

Religious support training and staff officer work before 9/11 consisted of battle books with three-ring binders stuffed full of paper with colored tabs.  The war years changed resources to compact disks, thumb drives, and websites.  It seems like nearly everything has changed since I learned to wear a set of battle dress uniforms, BDUs, and shine my boots.  Heck, even the chaplain school changed.  It is now a joint facility shared with the Navy and the Air Force chaplain corps.  And let me tell you, I don’t even know how to speak Navy!  Water talk is not in my vocabulary.

2013 and the post war years will ultimately usher in another round of change. Today, battle books exist in the cloud.  Field Manuals are now boiled down to fifty documents.  Digital references and documents will be downloaded and viewed on portable electronic devices.  We now conduct Soldier Leader Engagements instead of Key Leader Engagements.  And yes, no one wears BDUs any longer or shines boots. It has all changed.

That was a major take away from the course.  Chaplains, and the Army, must learn how to prepare for, balance, and conduct operations among change.  In an age of satellites, drones, and cyber commands, change is inevitable.  President Woodrow Wilson once exclaimed, “We won the war to end all wars!”  The comment seemed valid at the time, but today it is used in a disparaging way to highlight people being short-sighted.  When you hear the statement now, it just reinforces the idea that change is heading your way.

While all of this change can seem overwhelming, ministry has not changed, nor the need to give religious support to Soldiers and military families.  Sure services, tools, resources, and items may have changed, but the concept of ministry has not. People need the Lord.

Apps, mp3 players, and Skype are great new ministry tools, but ministers, pastors, and priests are still needed to share the life changing message of Christ.  Military chaplains will continue to use new ministry tools and resources, but the mission of our calling has not changed.  Sharing the gospel with a dark and sometimes unwelcoming world is the Great Commission work that we are called to perform.  It is our duty to remain faithful and true to Christ in all we do and say.

While the Army has certainly changed since 2000, a few things will not change.  God reigns.  His love is unfailing.  Christ provides redemption and salvation.  Thank God these things will never change.

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