Tuesday, July 31, 2007
As mentioned below, my religious support to Soldiers can be categorized as either religious services (worship) or religious programs. Our programs range from the innovative--haircuts, which sometimes double as counseling--to the ordinary, bible studies and classes. Out at the combat outposts, the facilities and mission usually restrict me to performing worship services and one-on-one bible conversations.
Here at Camp Blue Diamond, however, I conduct a Thursday evening bible study and Friday evening leadership seminar. On Thursdays we have been working through the book of Acts. Studying the challenges of the early church is informative for our growing non-denomination community. The bible study is guided by a power point presentation of art and geography--but held together by discussing some of the more difficult questions that relate to personal discipleship and communal health. Attendance is usually between 15 to 30. Recently we took a break from the routine to discuss "men's issues". Two-thirds of the Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and contractors who attend the Thursday evening bible study are married. It was fascinating for the single participants to listen to the others' challenges and successes in marriage. Just one of the many points they walked away with after that night was that even though they may not know their future wives, they make decisions every day that directly impact what kind of husband and father they will be. Therefore, while single, they can still respect and honor their future wives and children.
Our Friday evening leadership seminar is attended by those supporting the non-denominational worship services, many of whom have experienced a call to the ministry. Some of them are interested in the chaplaincy--so participating in the praise and worship team, helping to lead worship, or even preaching a sermon on occasion is valuable experience--beyond the worship itself. The Friday evening class is a course in Exegesis--methods and principles of interpreting the scriptural text in its various contexts (historical, literary, social, etc.) to aid one in its proper application. We have dedicated six weeks to the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) and six weeks to the New Testament. We use a syllabus, and students have purchased their own text books: Gordon Fee's Old Testament Exegesis; Stewart Douglas' New Testament Exegesis. They don't understand everything, but they are walking away with a practical understanding of the majority of what we've covered. Each student preaches a sermon to his peers in class from both an Old and New Testament passage. The course is technical in nature; it is not for the purpose of fostering devotion--although that has happened. The intended purpose is to train participants involved in worship, and by extension, improve the quality of our worship experience. By all accounts, we have achieved this.
12 People attend this class--all military; their ranks range from Specialist (E-4) to Colonel (O-5). One of our class members, SSG Smith, also plays the guitar for us. His talent has been a true blessing. He is patient as we shift from traditional hymns, to old-time gospel, to contemporary praise songs. In our Non-denomination Christian worship service this week, I led worship and SSG Smith preached the sermon. It was well attended and great experience for all involved.