By RANDY WHITE, D.Min.
Founder and CEO
As we approach Memorial Day, it is especially appropriate that we take some time to remember the work done by Bible-believing chaplains.
There are many wonderful military chaplains, and we celebrate their work especially at this season, but there are also many other types of chaplains who perform such a vital service in our communities.
I would like to say a word to those who are engaged in this ministry. I want to give just a bit of encouragement about the work that you do and the things that you carry on as a chaplain.
I hope that others will also read and be blessed—and that they will likewise seek to edify those Bible-teaching chaplains that they encounter.
Anyone who has done very much work with human need recognizes all that these issues entail.
As we think of the subject of human need, I want to draw your attention to John 5:1-16:
After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?
And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.
Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.
And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
We are going to come back and think about this text later in this lesson, but first let us think more specifically about the work of the chaplain.
The Chaplain’s Role
This is completely a pastor’s perspective. What do pastors think about chaplains? Some pastors do not support the concept of chaplaincy. I want to give this pastor’s perspective on chaplaincy.
I appreciate those of you who serve as chaplains—not only in the military, but also in police departments, fire departments, crisis pregnancy centers, nursing homes and many other places. I appreciate chaplains because you do what pastors cannot do.
As a pastor for more than 25 years now, I know what I can do and what I cannot do. And every pastor has different gifts.
As chaplains, you have committed yourselves to ministry in crisis situations and other difficult and challenging environments. Many of these issues are ongoing and cannot be fixed, yet the pastor cannot be there to take care of them, either.
My role as a pastor is to change the way that people think by preaching the Word of God, and to get them to think Biblically. I am not completely prepared to respond to every type of crisis in the community. I may not even know the people involved or know how to reach them.
But you are committing yourselves as chaplains to train and prepare yourselves for such work. Your heart is designed for it, and you have already made the connections and gotten to know the people ahead of time so that you will be ready when you get there. You are doing what a pastor cannot do—and I appreciate that! I hope that other pastors do as well. It is not a one-man show. It takes a group to come together. It takes those who are passionate about specialized ministries on an ongoing basis, and who can meet crisis needs at a time such as the middle of the night—situations to which a pastor may not necessarily respond.
Now, the pastor needs to remember that he is not the chaplain. The chaplain has a role and a purpose, and is trained and ready to carry it out, and waiting to be deployed at a moment’s notice. We ought to celebrate that!
At the same time, the chaplain realizes that he or she is not the pastor—even though you are doing pastoral work. There is a difference between being pastoral and being the pastor. The chaplain is not a substitute for the pastor, though the chaplain will sometimes stand in for the pastor. Often the chaplain is the one who gets to the scene first, and the pastor will only be there for a short time. When he arrives to pray and give hugs, the chaplain has already been there for several hours—and will be there for several hours more.
The chaplain catches people in a dangerous time of crisis, during which they may say and do things that they would not normally say or do. In that moment of crisis, when people are worried and frustrated, the chaplain understands that some of the responses offered out of the hurting heart of a distraught person must not be taken personally. The chaplain is there to listen, and does not carry such people’s frustrations back to his or her church, community or organization.
The chaplain is on the front lines, ministering to people in a crisis. One of the best things that a chaplain can do is to help a person learn how to deal with their pain. What a wonderful role the chaplain has in guiding people in a beautiful way to channel their energy into some useful pursuit.
The chaplain is not the church, and their ministry does not replace the church. People need a church and a pastor. So often in a crisis moment, the chaplain has thought, “It is so sad that these people do not have a church at a time like this that would gather around and help them—and I am so glad that I have a church.”
What a wonderful goal it would be to tell a hurting person that there is an entire group of chaplains who meet every Sunday morning—that the best support group that they could have at this point meets at the local church. The church will love the person and carry him or her through their time of crisis. You can give a testimony about your church and the blessing that a church is, and you can share how it meets to fulfill the command of Hebrews 10:24:
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.
A chaplain has a beautiful role, but should not try to be the church to someone. There is an individual role, and there is a group role. The chaplain is an arm of the church. I am convinced that every hurting person needs a church. Yet the pastor cannot be with the people all of the time. Neither can the chaplain, but the chaplain may be deployed for a more extended period of time to help people in their moment of hurt, and can then connect people with the local church.
There is a difference between the church and parachurch ministries. Most chaplains work in the context of a parachurch ministry. I happen to be pro-parachurch, but there was a time when I did not feel that way. I used to be in an environment where it was believed that every type of ministry needed to be done by the local church. But what I discovered was that meant that these ministries had to be budgeted by the local church and required committees to oversee them. The pastor then, by necessity, becomes a CEO. The way to prevent that is by allowing parachurch organizations to do ministry. They can do many ministries that do not need to be overseen by local churches.
We will resume our lesson there next time with more on that thought.
May the Lord bless you as you prepare for Memorial Day this year, and may He bless all of the chaplains who are faithful to practice and proclaim His Word!
Editor’s Note: This blog was compiled with the assistance of Paul J. Scharf,
editor in chief of Dispensational Publishing House,
and is taken from the video that you can watch in its entirety below.
This message was delivered by Dr. White at the First Baptist Church of Taos, N.M.,
to a training meeting of the International Fellowship of Chaplains.
(Read Part 2)
Copyright © 2017 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.
Scripture taken from the King James Version.