I had the privilege of serving as the Chaplain for Phase 1 of OCS for my region. Officer Candidate School brings together soldiers from a number of different states across the South and Midwest and throws them together in Salina, KS for two weeks of physically and mentally demanding training. Upon arrival, the candidates are divided up into platoons and squads. They are put with soldiers they have never met before in their lives but who they now must learn to trust and rely upon as they all work towards a common objective.
These candidates are an incredibly diverse group. Not only are they from different states but they are also from large urban areas and small country towns. They are a diverse group ethnically. They are a diverse group religiously. They are diverse in their ages with some candidates in their early 20s and others in their 40s. Some are married. Some are single. Some have kids. Some do not have kids. In some cases, if you took a group this diverse and put them together you would expect very little to be accomplished. Conflict would be the norm. That is not the case in OCS. The candidates put aside their differences in the pursuit of a common goal: the gold bar of the 2nd lieutenant rank. For them, earning that gold bar and becoming the leaders of soldiers is so important that getting sidetracked by their differences with their fellow candidates is the farthest thing from their minds.
I was thinking about how the church should function in much the same way. We are a diverse people in the church. We come from many different locales, socio-economic statuses, and backgrounds. Some have been Christians for a long time. Others have only been Christians for a short while. Some hold to varying degrees of Calvinism while others love the charts of Dispensationalism. Some like hymns and some like the latest praise and worship songs. Some like pews and hymn books and others like chairs and screens. Some like pastors who pace and sweat and shout and other like pastors who are more restrained in their preaching.
So there are a lot of similarities between the diversity of OCS and the diversity of the church. Why is it that in OCS the candidates can so readily cast aside their differences and throw themselves wholeheartedly into their mission and so often the church is divided by nit-picking over tertiary theological issues and personal preferences? Is not the mission of the church the greatest mission in the history of the world? We are called by our Creator to be salt and light in the world but so often we spend our time bickering about worship style, preaching style, carpet color, money, and any number of other issues. Do we think so little of our calling that we are unwilling to sacrifice personal preference and comfort for the greater mission? What does it say about us that a man-made institution like the Army can engender such passion, devotion, and unity but many churches are nearly empty on Sunday mornings? What does it say about us that in OCS every single person serves actively but in our churches only a few serve and many just show up without ever serving?
It is imperative that our local churches be united in their mission to penetrate lostness in their communities. The only way that will happen is if we are willing to learn something from these Officer Candidates. We must be willing to put aside personal preferences and personal comfort for the sake of the mission. Now, don’t hear me wrong, there are some things that must be clung to tightly. But tell me this, how many of the disagreements in your church have been over the virgin birth, the eternal sonship of Jesus, or the nature of the Trinity? Not many? That’s what I thought. Most of the things that cause disunity in our churches are issues of personal preference and not doctrine.
We have the greatest mission in the world. It is a mission worth giving our all to. It is time for us to take a page from OCS. Instead of being distracted by our personal preferences let us run together towards our goal. That Christian on your left and on your right is your brother or sister. Your family. We are in this together and it is high time we acted like it.
All photos are from the Kansas OCS Facebook page.