Written by Lt Col Rick Wolf, Founder, and President of Soul Survivor Outdoor Ministry.
Ministry to active-duty military… Perhaps the most relevant area of ministry in our time. It’s a bold statement. The military is a true “melting pot.” It’s hard to find a more diverse group in our society; race, creed, nationality, gender, religion or philosophy. It’s young; largely Millennials and Gen Zs. It’s a place where next-gen ministry touches every area of our culture. It’s an area where organizations like Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs, Soul Survivor Outdoor (SSO) and others are having an incredible impact.
Few would doubt that we live in an incredibly tumultuous time. America is in crisis. Fear, worry, anxiety, and uncertainty are the norm. What does it mean for Christians? From what I’ve observed, it means countless opportunities to share “the hope that is in us.” People are hungry for answers!
I believe military service members are particularly hungry. Why? They’re part of a generation that’s been told they don’t matter. Not in so many words. But it’s what they’ve been taught; by our culture. God has been taken out of the equation. The result… a lack of ultimate meaning and purpose. Add COVID-19, racial tension, gender issues, the economy, and it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s also an opportunity! It’s an opportunity to share the Truth, bring hope, and change our culture and our world from the bottom up.
Military service members, most between 18 and 25 are hungry for answers only found in the gospel. A few weeks ago, at a three-day SSO trip to Joshua Tree National Park, about fifty active-duty military attended. Nearly 100% prayed to receive Christ! This isn’t always the case, but it’s almost always 30% or more. Where else is this happening?
The door to sharing the gospel with young military members is currently wide open. The impact of military ministry is multifaceted. Individual lives, marriages and families are changed. It also has global reach. You’ve heard me say it’s strategic before. It’s true. The U.S. still has military presence in more than 80% of our world. Service members have the potential to change the whole world with the gospel.
Military ministry is exceptionally relevant for these reasons but also because military service members come from not only every background but literally every country. At a recent SSO event, three of the soldiers that attended were originally from other countries (Columbia, Gambia – West Africa, and Guatemala). This isn’t unusual.
In terms of service, it’s hard to find a more selfless community. Service members swear to uphold our constitution and defend our nation against its foes here and abroad. It’s a promise made that involves sacrifice, and it could mean giving their life for our country. Our world is a dangerous place. It’s not getting less dangerous. This commitment to sacrifice is no small thing. Few make it, and yet most service members take this oath at 18 or younger.
Today, the door to military ministry remains open. It’s an incredible opportunity to reach young, diverse, hungry, and self-sacrificing individuals. The door is open in large part because military leaders recognize they have a huge problem. Levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide are impacting mission accomplishment.
Army suicides were up more than 30% last year. It’s tragic for individuals, families, our communities, unit cohesion, and it’s catastrophic to mission readiness. As a result, senior leaders are willing to put all options on the table to solve this crisis, even faith.
How long will this opportunity last? We don’t know. It’s guaranteed not to last forever.
“For such a time as this…” We live in a time where people are starved for truth, leaders are looking for answers, and the nation needs resilient, capable warriors that are ready to change the world and say “here am I send me!”
www.soulsurvivoroutdoor.org | firstname.lastname@example.org