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New Horizons

Supporting Orthodox Presbyterian Chaplains

Richard M. Dickinson

Imagine that you are not certain of a loved one’s spiritual condition. When they come to mind, you pray that, more than anything else, they would come to know Christ—or rather, to be known by him and experience the strength and sweetness of his life and love. Now imagine that your loved one’s vocation regularly exposes them to real danger. When they go to work, they are likely running toward life-threatening events, so that others may survive and live.

Whether a firefighter, a law enforcement officer, a paramedic, a soldier, a sailor, an airman, or a marine, service personnel see things, hear things, and do things (and fail to do things!) that weigh heavy on their hearts, minds, and spirits.

Wouldn’t you be thankful to God for a gospel minister who is trained and equipped to come alongside your loved one with a listening ear, an understanding heart, and the healing balm of God’s covenant love and faithfulness? Wouldn’t it be an answer to your prayers for your unsaved loved one to come through “the nightmare” as one redeemed by sovereign grace and comforted by sovereign love, so that they live out their days with an eternal song of gratitude upon their lips?

It is the privilege and calling of OP ministers who are chaplains to be instruments in the hands of the Redeemer in challenging mission fields like these. Yet many labor in an environment far removed from the institutional church. Our commitment to biblical principles of accountability obligates our presbyteries to redouble their efforts to maintain contact with their ministers who are chaplains. Many, if not most, labor in isolation from a godly session and in an environment of religious diversity and moral ambiguity. How can we support them best?

How Can OP Members Support Chaplains?

Prayer is always our first order of business in relationship to one another. As brothers and sisters who care about our chaplains, we can pray:

  • that God would protect and bless our chaplains and military personnel (and those dear to them).
  • that God’s Word would dwell in them richly, enabling them to grow in grace and godliness so that they remain strong in the Lord.
  • that they would have a tender heart sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and an inward desire to keep in step.
  • that they would enjoy a growing acquaintance with the Lord Jesus and grace sufficient to will and do what is pleasing to him.
  • that they would look for opportunities to share the gospel with their colleagues and those they serve in ways that reflect both the sensitivity and sovereignty of our triune God.

OP members can also correspond and communicate with chaplains. A letter, e-mail, phone-call, or visit is a practical way of saying, “I am thankful for you and all that you do.”

How Can OP Church Sessions Support Chaplains?

  • The godly men who our Savior gives to his church to rule over and minister to his sheep should be:
  • first in prayer on behalf of all church members who are “away” for a season, including chaplains and military personnel.
  • first in service, demonstrating a carefulness to maintain contact on a regular basis and expressing a sincere interest in their spiritual welfare and temporal well-being.
  • willing to explore and recommend spiritual oversight and care that is proximate to their new location.
  • ready to encourage young men contemplating the ministry, seminary students, and interns to prayerfully consider serving as a chaplain.

How Can OP Presbyteries Support Chaplains?

The ministers and other elders who assemble and serve the regional church within the geography of their presbytery should be especially diligent to:

  • pray for their brothers.
  • correspond with and nurture the accountability of these ministers, in order to stay abreast of prayer needs, career developments, and circumstances that are likely to affect them.
  • request that their chaplains send copies of their quarterly PRCC update/reports.
  • insist on an annual report and their physical presence at presbytery as frequently as vocational obligations allow. (Many organizations that employ chaplains—notably, the DOD—afford chaplains two weeks of annual administrative leave precisely so that they can maintain accountability to their ecclesiastical body and keep their credentials up to date.)
  • ensure that their geographically remote ministers are maintaining their ordination commitments to God’s Word and our denominational standards.
  • encourage candidates for the ministry, seminary students under their care, interns laboring within their presbytery, and men licensed to preach but without a call, to prayerfully consider serving our Savior as a chaplain.

Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel

The Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel serves the Savior and his church and answers to general assembly. The committee currently has a combined 155 years of military service spanning each of the branches of the military. This wealth speaks to the its ability to provide counsel on matters involving OP chaplains, the chaplain corps of our military services, and military personnel in general. Please keep all the members of this committee and those they serve in your prayers as we desire to excel in fulfilling our mandates in ways that are honoring to God, healthful for his servants, and beneficial for all.   

The author is an OP minister and chairman of the Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel. New Horizons, February 2020.

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