Recently I was having a converastion with a war veteran.
Can you picture him?
If I were asked to picture a veteran, I would picture an older man--graying or bald--with a Vietnam hat on. Maybe a 90 year old World War II vet. These are the images of the veteran in my mind. But this wasn't the veteran with whom I was speaking.
"Joe" is 30. Joe is tall with good posture and deep, dark eyes. He's also wounded, but you would never know that if you met him on the street.
Most would not know Joe was wounded--or even a verteran--because millennial war veterans are a rare minority group in American culture today. As we spoke about the hardships of war and the wounds that are not visible, we spoke of Christ and his glory. We spoke of his bride.
I asked him, "Joe, what do you and others like you need from the church?"
I told him not to answer me on the spot, but to think and pray and write. With permission, here is what Joe said that millennial veterans and their hidden wounds need from the church. Christian, take note. For your needs are Joe's.
I carry a list of emergency supplies in the back of my mind: gasoline, drinking water, Risperdone, rubbing alcohol. I want to be careful for nothing as our Lord has commanded, yet there is a difference between that and good ol’ fashioned Boy-Scout-preparedness. My time in the Navy taught me to never underestimate the potentiality of the absurd and unexpected.
In this hypothetical emergency (natural disaster, social upheaval, etc.) I would drive to my home church where I would hope to find my church family. There would be the gospel, prayer, faithful teaching, psalm singing; grave, gentle and diligent elders; fellowship of the saints, family meals; everything needed for the sustenance of the soul and body. I know this to be true because I have seen all these things ordinarily practiced week by week through the normal course of the life of the church. It is not a carnal security that I experience at my church but a wholistic, spiritual one.
The church described above is what my generation of veterans need most.
That is my proposition. We need the church to be wholistic.
Our war is invisible (“Global War on Terror” statistics are opaque, but we do know less than 1% of Americans serve in the military). Our most grievous injuries, the moral ones, are hidden and take a great deal of time and imagination to understand. But those things are secondary to the ordinary, prudent government of one’s home church. Knowing exactly what to expect on the Lord’s Day, and experiencing it every week without fail has done much more for my mental and spiritual well-being than any “Thank you for your service,” or attempt at sympathy (though those things are not bad).
The reasoning is simple.
The government of the local church reflects the health of the body. For a diseased-veteran-organ-transplant, like myself, to be accepted and thereby purified into the body of Christ the local body must have the fortitude to accept it. This is undoubtedly accomplished by the purifying and nourishing power of our Head, but also requires the faithful operation of the other parts. That requires a steadfast dedication to the ordinary means of grace and their proper administration at the local church. When the stuff really hits the fan, it is the habituated routine that carries the day. That is the reason for the endless drills on the boat that inevitably happened right when I was about to fall asleep––precious, precious sleep.
The hypothetical emergency I have used to express my point is really not the issue. What my brothers-in-arms and I need most is not survival skills for a box-office post-apocalypse, but preparation for that glorious Day of the Lord. The best way to aid that preparation is through the faithful and principled government of the church. And if any layman thereby thinks this short answer is not for them, it may be time to revisit their understanding Reformed and Presbyterian polity. We need the church to be faithful.