When asked about his vision for the annual 2022 Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim, SBC President Ed Litton reflected, “In a time of increased division and polarization, Southern Baptists must be united in our pursuit of that one sacred effort of reaching the nations for Jesus Christ.” He also urged Southern Baptists to “go back to the basics of the gospel … pray that we will return to our first love, that Jesus will be at the center of it all.”
Pastor Litton’s challenge in addition to the SBC-Anaheim theme verses (Colossians 1:15-22) begs the question, “Is Jesus Christ the center of your chaplaincy ministry?”
I graduated from seminary 40 years ago, and my ministry started in the local church as a pastor and an Army Reserve chaplain. Reflecting over the past four decades, I must confess that I’ve struggled to ensure that Jesus Christ constantly remains the center of everything in my life and ministry.
Too often, we can find ourselves caught up in doing things for the sake of the ministry instead of choosing to be “found in Him” (Philippians 3:9). When we neglect to keep Jesus Christ at the center of it all, we find ourselves in ministry activities that stroke our ego, feed our self-esteem, ensure our job security, or tempt us to fall prey to works righteousness.
How can you know if Jesus is in the center of your chaplaincy ministry? The following four questions will assess and help you reflect on your current ministry.
- Is Jesus Christ the source of your chaplaincy ministry?
He created us, saved us, called us, equipped us and sent us on mission into our respective settings to share the Good News. He is all we need to have an effective ministry. Christ is our salvation, strength, security and satisfaction. The Apostle Paul described his ministry as a light for the Gentiles derived from one source, Jesus Christ: “He is before all things, and by him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
- Is Jesus Christ the motivation for your chaplaincy ministry?
A senior military chaplain (not Southern Baptist) succinctly described his motivation for serving as a chaplain as wanting, “to do good for people in the world.” Compare that response to the Apostle Paul’s incentive, “Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people. … For the love of Christ compels us, since we have reached this conclusion, that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:11,14-15).
- Is “making Jesus Christ known” your primary goal for the chaplaincy ministry?
If Christ is the center of everything we do as a chaplain, we continuously have one passionate and ultimate goal: to glorify the Lord and make Him known to those within our ministry sphere of influence.
As Jesus Christ prepared to complete His earthly ministry, He prayed, “I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them” (John 17:26).
When we make Jesus’ prayer our own, we submit all our goals and objectives to Him. Nothing proves more important than making Him known, worshipped, honored, obeyed and placed at the center of everything.
- Is your hope in Jesus Christ at the center of your chaplaincy ministry?
As chaplains, we provide ministry in hopeless places affecting the lives of those we serve: a morgue, an ICU waiting room, a combat aid station, a disaster site, a crime scene, etc. When Jesus Christ is the center of everything in our life and ministry, we walk into desperate places as an agent of hope.
It does not mean having the answers for people suffering tragic situations, but “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27), will use our ministry efforts to birth or restore hope in others.
Chaplains, I challenge you to keep Jesus at the center of everything. Keep Him as your source, motivation, goal and hope in your ministry.
As you reflect on your current chaplaincy ministry, is Jesus Christ the center of it all?
Published May 11, 2022