The Chaplain’s Character

By Doug Carver

When I reported for my first duty assignment at The Pentagon almost 30 years ago, a security guard checked my credentials and said, “Chaplain, you’re new here, aren’t you?” I nodded my head slowly in agreement. He replied, “Welcome to the most powerful building in the world. Chaplain; don’t let all the power in this place sneak up behind you like a vice grip on your brain! It’ll grab you before you know it. God sent you here, so keep your eyes on Him.”

I’ve never forgotten that surprising conversation. It was an essential reminder to me that the subtle temptations of the world (“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life,” 1 John 2:16) constantly strive to shipwreck our faith and Christian witness. The Bible records several sinful areas that attract a believer’s loyalty away from total devotion to the Lord: (1) the riches and pleasures of life (Luke 8:14); a love for this present world (2 Timothy 4:10); rejecting your moral compass (1 Timothy 1:19); getting entangled and overcome by the world’s filth again (2 Peter 2:20); and, being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).

In his book, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary, Dr. James Emery White writes, “Ministry is spiritually hazardous to your soul.” It can shipwreck your faith for several reasons. First, Christian leaders can confuse doing things for God with spending time with God. Second, people tend to put Christian leaders on a pedestal, causing them to occasionally get drunk on all the spiritual adulation instead of continuing to strengthen their souls by practicing their daily spiritual disciplines. Third, Christian leaders are often poor managers of their spiritual life. Dr. White concludes in his book, “No one will ever own your spiritual life but you. And as a Christian leader, that ownership better run deep.”

The periodic fall of Christian leaders in contemporary society requires those involved in the ministry to take a serious look at their moral and spiritual character. The Psalmist reminds us, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life” (Proverbs 4:23, italics mine). Chaplains especially need to possess an exceptional moral and spiritual character. In many institutional settings, they serve as the sole ministry leader who must discern their religious responsibilities and exercise the courage to persevere in fulfilling them, often under the most adverse situations and for long periods of time.

Our 2024 Chaplaincy Professional Development Training theme is “The SBC Chaplain’s Character.” Dr. Jim Shaddix, professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will serve as our keynote speaker for our regional training events. Dr. Shaddix will present us with challenging biblical messages regarding how a chaplain’s godly character is essential to faithfully engage today’s culture with the gospel. We pray this training will equip you to progressively develop the character and competencies of Jesus Christ in your personal life and chaplaincy ministry.

Published October 27, 2023

Doug Carver

Doug Carver, NAMB Executive Director of the Chaplaincy, serves as the senior advisor to NAMB and the Southern Baptist Convention on the chaplaincy ministry. He leads the NAMB Chaplaincy’s Team daily support to over 3,300 endorsed Southern Baptist chaplains.