Pillar Church of Crestview embraces military community

Military servicemembers face the brokenness of the world in a way few others do, says Noah Clifton, who is planting Pillar Church of Crestview alongside Alex Chatman in Crestview, Florida.

On top of that, the number of deployments, exercises, operations and trainings that call a member out of the home puts families in what Marine and church planter Alex Chatman calls “a pressure cooker.”

“And that comes home, and it really destroys marriages and families,” shares Noah, “which leads to high divorce rates and high suicide rates.”

That’s the reason Alex and Noah are planting a church near Eglin Air Force Base: to share the hope of the gospel with a community that faces unique spiritual challenges.

According to Mahala Clifton, Noah’s wife, military service members aren’t hard to find in Crestview.

“When we’re at the grocery store or different companies around the town, we’re constantly seeing either military wives or service members doing their shopping, pumping their gas – different day-to-day activities. So, we’re constantly running into different military families that we can reach out to make connections with to ultimately share the gospel.”

For these families, an acknowledgment of their unique experience is vital.

“I’ve found over and over what military service members are really looking for is an authentic embrace of their experience,” says Colby Garman, Alex and Noah’s Sending Church pastor.

For more than a decade, Colby worked alongside Clint Clifton in the work of reaching the military through church planting, making him familiar with this unique work.

“Church planting in military communities is worthwhile,” he says, “because the same thing that makes it challenging also makes it a special opportunity in God’s kingdom.”

On average, families with a member who serves in the military will move every two to three years.

“That means a consistent upheaval in their overall life structures,” Colby shares, “the relationships and friendships, the things they’ve come to count on, the communities they become involved in.”

For churches engaged in these communities, many of their newfound disciples can’t stay long.

“When we have people come in, we know they’re going to leave,” Alex says. “And the way we look at it is that’s good.”

In embracing the military community around them, Pillar Church of Crestview chooses to view the transience of their community as a gospel opportunity rather than an obstacle to growing their church because, as Alex explains, “once they leave, we know we’re sending somebody out that will carry the gospel message.”

Moreover, Noah points out that many military service members are natural-born leaders.

“The government’s already sending these natural-born, trained and equipped leaders, and we’re just trying to equip them with the gospel and the ability to make disciples,” he says.

“Evangelism to the military has the opportunity to make a global impact,” says Colby, “because it’s just true that military service members are not likely to stay — they’re going somewhere. And as difficult as that is to grow a church locally, it tunes us into what God’s doing in His kingdom. They have the opportunity to serve as a gospel witness and ambassador for Christ in the place that God sends them.”

To learn more about how your church can make a global impact by engaging one of the highest-priority military communities, visit SendNetwork.com/Military.

Published February 22, 2024

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