Lessons Learned from the American Army
The Apostle Paul compare Christians to soldiers:
2 Timothy 2:3-4
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
I was reading an old army field manual from 1993. Perhaps if you're a veteran from that era, you are familiar with it. It is called the FM 100-5, Operations. It's basically a handbook for how the army thought about war and strategy back in the 90s. The book has gone through several editions (the current edition is called ADP 3-0, Unified Land Operations and the earliest was Field Service Regulations, United States Army from 1905).
THE ROLE OF DOCTRINE
Doctrine is the statement of how America's Army, as a part of a joint team, intends to conduct war and operations other than war. It is the condensed expression of the Army's fundamental approach to fighting, influencing events in operations other than war, and deterring actions detrimental to national interests. As an authoritative statement, doctrine must be definitive enough to guide specific operations, yet remain adaptable enough to address diverse and varied situations worldwide.
Doctrine touches all aspects of the Army. It facilitates communications between Army personnel no matter where they serve, establishes a shared professional culture and approach to operations, and serves as the basis for curriculum in the Army school system. Doctrine permeates the entire organizational structure of the Army and sets the direction for modernization and the standard for leadership development and soldier training.1
Doctrine is key to a successful army, but not only to the United States Army. as Christian soldiers engaging in spiritual warfare, doctrine is a decisive factor that can make us or break us.
For some reason, 'doctrine' has become a dirty-word in many Christian circles. Perhaps there is good reason to fear doctrine. If we don't handle it correctly, it can become divisive. Peter commands, "Finally, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, affectionate, compassionate, and humble" (1 Pet 3:8). Many want to maintain harmony as Peter commanded (a good thing!) but they fail to "progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity" (Heb 6:1a).
Christians, much like American soldiers, rely upon their understanding of doctrine for decision making when they are faced with warfare of their own. In fact, we could easily re-write the Army's "Role of Doctrine" to describe the role of doctrine in the Christian's life and the Church as a whole:
THE ROLE OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
Doctrine is the statement of how God's Army, as a part of a joint team, intends to conduct spiritual war and operations other than war. It is the condensed expression of the Christian's fundamental approach to fighting, influencing events in operations other than war, and deterring actions detrimental to the Church's interests. As a statement derived from the authoritative biblical text, doctrine must be definitive enough to guide specific operations, yet remain adaptable enough to address diverse and varied situations worldwide.
Doctrine touches all aspects of the Christian life. It facilitates communications between Christians no matter where they serve, establishes a shared local church culture and approach to operations, and serves as the basis for curriculum in the Sunday school system. Doctrine permeates the entire organizational structure of the church and sets the direction for modernization and the standard for leadership development and Christian training.
My brothers and sisters, don't be afraid of doctrine. You can even have fun with it! I have a friend that was studying worms in the Bible and called it the doctrine of helminthology. Actually, helminthology is a legitimate discipline in science, but you can basically, translate whatever you're thinking about into Greek, stick an -ology at the end of it, and you've got yourself a 'new' doctrine. Doctrine is a wonderful thing so long as it is true and spoken in love. So long as you're speaking the truth in love, you will be pleasing to God.
The hymnist, Sabine Baring-Gould, once wrote:
Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.
Let's band together with Christian doctrine and march forward like the Christian soldiers that God has called us to be.