Have YOU Earned the Right to Preach Like a Drill Instructor?

I’m in the middle of a good book about a platoon of Marine recruits, Making the Corps, by Thomas Ricks. Claiming diverse backgrounds, all these recruits seem to have one thing in common; non-conformity. Most of them have specifically chosen the Corps because of its demanding reputation and at Parris Island they will find something worth conforming to or they will fail. About 14% of these young men will not graduate, the highest among the services.

One recruit is very gung-ho and looks forward to a promising career in the Marines and has immersed himself in all things having to do with the Corps. He recognizes the fact that he can help the others with his superior knowledge and abilities and is quick to point out their mistakes. He believes that he is more than ready to guide the squad through the rigors of boot camp and sees himself as a natural leader. Unfortunately for him, his drill instructors do not.

His attempts at instructing the other recruits is against standard orders and demonstrates a lack of discipline. It is the drill instructor’s job to teach the recruits; they alone have the authority. Besides, this recruit has troubles of his own and tends to complain. Eventually he fails a major test and is let go. He is not missed by most of the platoon; they are too busy to notice (not that they ever took his ministrations very seriously).

Another recruit, equally enthusiastic but more low key, is recognized by the platoon, as well as their sergeants, as a natural leader. He tackles every task aggressively and excels at them all. Humble, he never points out the mistakes of others but is ready to help when needed. Not seeking attention he claims no special leadership qualities. Nevertheless, he is quietly chosen by the drill instructors to be the squad leader. The platoon is pleased with this decision and has no trouble following his lead. Everyone can see that this recruit embodies the spirit of the Corps and shows the promise of perhaps some day earning the honor of becoming a Marine Corps drill instructor himself.

I found this story to be a good analogy for how certain enthusiastic Christians perceive their roles in life. Some seem to see themselves as having been chosen to lead others out of sin by virtue of what they believe. They do this by verbally sharing what they call the Word of God, whenever and where ever possible, with little concern for the circumstances, feelings or credulity of those they preach to.

They see it as their duty to confront ignorance, sin and error. Though these confrontations may be upsetting to some, good leaders do not shy away from difficult tasks. After all, Jesus was harsh at times and he did not always worry about other’s feelings. These erstwhile leaders are not dismayed or surprised at the negative reactions they encounter when proclaiming the Truths and attribute this to the fallen nature of the unsaved. There will always be a natural gulf between those who lead and those who follow, between those who are right and those who are wrong.

There are other Christians, however, who do not claim any higher status. They do not boast of having special knowledge or an especially unique relationship with God, even if they believe it to be so. They feel that serving others with compassion and grace is not only rewarding but obedient to God. Their sense is that most people are working towards a closer communion with God and that no one has graduated yet. There is still much to be learned from others. Building relationships provides more opportunity for evangelism than telling people that their beliefs are wrong.

Those who see themselves as decisive leaders; confronting, exhorting, rebuking and intentionally setting themselves up as examples – much like drill instructors – often find that few will follow their lead. On the other hand, those who see themselves as part of a community working towards a common goal understand something the others do not; it is best to put the group ahead of yourself and leave the exhortations up to the real drill instructor.

Who can also be good a analogy for Jesus.


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  1. #1 by Christian Beyer on October 17, 2008 - 5:54 am

    I realize that my recent remark about clergy and laity might be confusing in lieu of my post. To further the analogy – one does not ‘earn’ this right to preach at people because they have attended seminary. Besides, for every one professional pastoral position on a subject I can find two or three different ones, all from the same denomination. The DI’s (according to what I have learned – veterans may correct me here) are united in their purpose and their understanding. And they had to ‘prove’ themselves to others, their peers as well as their superiors, before given this opportunity use such highly persuasive techniques.

    One reason why these high-handed techniques don’t work with evangelism (and business and to some degree even in teaching) is because theirs is not a captive audience. They have every right to get up a and walk away. And they do. Because those doing the preaching have no more validity in their eyes than any one else. They have not earned the right to tell people how to live and what to believe. Those who have taken the effort to know them, work with them, eat with them, share with them….they might be listened to.

  2. #2 by logiopsychoambrosiaivorytowerpath on October 17, 2008 - 7:14 am

    On the other hand . . .

    What is leadership? Can we define true leadership?

    And you’re right–partially. It is sanctified and glorified when a young Christians declares, “Pray for me, I want to go to 3rd Cestercian Holiness Christian University.” The congregation utters its approving utter (nods, m-hmms, yes Lord, etc.) The student goes off to college and is molded into the servant of God.

    The next young person declares, “I’ve been accepted to Yak-A-Dak State University.” The congregations utters its questions–“Why would you go to Satan’s college?” or, “Oh, you plan to take up a secular profession . . .”

    Why can’t a holy calling be found at a state university?

    I have attended many colleges in my day–and I found that the people were pretty much the same at one or the other.
    I have met kind, honest, fair-minded, loving, happy people at “secular” schools, and I have met self-centered, dishonest, rude, unloving, unhappy people at Christian liberal arts and Bible colleges alike (and visa versa, btw).

    The point is, that from entry into C. Baptist Church in the year 1979, I was under the impression that it was more acceptable to go to a Christian college–a Bible-Believing Christian college–then to go to a state (or private) “secular” school. And why not? All of the attendees (so I thought) of BIOLA were treated as little gods, in a sense. Some were “interns” and got $100.00 per month from the church. They were respected by peers and adults alike. They led Bible studies–and seemed to have carte blanche (no AMEX there) in all things holy at C. Baptist Church. This is what I wanted, but the mold for my life was different, and that was a horse of a different color.

  3. #3 by logiopsychoambrosiaivorytowerpath on October 17, 2008 - 7:16 am

    In fact, the most encouraging professor I have ever had is a Post-Modernist who wrote her dissertation on Heidegger, and is a devotee of Foucault and Derida. But she has meant more to my finding vocational peace–or at least a vocational course–as any professor I ever had at a Christian college.

  4. #4 by logiopsychoambrosiaivorytowerpath on October 17, 2008 - 7:17 am

    At least she gave reading assignments on Foucalt and Derrida–I should not say she is a devotee.

  5. #5 by logiopsychoambrosiaivorytowerpath on October 17, 2008 - 7:18 am

    I wish I could spell Focault and Derrida.

  6. #6 by netprophet on October 17, 2008 - 12:56 pm

    Chris your analogy of the Corps and the Church is a good one. The drill sergeants are trained and carry out their duty in the way they do because discipline is an essential part of being able to fight the good fight and come out alive and victorious.

    Being disciples of Christ, as the word denotes, we are to be disciplined soldiers, There is no greater war, or ever has been, than the war we Christians are fighting, albeit it be a spiritual war and therefore the discipline is also spiritual. The problem within the Church is that there are leaders who are non-effective because they are trying to fight this spiritual war on an intellectual front and use mental weapons, when Jesus obviously gave us more effective spiritual weapons to fight the Pharisites. (not a slip) 😉

  7. #7 by rogueminister on October 17, 2008 - 8:35 pm

    Great analogy!

  8. #8 by Brandy on November 8, 2008 - 1:40 am

    I thought this was a PERFECT analogy. Spot on. 😉
    I sir, am no drill seargent.

    When Jake was in basic training (we’ve been AF for over 8 years now) he said his TI would make grown men cry. It is their goal to “break you down” so that you conform to their way of thinking through belittling and other such tactics. I never want to be that kind of Christian. And I agree, there are such Christians out there. *sigh* I’m just glad I am ALREADY a believer and know truth from untruth. 😉

    Great post!

  9. #9 by Christian Beyer on November 8, 2008 - 8:44 am

    Thanks, Brandy.

    “It is their goal to “break you down” so that you conform to their way of thinking through belittling and other such tactics.”

    In my experience, that’s precisely what exposure to Jesus does. We realize that we are broken and so very little compared to God. Not that he belittles us with meanness or degradating accusations; we inflict that upon ourselves. But it seems that many of us think that we have ‘what it takes’ to do Christ’s job for him.

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