Together! That’s the Way Church Ought to Be!

Posted: October 11, 2011 in Church, Discipleship, Pastoral Ministry
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Stewart Ruch wrote an amazing article in the August 20, 2011, edition of The Wall Street Journal, about Karl Marlantes. At the age of 23, Second Lt. Marlantes led 40 marines during an intense battle in the Vietnam War. Marlantes had moved his men into the jungle as they waited for U.S. jets to bomb a hill that North Vietnamese soldiers had overtaken. Unfortunately, the jets came and dropped their bombs on the wrong hill. So when Marlantes led his men out of the jungle, they were instantly under fire from untouched machine-gun positions. Marlantes knew it would only take a few minutes before the enemy rockets and mortars found his troops. The entire mission ground to a halt as the U.S. soldiers ducked behind downed trees and huddled in shell holes.

Marlantes knew what he had to do next, writing, “If I didn’t get up and lead, we’d get wiped out …. I did a lot of things that day … but the one I’m most proud of is that I simply stood up, in the middle of that flying metal, and started up the hill …. I simply ran forward up the steep hill, zigzagging for the bunker, all by myself, hoping [my own soldiers] wouldn’t hit me in the back. It’s hard to zigzag while running uphill loaded down with ammunition and grenades.”

But then in the midst of his solo charge up the hill to take out the enemy, Marlantes suddenly saw some movement in his peripheral vision: “It was a marine! He was about 15 meters below me, zigzagging, falling, up and running again. Immediately behind him a long ragged line of Marines came moving and weaving up the hill behind me. Behind the line were spots of crumpled bodies, lying where they’d been hit. They’d all come with me …. Everyone was intermingled, weaving, rushing and covering, taking on each hole and bunker one at a time in groups …. We, the group, just rushed forward all at once. We couldn’t be stopped. Just individuals among us were stopped … but we couldn’t be …. I was we, no longer me.”

I find Marlantes’s story both inspirational and challenging. Inspirational because, as someone has written, “A Marine is trained for moments that demand uncommon valor, and remembered for a lifetime of uncommon virtue.” Challenging because our church family has rallied together to care for the significant needs of one family in our midst, we’ve experienced the body of Christ functioning well. Yet there’s still a part of me that is disheartened. I’m disheartened because, as a pastor for almost thirty years, I have often witnessed the lack of comradery among many which can leave the impression that “we’re on our own to fend for ourselves.”

God gave us the church – to grow us and strengthening us so that we might work together for His glory.

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