Getting assigned to Loring Air Force base was quite a shock for young men and women raised in the Sunbelt or on the West Coast. Loring was close to Canada and a long way from everything else!
Most of the airmen and officers were close to my age; I turned 28 before I finished my first year in Presque Isle. Soon, New Life was populated with military personnel of all rank and file.
I believe it was C. H. Spurgeon who said, "A man needs to pastor for twenty years before he is ready to be a pastor." I was no exception. I had a lot to learn and plenty of growing up to do -- God used many from the U.S. military to begin that process.
In the military there is a professional distance between the officers and the enlisted. In Christ's Church those differences have to be handled very carefully. Salvation puts us on a level playing field. In some instances an airman was teaching a Major, Lt. Colonel, or Full Bird the Scriptures. Every single Sunday, a very young pastor was standing in the pulpit "exhorting, rebuking, and teaching."
I wish I could say I always dazzled everyone with my preaching and leadership, but I would have to lie! On several occasions, ranking officers asked me for appointments. Often it was a Colonel named Ed and Major named Jim; both of them were military doctors.
Those men were mature and wise believers. Sometimes they had to bring a situation to my attention that involved one of the airmen. Most of the time they had to bring a situation to my attention that involved something I had done or said!
Each meeting would begin with prayer. I was always addressed as "Pastor" or "Sir." They would always affirm their confidence in my calling and the sincerity of my desire to follow God. It is hard to find the words to explain the attitude of humility these two men possessed. After we all prayed, the conversation would then move to an area of concern. Sometimes it would be a question about my doctrinal position or my disposition. They would always take me to the Scriptures and transition the conversation like this . . .
"Sir, I understood you to say the Scriptures say . . . "
I would confirm that what they heard was what I said.
Then they would say, "Pastor, that is not all the Scripture says about that subject."
The first time that happened I was feeling pretty intimidated and became very defensive. They never responded in kind. However, they did not back up either! When all was said and done, they were right. I matured and became a better pastor by heeding their advice. I realized that they were allies, not enemies.
Many years have come and gone since those conversations took place. Many times since, I have been the one to say to a young zealot or opinionated believer, "That is not all the Scriptures say about . . ."
Ed Marr and Jim Davis were just two of many that God used to shape and protect the ministry that God gave me. To this day, God always surrounds me with godly men and women who are great allies in the battle God has called me into! Their advice has saved me from myself on many occasions.
Loring. Boring? Not hardly.