I didn’t realize the military had obese people to begin with!?!
The US Military is in the midst of a slimming down its forces- literally and well I guess literally. Entering a state of less active military engagements means that the military needs less troops to deploy. This typically leads to pairing down the active soldiers and saving funds. So who is getting the boot right now? Once again the obese are being singled out. (I am not sure when else the obese are being singled out, but I know it is somewhere because everyone is discriminated against somewhere)
During high recruitment times the military eases its restrictions on weight and fitness because it just needs bodies, no matter how out of shape they are. This of course is an exaggeration, but when you are in need you are willing to make compromises that you wouldn’t normally make. The irony being of course that when we are actually fighting a war we relax our standards and this is of course the time when we need the most competent and fit soldiers available. Now that we are fighting less wars it is time to raise the standards again and hold many military personnel more accountable for their fitness levels.
The practical and ironic nature of eliminating the obese from the military has my brain spinning about the nature of recruiting volunteers and developing leaders in the church. (By the way with our whole country eating its way towards obesity I would imagine military recruitment is going to be harder and harder, hadn’t thought of that before.) There are several different ways in which I see us going through similar measures. One way is in start ups and church plants. When you are launching something new you are usually worried about a couple of things. First, you need critical mass. You need enough people to participate and become interested in order to build momentum and increase sustainability. That is why all church planters plant churches saying that they are going to reach the lost and then rejoice when a bunch of Christians from other churches show up. You need warm bodies to build a church. Ones that are already Christians, might be givers, and might have some ministry competency are awesome.
But when you are trying for critical mass often times there is not a lot of discernment as to the type of people you are recruiting and their character and competency. You just need bodies. The irony here is the same as that above. When we are creating the culture of a new church or launching a new ministry that is actually the most vital time to have the right people in place. Someone with high competency but low character can blow that thing up faster than you can imagine. You can also end up with a bunch of warm bodies that are incapable of actually doing the work. This is akin to having an armored division where all the soldiers are so fat they can’t fit into the tanks. You might have warm bodies but they aren’t necessarily adding to the work.
So what is the solution? A couple of things jump out to me. First, we need to heavily invest in leadership development. In the military they have boot camps and regular training exercises to try and take those who are out of shape and even those in pretty good shape and get them into great shape. They invest a lot of time into training. If only we spent a fraction of this amount of attention to training in the church. If only we had a vigorous spiritual boot camp for our people. If we are starting up something new we should spend less time rushing to launch and a lot more time in training and preparation. Secondly, we need to be far more discerning with who we put in positions of leadership and even as volunteers. Our need for people to step up (which is pretty much universal in churches) often leads us to just say thanks and throw someone into the field of battle as soon as they volunteer. We seldom train them, invest in them, get to know them, and make sure they are ready for the task.
Obese soldiers sounds like it should be an oxymoron. So too does unrighteous Christians, untrained church leaders, and un-prayerful church volunteers. The only way forward is to thin out our ranks, invest far more time in discipling our leaders, and take our time so that we don’t end up in situations where we are so desperate for warm bodies that we put our whole mission at risk.