When it comes to foreign missions, there’s one question that always comes up for those of us in uniform. When the government sends us out into “all the world” to fight or keep the peace, can we or should we use that opportunity to be part-time secret missionaries to the local population? For the most part, I think not.
The kinds of thing I’m talking about include activities like using the military postal system to bring in Bibles or religious literature to distribute to host nation personnel, handing out gospel tracts or evangelistic trinkets, organizing Christian activities in the local populace, etc.
This has nothing to do – in my opinion – with the first amendment or religious freedom. It has everything to do with vocation. We have chosen – and, I believe, have been called by God – to serve God and the cause of peace by taking up arms and serving our nation in uniform. Our first duty to both God and country is to do the job that comes with wearing that uniform: to keep or establish peace as part of a military force.
As God’s people serving in the armed forces, we always need to be mindful of the strategic objectives of our presence in the nations of the world. We may, in fact, develop some personal relationships that serve the cause of Christ. Our primary purpose for being in our host country, however, is not to plant churches or spread the message of Christ to the population at large. We are there to support a multinational agenda for the common good.
Military regulations set strict limits on religious activities aimed among the host population because these activities impact mission success. Serving in the military requires us all to follow both the letter and intent of lawful orders. Christians especially should not be be skirting the regulation’s intent or making up half-baked excuses for their unlawful actions.
The bottom line is this: if you think God is calling you to the foreign mission field, take off the uniform at the next lawful opportunity and become a missionary. As long as you think God is calling you to defend the cause of peace with the force of arms, however, your primary role in Christian missions is to pray for, encourage and give on behalf of others sent in the name of Christ.