Who are the Neighborhood Chaplains?
The title Neighborhood Chaplain is used for the sake of the neighbors we are visiting, to make the purpose of the visit clear—to instantly break the ice and make clear the offer of spiritual care that is available. It is not for the sake, or pride, of the Christian Chaplains, who are simply being Christ to them—deeply caring for their neighbors.
But who are the Chaplains?
Is the “work of an evangelist” assigned to all believers? Is the Great Commission given to us corporately, or to each of us individually? Is it just the clergy or only the early disciples that were responsible for the work? Who should be a Neighborhood Chaplain? Who should share and defend the faith? Whose responsibility is it? The spoken or unspoken uncertainty of the answers to these questions has been a major contributor to the church’s lack of action toward a lost and broken world, and to the worldliness that has crept into the church as a whole.
We know Christ’s work on earth is accomplished through His Body, and certainly, we all have differing roles and functions within that body. But these questions of individual responsibility are pivotal in determining an effective strategy to reach the world and the tactics of every believer’s daily life.
Ironically, though we are suggesting “a title” for mature, solid Christians to use in their neighborhoods, our problems in this area stem partly from over defining—labeling, giving titles, positions, and defining roles—where none are needed. Doing so has unintentionally enabled the attitude of, if not the words, “It’s not my job.” Instead of the evangelist or pastor training the believer to do the work of ministry, the one “titled” becomes the only doer of ministry.
(At the heart, this tendency of always wanting to know every detail, of reading between the lines, of going beyond the information and instructions that God has provided, is often another branch of our pride. Many of the divisions in the church and controversial doctrines exist because of the same heart issues. Much can be said about this topic, and it is explained more fully in our other materials, and indexed in our manual, Great Commission Conversations. We mention this because it is a key to bringing unity among the Christians in the neighborhood.)
The tongue-in-cheek answer to the problem: we’ll just give every believer a title—Chaplain. But in a sense, that is the goal. Of course we recognize they can’t be Chaplains without wanting to, and without training. Our goal is that our neighborhoods will be places of ongoing training—at the doors and in the living rooms, seekers and believers will be in various stages of growth and training. All of it will only come about as we extend the walls of the church to make disciples—to teach people their faith and how to live it. Then the questions of responsibility will be answered, as we simply and humbly obey what is clearly asked of us in the Holy Scriptures. When coming from an overflowing heart of love toward God and others—it is no forced task.
- We are to imitate Christ.
- We are to imitate and follow Paul as he followed Christ.
- We are to obey what we are taught all that He has commanded us.
- We are to be ministers of reconciliation.
- We are to be ready to give an answer… Of course, the list goes on and on.
So the process and work of the Neighborhood Chaplain is to bring the gospel to everyone, to initiate deeper discipleship for all believers; with the goal that, eventually, we will all care deeply and share with others what God has done for us in Christ. Defining when a Christian transitions into that “position” is not the issue. There is no hurry to multiply “Chaplains.” Our goal is to multiply Christ-like ministers of the Gospel: mature believers who demonstrate Christ’s love and character in their neighborhoods and workplaces. The title really doesn’t matter.