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From the Winter 2013 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Desert Discipleship

by Mark Carter
C.S. Lewis Institute Fellow

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“That They May All Be One”2

  Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF HOA) is a joint command, meaning that members of all branches of military service (army, navy, air force, marines) work together. That kind of working environment requires each service member to deprioritize his or her own service-unique culture and way of doing things in favor of doing business the joint way. Whether we liked it or not, all of us had to give up part of our professional identities, which can be challenging as well as humbling.
  In a sermon on Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17, Chaplain Brian drew a similar comparison to the body of Christ in camp. He noted that there on base all of us worshipped in a way that was different from what we were used to back home. With only one Camp Chapel and three Protestant services on Sunday, the options were not nearly as diverse as they might be state-side. The 2012 Christmas Eve Protestant worship service was a perfect example. Contemporary and traditional praise music, praise dance, and Holy Communion were all incorporated into a memorable celebration of Jesus’ birth. For all of us there to worship together in unity in that particular way and at that point in our lives, God had to gather us from across the United States and around the world, remove us from our homes and comfort zones, and set us together in the desert.   
  During the Exodus, didn’t God remove the distractions of Egypt and place His chosen people in the desert to teach them how to trust Him completely? Didn’t St. Anthony and other Desert Fathers and Mothers flee to the desert to minimize distractions that would hinder their relationships with God? Similarly, isn’t C.S. Lewis best known for being a proponent of Mere Christianity, where traditional and denominational differences are put into proper perspective for the sake of core unity in the fundamentals of the Christian faith? Could it be that God placed me and other disciples of Jesus at Camp Lemonnier in the desert in order to remove distractions and draw us closer to Himself and to each other, even across traditional and denominational lines?

Heart & Mind Discipleship

  In the first weeks of 2013, I spent many off-duty hours more focused on devotional and quiet time with the Lord. I also participated in a chapel-sponsored Experiencing God (Henry Blackaby) study group led by Kentucky National Guard Chaplain Mark East. Throughout the winter study, I prayed for the Holy Spirit to show me how I could serve the Lord’s kingdom in camp; toward the end of the study, I reread Jesus’
Great Commission:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18–20)

  That is when it hit me. To describe it in navy terms, the Great Commission is what is referred to as a standing order. In other words, as followers of Jesus, each and every one of us is commanded to make disciples, to baptize them, and to teach them all that Jesus commanded in Holy Scripture. We don’t need to ask God’s permission to make disciples, because He has already commanded us plainly to do so.  

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