Four Types of Churches: With Apologies to the US Military

Monday Discussion

All branches of the US Military are vital to any military action that the nation undertakes. All branches are filled with brave men and women who risk much to keep our nation safe. They (each branch) are designed to complement one another and accomplish the single task of victory. With apologies to the US Military, I want to use the four major branches of the military to create a metaphor for understanding different types of churches.

Types of Churches:

  1. air-forceAir Force Churches–these churches specialize in long range prayer-bombing raids for their participation in the Great Commission. They pray for the advance of the gospel. They pray for missionaries. They pray for people to come to faith in Christ. But the bulk of their participation in advancing the cause of Christ is from a far and (generally) safe (or safer) distance than those on the ground.
  2. NavyNavy Churches–these churches seem to be satisfied with delivering men and materials to the site of impact for the gospel. They release money, missions teams, and missionaries. They often have large missions budgets, active short term missions teams and a significant number of missionaries that they support. Their advancement of the gospel in the world is closer to the action but largely in the category of “supply and help” rather than direct evangelistic engagement, that is, until the battle comes to them in their own environment (sea for the Navy, backyard for the church). 
  3. Army StrongArmy Churches–these churches are content to hold territory for the King. Others have won people to Christ and now these churches nurture and care for the souls and families that God brings into their territory.  They are powerful and generally effective at helping families of the faithful deepen in their walks with Christ and the knowledge of Christ and the gospel. They are most effective in reaching the family members of the church family to Christ.
  4. Marines3Marine Churches–these churches are interested in taking new territory for the King. All of these church types are, but Marine-like churches feel compelled to get out and take risks to defeat the enemy. They give sacrificially of all of their resources, money, people, stuff—everything they have is a resource to advance the kingdom. They are sometimes shortsighted in care and nurture, at least, it looks that way to Army churches. But they believe that they actually make better disciples by keeping the whole church on mission to advance the gospel.
  • Where is your church?
  • Are any of these “types” more biblical than another?
  • Can a church change its type?
  • Can a church be obedient to the Great Commission by being only one of these types?
  • Are there seasons when a church is more one of these types than another?
  • How long can you be one type and still be a healthy, disciple-making church?

5 thoughts on “Four Types of Churches: With Apologies to the US Military

    1. I think this is where the metaphor breaks down. I did this exercise more to describe how churches seems to position themselves (intentionally or unintentionally), than to recommend any one as more appropriate than another.

      I’m going to wait for more responses before I give my own view.

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  1. Neat metaphor. I think you could also say that individual Christians tend to fit in these categories as well. I know for me, I’m a Marine type, always seeking to push the church to new, uncharted territory for the sake of the Kingdom. The church I recently pastored was a Navy church and your description fit to a T. Very missions minded, doing short term missions trips overseas twice a year, designating a huge portion of the church budget to supporting missions work, but ultimately not very missional at home. Most of my congregants however, were Army types. Very high “mercy” and “hospitality” spiritual giftedness.

    In response to your questions, all of these types are biblical. All are necessary. I think the distinction of each type, however, becomes important in the individuals who comprise a church. The senior or primary preaching pastor should probably be a Marine type, always moving the church forward by casting God’s vision, preaching truth, and equipping the saints. Marine types are the rarest members of a congregation, in my experience. They really are “the few, the proud.” The members of the body who aren’t Marine types should then use their particular spiritual gifts to serve as the sea, land, and air support to seeing God’s mission accomplished.

    Can a church change it’s overall type? I’d like to think so, but it’s not easy. Perhaps the only realistic way it can happen is through a new generation coming into leadership or new believers joining the body and outnumbering the “old guard.”

    I’m saving this article for future reference. I think it’s a great metaphor for talking about how the body of Christ functions in a healthy way. So, in other words, I’m stealing from you, Marty. Hope you don’t mind. 🙂

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    1. Go ahead. The whole point of the blog is to help young guys be more effective with all the energy, time and passion they have. You might want to get a fresh copy that corrects all my typos though. The copy now up is corrected.

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    2. Well said. Sometimes people want everyone to be like them, which is a danger. We need each of these types of churches, those who pray, those who hold the ground, and those who take new ground. I think focusing on developing our gifts, living them to their fullest and trusting God for the rest is what we’re to do.

      Great metaphor, Marty!

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