Me and the Army Chaplaincy

"For God and Country"
August 2, 2013

There's a lot of chatter these days about military chaplains and how they live out their faith in uniform, as well as talk of atheist chaplains living out their belief that there is no god.  This post however is not about either of these controversial and sensationalized topics.

I am asking for your prayers. 

At 37 and a very different man than I was at 19, I am hoping and praying to make a return to the uniform.  This time as a chaplain, to serve God and minister to soldiers in the Utah Army National Guard.

This really shouldn't come as a surprise.  Shortly after my deployment with the 3d Armored Calvary Regiment to Iraq in 2003-2004, I started hearing the call to ministry.  In 2008, I finally answered that call.  Originally I thought I would go to seminary and return to the military full-time as an Army chaplain.   I wanted to faithfully serve like the chaplains in the video below. (In this particular video, the chaplains are the ones with the symbol of the cross on their uniforms. SGT 'Cross' is not a chaplain.)

I enrolled at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and began the process of applying for the Chaplain Candidate Program with the Army.   Quickly, I realized that God had other plans and his timing was not my timing.  So I joyfully finished seminary and entered the pastorate at Risen Life Church in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Army chaplain (not a candidate) is generally required to have completed an M.Div or equivalent theological degree, be ordained and endorsed by a government approved endorsing agency, have appropriate ministry experience, and meet the age requirements and physical fitness standards.  I earned an M.Div at LBTS, am ordained, and am presently in the process of being endorsed by the North American Missions Board (NAMB), which is the Southern Baptist Convention's church planting and chaplain endorsing body.  Please pray that I will be approved for the work of this ministry and endorsed.

I am working on my physical fitness and striving to get back down to 'fighting weight.' I can attest that it was much easier when I was younger, but I'm enjoying the process none-the-less.  I could use your prayers in this area too.  Additionally, I do meet the ministry experience requirements, but I am light in two specific areas: weddings and funerals.  I'm praying for opportunities to officiate more weddings and funerals so I might grow and gain some more experience in these areas.  Please pray with me.

If God opens doors with both NAMB and the Utah National Guard, I could be back in the military serving as a chaplain with the next couple months.  I'll serve the typical one weekend per month and two weeks a year, and initially I'll have about 12 weeks of special training to complete, broken up into phases.  I believe this is a great ministry opportunity to serve soldiers and their families and the additional money and access to insurance will greatly aid me and my family as we continue to serve at Risen Life Church.

I was previously an Army Reservists and for a brief time was cross-leveled into a regular Army unit.  I selected the Utah National Guard for this go-round however, for two specific reasons.  First, I like the idea of serving locally.  The soldiers I may minister to live in my area.  At times, we may be called upon to serve the state in our community, in addition to national conflicts at home or abroad. The UNG also has a good program to help me pay down my student loan, which will be a huge blessing for my family. 

I'm struck by the path God has used to get me to this point.  While I may not get into the military again, I have learned a great deal since applying for the chaplain candidacy program in 2009.  This season has been invaluable in giving me greater clarity of my calling, teaching me much about life and ministry, and showing me the amazing glory and power of our sovereign Lord.  In addition, I've had repeated opportunities to see how remarkable team ministry truly is.  Risen Life Church highly values team ministry and without it, this venture into the Army chaplaincy wouldn't be possible.   

So I ask again for your prayers.  Please pray for me and this ministry opportunity.  Please pray that I will be faithful to follow Christ in whatever venture he sends me and my family.  And please, please pray for our troops.

Soli Deo gloria!
Bryan Catherman
"Salty Believer"

[UPDATE: August 27, 2013.  My experience with NAMB was remarkable and they endorsed me for service in the chaplaincy.  Unfortunately, the recruiter suggested that I enter the military under less than honest conditions.  Apparently, having had back surgery tends to prohibit military service.  My back surgery was a part of the conversation from the very beginning, but the recruiter mistakenly thought I'd be okay to lie about it.  God has closed this ministry door.]