Rawlings School of Divinity


Master of Divinity (MDiv)


Kenneth W. Bush


Military Chaplain, Religious Freedom, Great Commission, Free Exercise of Religion, Make Disciples, Christian Chaplain, Pluralism, First Amendment, Constitution, Gospel, Mission


Christianity | Religion


This thesis seeks to answer the question: How does a Christian chaplain in the U.S. Army fulfill the Great Commission given by Jesus in Scripture while facilitating the free exercise of religion for everyone in his organization? Jesus commands his followers to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). The primary audience of this thesis consists of military chaplains and candidates. The conclusion reached is that the chaplain can accomplish both tasks stated in the question. To facilitate a soldier’s free exercise of religion does not automatically betray the teachings and guidance of Scripture nor does it prevent the chaplain from making disciples. The chaplain does so by incorporating several key elements, which serve as the primary arguments for the conclusion, that have been discovered throughout the thesis discussion. The chaplain can accomplish the Great Commission in a pluralistic environment by acknowledging that he has been given a calling from God to minister in this environment, understanding and utilizing U.S. doctrine, U.S. laws, and Army Regulation to protect the chaplain’s free exercise of religion, protecting that same right for the personnel in his unit while also building meaningful, connecting relationships with them, exercising wisdom and discernment with each religious support situation he encounters as well as being confident of his own convictions and theology, and relying on the Holy Spirit to lead him in every opportunity for evangelism and discipling. Scripture provides instruction and examples regarding these key elements. For example, separate accounts are given of Jesus and Paul the Apostle spending time with unbelievers (Lk 19:5-10; Acts 17:16-17). Scripture instructs us to approach situations both with love and discernment (Matt 10:16). Scripture also shows us how the power of the Holy Spirit emboldened and empowered people to be a witness for God (Acts 4:8, 31).

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