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Commander’s Intent

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

“…make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:19

It has been said that every military battlefield plan falls apart upon contact with the enemy. These strategic plans may look good on paper but, when the bayonet hits the bone, the best laid plans can be reduced to a worthless piece of paper.

That’s why Commander’s Intent is such an important part of military strategy. This wartime principle is that, when plans fall apart on the battlefield, every soldier should remember the original goal of the mission and go back to it.

For instance, if the goal is to “take the hill” and the plan is a direct assault what do you do when the strategy is not working? Do you hunker down in a foxhole and wait for HQ to tell you what to do? No! You remember the strategic intent of your Commader and you find a way to take the hill.

This gives every soldier on the battlefield potential leadership opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, every fighting soldier should be seeking to exercise the strategy given to them by their leaders. But they should also be willing to chuck everything if the plans fall apart and do something heroic to get the final strategic mission accomplished.

This is what makes heroes in the chaos of war. Plans fall apart in the blood, crud and mud of the battlefield. But it’s in this deadly confusion that heroes arise, improvise and overcome. Alvin C. York was such a hero duing World War I.

On October 8, 1918, during an attack by his battalion to secure German positions he recalled: “The Germans got us, and they got us right smart. They just stopped us dead in our tracks. Their machine guns were up there on the heights overlooking us and well hidden, and we couldn’t tell for certain where the terrible heavy fire was coming from… And I’m telling you they were shooting straight. Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home. Our attack just faded out… And there we were, lying down, about halfway across [the valley] and those German machine guns and big shells getting us hard.”

What did York do? He adapted to the situation and overcame the obstacles. With his fellow soldiers pinned down by machine gun fire he risked life and limb to charge the machine gun nest while the German soldiers were relentlessly firing at him. After securing the nest he began to use his backhills Tennessee hunting acumen to pick off the entrenched enemy soldiers with his rifle. He took them out one by one. Finally, the remaining soldiers surrendered to him and to his topnotch markmanship. Almost singlehandedly he took 132 German soldiers as prisoners of war!

Here is what his Medal of Honor citation reads, “After his platoon suffered heavy casualties and 3 other noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading 7 men, he charged with great daring a machine gun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machine gun nest was taken, together with 4 officers and 128 men and several guns.”

Alvin York was the most highly decorated soldier of World War 1. When the fire and brimstone of war’s hell heated up he took command and ended up capturing the enemy and saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. Why? Because he remembered Commader’s Intent!

We need more spiritual soldiers like Alvin York, not to charge the earthly battlefield but the unseen one. We need pastors, youth pastors, moms, dads and teenagers to charge behind enemy lines to rescue the captive souls of their lost neighbors, co-workers, classmates and friends. We need them to adapt and overcome when their initial plans to reach the people in their sphere of influence fall apart at the point of contact.

Satan, the timeless and tyrant Nazi, has plans for continued world domination. He wants to keep us pinned down in our foxholes dealing with ministry, meetings and mayhem. He wants us to drive our kids to soccer practice but to keep putting off gospel-centered conversations with the other soccer parents. He doesn’t want us to get to know our neighbors so that we can rescue them from his death camps. He wants us to stay low, hunker down and wuss out. He seeks to keep us pinned down with bullets of temptation, distraction and lesser things that whizz over our heads every single day.

But it is in this battlefield mayhem that we must remember Commander’s Intent. We must crawl out of our foxholes and risk everything to reach those around us with the good news of Jesus. We must take the hill of their souls by flanking them with truth and charging them with love, all the while calling in air support through prayer. If what our evangelistic strategies are not working we must improvise and do what it takes to rescue them before its too late.

This applies to platoons (churches, youth groups, etc) just as much as it applies to individual soldiers on the battlefield. How many times does a church keep exercising outreach programs that don’t truly advance the kingdom of God in the community? How many times do youth groups keep doing something “evangelistic” that doesn’t end up growing the number of disciples in their faith community? Too many officers (pastors, youth pastors, etc) are exercising evangelistic tactics that are not working but they keep doing them because it is the way that it has always been done. Worse yet there are some officers who would rather talk about the fight (elder’s meetings), preach about the fight (sermon series) but not actually lead the fight in real and relevant ways. At least those who are exercising an obsolete plan are doing something.

Our Commander-in-Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ, gave us clear battlefield orders to “go and make disciples….” This strategic mission applies to churches, youth groups and individual Christians. If we are not currently doing anything to get this done then, in a very real sense, we have gone AWOL. And, if what we are doing is not adding new believers to the ranks of God’s army, then it time for us, like Alvin York, to adapt and overcome.

Let’s change our tactics. Let’s crawl out of our foxholes. Let’s do whatever it takes to get the mission accomplished. If we do then one day our Commander may be pinning a different kind of Medal of Honor on our chests. It will read “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Unlikely Fighter

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