Sharing the Gospel in the Barracks
By: Johnathan Orr
I’ve lived at Marine Barracks Washington and been with Pillar Church of Washington DC for over 3 years now. It has been a blessing to participate and watch God work in the lives of Marines during my time in the barracks.
I have had the honor of sharing the gospel with many Marines while living here. One instance that has stood out to me was after sharing the gospel with two Marines in the barracks room of another Marine that attends Pillar with me. Months later, one is baptized and the other wants nothing to do with Christianity. This highlighted for me the responses to the gospel that Scripture talks about (Mark 4:1-20, 1 Cor 1:18).
Yet we have confidence that the Gospel will do what God purposes it to do (Isa 55:10-11). God gives growth to planted seeds, but also many (and in my experience most) seeds don’t show anything immediately (1 Cor 3:6). Our job as Christians is to be faithful to scatter seeds and water. We also check up on seeds until ready to harvest (Mark 4:26-29).
During my time at Pillar DC, I’ve seen five Marines baptized. I’ve also had the joy of seeing Marines grow to love Scripture, commit to the local church, mature in evangelism, replace cultural Christianity with Jesus, and one particular Marine go from past gang involvement to overwhelming kindness. Praise the Lord!
As a believer in the barracks, I’m a main connection point between Marines and Pillar Church. I have been very thankful for the Pillar community to come alongside Marines in friendship and intentional discipleship.
Recently, I talked to a Marine who was about to PCS in 3 days. He grew up in the church and wanted to go to church when he came to DC but didn’t. I asked him what would have helped him to go to church, and his response was that he would have gone if someone had invited him because he doesn’t like sticking out among his peers to go to church on his own.
I have realized more recently from that conversation and others that there are some Marines out there that simply need to be invited to church and given an opportunity to consider their faith apart from their parents. For those who grew up going to church with their parents, it’s still intimidating to show up to a church full of people they don’t know. Furthermore, if their friends are staying up all night Saturday drinking and whatnot, they would feel crazy to leave the “fun” early for church the next morning.
Maybe you want to grow in your confidence to share the gospel in your own context. Perhaps like me, you’re living in a barracks and want to use this time to glorify God and make him known. At Pillar DC we use a 7-step progression to help believers grow in evangelism. I hope that these ideas can help you take new steps in reaching out to the lost with the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
7 steps for growing in evangelism:
- Think about evangelism. Consistently thinking about the eternal lives of those around us can be exhausting. But the challenge is to just think about it in the middle of the work day and as you see your neighbors. Everyone who does not follow Jesus is going to hell. It’s the truth we believe.
- Pray about it. Pray for the salvation of nonbelievers (Rom 10:1). Pray for opportunities and boldness (Eph 6:18-19, Col 4:3-4). God likes answering these prayers!
- See missed opportunities. What I like to say is, get annoyed with how many opportunities you miss and plead to God for boldness to talk. The duty desk, guard posts, chow hall, and common areas are great places for conversation.
- Start conversations. Literally any conversation. You can’t share the gospel if you can’t say hi. My typical questions are “How long have you been at the barracks?” “What company are you in?” “Where are you from?”
- Have spiritual conversations. My go-to questions are “Are you religious?” “Did you grow up going to church?” “Have you heard the good news?” “What do you believe happens when you die?” “Do you know what the Bible says about …” One question I’ve been using recently when I have a couple of seconds in the elevator or walking down a hallway is “Are you looking for a church?” I keep Pillar DC invite cards with me just in case.
- Share the gospel. We must tell the need for the forgiveness of sins through the death of Jesus Christ and the new life we have in his resurrection. We must invite them and not just inform them. Diagrams like the three circles can be helpful to make sure you cover the necessary information.
- Follow up. This can look like exchanging phone numbers and inviting to read the Bible together, small group, Sunday service, hangout, or a “Marine dinner” at someone’s home. A Pillar DC family hosted a “Marine dinner” every other week for Marines to get out of the barracks and enjoy a home-cooked meal in a nice home. This has been a welcoming space for Marines regardless of where they are at with faith. Another follow-up I’ve used is just urging people to consider their life eternally.
I hope this is encouraging for fellow believers, especially those living in the barracks. Although the living situation is not ideal compared to living off base, we have the unique opportunity of meeting new people every day to share the love and good news of Jesus Christ.