King's Business - 1967-03

“RETREAT - but ADVANCE” By Chaplain (Major) Homer G. Benton

To the dedicated Army Chaplain is given the chal­ lenging opportunity to present the claims of the Gospel and the privilege of enriching the lives of those men to whom he ministers. He is constantly investigating new and different avenues for drawing attention to his chapel program and to the message which he has to deliver. One such area that is of inestimable value to the evangelical Chaplain, and one that is growing in empha­ sis within the Army, is the one-day religious retreat program. This year more servicemen than ever will have the occasion to enter into a brief retreat period. This quick­ ening of the interest in spiritual things, with its em­ phasis on bringing the soldier into a closer relationship with God, is evidence of the growth of the retreat move­ ment in the military. The United States Army defines the purpose of the retreat program in one of its official publications as “ to cultivate a more intense awareness of the individ­ ual’s responsibility to God and the place that God should hold in the life of the individual” (FM 16-5, pg. 9). When a soldier “makes a retreat,” he is sharing in a fresh approach to an age-old practice. A one-day religious retreat program is ideally suited for the Chaplain who is seeking an effective way to reach men in depth for the Lord Jesus Christ. It offers him the means to encourage Christian soldiers to live consistent lives for their Lord and Saviour during their service days. It is the opportunity to provide an inten­ sified spiritual program with a Gospel-centered content. Thoughtful programming will provide helpful Bible- centered training to men who will need to “ be strong in the Lord and the power of his might” (Eph. 6:10). Many Christians have had little or no experience with retreat programs. “ How can such a program be used by an Army chaplain to help young soldiers main­ tain their Christian life?” is an oft-asked question. Therefore, to understand better what is involved in such a program, it is worth-while to consider one chaplain’s concept of the one-day retreat. is

“He that would attain the inner, holier life must draw away, as Jesus did, a little from the crowd.” St. Thomas a ’Kempis S triding TO the front of the chapel the tall, com­ manding figure of the Army Chaplain turned around and fixed with his eyes all the eighty soldiers seated around him. “ Fellows,” he said, “ you’re attending a one-day re­ ligious retreat. If at the end of the program, any of you can come to me and say that this day has not been the best day of your life, I’m going to do something. Know what?” Silence hung suspended in the air as the chaplain’s listeners stared in anticipation. “ I’ll have your Commander give you a three-day pass and I will throw in ten dollars for your expenses. Fair deal?” Subtly the mood changed and the servicemen began to observe the chaplain with a tinge of awe and wonder­ ment. There was the feeling that the men were not thinking about the money, but rather that the forth­ coming period of ten hours would be “ the greatest.” Later, the chaplain admitted privately, “ I’ve made that offer many times. Never had to pay up yet. After all, a one-day religious retreat, properly conducted, is ‘the greatest.’ ” Today America once again is seeing an increasing number of young men reporting to induction stations for military service. With the departure of loved ones from their familiar home environment, there is often a questioning concern. Christian parents and relatives are always interested in the spiritual welfare of-those who answer the call of the nation’s armed forces. In today’s modern army there has been a drama­ tic upsurge of technological advancement, but with all this MAN still remains the indispensable and the most important resource. To this end the military maintains an intensive religious and moral guidance program to stimulate the moral and spiritual growth of that man. MARCH, 1967

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