In my view, the only really effective armies are those that prioritize the mission. When the mission of engaging the Enemy and capturing what belongs to him remains at the forefront, with community and institution subordinate to it, then (and only then!) is an army doing what an army is designed to do. Because while the structures and forms of military life have value and are even necessary for effectiveness, they can’t be primary and the army continue to be effective as an army. Neither can camaraderie and community become primary or the army becomes another kind of civic or social organization like the Elks, the Optimists, or (at best) Rotary. No, the mission must always be kept at the forefront, where it can give shape to the community and institutional aspects of army life which are designed to support it, rather than the vice versa.
One of my fears as a pastor is that our churches in America have become either “Relational Armies” or “Institutional Armies,” and thus, in some important ways, not really armies at all. And these pitfalls have little to do with theology. Conservative and evangelical churches can become social clubs and museum pieces just as easily as liberal ones if the mission is either forgotten or changed. Instead, I think it is due to the fact we in America are quite accustomed to life being easy and so expect Christianity to be so. We look for comforting structures or relationships with people who look/talk/act/think like we do, never realizing that the whole point of our Christianity is to reach and build up in the faith people who are nothing like us. And so, paraphrasing Chesterton, we find real Christianity difficult and hence leave it untried. But for the Church in America to regain the level of culture changing impact it once had here, it has to re-focus its energies on accomplishing the mission. People are dying everywhere around us, enslaved to sin and Satan, while we spend our time either shining our armor or talking to each other. Advancing into battle is what is required, but will we the American Church hear the trumpet call in time to make a difference in its outcome? I truly hope so.