Thursday, November 5, 2009

Missional Lessons from the Vietnam War

I have been a big student of history; especially military history. The other evening I was reading a novel about the Vietnam War called "The Incident at Muc Wa." The story line of the book takes place when American involvement in the war was escalated from the use of Special Forces troops (Green Berets) to having American ground troops involved.

In the early days of the war, Special Forces soldiers served in some of the outlying areas of South Vietnam. They would go into these areas with 12 men "A" teams to set up a base of operations, recruit indigenous personnel, train them to fight communist insurgents and lead their own armies. Many of these groups were so successful in their mission of disrupting the enemy that their bases would be attacked by hundreds of the enemy forces to destroy them.

Now you are probably saying, what is so missional about this. Well here are some of the principles that these "A" teams used.

Understand the Culture that You are Working Within. These "A" teams understood what was important to the indigenous people. They respected these things and actually used these ideas to help recruit them to fight.

We as Christians must adapt our language, our style and sometimes our thinking (not the message) to help those who we are reaching. Understanding people comes from listening, asking questions and observing. It also comes from being with them. You cannot learn about your neighbor sitting in your house or a church building.

Win their Hearts before you can Win their Minds. These "A" teams loved the people that they lived and worked with. many of these soldiers were accused of going "native." This accusation was brought because these soldiers lived with their people, they eat with these people, adapted some of their customs. Through this love and living with their people the "A" teams won the hearts of the people then were able to win their minds to fight and serve and protect their villages.

Interesting fact about this was that these indigenous people were treated like second class citizens by the government of S. Vietnam, yet they fought for that government. Not out of obligation but out of love for their "A" team. The same is today. many new converts are not accepted by many churches because they are different.

Be a Force Multiplier. A 12 man "A" team could not defeat an enemy force by themselves but they could recruit, train and empower a force of hundreds. How did they do this? They model the combat behavior, they allowed the villagers to practice combat procedures in safety of camp, they allowed the villagers to practice in combat under supervision of "A" team leaders and then they allowed them to lead combat patrols on their own.

As one of the "formal" educated clergy, I realize that my role is to equip others to do my job. The world is not going to be won for Christ by formal clergy, deacons, Sunday School teacher or ministers. The world is going to be reached by each believer reaching others, disciplining them and then turning them loose to do the same. We need to be FORCE MULTIPLIERS!! Gathering the harvest does not mean seating people in auditoriums or meeting places on Sunday. It is equipping and empowering missionary soldiers for Jesus Christ.

Live with the People: These "A" teams did not just go out work with the indigenous people of Vietnam and then retreat to the safety of their base. They lived and worked and played with these people. They lived in the danger zone of the enemy unlike the conventional forces that fought during the day and ran for cover when at night.

In the church today, we have mistaken the "come out and be separate" of scripture to mean that the only contact we should have with lost people is to do "little forays" into the lost community for the only purpose of maybe capturing someone and hooking them to come to church. The lost are not projects or game to be captured. They are God's creation that has not realized that they are His creation and that He has a plan for their salvation and life. The greatest way for them to learn is to see that lived out in our lives as we live and relate to them everyday. This cannot be done sitting in a pew or hiding out in our homes. It must be done in their midst.

God has called every Christian to be his "A" team. The official motto of the Army Special Forces is De Oppresso Liber (Latin: To Liberate the Oppressed). As we know Christ has accomplished this. He has liberated us fro spiritual oppression and has provide salvation. As God's "A" team we are about the business of letting the world know this and how they can be liberated. It is our mission because it is God's!


  1. Great post, Lewis. I especially like the points of living and winning the hearts. A fact we so often take for granted and expect others to live like us first. Blessings dear brother.

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