We are in conversation with Chris Fletcher, lead pastor of Manna Church, Fayetteville Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Manna Church is right next to the largest military base in the world, offering around 15 services a weekend and has an ambitious vision to plant Manna churches in every U.S. military base across the globe.
Chris has a Masters in Christian Leadership, a big vision to equip people and plant churches and focuses 100% of his time on leadership development day-to-day.
He describes how Manna church has had to become highly competent at both leadership development and outreach, in response to the high throughput of military personnel in response to the continual redeployments from the base.
He offers some great and perhaps surprising advice for men who'd like to increase their leadership influence: that we need to start in the place of our own personal trustworthiness.
Leadership change is firstly ontologocial i.e. focused on the shaping our own being before God - who we are and what God is shaping us to be. Secondly influential leadership is mimetic i.e. we are called to imitate Jesus. We are to take our lives and allow the Father to shape us, and we then pour that out on behalf of others.
Ontological is saying that the first person I start with in leadership is me, surrendering everything to God. Mimetic is saying that everything we do copies Jesus.
Chris explains that trustworthiness results in promotion: if you're a man that is trustworthy, you'll be hired no matter what path you follow in life.
We also unpack why it is that the centurions come across well in the New Testament: the military lifestyle seems to imprint on people that they exist for a higher mission and a purpose, which can lead well into a life of faith following Jesus. People who join the U.S. army find that it is not about them as the individual - it's about the team, the mission, the country and the greater good. In other words: "If I don't do my job as a trusted team member, I can place the team, the unit and the higher cause above me at risk."
This also plays out in personal evangelism - if not you, who? If not now, when?
Chris talks about how it can be challenging at Manna Church to bring the Father heart side of Christian faith into a military environment with a bias to a command and control structure where people are under authority. So they focus on the value of a person to God being the price of the life given up by Jesus - and that they are loved by God.
What also makes the centurion whom Jesus picked out as having such great faith is his care for his servant, who was subordinate to him. Tis has a powerful outworking in marriage: as men it is our job to lay down our lives for our wives, just as Christ laid down his life for the church.
A side- effect of a disciplined military life can be a see-saw effect, so that people switch into an 'anything goes' mentality when off duty. Personal devotions, a Life Group and accountability all help men tackle this. Chris also recommends that men should find a healthy hobby or outlet.
Chris is a huge Manchester United fan, through his NBC Sports Gold subscription over in the States, and also coaches youth football for the Villarreal Academy. Chris has an all-wheel Subaru Outback which he loves driving, and he confesses to making the MK Dons on his Fifa game European champions in his spare time.
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