Becoming An Air Force Chaplain

March 12, 2018 | Chris Payne

When I was 21, I graduated from college on a Friday and moved back to Charlotte to start work at a local church on the following Monday. Since then, I have worked in several different capacities within the church… student pastor, pastoral care, discipleship, groups, associate pastor and senior pastor.

I was excited to be a local church pastor. I still am.

The church has afforded me many remarkable experiences in the last 20 years. However, I have always felt something missing: the opportunity to work in the marketplace. My career has always been within the church, but not necessarily with people in their workplaces and daily lives. In October of 2015, God changed all that.

A year previously I had been approached by a mentor, a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force, about becoming a chaplain. At first, I resisted the idea. I’m too old, too busy, too comfortable.

My mentor pressed. “Your country needs you.” There was, and still is, a critical shortage of military chaplains. “If everyone had your attitude, who would serve?” Ouch! Jen and I began to pray. We decided we would complete the rigorous application process. Candidly, I thought I would be rejected because of my age at the time (37) and lack of previous experience.

Finally, one year later, my recruiter called and gave me the news I’d been waiting for. I had been accepted, or scrolled, as a Captain in the USAF and I could take my oath immediately.

I was thrilled to learn that as a notary public, Catherine Knuckles (a family friend and New Charlotte teammate) was authorized to administer the oath of office. Surrounded by my recruiter and family at my mother’s home, in front of an American flag, I became an officer in the United States Air Force. My father had been an Airman. I was proud to join him and many others in this calling.

The past three years of military service have been incredible. Seriously, it’s as if I’ve been given a free education in leadership and sociology. Immersion in an entirely different culture and workplace has been beneficial to me both as a person and pastor. I’ve been challenged in completely new ways (physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually).

Most importantly, I’ve been able to meet people on their turf––bringing the presence of Jesus into briefing rooms, hangars, barracks and dining facilities. It’s a truly unique opportunity to serve and I am forever grateful for all I’m learning in my time as a military chaplain. Make sure you check out my blog post on Lessons from an Air Force Chaplain.

Part 2: Lessons from an Air Force Chaplain