Former Marine Plants Churches Near Military Bases

Brian O’Day with his wife, Kelli, and their five children. After serving in the Marine Corps for 10 years, O’Day became the founding pastor of Pillar Church Jacksonville, N.C., where he currently serves as an elder. O’Day is currently the executive director of The Praetorian Project, a network focused on planting churches in military communities. Photo submitted by Brian O’Day.

As a 10-year, active duty service member in the Marine Corps, Brian O’Day regularly moved with his family. He traveled to 15 different countries including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

About eight years into his military service, O’Day discerned God’s calling him to ministry — to establish a church in a military community with a consistent Gospel witness.

“I felt like God was calling me not to move around and jump from church to church,” O’Day said, “but instead serve in one of those churches, that sat still in a military community and ministered to and pastored and shepherded military service members and their families.”

That call came while O’Day was stationed at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., and attending Pillar Church in Dumfries, Va. Now he serves on the leadership team at Pillar Church Jacksonville, N.C., a church that O’Day started in his family’s home on Jan. 6, 2013. O’Day became executive director of the Praetorian Project in May of 2019, which exists to establish a network of Gospel-centered churches near military installations around the world.

Planting new churches in military communities is one of the focus areas of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Network, NAMB’s church planting arm. As the endorsing entity for Southern Baptist chaplains, NAMB encourages both established churches and new churches to involve chaplains in their ministry strategy.

“Southern Baptist military chaplains have the primary responsibility of providing religious services and activities for their service members, veterans and the surrounding military community,” said Doug Carver, NAMB’s executive director of chaplaincy.

“Churches can work intentionally to prayerfully support SBC-endorsed military chaplains and military church plants,” Carver continued, “regularly including them in local church events and other denominational activities.”

Serving in a church that has a major focus on military service members involves a number of unique challenges. Military families move often, and the soldiers deploy for months at a time. Those hurdles should not discourage any church’s outreach to military members.

“Everyone, every believer, needs a healthy local church,” O’Day said. “Even if they move a lot, even if they deploy a lot, they need a healthy local church. We want to plant churches near these service members and their families.”

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Source: Baptist Press