The Four Laws of Combat

Former Navy Seal Jocko Willink summarize the most important principles for combat in his book, Leadership Strategy and Tactics. He codified the Four Law of Combat:

  1. Cover and Move
  2. Simple
  3. Prioritize and Execute
  4. Decentralized Command

Military teams must Cover and Move. Whenever solider want to advance on a position, they need their teammates to provide cover fire to keep the enemy at bay. Cover and Move signifies the need for teamwork which involves coordination and communication amongst the team. The second Law is Simple. Complexity causes confusion. Confusion is not good for a team, especially a military team in a highly pressurized environment that could be life-or-death. During any mission, the team must Prioritize and Execute. There are many things that a team could do, but that doesn’t mean they should do them. The team must prioritize what needs to be done and then execute the plan. Finally, the fourth Law is Decentralized Command. The essence of Decentralized Command is for leaders to push down decisions to the lowest levels possible. In other words, good leaders empower their team to make the best decision possible. Leaders are often removed from the “front lines,” and therefore, they must empower those in the middle of the action to make sound decisions for the benefit of the team.

The Laws of Combat apply to more areas than just on the battlefield. They provide solid guidance for even leaders in the church.

Church leaders must coordinate and communicate with their teams well. This involves communicating through a wide-variety of means: email, text, video, sermons, etc. Not only must leaders communicate through a wide-variety of ways, they must also communicate often. Too often, rumors circulate in the absence of the truth. And so the truth must be spoken frequently. Pastors must encourage good coordination amongst the volunteers in the church, for one part of a pastor’s job is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).

Pastors must also keep their messaging simple. At its essence, the gospel is rather simple: God is holy, we are sinners and Jesus saves us from our sins. Too often, we over-complicate our ministry plans. Instead of developing an overly sophisticated plan, keep it simple.

Pastors must also be skilled at prioritizing and executing a plan. There are many good things that a church can do, but that doesn’t mean they should them. If pastors do not prioritize, then the truly important tasks of the church, like disciple-making, worshipping, and evangelizing, can be overwhelmed by a flurry of activity. Finally, pastors must empower their flock to do the work of ministry. Instead of micromanaging their volunteers, pastors should seek to empower them to make the best decisions for their ministries.

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