I was just out of college when the OG came out. I was driving a 1970 VW bug and it sounded just like that jet. Loud. So of course, I adjusted and checked every knob on the dashboard as if I was indeed a Top Gun Pilot. Today I’m a bit older and my SUV doesn’t make as much noise, but listening to the consultants and people involved in the making of the sequel, I recognize some parallels which have challenged me in my own Top Gun life with Jesus.

Goal – Training Officers and the littles we serve to take the next, best step to love Jesus with their whole heart for their whole lives.

The dogfights are practiced in F18s because it’s the only adaptable aircraft with two seats.

  • Jesus never sent out His disciples one at a time, but two, three, and seventy. Ministry is meant to be shared. Who’s my Goose? Who’s my Maverick?

The commander of a team of pilots chooses the one to attend Top Gun, typically one per year.

  • The parents of the kids we serve are their commanders. They have chosen their children to participate in my local church ministry for a whole host of reasons. I am in partnership with these disciple-makers to support the local church AND the home. How will I support these commanders and their team of pilots, ‘as they go’?

It is a pilot’s learned and practiced skills which bring them home, not better technology. 

  • We have lots of great technology to share faith formation experiences, but it’s the relationships through shared experiences over time which model and grow a robust faith in Jesus when the dogfighting of life begins.

Dave Berke was a Training Officer for Top Gun and a consultant for the movie Maverick.  He was inspired as a 13 year old to fly jets and fly them on and off carriers. A 14 year old who watches the film today could be a Top Gun pilot within the next 10 years. 

  • When Titus 2 men and women tell their stories, littles and bigs are inspired to take their next best step to following Jesus. When our kids see a Christian life modeled and lived out well, they know what that looks like, sounds like, acts like, lives like, and feels like and they see it as achievable and possible.

G-loc is gravity-induced loss-of-consciousness. G-loc is real and dangerous. BUT a pilot can physiologically condition specific muscle groups and practice various breathing techniques to prevent it. The harm comes when a pilot is surprised and not prepared for it.

  • Life surprises us often with loss, disappointment, anger, despair, hurt, injury, diagnosis for ourselves and those we love. It’s important to lead our families to be prepared for troubles through the practice of holy habits of worship and praising the Lord, not forsaking gathering together, and trusting the One and Only to turn all things to good for those who love Him. Don’t be shy about it.

There are 7 categories of jobs on an aircraft carrier that are categorized by the color shirts the people wear. With many people working together, the shirts are a big help to keep up with what’s going on. 

  • Elisabeth Eliott was a missionary to the tribes of Ecuador alongside her husband, Jim, who was killed by the very tribesmen he was trying to reach for Jesus. She writes in “Discipline: The Glad Surrender” ‘A sense of place is important for a Christian. We are people under authority at all times, owing honor and respect to a king or a president, to parents, to master, teacher, husband or boss, to ministers and elders and bishops, and of course always and most important, to Christ.’ (p. 86-87) Different situations will call me to wear shirts of many colors. All are important and are to be served out ‘as unto the Lord.’ Lord, let me ‘not settle for mediocrity, indifference, or a tolerable adequacy.’ (Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, p. 170)

Training Officers are always significantly better than the best students. Why? Because they practice more.

  • As I prepare the ministry calendar for the families I serve, what does it look like for me and my fellow Top Gun training officers (servant leaders) when it comes to the holy habits of worship, study, prayer, giving, and service? When I share at this year’s Taco ‘Bout, our leaders will be marking for themselves the target they wish to reach this year from Stride: Creating A Discipleship Pathway For Your Church by Mike Schreiner and Ken Willard. If you don’t know your target, you’re just flying a plane.

Why am I even thinking about this? Our church will be operating in a Basic Training campaign in the sermon series about the Apostle’s Creed and a fall kick-off event. The children’s ministry team will be kicking it up a notch with a fall theme of Top Gun Sunday Training, Training Officer volunteers, a content deep-dive into the 10 Commandments for CLUB345, Prayer for the new K2 Club, and more.

“So the soldiers took up their positions.” Joshua 8:13