Last Updated on May 6, 2024 by OCF Communications

Photo of Col Dale Holland, USAF (Ret.), OCF Council President

Throughout Scripture, we see stories of people who were called by God for a certain purpose, only to be overcome by fear, doubt, or uncertainty. In his book “New Morning Mercies,” Paul Tripp says that such fear can sometimes cause us to miss that we’ve “been invited to be part of the massive history- and globe-spanning work of the kingdom of God.”

That was nearly the case for me as a junior officer in the late 1980s.

My friend and I had determined to seek God’s direction first, so the two of us met together to earnestly pray for His clear and unambiguous leading. We pored over Scripture, claiming God’s promises, and praying His Word back to Him; we sought to discover His will for our future.

Both of us felt a strong conviction to combine our efforts and start a local OCF fellowship to encourage others just like ourselves. Six months passed and the two of us were the only attendees in our fellowship—no one else responded to our sincere invitations.

What now? Had we missed God’s leading? Did we have the determination to obey in the face of what felt like discouraging failure?

This was my introduction to being an OCF Local Leader.

Have you felt called to be an OCF Local Leader but have yet to move out on that calling? Perhaps your fear of failure is as big as mine was. Is that preventing you from starting a local fellowship where none exists or joining an existing one that could benefit from your leadership?

I felt unqualified—no Bible degree, never formally taught or led a small group—but my friend, a fellow junior officer, reminded me that we both love the Lord Jesus Christ and desire to live out our faith in uniform, both in our personal and professional life. We just wanted to come alongside others with the same desire to encourage them also.

OCF is not merely a ministry to officers, but rather a ministry through officers to the entire military society. We are member-led, ministering to those in uniform by those who are also in uniform or have worn it. We depend on Christ-following believers to do the work of hosting, leading, coordinating, and communicating with the local body where they live and work.

The Local Leader is OCF’s primary touch point with the military community, and the Local Leader gets to experience the joy of building relationships and encouraging the uniformed body of Christ wherever it is found.

During our 30 years of active-duty service, I, as a single officer, and then later my wife and our 5 children, experienced many phases of life and some of the associated barriers to being a Local Leader.

Besides feeling inadequate to lead a Bible study, there is the issue of families with infants and children, not to mention preparing the home and/or snacks, food, and drinks. Yes, over the years, we experienced about every demographic makeup—singles, married, married with children, junior officers, mid-grade officers, senior officers, retirees, civilians, and enlisted.

No two local fellowships look exactly alike, which is why a good place to start is with the Pray-Discover-Obey (PDO) model illustrated in the opening. Gathering as a group, to seek God’s solution to how your fellowship will function, and then sticking to the plan in obedience is critical to success.

What to do with children during group time usually comes up at some point, and regardless of how your group decides to handle the situation, let me encourage you to view children as part of your ministry and not a distraction to it. Yes, at times, we encouraged folks to get their own babysitter, and at other times one of the teenagers in our small group provided babysitting for the whole group.

One of my favorite experiences happened during our time at the Pentagon. Our group averaged 8-10 adults and 16-18 children, the youngest were toddlers.

We began our time together teaching a Bible passage to the entire group at the children’s level, complete with an object lesson to illustrate the main point. While it involved some activity and visual demonstration, everyone was engaged.

Afterwards, we dismissed the children, under the care of one of the older teens while the adults continued a short, deeper discussion on the same passage. This enabled better follow-on discussion in the car on the way home for each family. The bonus was the object illustration, taught at the child level, helped the adults remember and apply the Biblical point better than any teaching I had done up to that point in my 20-plus-year career.

“Why didn’t I start doing this sooner?” I thought to myself.

The amount of churn we all experience in our military careers is amazing and at times overwhelming—moves every 2-3 years, deployments, the continual process of meeting new people, the stress on children, parents, and singles. If left up to ourselves, many of us probably would not volunteer for such a life, but as my wife often says, “Which of the many cherished relationships born out of our local OCF small groups over the years would we want to do without?”

The answer is a resounding “None!”

When we talk about OCF for a lifetime, we really mean it. Some of our strongest and most encouraging relationships today were born out of the OCF local fellowship that began with one of my closest friends back in the 1980s. Yes, God faithfully blessed what felt like certain failure after six months of no activity.

However, during the six years that followed, that one local OCF fellowship experienced significant growth by God’s grace. Many of our closest friendships to this day came from the fellowship nearly 40 years ago that God started through two inadequate junior officers who desired to live out their faith in uniform, both personally and professionally to the glory of God and come alongside others to encourage them to do the same.

My hope is that in some small way I have encouraged you to lean into becoming an OCF Local Leader.

No matter your stage in life—active duty, separated, retired; junior, field-grade, flag officer, or DoD civilian; single, married, married with children—if God is calling you to start an OCF local fellowship where you are (deployed, at sea, in garrison, in your local church or in support of your local installation chapel), then I encourage you to Pray, Discover, and Obey God’s leading.

God is in the business of using broken, ordinary people like us to do extraordinary things for His Kingdom. You are qualified to become an OCF Local Leader, and OCF stands by to help you succeed.

Dale has been part of OCF since 1990 and currently serves as the OCF Council President. He and his wife, Debi, also serve on the Spring Canyon Advisory Council. During his 30-year Air Force career, Dale led multiple OCF local fellowships that encouraged spiritual growth and Christlike leadership at the intersection of faith, family, and profession.