Rome - unparalleled pinnacle of early Western civilization. The cities of its empire were adorned with stunning architecture. Its astounding engineering feats - its roads, bridges and aqueducts - became enduring models for ages to come. Its legal and political systems laid solid and just foundations, principles upon which the governments of future countries would be patterned. Its language and literature became the basis of Romance languages worldwide. And its power - its awesome military force - enabled Rome for a thousand years to extend its domination over vast areas of Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa. How the Roman Empire bound together in a single unified government millions of people of widely divergent cultures and languages is an achievement that has captured the interest and admiration of leaders both ancient and modern. The Legions of Rome were legendary. Other empires had assembled larger armies but none more effective. The genius of its strength lay in its ability to control the far-flung reaches of the world with a military force only a fraction of which could be supplied by the war academies of Rome. The strikingly dressed soldiers that patrolled the Coliseum and stood vigilant guard on the city walls enjoyed much prestige among the local citizenry. But the same stunning uniforms that inspired admiration at home elicited fear and often distain in distant Gaul and the remote isles of Britain and the nomadic lands of the Middle East. And for good reason. The legions that controlled these far-off places were comprised largely of crude conscripts drafted from uncivilized regions who had neither the training nor discipline of the garrisons of Rome. Mercenaries lured by the promise of plunder, half-starved men seeking income for their families, boys looking for a way to escape their homes - such rabble and ruffians became the stuff of Roman legions. They may have borne the garb and signets and weaponry of Roman soldiers but that is where the similarities ended.
It was the daunting challenge of the Roman field commander to turn a legion of 6,000 rowdy recruits into an effective fighting machine. The war college in Rome, staffed by battle-seasoned veterans, provided time-tested strategies for accomplishing this. Divide the troops into ten cohorts of 600, divide each cohort into three maniples of 200, and then each maniple into two centuries of 100 each. A group of 100 men, if led by a highly disciplined, Rome-trained centurion, could be forged into an effective fighting force in a reasonably short period of time. The key was the centurion.
The legendary reputation of Roman legions was well deserved. Their order, morale, personal smartness, precision arms drill, weapons training and tactical exercises distinguished them as an awe-inspiring machine of war. Their success, most historians agree, was due primarily to the stiff discipline imposed on every rank. And the backbone of the legion was undoubtedly the centurion. Only sixty of them among 6,000 men, these carefully chosen, highly trained officers were the embodiment of the finest military traditions and professionalism of Rome. Their example of what a soldier should be, their leadership in the ranks, their commitment to the highest standards of military conduct set the pattern for others to follow. Their rank was not the highest but their influence was clearly dominant.
The glory that was once Rome has faded with history. Like other great civilizations, her treasures are now in history books and archeological remnants. But another Kingdom, born in obscurity on the watch of a lesser Roman Caesar, continues to flourish. This Kingdom endures amidst the rise and fall of nations, in spite of brutal occupations and bloody coups. Its dominion is global, not measured by or limited to geographic boundaries. Rulers who would suppress it discover that its influence only gains strength under persecution. Rome tried to lay claim to it, others have attempted to colonize the world with it, still others have created structures to organize and control it. This Kingdom, though elusive and largely invisible, recruits its forces from every nation, tribe and tongue and deploys them for action in some of the most inhospitable places on the globe.
The effectiveness of this divine conquest is seen not in its organizational strength but rather in its quiet influence. Select troops, trained in the tactics of redemptive engagement, accept their assignments on the front lines where the values of the Kingdom transect the values of the culture. These Kingdom Centurions move purposefully into strategic locations and, by thoughtful benevolence and winsome modeling, exert influences that amend the course of history. One by one they make their impact - one strong neighbor-leader on a drug-infested block, one inspiring coach in an undisciplined high school, one diligent employee in a work crew of slackers, one creative teacher in an under-achieving classroom, one honest salesman in an unethical office. It does not require the strength of numbers to accomplish the mission, merely the strength of character. The Kingdom Centurion leads by example, by inspiration, by authenticity, and in the end will have the exhilaration of marching along with many other grateful and admiring recruits - and before a great crowd of cheering witnesses - in the ultimate victory celebration.