Some time ago, I shared some thoughts inspired by a recent book I read by J D Greear entitled, "Gaining by Losing." In it, he makes an analogy of the church to several types of ships.
1. The Cruise Ship - When we think of a cruise ship, what comes to mind? Vacations. Entertainment. Activities. Food. We go to cruise ships to be "fed", one way or another. We go to the one that offers the best attractions, the best deals, and the best locations. We go there for us. We go there as long as it meets our needs and our sense of value. As soon as a better deal, a better destination, or a better attraction comes along, we "jump ship." Sadly, this is what a lot of folks, whether they admit it or not, do with church. We ask, "what's in it for me?". That's perfectly fine for cruises, but is that all church is really about?!
Cruise ships stay way out of trouble. They go where the weather and the water are clear. They aim to please. They "compete" for the customers against the other cruise lines. They love it when people leave other cruises to join them, but bemoan it when they leave their ship to join others. There is no true loyalty to the ship, the crew, or the other passengers. Ouch. How familiar does that sound when we think of the 21st century western church, all too often focused on nickels, noses, and seekers.
2. The Battle Ship - When I think of this ship, I think of danger. The ship goes directly into battle. It fires its guns against the enemy. It is built to withstand attack.
In the church as a battleship analogy, we focus on shooting and counting our "hits". Too often, the pastor of a church is the sole gun. The rest of the crew is handing him ammunition, urging him to aim well, to shoot fast, and to make the kill. The rest feed the crew, stoke the engine and show up for the briefings. I think the church mostly looked this way 50-100 years ago. Though a "waning model", it is still there, and not exactly what God called the church to do.
3. The Aircraft Carrier - These ships neither entertain nor directly enter the battle. Their job is to be a center of operations and equipping outside the direct line of fire, but in direct support of the battle plan. They are places where planes are launched into battle and return to be resupplied and repaired in a safe place. Pilots are trained, equipped, encouraged, and fed. They are sent out and welcomed back. Victories are celebrated, and defeats are debriefed, learned from and responded to in order to improve for the next engagement.
This is the best analogy in my mind. The church is a place where we should all be trained, equipped, fed, encouraged and sent out to the battlefield of the world each week. The following week we return to share our successes, learn from our defeats, get resupplied and set up with a strategy for our next engagement. The church is not firing the ammo, but supplying it to each person. Some are ace pilots, a few are still in training, and most others are at all places in between. But we all play a part.
So, where are we church? Are we cruising to entrain ourselves (as long as it is convenient), are we merely cheering for the big guns (the pastors to do the battle themselves), or are we each playing our part in the battle, with the church as our home base for learning, encouragement, supplying, healing and growing in our ability to do what Christ has called us to do for a dying world? What say you?