Church as a Ship: How Do You View Church?
Recently, an an article comparing perspectives on what a church is all about caught my eye. They’re mentioned by J.D. Greear in his book, Gaining by Losing, and you may find these helpful.
The first is: The Church as Cruise Liner
Some Christians, it's said, see church as a cruise liner, offering Christian luxuries for the whole family, such as sports, entertainment, childcare services, and business networking. People who think this way tend to show up at church asking “Can this church improve my religious quality of life? Does it have good family ministry facilities? Does the pastor preach funny, time-conscious messages that meet my felt needs? Do I like the music?”
The second perspective is: The Church as Battleship
Other Christians believe their church is more like a battleship. The church is made for mission, and we measure its success by how loudly and dramatically it fights the mission. While this is certainly better than the “cruise liner,” it does imply that the church as an institution does most of the fighting. The role of the church members, then, is to pay the pastors to find the targets and fire the guns each week as they gather to watch. They see the programs, services, and ministries of the church as the primary instruments of mission.
And a third perspective on church is that of: The Church as Aircraft Carrier
Church as an aircraft carrier also sees the church engaged in a battle, just like the metaphor of a battleship. But aircraft carriers engage in battle in a different way. Aircraft carriers equip planes to carry the battle elsewhere. This means that people in churches who want to “prevail against the gates of hell” learn to share the gospel in the community, and start ministries and Bible studies and plant churches in places without them. Churches become discipleship factories and “sending” agencies that equip people of the church to take the battle to the enemy.
Even though it’s a well-kept secret, RCC over the years has been (and still is!) “fighting above its weight class”—hosting outreach events, loving and tutoring disadvantaged kids and packing school backpacks, mentoring men and women in transition, engaging in global mission, resettling refugee families, caring for the sick and aging, and so on. Let’s continue to pray and seek ways to combat the “cruise ship” mentality we can all slide into, so we can continue to be an “aircraft carrier” bringing Christ’s life-transforming presence into the world all around us.
–Steve Eng, lead pastor