In a former life I sang for Norwegian Cruise Line. I was on a ship for almost a year. It was a seven day cruise with a port everyday. Did I mention it was in the Southern Caribbean? Rough life. I loved it. Mostly. It was almost like summer camp for adults.
Have you ever been on a cruise? The food is unreal. There is something to eat just about 24 hours a day. In fact, the most trusted statistic says that the average weight gain per passenger each week was about 7-10 lbs. Scary, huh?
I'm not sure who originated the whole metaphor about the church being like a boat...battle ships, cruise ships, tug boats, etc. I know Randy Harris has done a lot of speaking on that. The point is that most of our churches resemble one or the other. And, mostly, it's the cruise ship mentality. What can YOU do for ME? We go to a church service to be "serviced". (read Dan Kimball's book--Emerging Worship--pg.2-4.)
I was thinking about this yesterday. Many of our churches are doing their best to change course mid stream. We are realizing the need for all of us to be missional. Ministers, elders, leaders, and missional minded members are finding themselves frustrated by the difficulty in making such a change.
I was trying to think of it in terms of my experience on the ship and relating it to church experience. Imagine with me if you will--you're a passenger on a cruise. You've saved and spent a lot of money (maybe a bldg. program), you've gathered your friends or close family (you're surrounded by the people you love and want to be with), you've got delicious food at your disposal any time of the day (every program we offer to enrich or feed our own members), there's a cruise staff taking care of your every need and waiting on you hand and foot (we often do this for our church members instead of empowering them to be missional), you go on the occasional off shore excursion led by experienced tour guides which causes you to feel like you've actually experienced the island (we do this with evangelism. We placate our convictions by doing a small tour of duty to a foreign land or a nearby city to do VBS thinking we have done our "missional deed" for the year), and we do those blasted boat drills in our nightly formal attire--never really believing this ship could actually sink (we talk about Heaven and Kingdom while our hearts are dressed and thinking toward more satisfying events here on earth).
What if in the middle of that cruise, the ship's captain came on the speaker and announced that this ship was now going to become a battle ship? How would you feel if you were on your cruise? Put out? Incensed? Angry? Would you demand your money back? Would you say, "That's not the purpose of this ship"?
Isn't that sort of what we're dealing with as we are thinking through these missional convictions? It's more than a sermon series. We are going to have to do some serious "redecorating" and probably change our itinerary. It seems ludicrous for a luxury ship full of people dressed in formals to be a battle ship. Doesn't it?
Perhaps the starting place is at the core of who we are as the church. Perhaps the Queen Elizabeth 2 will never become a battle ship. Perhaps it's ridiculous to even try.
Perhaps there are those in formals who have "grubbies" ready just in case. Perhaps the rich, fattening food isn't tasting so good after all and there are those who would be ready for a change. I don't know. But as new churches start, isn't it important to take care of some of these things on the front end instead of trying to convict a room full of "cruisers" that it's time to serve others or lay down our lives for the sake of the Kingdom?