What I learned about the church from a cruise ship

Open OceanI recently returned from a cruise to Bermuda from the Baltimore harbor. It was my first experience of being on the open ocean during the day where there is a 360° view of nothing but water and an occasional ship. To be on that ship in relatively calm weather, with the blue sea all around was a pleasant experience.

There were two things that I observed on that cruise that I think relate to how the church should function.

  1. The ship is intended to traverse the ocean but not remain there.
  2. Everyone on the ship knew his purpose and contributed to the success of the voyage.

No matter how pleasant the experience of sailing on the ocean was, that ocean is not my home. Humans cannot live in the ocean, we are sojourners who are on the ocean for the purpose of getting to somewhere else. The ship is not intended to remain on the ocean indefinitely, it must continue on to its intended destination.

I observed on the ship that every one of the crew members knows what he needs to accomplish to make the trip a success. Some were focused on passenger comfort, some on passenger safety and others were busied with keeping the ship moving in the correct direction. Everyone on staff knew their purpose. They were trained and assigned to do the individual tasks that make the voyage a success.

There is an old time gospel song that says, “this world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue . . .” This captures the idea of the first point. We are designed for eternity and we must strive to remember this. We are here for a few years and are proceeding to a destination. While we may enjoy the voyage, it is important to remember that the enjoyment must be secondary to maintaining momentum and remaining on course.

We also need every person trained and assigned to do the necessary tasks to accomplish the goal. Why is it that we understand this in business, the military or on an ocean vessel, but we think that there is something wrong with providing structure in the church? If the eternal destiny of the souls that are impacted by the church are at stake, shouldn’t we be more vigilant in training workers?

Yes, I understand that the ultimate responsibility for the outcome is God’s but God gives us the privilege and responsibility to use our gifts and brains to accomplish his purpose for us. Leaders in the church have the responsibility to train the members of the church, “equipping them for the work of ministry.” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

God has given his church a mission. That mission is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Like the ship’s crew, each member of the church must contribute to the success of this mission. Each member of the church also needs to keep in mind that while we may enjoy our circumstances along the way, like the ship, we need to maintain progress and move toward our destination.

As the world around us crumbles into chaos, the church needs to stay the course to be used by God to accomplish his purpose with every member contributing the success of the journey.