Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Church: Lifeboat or Workboat?

 We in the American church sometimes act like passengers escaping a sinking ship, who have crawled out of shark infested seas into a handy lifeboat - the church. We dwell on our escape forgetting we are supposed to use the boat to go somewhere and do something for Christ.  

Where the Bible describes boats, the boats are going somewhere or doing something. Tell me, can you think of a single recreational cruise?

If Captain William Bligh and his loyal crewmembers had viewed themselves as passengers in the lifeboat when the Bounty mutineers cut them adrift in the South Pacific, we probably never would have heard of them again.

Instead, Bligh and his 18 men functioned as a crew, accepting the challenge of navigating their open boat 3,618 miles to Timor (an island near Australia). They reached safety and continued their careers, Bligh becoming an Admiral.

HMS Bounty replica
Kenneth Sponsler /

The church, like Bligh's open boat, is more than a lifeboat, and we are crew - not passengers. God created the church to glorify Him. That's our work, and the church is our workboat.

Crewing a boat requires collaboration. That means discipline. If we think of ourselves as passengers in the church, we will not cultivate the disciplines that get us where God wants us to go.

One of the necessary disciplines is peacemaking, which we need for getting the church's work done. The challenging and creative work Christ assigns us brings about conflicts, and reconciling the conflicts advances the work to completion.

Captain Bligh, a stern disciplinarian and excellent navigator, showed little talent for reconciling conflict; a reason he was ejected from his ship and failed to complete his mission. We must do better.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Relationships – Often Highways for God’s Gifts

God could do everything Himself. Instead he often chooses to employ people.

When God chooses to deliver His gifts through people, a purpose may be to nurture the relationships that are conduits for the gifts.

For example, God chose to deliver David from King Saul’s wrath through his friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan.  God could have selected other means, but instead employed a relationship that held firm even after Jonathan’s death.

When David suspected that King Saul intended to kill him, he and Jonathan made a covenant. Jonathan promised to warn David secretly if Saul acted against David, and David promised to always continue his love to Jonathan’s descendants. (1 Sam. 20:30)

Later, when King Saul erupted in anger against David’s absence from a feast, Jonathan warned David with a coded message and David escaped. (1 Sam. 20).

When king, David kept his covenant with Jonathan, by restoring to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth all the land of Saul and taking him to eat at the king’s table. (2 Sam.9)

Later, David again honored his covenant by forgiving Mephibosheth for failing to join him when David fled Jerusalem in Absalom’s rebellion. (2 Sam. 15; 16:1-4; 19:24-30)

It seems clear that God had more in mind than delivering David from Saul, when Jonathan warned David of Saul’s wrath. By the two men honoring the covenant they had made, God nurtured a special friendship that both blessed David and Jonathan personally, and protected Jonathan’s family after the political tables turned and David was king.

If God so values and uses our relationships with other people, shouldn’t we also value and nurture them?