On Course or Run Aground?

The horror continues to unfold in the wreck of the Casta Concordia cruise ship on the rocks of Giglio Island just off the coast of Italy.  The dream vacation of the 3-4,000 passengers cruising the Greek Islands turned into a nightmare when the ship crashed into the rocks, tearing a 120-foot hole in the side of the ship.

            Within minutes, water filled the ship and the ship flipped on its side.  In scenes reminiscent of the Titanic, tables, dishes and equipment went flying.  People leaped off the ship and attempted to swim through the icy waters to shore. There were screams in the dark amidst a mad scramble to get to the lifeboats, all of which were crowded beyond capacity.  One horrifying scene shows a human chain stretching across the upturned hull of the ship, lowering one person at a time to safety. 

            As of this morning, there are several confirmed fatalities and about 30 people still unaccounted for.

            What happened?  Almost immediately, fingers were pointed at the captain. The ship was out of the normally marked channels. Word came that the captain had sent an inquiry about his dinner order—thirty minutes after impact and with the ship already listing! Then, it became evident that the captain had abandoned ship while people were still in danger and had to be ordered back to give direction to the crew.

            But it seems that the real problem came long before the Casta Concordia ran aground.  As a favor to his head waiter, the captain changed course so the waiter could signal his family, who live on Giglio Island.  They would blow the ship’s horn and the waiter could stand on deck and wave as they passed. He moved the ship four miles off course, and came within 162 yards of the coast—when company policy mandates a ship come no closer than 547 yards.

            Because of a private and unannounced indulgence, the Casta Concordia ran aground and people lost their lives.

            But mostly the Casta Concordia wrecked because the captain forgot the point of the voyage and his primary responsibilities.  He confused the priorities of passengers and crew. He blurred the lines between charted journey and frivolous side trip. He forgot the primary goal was to get the passengers safely to the other side.

            Increasingly, we find evangelical churches and ministries in crisis and running aground.  Most churches in my tribe of Southern Baptists are plateaued or declining.  They struggle to gain any traction with a culture that has changed and with generations that are suspicious of all things “church”. People are abandoning the ship of the church like it is sinking fast, opting for other gatherings of Christ-followers built for deep community in homes or around involvement in social justice issues. Others are just plain opting out.

            Why is the church struggling? Because many have forgotten the point of the journey and its primary responsibility.  Jesus made it clear that his church was designed to glorify God (Matt. 22:37-38, Eph. 3:20-21) by spreading to all people the gospel (good news) of a life-and-family-and- community-and–injustice-and-eternity- transforming relationship with God available through repentance and faith in Jesus. (Luke 15:11-32, Luke 24:47, Rom. 1:16) This is to happen one life at a time, as the church gives its energy and resources to loving people where they are, sharing life as a radically new community, and developing a certain sort of person called a disciple of Jesus. (Matt. 22:39, Acts 2:41-47, 28:19-20)

            When a church forgets this point and loses focus on it, it can begin to drift off course.  We can confuse the privilege of serving the membership with the priority of serving those still outside the faith.  No church whose focus is primarily on the pleasure of its own crew will broadly impact others making the journey from death to life.  We can indulge our own relationships and preferences, all while drifting away from the path that will engage spiritually far-from-God people and help them move closer to a relationship with God.  It’s the spiritual equivalent of a cruise-ship wave to friends. 

            When a church loses its gospel and disciple-making North Star, it will be tempted to take trivial side trips.  The church can be heavily involved with community service, have wonderfully engaging children’s or student ministries, maintain good stewardship of its buildings and facilities, train families for financial freedom, produce powerful musical presentations, be organizationally efficient, encourage good friendships, sponsor fellowships and trips for senior adults, provide a wide range of classes and groups for Biblical training, be powerfully engaged with social justice issues or take a stand for moral values, be technologically savvy, and more.  All of those things can be proper and powerful for a church IF they are intentionally shaped in the service of spreading the gospel and making disciples who increasingly resemble Jesus. Otherwise, they are merely the trivial strivings of a religious club.

            Why does this matter? Because there’s really only one thing the church of Jesus can do: we spread the fame of Jesus by making gospel-centered disciples who trust Christ alone to save from sin, shape their life and secure their eternal destiny. If we do anything other than that, we move off-course and into the shallows where rocks lurk to tear holes in the hull of the ship of Zion.

            So, when the church runs aground because of selfish course adjustments, it violates the command of our King and gives a false reading of His great heart.   

            But even more, when the church runs aground, it places precious far-from-God people in eternal peril. It tosses people who desperately need Jesus out to make their own way in the chill of the world.

            Pray the church of Jesus—beginning with ours– stays on course, so that we can finish the journey with a ship full of people, all delighting in King Jesus who will be standing with open arms to welcome us Home.

           

The horror continues to unfold in the wreck of the Casta Concordia cruise ship on the rocks of Giglio Island just off the coast of Italy.  The dream vacation of the 3-4,000 passengers cruising the Greek Islands turned into a nightmare when the ship crashed into the rocks, tearing a 120-foot hole in the side of the ship.

            Within minutes, water filled the ship and the ship flipped on its side.  In scenes reminiscent of the Titanic, tables, dishes and equipment went flying.  People leaped off the ship and attempted to swim through the icy waters to shore. There were screams in the dark amidst a mad scramble to get to the lifeboats, all of which were crowded beyond capacity.  One horrifying scene shows a human chain stretching across the upturned hull of the ship, lowering one person at a time to safety. 

            As of this morning, there are several confirmed fatalities and about 30 people still unaccounted for.

            What happened?  Almost immediately, fingers were pointed at the captain. The ship was out of the normally marked channels. Word came that the captain had sent an inquiry about his dinner order—thirty minutes after impact and with the ship already listing! Then, it became evident that the captain had abandoned ship while people were still in danger and had to be ordered back to give direction to the crew.

            But it seems that the real problem came long before the Casta Concordia ran aground.  As a favor to his head waiter, the captain changed course so the waiter could signal his family, who live on Giglio Island.  They would blow the ship’s horn and the waiter could stand on deck and wave as they passed. He moved the ship four miles off course, and came within 162 yards of the coast—when company policy mandates a ship come no closer than 547 yards.

            Because of a private and unannounced indulgence, the Casta Concordia ran aground and people lost their lives.

            But mostly the Casta Concordia wrecked because the captain forgot the point of the voyage and his primary responsibilities.  He confused the priorities of passengers and crew. He blurred the lines between charted journey and frivolous side trip. He forgot the primary goal was to get the passengers safely to the other side.

            Increasingly, we find evangelical churches and ministries in crisis and running aground.  Most churches in my tribe of Southern Baptists are plateaued or declining.  They struggle to gain any traction with a culture that has changed and with generations that are suspicious of all things “church”. People are abandoning the ship of the church like it is sinking fast, opting for other gatherings of Christ-followers built for deep community in homes or around involvement in social justice issues. Others are just plain opting out.

            Why is the church struggling? Because many have forgotten the point of the journey and its primary responsibility.  Jesus made it clear that his church was designed to glorify God (Matt. 22:37-38, Eph. 3:20-21) by spreading to all people the gospel (good news) of a life-and-family-and- community-and–injustice-and-eternity- transforming relationship with God available through repentance and faith in Jesus. (Luke 15:11-32, Luke 24:47, Rom. 1:16) This is to happen one life at a time, as the church gives its energy and resources to loving people where they are, sharing life as a radically new community, and developing a certain sort of person called a disciple of Jesus. (Matt. 22:39, Acts 2:41-47, 28:19-20)

            When a church forgets this point and loses focus on it, it can begin to drift off course.  We can confuse the privilege of serving the membership with the priority of serving those still outside the faith.  No church whose focus is primarily on the pleasure of its own crew will broadly impact others making the journey from death to life.  We can indulge our own relationships and preferences, all while drifting away from the path that will engage spiritually far-from-God people and help them move closer to a relationship with God.  It’s the spiritual equivalent of a cruise-ship wave to friends. 

            When a church loses its gospel and disciple-making North Star, it will be tempted to take trivial side trips.  The church can be heavily involved with community service, have wonderfully engaging children’s or student ministries, maintain good stewardship of its buildings and facilities, train families for financial freedom, produce powerful musical presentations, be organizationally efficient, encourage good friendships, sponsor fellowships and trips for senior adults, provide a wide range of classes and groups for Biblical training, be powerfully engaged with social justice issues or take a stand for moral values, be technologically savvy, and more.  All of those things can be proper and powerful for a church IF they are intentionally shaped in the service of spreading the gospel and making disciples who increasingly resemble Jesus. Otherwise, they are merely the trivial strivings of a religious club.

            Why does this matter? Because there’s really only one thing the church of Jesus can do: we spread the fame of Jesus by making gospel-centered disciples who trust Christ alone to save from sin, shape their life and secure their eternal destiny. If we do anything other than that, we move off-course and into the shallows where rocks lurk to tear holes in the hull of the ship of Zion.

            So, when the church runs aground because of selfish course adjustments, it violates the command of our King and gives a false reading of His great heart.   

            But even more, when the church runs aground, it places precious far-from-God people in eternal peril. It tosses people who desperately need Jesus out to make their own way in the chill of the world.

            Pray the church of Jesus—beginning with ours– stays on course, so that we can finish the journey with a ship full of people, all delighting in King Jesus who will be standing with open arms to welcome us Home.

           

The horror continues to unfold in the wreck of the Casta Concordia cruise ship on the rocks of Giglio Island just off the coast of Italy.  The dream vacation of the 3-4,000 passengers cruising the Greek Islands turned into a nightmare when the ship crashed into the rocks, tearing a 120-foot hole in the side of the ship.

            Within minutes, water filled the ship and the ship flipped on its side.  In scenes reminiscent of the Titanic, tables, dishes and equipment went flying.  People leaped off the ship and attempted to swim through the icy waters to shore. There were screams in the dark amidst a mad scramble to get to the lifeboats, all of which were crowded beyond capacity.  One horrifying scene shows a human chain stretching across the upturned hull of the ship, lowering one person at a time to safety. 

            As of this morning, there are several confirmed fatalities and about 30 people still unaccounted for.

            What happened?  Almost immediately, fingers were pointed at the captain. The ship was out of the normally marked channels. Word came that the captain had sent an inquiry about his dinner order—thirty minutes after impact and with the ship already listing! Then, it became evident that the captain had abandoned ship while people were still in danger and had to be ordered back to give direction to the crew.

            But it seems that the real problem came long before the Casta Concordia ran aground.  As a favor to his head waiter, the captain changed course so the waiter could signal his family, who live on Giglio Island.  They would blow the ship’s horn and the waiter could stand on deck and wave as they passed. He moved the ship four miles off course, and came within 162 yards of the coast—when company policy mandates a ship come no closer than 547 yards.

            Because of a private and unannounced indulgence, the Casta Concordia ran aground and people lost their lives.

            But mostly the Casta Concordia wrecked because the captain forgot the point of the voyage and his primary responsibilities.  He confused the priorities of passengers and crew. He blurred the lines between charted journey and frivolous side trip. He forgot the primary goal was to get the passengers safely to the other side.

            Increasingly, we find evangelical churches and ministries in crisis and running aground.  Most churches in my tribe of Southern Baptists are plateaued or declining.  They struggle to gain any traction with a culture that has changed and with generations that are suspicious of all things “church”. People are abandoning the ship of the church like it is sinking fast, opting for other gatherings of Christ-followers built for deep community in homes or around involvement in social justice issues. Others are just plain opting out.

            Why is the church struggling? Because many have forgotten the point of the journey and its primary responsibility.  Jesus made it clear that his church was designed to glorify God (Matt. 22:37-38, Eph. 3:20-21) by spreading to all people the gospel (good news) of a life-and-family-and- community-and–injustice-and-eternity- transforming relationship with God available through repentance and faith in Jesus. (Luke 15:11-32, Luke 24:47, Rom. 1:16) This is to happen one life at a time, as the church gives its energy and resources to loving people where they are, sharing life as a radically new community, and developing a certain sort of person called a disciple of Jesus. (Matt. 22:39, Acts 2:41-47, 28:19-20)

            When a church forgets this point and loses focus on it, it can begin to drift off course.  We can confuse the privilege of serving the membership with the priority of serving those still outside the faith.  No church whose focus is primarily on the pleasure of its own crew will broadly impact others making the journey from death to life.  We can indulge our own relationships and preferences, all while drifting away from the path that will engage spiritually far-from-God people and help them move closer to a relationship with God.  It’s the spiritual equivalent of a cruise-ship wave to friends. 

            When a church loses its gospel and disciple-making North Star, it will be tempted to take trivial side trips.  The church can be heavily involved with community service, have wonderfully engaging children’s or student ministries, maintain good stewardship of its buildings and facilities, train families for financial freedom, produce powerful musical presentations, be organizationally efficient, encourage good friendships, sponsor fellowships and trips for senior adults, provide a wide range of classes and groups for Biblical training, be powerfully engaged with social justice issues or take a stand for moral values, be technologically savvy, and more.  All of those things can be proper and powerful for a church IF they are intentionally shaped in the service of spreading the gospel and making disciples who increasingly resemble Jesus. Otherwise, they are merely the trivial strivings of a religious club.

            Why does this matter? Because there’s really only one thing the church of Jesus can do: we spread the fame of Jesus by making gospel-centered disciples who trust Christ alone to save from sin, shape their life and secure their eternal destiny. If we do anything other than that, we move off-course and into the shallows where rocks lurk to tear holes in the hull of the ship of Zion.

            So, when the church runs aground because of selfish course adjustments, it violates the command of our King and gives a false reading of His great heart.   

            But even more, when the church runs aground, it places precious far-from-God people in eternal peril. It tosses people who desperately need Jesus out to make their own way in the chill of the world.

            Pray the church of Jesus—beginning with ours– stays on course, so that we can finish the journey with a ship full of people, all delighting in King Jesus who will be standing with open arms to welcome us Home.

           

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: