Thursday, March 3, 2016

Is your local Church a Cruise Ship or a Battleship?

Spiritual warfare is an important theme in the New Testament. Traditionally it was also a key theme for reflection during the Lent season. Unfortunately the trendies now find "militaristic imagery" outdated and "unhelpful." And so it is disappearing from our idea of what Christian and Church life is really all about, our baptismal promises notwithstanding. However, as C.S. Lewis reminded us in many of his writings - and especially in Screwtape Letters - our ancient enemy is still to be withstood by all who share in the baptismal enlistment to fight against "the world, the flesh and the devil." We are to struggle with evil wherever it is to be found - within ourselves, in the church community, and in society. This warfare of ours is not lacking in paradox when we consider that our primary "weapon" is love, and that, in fact, our enemy is already defeated.

With these things in mind, I share with you an article by Greek Orthodox Priest Aris Metrakos, formerly a ship's captain, who maintains that 85% of Churches are more like luxury cruise liners, than the battleships they are called to be. This article is from the website ORTHODOXY TODAY

Cruise ships and battleships. What could be more simple and clear?

Think about what happens on a cruise ship. We don't do any work. Someone takes care of every need. Every event (except for lifeboat training) is optional. We have no responsibilities and no accountability.

Isn't this the way most people approach Church? Developing and executing services and programs is someone else's job. We go to services once or twice a year and still call ourselves "members." All work falls under the job description of the paid staff or core volunteers so we have no responsibilities.

Even our duty to support the Church is mitigated through "stewardship," which often means: "So what if I pledge $52 per year, that's between me and the Almighty!"

Then there's the battleship. The warship has a life or death mission. Every member of the crew has a job that must be executed at the top of his ability. Everyone must work together because they depend on one another for the success of the mission and mutual survival.

A healthy parish must see itself as a battleship. The mission of the Church is life and death. We are called to bring the Gospel to the world and to provide for those in need. No other vocation is as critical or crucial. Each member of the "crew" has a divine calling to define and fill his particular niche in the life of the parish. And when members do not work together, they jeopardize both the work of the Church and their salvation.

Anyone who has spent time aboard a cruise ship and battleship knows that the way of life onboard the two vessels are polar opposites. Cruise ship passengers are relaxed, tanned, and well-fed. Battleship sailors are sleep deprived, grungy, and edgy. No one in his right mind would vacation on a battleship.

But the life of the Church isn't a vacation. It's life and death combat with the evil one. And just like the cruise ship passenger that can't fit into his wardrobe after three nights and four days of stuffing his face, "members" of cruise ship churches are unfit for spiritual warfare.

Perhaps this is why so many parishes are afloat but bloated.

There are few things as satisfying as being part of a focused, disciplined, hard-working team that knows its mission, understands and fulfills its responsibilities, is well-trained, and strives constantly to improve its knowledge and skills.

God is calling us to find our place among the crew of a spiritual battleship.


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