Some years ago Fr. Patrick Smith, who is a friend of a pastor-friend of mine preached a sermon wherein he asked if the Church was a clubhouse or a lighthouse. What he has to say is even more relevant today.
“Many it would seem want the Church just to be a friendly place where people can gather. Many of these same people get angry when their church shines the light of truth on some issue facing true Christianity within the culture. They declare that the Church should just be open and inviting. They object when Christ’s church is challenging and points to the demands of the Gospel.
But the Church has to be more than a clubhouse otherwise she is no different than a bowling league or the Rotary Club or Elks Lodge. She is most certainly meant to be a lighthouse, warning of danger, giving light to those in darkness but also risking that some who are accustomed to the darkness, will complain of the Light of Christ she reflects.”
In a similar vein, there is a video (from Ignitermedia.com) which asks if the Church is more like a Cruise ship or a Battleship. Too many professing Christians seem to think of the Church like a luxury cruise ship that exists for their pleasure and entertainment. “Serve me!” seems to be the motto that many bring to their local church. The questions we ask of a cruise ship are similar to the questions we ask about the local church we attend:
1. Do I like the music they play in the ballroom?
Do I like the Captain and his crew?
Is the service good?
Am I well fed?
Are my needs met promptly?
Is the cruise pleasant?
Am I comfortable?
Will I want to cruise with them again?
It’s true that our church ought to work very hard to make sure believers are effectively served and those who have yet trusted in Christ need to be helped to find Jesus. Effective sermons, well crafted worship liturgy, good music and dedicated clergy and lay staff are important. God deserves the very best and so do His people. However, it also follows that the world does not exist merely to please us. No church we attend will ever be exactly the way we want it. No pastor preaches perfectly every Sunday. The choir does not always sing our favorites.
Some people stay away from church calling it boring or say they aren’t being satisfied. But in the end, it’s not about us, the congregation! We go to church to worship God because He is worthy, because God deserves our praise, and because He has commanded us to be there. God has something important to say to us whether we want to hear it or not.
So, a far better image of the Church is that of a battleship rather than a cruise ship, with the following questions to continually be in our hearts and minds:
Is the ship on a clear and noble mission?
Is the ship able to endure storms at sea?
Does the Captain submit to a higher authority?
Are the tactics and moves of the enemy well understood by the bridge crew?
Does the bridge crew have proper training and experience?
Are the crew members equipped to succeed?
Is the crew well trained in the available weaponry?
Does the crew cooperate with the Captain?
Are they taught to be disciplined and vigilant?
Are they rooted in (naval) tradition yet well aware of current circumstances?
Are they at their posts?
Do they take the battle seriously?
Does the ship have adequate first aid and medical help?
Is the crew properly fed?
Some dislike any military imagery in reference to the faith. But spiritual warfare is a fact for every believer. We are besieged by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are called to engage the battle and by God’s grace come through to victory. Our weapons are the Word of God, the doctrines of the faith drawn from Scripture, the Sacraments, and prayer. This is no less true in 2013 as it was in Eden where the war against God’s image bearers began. May the Lord find us faithful to Him and find His people at WPC engaged in ways that honor and glorify Him.