I’m not trying to stick my head in the sand. I can read a bar graph as well the next guy.
I know The Church is struggling.
I also know that for myself, and for every church I’ve been a part of, there is so much more that could be done. Riskier decisions. Radical reorienting. Relevance to a younger generation.
But to vilify ourselves, to wag the finger of blame, or to panic in the face of impending doom is to deny the ongoing witness of millions of disciples currently occupying our pews and auditoriums.
More than once I have heard an anxious Christian describe our current efforts as “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”. That our attempts to “fix” the problems of our sinking church are futile.
I would like to suggest a different way for us to look at the current situation.
What if sin is the Titanic?
At first glance that image might not be particularly comforting either. But what if “the human condition” has put us all at peril from day one? (I seem to remember reading something about that in a Good Book somewhere)
Malice. Materialism. Selfishness. Haves and have-nots. Fear. Deceitfulness.
Christians today don’t necessarily agree on what items go on that list, but surely we can agree that sinful “ways of the world” are a constant threat to drag us all down. (Perhaps evil, then, is an iceberg?)
If sin is the Titanic, what does that make us?
I would like to suggest that the role of The Church is to be the lifeboats.
Picture the lifeboats on the Titanic. They were along for the same ride. Effected by the same iceberg. But in response to this perilous time that has effected us all, we are uniquely poised to offer something:
You may recall that there were issues with the lifeboats on the Titanic. There weren’t enough for everybody, and many were launched half full.
The lifeboats weren’t deployed properly, and people were left behind. That, too, has happened in our churches.
So, if this analogy holds true, I see The Church facing two dilemmas, if we are to function as we were created:
1. We have to respond to the same icebergs the whole world struggles with. We are susceptible to the same sinfulness, the same selfishness and fear that everyone faces.
2. We have to make sure our churches are ship-shape. Safe places in a crazy world. Reaching out with love and helping people move to a new way of living. We must be vigilantly equipped and deployed.
We’ve been working on this for years. From the beginning. And we’ve never stopped.
Never perfectly. Sometimes lamentably. We can and must do better.
It’s clear we have problems, but The Church is not the Titanic. It’s a massive fleet of lifeboats ON the Titanic. See the difference?
It is in the very nature of The Church to offer salvation. That has not changed.
Yes, our situation is serious. Our work ahead of us is tremendous. Our fleet needs training, and practice, and direction, but I believe these boats are sea-worthy.
If we can keep our wits about us, and minimize the panic, God willing, through Christ…
we can still save the world.