Well-meaning leaders in the Church often become dock builders instead of navigators and chart recorders. Where has all the adventure gone? And why are we now content to build safe churches, in the name of balance and scriptural accuracy? We need to be accurate, but to me, balance is not a fixed point, but a journey between two extremes—an ever-learning experience of life. When did church become defined as “safe”? “Welcome, welcome,” we say to all the Christian sailors. “Welcome to the church of the ‘safe haven.’” Hey, that’s OK if you have just sailed in from Cape Town or Argentina, but not the dock across the river.
seadogboat
If you have ever owned or spent much time around sailboats, you will know they are, like many Christians I know, a lot of maintenance. Now, you might think that most damage to a boat is caused by storms at sea, but you would be wrong. From my office window in Cocoa Village, Fla., there is a view of several large sailboats capable of travel in any of the world’s blue waters. They, however, spend most of the time tied up to the dock—and guess what does the most damage to these beautiful boats? The dock. A heavy storm passed through recently, causing major damage to many of these vessels and even sinking some. It is a sad sight to see a boat end its days this way. Boats are designed for momentum, and putting into port was only meant for short periods of time.

Well-meaning leaders in the Church often become dock builders instead of navigators and chart recorders. Where has all the adventure gone? And why are we now content to build safe churches, in the name of balance and scriptural accuracy? We need to be accurate, but to me, balance is not a fixed point, but a journey between two extremes—an ever-learning experience of life. When did church become defined as “safe”? “Welcome, welcome,” we say to all the Christian sailors. “Welcome to the church of the ‘safe haven.’” Hey, that’s OK if you have just sailed in from Cape Town or Argentina, but not the dock across the river.

Don’t get me wrong. People often need to experience the safety, security, acceptance and love of church people—but that is just the beginning. Those who have known nothing but the desperate struggle for survival need to enjoy the calm and peace of a harbor life for a season.

It’s interesting to note that the only building officially endorsed by God was the tabernacle—not the temple. In the tabernacle we see a structure that was easy to move. It was a large, mobile tent. There is something inside each of us that longs for security and permanence, and yet these things actually come from moving and staying close to God. It’s like signing up as crew for His next big adventure. This is not a foolhardy launch out into the deep, but a careful, calculated plotting of the charts of God’s will and His intent for our lives.

Come on board. The weather will get rough at times and the crew a little crazy, but it is where we were designed to be. Momentum is our friend, and like a stiff breeze, it propels us into action. You might end up helping kids in AIDS-ravaged nations, climbing a mountain trail in New Zealand, kayaking in the moonlight in Florida, rebuilding homes after a hurricane, stuck on the banks of the Amazon overnight waiting to be rescued, surfing perfect point breaks in Australia or running summer camps for adventure-starved youth. Take a tip from James in the Bible. He must have known something about sailing when he threw out the challenge, “Faith without works is dead.” Do yourself a big favor and find out what you are meant to do—and do it. Quit looking like one of those pretty sailboats tied up to the dock. Go out and carve some tracks in the blue water of life. The Church needs able-bodied crew who are willing to be trained in some serious life skills.

Onboard we learn from each other. Students become teachers, teachers become masters and masters become students. We are on a constant learning curve. We travel and meet crews from other boats. New cultures from foreign lands help inspire and keep our minds fresh and our hearts challenged. We hate the feeling that nothing is happening, and are willing to pray long and hard until things do. We love other fellow searchers of truth, but are not so keen on those who think they have arrived. No such thing as permanent anchorage here. We respect the creative gifts and skill level each crew member contributes. We are very aware that we cannot sail this vessel alone. We also recognize the unique quest each person has been called to, and will do our best to not get in their way, even if we don’t always understand or agree with the way they do it.

Church should be a healthy and challenging environment to enjoy life as God intended. Imagine the greeting at the door if we talked about our last high-seas adventure or the preparation needed for the next trip to as-yet-undiscovered destinations. Please do yourself a favor and check out Paul’s missionary journeys, or the Book of Acts. Sure seemed like church was anything but tied up to a dock. You might remember the classic quote by C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, speaking about Aslan: “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe, but he is good.”

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This article originally appeared in Neue Quarterly Vol. 01. You can subscribe to the Quarterly or buy individual copies.