So, something happened to the Wii at our house this weekend and it would not really work that well. That afternoon, as I sat down with Ethan and Luke I was flipping to the channels hoping to find a good basketball game or cartoons. As we skipped over TNT a picture of the Titanic was on the screen. Ethan, having just recently read a book about the Titanic (I’m so proud of him), said “go back, go back.” We then proceeded to sit there and watch the movie Titanic (don’t worry, I flipped it during the “love scene” and “drawing scene”). Ethan and Luke were full of questions through the movie and will probably never want to go on a cruise after seeing what happened to that ship.
As I watched, my mind slipped away to an article I have read in the past week and that has become quite the conversation piece on Church of Christ blogs online. In the article I refer to, Bobby Ross Jr. of the Christian Chronicle presented recent statistics regarding the declining numbers in the Church of Christ. If you would like to read it for yourself, which I suggest you do, here’s the link. Needless to say, the numbers are alarming and the solution, assuming there is one, is not a simple one. Are we, like the passengers aboard the Titanic, aboard a sinking ship?
Of course the answer to that question is no. We know from scripture (Matt. 16:18) that the church itself will always stand firm, even when faced with the gates of Hell. Therefore, we are not aboard a sinking ship, but there are holes that need filling. As I look at the problem though, I see it is a people problem just like on the Titanic. Was it the iceberg’s fault that the Titanic was sent to the depths. No, that’s irrational. The iceberg was just there serving whatever purpose God created it to serve. The sinking of the Titanic was the fault of man and the removal of the church in America will be from the hands of man.
The creators of the Titanic thought that they had built something that was beyond reproach. Oh, Church of Christ. How often have we members heard that criticism. Sadly, it is based on fact. There were and are members of the church who continue to believe that we do it perfectly and that all others are inferior. Yet, the church is made up of people and scripture teaches us that there are zero amount of perfect people. We must repent of this attitude and return to being repentant sinners who are attempting to worship God in the way that we have read is most desirable to Him. I believe and trust that God will once again raise his hedge of protection around the American church should this occur.
Even more chaotic though than the sinking of the Titanic in the movie was the reaction of the people and as I scan the landscape of how people are reacting to these declining numbers, I see many similarities.
01 – Those below decks fueling the ship. These people to me represent those in the church now who are fueling the current path the church is taking. These are the ones who are steaming our current course. The gossips, back-biters, unrepentant, and refusing to learn. All they think is that if they get on board the ship and do their job that they will get paid or rewarded someday for it. These people are trying to work their way to some place and are fine with remaining in the murky and burning conditions they find themselves in daily. Not willing to do the study that it would take to improve their condition they find themselves in the same joyous rut day in and day out. Then, the alarm sounds that the time has come to leave that place and seek higher ground. Aboard the ship, some escaped as they realized their condition soon enough, yet some were locked in that place, doomed to perish in the environment that up to that point was just good enough for them. Brothers and sisters, the alarm is sounding.
02 – The watchmen – There are those in the church who are watching and see what is coming. These people are currently out sounding the alarm and telling the church to change course (think Joe Wells). Yet, is it too late. Have we already hit an iceberg that has done too much harm to be able to stay on our course to our desired destination? Of course not, but we are letting water on board. The more compromises we make as a church in the name of relevancy the further from the truth we will become. Fortunately, there are those watching and who see the danger and damage that has already occurred. They cannot fix it though.
03 – The clingers – These are the ones who are simply accepting the fact that things are bad and are going down with the ship. There is a cut scene as the ship fills with water in the movie in which a peasant mother is shown tucking her two children into bed singing a lullaby. That scene used to invoke an emotion of sadness in me but when I saw it Saturday I became quite disgusted. Granted, they may have been part of the people who were locked in their quarters in the hope of saving the others, but how can she not even fight. Instead, seeing the danger that is at hand, chooses to simply go about her routine as if nothing is wrong, giving her children a false sense of security. Are we guilty of this? Are we seeing the danger that is around us and the fact that our churches are losing youth? Are we not tucking them and our members into the same false security that many of us were tucked in to, in the hope that until the ship sinks, they will believe that everything is alright. I have much more to say about this matter but I feel it warrants its own post later in this week.
04 – The jumpers – If you have ever seen this movie, the thought must be etched in your mind of the people jumping off the ship as it capsizes. There is the one guy who jumps from the back and on his way down hits the ship’s propeller. I would find it very unlikely that any of these people survived. These people saw that there was a problem that was going to take more than just themselves to fix and decided to jump ship, likely plummeting to an icy grave. This seems to be the current trend among young adults in the church today. They are all aware of the problem as they see it and know that something must be done in order to survive. Sadly, rather than staying and trusting in God to bring them through, they are jumping out of church in the simple hope that they’ll land in something better. Hopefully they will survive and we need to learn to recognize and reach out to those people before they jump.
05 – The workers – These people to me are different than those who were working below decks. These were the people who had studied and shown themselves approved enough to be above decks and to lead the ship and its guests in day to day activities. The captain, first mate, musicians, etc… As the time came to evacuate the ship in search of survival, these men (with exceptions) were the ones pointing people to survival and performing a task that they knew would end in their dying. Preachers, elders, deacons, and teachers. These people are you. At this time more than ever, our churches are looking at you and wanting to know how to survive. They know there is a problem so don’t try and mask it. Rather, give them the solution. Point them to the life raft of gospel truth and help them aboard teaching them that although it can’t be seen at this moment, there is a ship coming. Look, we know we are going to die individually someday, but what will happen to those who came through our doors looking for survival? By accepting Christ crucified and being willing to be one of the elect that God has chosen to shepherd, we have accepted a duty to teach the gospel and
to guarantee the safety of as many as we can.
There are other comparisons that can be made but I will avoid those to avoid any appearance of blasphemy. Allow me to say this though, regarding the starlet of the movie, someone gave their life in a horrible way so that she would have survival. She only survived because as the ship was sinking, she kept climbing higher and higher
Out of the many aboard that ship, only a few survived. Does scripture not warn us over and over that only a few shall survive this journey that we are on. No, that is not a call to complacency but rather a call to turn our boats back and rather than worrying about heading into the world, seeing if we cannot pick some of those who are barely surviving back up. The call is not to redesign the framework of the ship, but rather to look at what role human error played and improve on the design that has already been laid before us. The call is not to make more law that condemns other efforts to cross great divides, it is a call to preach Christ crucified as He has told us that He has the power to do anything. The call is to trust God that come what may, He will bring us home in His own way and to be satisfied with the fact that God has allowed us to survive and work with the past and next travellers to insure that no such catastrophe will ever occur again because we took our eyes off of the goal at hand.