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  • Dr. Jeff Hessinger

Two Kinds of Ships

Jesus said something profound about the church. He told Peter, “Upon this Rock (referring to Himself) I will build My church”, Peter reminded us that Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2), and the Apostle Paul stated that, “no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11) This is why we who have salvation in Christ are faithful and committed to the local church, it’s God’s plan to carry out His mission on earth. When we are the church gathered, we worship and make much of Jesus, and when we are the church scattered, we faithfully live the new life He gave us and tell others how to know Jesus. The church has purpose for those who are redeemed, and the church has a purpose in the world today. Unfortunately, sometimes we forget why the church exists and what we as faithful followers of Jesus are called to be and do.

We have all heard the statement “the church has become like a country club” or a “secret society” where only select people are members. What they are really saying is that they sense the church has lost its purpose and meaning in the lives of the redeemed and its meaning and purpose in the world today. I think I understand what they are trying to say. They feel like what they read in the Bible doesn’t line up with what they are experiencing in their church life. I think we have all been there one time or another on our journey.

I typically described the situation a bit differently. I’ve illustrated the church that is off track from its purpose and meaning as a Cruise ship. Nothing wrong with a cruise ship. Errin and I love to take a cruise from time to time to rest, relax, and recharge our “batteries”. We enjoy the pool decks and chairs for sunning and reading a good book. We enjoy all the food that is available and the gorgeous dinning rooms with skilled servers to meet our every feasting need. As you can see cruising the Caribbean can be enjoyable especially when you drop in some interesting port of calls for spectacular sightseeing.

Some see they church this way. A gathering of similar minded people cruising through life to relax and enjoy their spiritual journey. They are customers to the staff and ministry leaders. The staff becomes the cruise directors serving the needs of the onboard customers with games, activities, and first-class entertainment. The ship is well equipped to chase the sun around the Caribbean while the cruise directors entertain the paying customers. Obviously, the cruise ship model makes for a poor strategy to build the church found in Scripture.

I clearly see that the Bible gives the church purpose and meaning in a totally different manner. The church has never been assigned to float an emerald sea of humanity for the sake of those onboard. Jesus gave the church its purpose five times in the Bible (once would have been enough), once in each gospel and again in the book of Acts (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). Instead of a cruise ship I think the church is better modeled as a battleship.

The church and battleship are given purpose and meaning from a much higher authority. They both exist at the pleasure of a Commander-in-Chief. The church and the battleship exist to carry out a mission. The church exists for the purpose of the Mission of God, Missio Deo. Neither the church or the Battleship are intended to get their purpose and meaning from comfortable customers but if they do then they both stop existing for their created purpose and lose their meaning. The local church is a Battleship on mission for God. We wage a spiritual war for the souls of men. We train up Kingdom Warriors to set the captives free from the grip and prisons of Jesus arch enemy, Satan. Heaven forbid that we ever take on the characteristics of a cruise ship and lose the mission of God as a Kingdom Battleship.

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