Never imagined I would do it. Then a buddy of mine who loves me more than I deserve made me an offer I simply could not refuse. “I’ll pay your fare for a weekender; you buy Nancy’s.” What’s a pastor to do? After all, the brother attends my church. No way I wanted to give offense.

It only took that one time. Sold American. We’ve cruised two other wonderful times in the past. The last-minute deals made for a terribly cost-effective vacation. Talk about the pampering treatment. From the moment you board to the day you disembark, the staff waits on you hand and foot. Your every need gets met 24/7.

So why go on about vacationing on a boat in a pastor’s blog? Blame it on Tara Klena Barthel and Judy Dabler. For researching my book-in-progress, The Peacemaking Church: the Best Church Fight Is the One Yours Never Has, I’m reading through those ladies’ book, Peacemaking Women: Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict (Baker, 2005). Spot on stuff. Would love for the women of my church to get their hands on this valuable resource.

In their chapter on the church, the authors use the analogy of the cruising experience to describe how some folks view church. They frame it as looking to the church to meet our felt needs. Do that, they argue, and expect trouble for sure in the fellowship:

Church conflict escalates when we look to the church to meet our felt needs and something happens to disappoint us. For example, a common cause of conflict in the Peacemakingwomenchurch involves the mind-set many people have that church is like a cruise ship. When we have this view of the body of Christ, we expect everything in the church to be conveniently tailored to our wants and desires. Our expectation is that we will be served, cared for, and entertained by professionals whose sole focus is our happiness. Of course, this misguided mind-set leads us to view people in the church as resources for our comfort rather than valuable members of one body who both need us and are needed by us. As a result, we neither love nor serve them well. In fact, when our expectations are disappointed, we engage in destructive gossip, criticism, and bickering. Instead of keeping careful confidences and protecting members, we often speak ill of others. Church conflict–a terrible witness to the watching world–is the frequent result (209-210).

If you’re looking for a great vacation and can catch just the right deal, then you may well want to consider taking a cruise.

If you’re looking to do church in a way that eagerly preserves the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3), then lose the cruise mind-set fast. Arm yourself rather with a body-mindset where members have the same care for one another  (1 Cor. 12:25b).

3 responses

  1. Pingback: The Church Is No Cruise Ship | Orlando Grace Church

  2. Have you ever known an actual Christian who expected to be entertained and waited on by other Christians? I have not. What I have seen, time and again, are congregations providing attractive (and often expensive) entertainment, whether contemporary or traditional, along with elaborate child care services, just to keep them coming back. In so doing, we are bringing in the very people described on your blog. Whether our visitors are our brothers and sisters in Christ, or those who have come among us seeking to meet the Lord for the first time, we seem to regard them as potential customers visiting a shopping mall. Perhaps if we make them comfortable enough, they will hang around long enough, or return often enough to buy our product.

    If this is not the case, then why do we spend so much of our offering money on elaborate music programs and professional musicians? Why do we mandate our men to do setup for our music program, and our women to provide child care for able-bodied adult parents who knew what their responsibilities were, when they brought children into the world? (I do not speak of those who are in genuine need. That is what “bearing one another’s burdens” is actually about). What if, instead of saying “suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not”, Jesus had said “the nursery is down the second hall on the right”? That is pretty much what the Lord’s disciples were saying. He became indignant.

    Two women I met at community group said they were already Christians when they first visited OGC, but were looking for a church to be more like family. The Lord brought them the very day after Joshua died. I learned something about what that Sunday morning was like at OGC.

    They didn’t keep coming back for the music program. They didn’t return for the child care services. They came back because OGC is family, part of the greater family of God. He is doing great things their among His people. We serve one another because we love one another. When the Lord is present, His word is faithfully taught, and He is working among His people, you can’t miss it.

  3. Alec, I rarely receive such a thorough comment to a post. Thank you.Unfortunately, the answer to your first question is, “I’m afraid I have.” Still, I suspect you are right in your critique that to some extent the church is guilty of pandering to the cruise ship mentality. May we repent where necessary.

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