Skye Jethani wrote a book that I believe many of you would find interesting.
It is based on the changes seen in the American church that started in the 1960s. Today, half of all church goers in the United States attend the top 10% of the largest churches, while smaller churches are on the decline.
In the first half of the 20th Century, the way to cross the Atlantic was by ship. For most, these ships weren’t a pleasant trip at all. They were filled with poor immigrants or refugees starting a new life in America. The rough Atlantic sea, or their 3rd class accommodations weren’t pleasant, but the hope of their destination was.
The destination was the focus of these great ocean liners, not the trip. That is why they were nicknamed liners, because they got you from point A to point B.
So what changed? The Boeing 707, and other affordable planes came along, that could now cross the Atlantic in a matter of hours. So what happened to the Goliath shipping transport industry? They evolved into the cruise industry. A few innovative ships began marketing themselves as pleasurable getaways. They started traveling in a circuit, so instead of point A to point B, you end up back at the same port where you parked your car.
Whereas the old liners were primarily vehicles, the cruise lines marketed their ships themselves as the destination. The shift from crossing to cruising was really a shift from transportation to consumption.
The ironic thing is, that the cruise ship of today dwarfs that of the ocean liner of the past, as more and more entertainment options are being added.
So The Church
Pre-1960s, most churches were small, and community based. Their facilities were a worship hall, a few offices, and classrooms for Sunday school. Then, large segments of Baby Boomers stopped coming to church, and so like a few innovative shipowners started the cruise industry, a few innovative pastors started programs that appealed to these baby-boomers’ felt needs. Churches began offering a service that was far from the “boring.” They featured rock bands and charismatic pastors who became like the CEO of these new efficient, program based institutions.
By starting with consumers’ desires for something other than God, this new breed of pastors were mirroring the shift in passenger shipping away from linear voyages cruising. They were focusing on the church rather than where it was supposed to take you. New jargon was even developed to articulate this shift. The goal was no longer connecting “non-believers” to God, but rather getting the “unchurched” into the building.
So today we have churches with “campuses” that possess coffee shops, bookstores, and huge sports facilities. They have multiple satellite campuses that show a video of the senior pastor delivering an inspiring pre-recorded lesson that they had given months ago at their main campus.
Eventually we will learn that no matter how much money, effort, or innovation the church possess, it will never be as cool as the culture. Relevance is a race it cannot win, and in our misguided attempts to compete with the culture we rick losing sight of only thing of value the church has to offer the world- Jesus Christ.
There is Nothing Wrong With Being a Big Church!
This isn’t a book or blogpost to bash on big churches. It is simply a call to be aware of a culture that has developed. Often, the most vibrant churches in the world are in poor areas facing harsh persecution. Where the focus is the destination, not the pleasant “cruise” through life with your choice of amenities.
Being a small church doesn’t make you spiritual, being large doesn’t make you worldly.
Meet the Queen Mary 2
She is a large ship, she has some really cool amenities, like the largest library at sea! Yet, don’t let her size fool you, she is a destination focused ship! The Atlantic is rough in the winter. To make that crossing, the Queen Mary 2 has a thicker steel hull, sits deeper in the water, and a high and narrow bow for moving fast through the rough sea. Her life boats are higher, so the crashing waves can’t reach them.- So what’s important to consider is not size, but purpose.
Thank you for reading!
(Italics mean it was an excerpt from the book)
E-Book: How Churches Became Cruise Ships
This post was by- Springtree LED
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