... or why inherited and new forms of church need each other
While I was in the process of being introduced to a church as their prospective minister, I awoke one morning with an image of a tug boat floating alongside a cruise liner.
The prospective church was a large, traditional one in a wealthy area. The people were lovely and the job interesting, but I really wasn’t sure why on earth God might want me to go there. I was used to being part of a small, innovative community, where traditional forms of worship and structured management patterns were a misnomer. What did I have to offer a flagship church, and why on earth would they want me?
During my prayer time later that morning God spoke:
“You are currently captain of something that is equivalent to a tug boat. You know your waters, you have control of the tiller, and you can choose exactly where you go and the route you will take. The prospective church is like a cruise liner. It is large, unwieldy, and will take ages to change direction. All the passengers and crew already know where they want to go and how they expect to get there. You have the ability to be captain of either vessel – it is your choice – but be under no illusions as to the nature of the job you are considering, and choose wisely.”
As it turned out, the introduction went no further. It was the right decision on both sides. But it gave me food for thought. At present I am content being the captain of a tug boat. I know my context, I love my job and I can be of real value in the place where I am.
But the picture stays with me – possibly because in my image the two vessels are attached to each other, and necessarily so. The purpose of the tug boat is defined by its association with the cruise liner, while the cruise liner would struggle to leave harbour without the tug boat’s help. In the same way the church needs both flagship congregations and small, experimental ecclesial communities. One without the other would lead to an impoverished church.
But let’s face it, not everyone wants to navigate the oceans in a tug boat…
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