WESTLAKE: WARSHIP OR CRUISE SHIP?

I grew up next to the River Clyde in Scotland one of, if not the, greatest shipbuilding areas in the world. In the middle of 20th century, it was reckoned one fifth of all the ships in the world were Clydebuilt.  The Clyde gained a reputation for producing two types of ships in particular, warships and cruise ships. The most famous British liners of the 20th century, the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth, the Lusitania and the QE2 were all built on the Clyde. The Royal Navy came to the Clyde to have its biggest battleships built, like HMS Hood, HMS Repulse and HMS Howe.

Apart from the presence and lack of guns, there is one big difference between cruise ships and warships, the people who go on board. On a cruise ship, the majority of the people on board are passengers, and the job of the crew is to serve them. The crew of a cruise liner is there to make sure that the passengers have the best experience they can. The passengers expect to be served, not to serve others. On a warship its very different, on a warship every member of the crew is not there to serve passengers but serve the mission of the ship. The crew is trained, deployed and work to ensure the warship can carry out its mission.

People go aboard cruise ship to have their every need met, to be taken care of. In contrast, people go aboard warships to serve their country, they are committed to serving a purpose greater than themselves. You probably see where I am going with this.

If I am being honest, I think one of the biggest challenges facing the church as the impact of the pandemic recedes is that too many people have got used to the church being effectively like a cruise ship. COVID-19 has forced church to go online, what this has meant in practice is a few people doing a lot of work to produce online content. The majority of people have simply turned on the TV or opened a laptop and tuned into the service. In fact, many people have been looking for bigger and better cruise ships. Sampling what other churches can provide for them online and comparing, it not always favourably, to the content that a few hard-working people are producing in their local churches. One of many negative consequences of the COVID lockdowns has been to create even more Christians who are in truth just passive consumers of church, they consume but they don’t contribute.

A warship has a clear mission and every crew member has a specific role to help make it happen. Its meant to be the same in the Body of Christ. I was reminded of this recently when reading Paul’s description of the church in the book of Ephesians.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4

Paul says that, just like the captain of a warship with its crew, Christ has assigned everyone a role in fulfilling the mission of the Church and equips and trains them for that mission. That mission is building up the church, making and maturing disciples, helping believers grow and so the whole church, grow and mature spiritually.

God’s Word says that the Church can only fulfil its mission if something happens, Paul describes what that is in these verses.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4: 16

There it is, God’s Word puts it bluntly and plainly, the church can only grow and build itself up, AS EACH PART DOES ITS WORK.

Those six words are packed with significance. Don’t miss the implications of those words “AS EACH PART” they tell us that every one of us who is a born-again believer has a work to do in the church. The church is not a cruise ship, it has no passengers, it’s a warship, it only has a crew. Jesus has assigned you a role in the church and if you aren’t committed to serving in that role the church won’t reach its potential. Remember, the church grows when EACH PART DOES ITS PART.

So let me ask you, are you doing your part?

There are so many uncertainties about the rest of the year when it comes to church and what we will and won’t be able to do. There is however one thing I am certain of; Westlake needs to be a warship, not a cruise ship. I  believe that in the aftermath of COVID that people inside and outside the church are going to really need the church to be the church. People are looking for the hope, the healing, the new life that only we as the church can offer, but we can only fulfil that mission as EACH PART DOES ITS PART.

In all honesty, right now, Westlake is more like a cruise ship than a warship. Almost every day over the last week I was made aware of areas of  our church life which are struggling because of a lack of volunteers. For instance, with us now providing the spiritual lifeline to many people of live-streaming our services, we need more volunteers. I have appealed for people to help every Sunday for a month, and not one person has indicated they are willing to find out more about serving in this area.

Here is the reality, if we don’t become more of a warship than a cruise ship, if more of the people connected to Westlake don’t get committed to serving God in Westlake, we are not going to be able to continue to do things like livestream our services, we won’t be able to sustain a ministry for our children,  our youth work will be curtailed rather than expanded.

In the next few weeks, we will be asking for people to seek God as to where they are called to serve Him at Westlake, we are going to make you aware of all the areas of church life we need people to serve and then we will find out if the people of Westlake want their church to be a warship or cruise ship?

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