Friday, December 29, 2006

The Good Ship PCUSA – Day 2

The church has many aspects to its life and ministry. Regular readers know that I believe that the church is to be passionate about evangelism, mission, reaching out to the poor and needed, etc. The church is a place where people need to be spiritually challenged—we are to be constantly growing and maturing in Christ. The church is also a place where people come to find rest and refreshment—to get their spiritual, emotional and physical batteries recharged so they can go into the world to serve Christ.

Getting back to the sailing example of yesterday, the constant battering of rough seas takes its toll on everyone on the boat. As mentioned yesterday, there are several factors involved in dealing with “unsmooth sailing.” Today I want to talk about “the boat” as one of those factors.

Not all sailboats are created equal! A boat made for day sailing in Seattle is not a boat that you would want to take down the Washington coast. A boat designed for sailing the high seas is made to withstand the rough conditions offshore. The hull is thicker and stronger. All of the systems are designed to take a beating. The sleeping accommodations are modified for the passage. It can take months and months to get an appropriate boat ready to head off shore.

At the same time, the crew needs to be convinced that the boat is ready for the difficulties that may lie ahead. The crew needs to have the skills necessary for the passage. Last year a group from my sailing club took the US Sailing Offshore Passagemaking Class (the most advanced class US Sailing offers) as they helped deliver a new catamaran sailboat for the Chesapeake Bay to Tortilla, BVI—there were four people from the club and two licensed captains. They experienced several days of EXTREMELY rough conditions! They encountered difficult/dangerous sailing conditions. They had confidence in the boat due to the extensive preparations that had been done on the boat prior to the trip. They had confidence in the delivery captains. All of their years of classes and training were put to the test.

The “unsmooth sailing” in the PCUSA causes problems in that most churches (and church members) have not been sufficiently prepared for the rough sailing. Throw a bunch of conflict into a church and people will begin to leave. Throw constant conflict into a church and only the stubborn or very determined will stay. Why? It all has to do with preparation and readiness to face the troubling waters ahead.

There are those who believe that the PCUSA will weather the current Force 12 storm that it is experiencing. They believe that the PCUSA ship is strong enough to make it through. They should recognize that the journey will be difficult. They should also realize that some people may be lost overboard.

There have been many examples of the toll of rough weather sailing off of New Zealand. Latitude 38 (the Bay Area sailing rag) has a good article covering some of those events. People have lost their lives. Boat have been damaged or sunk. The crews of those boats looked at the weather forecasts and chose to leave port – the storms conditions were worse than predicted.

Those choosing to stay on the good ship PCUSA had better take a good, hard look at the storms ahead. They also need to look at the direction in which to sail the boat. They also need to look at the boat itself.

Let’s use the 2006 General Assembly meeting as an example. I believe that the General Assembly failed to understand that storm that would be created by the approval of the PUP and Trinity Reports. The General Assembly sailed us right into a hurricane! They had to believe that the good ship PCUSA was strong enough to make it through the storm.

Thirty-plus years of fighting the same old theological battles have taken a toll on the good ship PCUSA. The PCUSA has been in the storm for a LONG time. The constant battering has taken its toll on the denomination. I am not convinced that the Presbyterian Church in its current form will survive such a prolonged Force 12 (hurricane) storm. Many sailboats can survive such storms IF the crew makes wise decisions. A wrong move by the person at the helm can put even the best ship is peril.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Good Ship PCUSA - Day 1

Jack Haberer (of the Outlook editor) recently wrote an article titled, “A Sailor’s Retrospective.” He called 2006 a year of “unsmooth sailing” for the PCUSA. An understatement if I have ever heard one. His article went on to list the varied topics the Outlook has covered over that time. I believe that the Outlook does a good job at presenting the differing views of the issues before the PCUSA.

Jack should never have used a sailing example. As a sailor, any article linking sailing and the Christian faith is a must read for me. The second reason he should not have used the sailing example is that it causes this sailor to think…

There are many reasons why a boat and its crew experience unsmooth sailing: some have to do with the weather, some with the crew, some with the water and some with the boat. Over the next few days I am going to look at these items that help cause unsmooth sailing—as they relate to the PCUSA. I will be over-simplifying some of the sailing details so as not to bore you!

One of my brothers once said to me, “Why would anyone want to sail in Washington State? In the summer when it is nice there is not enough wind and in the winter when there is lots of wind it is colder than crud.” He had a good point—that is part of the reason why I like to sail in the Caribbean! The air temperature is 80 – 85 degrees. The water is 82- 84 degrees. It is as beautiful under the water as it is above the water. And then there is limin’. “Limin’” is kicking back on island time and just relaxing, enjoying the people, the beach and life. Limin’ is what many people want in their church. They want it to be a place to go to recuperate from all of life’s ups and downs. Limin’ at a church allows you to rest your weary bones. In the British Virgin Islands (BVI) limin’ can involve sailing from one beautiful anchorage to another. I come back from the BVI ready to face whatever comes my way.

The church should be a place where people can go to be restored and refreshed by our God. He can sooth the broken hearter and heal the wounded. He can bring hope to the hopeless and courage to the weak at heart. Psalm 23 calls it restoring the soul.

Take a few moments and check out the video of Southern Ocean sailing. This is not a video of limin’! This video represents the “unsmooth sailing” that Haberer mentioned. The people in the video are professional sailors racing around the world. They purposely sail the Southern Oceans because it is the shortest way around the world. The Southern Oceans also have some of the worst sailing conditions on the globe! These racing teams have boats especially designed for this task. Each team has professional weather forecasters and shore-based teams to guide the boat on its journey. Still, some of these boats do not survive the trip. No sane person would want to be in such conditions for weeks at a time.

This brings us back to the “unsmooth sailing” of the Presbyterian Church (USA). People will endure “unsmooth sail” conditions--for a while. There comes a point in time when people say enough is enough—they just want to get off the ship. Some ships need to be abandoned—others don’t. So, please join me as I look at the good ship PCUSA and “unsmooth sailing.”

Monday, December 25, 2006

12:03 Christmas Morning!

I am just locking up the church after a very long, yet wonderful day. Our late night “Christmas Eve at the Stable” service just go over. We had 70 people show up to spend the last few minutes of Christmas Eve worshipping God at a near by barn. We had already had our Christmas Eve Candle light service.

We talked about the peace that we can experience though Jesus Christ. It is a peace that people of this world cannot understand.

Friends, I pray that you will experience the peace of God today—Christmas 2006! Merry Christmas!