One day, while diving for crayfish off the east coast of Tasmania as a young man, I was invited on-board a professional cray boat. It was a big boat, designed to spend weeks off-shore setting and checking cray pots. I found it fascinating. It had narrow stairs that descended below decks that were so step they were almost ladders. It had a huge hold filled with sea water that had room for thousands of crayfish. The bridge was filled with levers and dials and buttons. It certainly wasn’t a pretty boat, it was weather beaten, it was utilitarian, it was built for a purpose – to catch crayfish.
Now that I’m past 40 I’m a lot less interested in cray boats and a lot more interested in going on a cruise ship. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard so much about them. Unlike cray boats they are massive. Unlike cray boats they are beautiful. Unlike cray boats they are built for comfort and pleasure. They are designed to make sure the passengers feel relaxed. The purpose of cruise boats is the happiness of their passengers.
Which sort of boat is your church? Is the purpose of your church the comfort of your congregation members, or is it to catch fish? Jesus told his disciples ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Mt 4:19; Mk 1:17; Lk 5:10)’ I wonder how much we have lost that sense of purpose to fish for men, to reach the lost for Christ? I wonder how much we have turned our fishing boats into cruise ships. We’ve turned our hold, a place where the lost can be found, into a theatre room, a place to entertain the saved. Instead of preferring weather beaten and utilitarian and the messiness of catching fish, we prefer beautiful and comfortable and the orderliness of only dealing with the saved.
The challenge for our denomination is to rediscover this purpose of our churches, to catch fish. The challenge for our churches is to allow Jesus to make us, or remake us, into fishers of men. I still want to go on a cruise ship one day, but I don’t want to live on one, because Jesus has called me to give my life to fishing, and to help my church become a fishing boat, not a cruise ship.