one of my friends calls the typical contemporary typical church-system “the big ship.” they’re strong & powerful & plow through the ocean with confidence. they are dazzling and entertaining. many of us have been on that ship in some way, shape or form, hanging out on the deck enjoying the ride called “church-as-we-knew-it”.
but over time many of us have gone overboard.
some of us have bailed out, some of us were thrown over the deck. once in the water, some of us have been clinging for dear life to any kind of buoy, floating around hoping we’ll see land soon.
for me, i have not been holding onto a life preserver all on my own. instead, starting 6 years ago, i have been out in a raggedly old dinghy rowing toward something new, bailing out water along the way. it’s been a choppy ride. our boat is full of holes. we don’t have the rations we had hoped for. the waves keep coming up over the sides and slosh us around. but i’m not alone in it; i have some really awesome friends in this boat with me who are rowing & bailing just as hard.
sometimes it is rough out here, all this bobbing around.
the big ships carry on without giving us the time or the day. beautiful sailboats pass us by all the time (to me, these are new church or ministry startups who are fully funded by someone with deep pockets and have lots of people with margin). they give us a glance and carry on, sure that if we were more capable people we’d have a much better boat.
but i’m more clear than ever that this holey beaten-up dinghy is stronger than it looks.
we may be taking on water, but we’re learning how to work together.
we may not have the food we wish we were eating, but there’s always enough to go around.
we may not get relief from the sun like we long for, but somehow a cloud always comes & we are never harmed.
we may not have all of the gear we need, but we sure do have plenty of the one thing that’s free–love.
it’s oddly freeing out here in the wild beautiful ocean with my wild beautiful friends.
i think new forms of church will look a lot more like holey dinghies than cruise ships or pretty sail boats.
they will be rag-tag groups of misfits thrown overboard & dreamers who-couldn’t-stand-being-a-tourist-on-the-big-ship-anymore & pioneers who know there’s something better out there beyond the horizon.
the cruise ships & sail boats that see us out here wonder why we don’t just hop on and join their fun again. it seems like such a relief from the vulnerabilities and difficulties of the open sea. they’re right. it would be a relief. it’s a lot more comfortable up there and not much is required except for hanging out & enjoying the ride.
but once you’re out here in the great expanse, nothing else will satisfy.
several years ago, i wrote a post called why sometimes i want to throw in the towel. it was about how tiring life in the dinghy can be when the big ships and sail boats are cruising by while our needs far outweigh our resources and we’re trying to care for a bunch of hurting people, many of their castaways. after reading that post, one of my dearest friends sent me a message that said, “i’m here to row.” he hopped in the dinghy and started rowing. right around that time, a few other amazing companions did, too. they joined our little fledgling boat & helped carry the load.
in all kinds of ways, they have kept us afloat.
here’s my hope in the years to come in all of the shifts we’re seeing in “church”: that more and more people who-long-for-something-different will bravely jump ship from comfy cruise ships & pretty sail boats and land in some kind of holey dinghy, either one that they inflate or one that’s already out here.
that more and more start rowing in little weird wild & crazy missional ministries and pockets of love, whatever shape or form they take.
that more and more will come alongside others-dedicated-to-love & mercy & justice that desperately need help to sustain.
that more and more of those who feel so alone, clinging to a little life preserver by themselves, will somehow find community & hope in all kinds of these rag-tag rafts.
and that more and more of our dingheys will tie up together for some respite & sharing of supplies and to laugh & learn from each other.
if right now you can’t hop in and row, that’s so okay, too. i know it’s not for everyone. but maybe just help us patch up some of our holes sometimes, or bring us food & water, or help bail water for a while.
my guess is that there are an awful lot of holey dinghies that could sure use a little help, a little love.