20,000 Leagues Beneath the Pew
by Donna Morton
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I recently heard the term “Submarine Christians” used to describe those who only surface at church on Christmas and Easter. The rest of the year finds them submerged elsewhere, possibly beneath the warmth of their down comforters.
There is another group of nautical believers who I call “Cruising Christians.” We’re the ones (and I say “we’re” because I’ve sailed on this ship) who do attend church and see that it’s a good thing. We’re in absolute awe at HOW much work goes into the ministry, programs and maintenance, and we SO appreciate everything the captain and mates DO for us.
Our church experience is similar to cruising on a luxury liner. We’re fed and watered, entertained and promised a life jacket should we ever start to sink. We sit back, soak it up and only lift a finger to let our servants know that we need something.
It makes for easy sailing, but we really need to remove our shades and hoist our pampered selves up from our deck pews. There’s a ship to sail and it takes a lot of people to do it.
It’s tempting to leave the work to others, especially when we see what a great job they’re doing without us. Besides, aren’t these people “called” or “gifted” at what they do? Wouldn’t Jesus prefer His ministry be carried out by people who are “experienced” in church service?
There are many ways to serve in the church and most needs are supportive in nature. Some are ongoing or rotating, while others come along annually, like Vacation Bible School. Somewhere in the mix is a place we can serve, a way we can help our leaders. Often, though, people think service means relocating to the church, singing solos before the congregation or that extraordinary talents are needed to make a difference.
Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Ministries and Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church (named the third most influential church in America*), Buckhead Church and Browns Bridge Community Church, all in the Atlanta, Georgia area, recently used one of the most famous accounts of Jesus’ ministry to address the topic of service.
He referred to Matthew 14, which tells us that Jesus, having just learned that His cousin John the Baptist had been beheaded, withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Understandably, Jesus wanted to grieve, but that didn’t stop a small crowd of 5000 from hiking along the coastline to reach Him. Taking compassion on the crowd, Jesus began to heal their sick.
“This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late,” the disciples said to Jesus as evening approached. “Send the crowd away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus could have agreed and dismissed the crowd, or He could have reached into the future and brought back a massive Pizza Hut delivery team. He could have asked His Heavenly father to cover the ground in manna and it would have been done. Instead, Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “You give them something to eat.”
The operative word was “you”, but the disciples, as disciples today often do, had a problem with their leader’s instruction. With only five loaves of bread and two fish between them, how could they possibly pull this off?
“Bring them here to me,” Jesus said of the fish and bread. He gave thanks, broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, who then gave them to the crowd. When all 5000 people were feeling fat and happy, there were still 12 baskets of food left over.
This amazing story about our amazing Savior illustrates two points. One, Jesus wants US to serve. And two, all the disciples did was hand out food…but boy, talk about service!
Pastor Stanley’s point in using this story is: if we do what we can do and let Jesus do what HE can do, significant things happen.
If we want to be part of something significant, it’s time to surface from beneath that complacent pew-- and contribute to keeping the ship on course.
If we’re not sure where to serve, we need only ask someone at church. They’ll be glad to navigate us in the right direction.
©Donna G. Morton, May 2007
* The Church Report, July 2006
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