Your Session, the leadership board of Southminster, is reading a book called Sailboat Church by Joan Gray. This book differentiates “rowboat churches” from “sailboat churches.” It paints a general picture that rowboat churches work really hard, but are plagued with weariness, burnout, and lack of imagination. Sailboat churches, on the other hand, use their work to harness the strong winds of the Holy Spirt that carry them forward. These churches are invigorated, eager to welcome new ideas, often venturing in new directions knowing that God is with them.
But you and I both know that real churches like ours are somewhere in the middle. We row sometimes and we sail sometimes. But the author is challenging us to ask questions about how much rowing or sailing are we actually doing, and where is it getting us?
If we look at thriving churches, we see people embracing their relationship with God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It affects all aspects of the church. Thriving churches have people who regularly pray for each other. Not rowboat prayers that are said by wrote, but with the real expectations that God will be at work! Thriving churches embrace challenges as opportunities to see where the Spirit is leading them. Instead of “don’t rock the boat,” they say “let us go out on the water, for that is where we see Jesus!”
Perhaps the single most important trait between sailboat and rowboat churches is their faith. Where do we, as a church, put our faith? Is our faith in our own human strength to run the programs, to volunteer enough, to plan and hold more meetings? Is that what we need to be a successful church? Or, is it our faith in a living God, who is at work in the hearts and minds of each of us members, our families, our neighbors and friends? Is our faith in a God who can forgive the sinner, make water in the desert and raise the dead to life?
I catch myself rowing at times. Thinking that by my human efforts of calling, visiting, planning, that I can propel the church onward. If you are like me you have felt the sting of burnout and hopelessness, at times. But when I catch myself sailing, oh what a feeling! I have worked to hoist the sail, to set the rudder, but then I stand on the deck as the church surges onward by a force greater that ten thousand rowers! It is in these moments that I say, “What a wonderful and powerful God we have!”
Friends, will you sail with me? Will you join our Session as we seek the guidance and discernment of the Holy Spirit with prayer and thanksgiving? This Easter Season let us put our faith in our strong and loving God so that Southminster might sail into a bright and faithful future for generations to come!