Don’t watch Your Church Go From Battleship To Cruise Ship (Here are 11 important distinctions)

I recently wrote a post about the need for local churches to be more like battleships than cruise ships. We want to raise up warriors in the faith, not tourists.  I think almost every church begins with a battleship mindset.  The leaders and people who begin the church are called,  persistent, sharp, relentless, passionate, and willing.  As time goes on, however, something shifts.  The goals that they once had have become ingrown and they begin to exist for the people who are there.

Here are eleven indicators that you are shifting from a battleship to a cruise ship mindset.

1) Focus on corporate prayer has diminished.  When we discover that corporate prayer has been moved to the back burner, it may be an indicator that we are beginning to trust ourselves for success in reaching people.

2) Mission is overtaken by activity. The options have become endless and the mission is no longer clear.  There is something for everyone, but no one knows exactly how to get plugged in, how to start growing, etc.  Activity has replaced the mission of the church.

3) Too concerned about appearance. Churches that are more concerned with appearance are moving to a cruise-ship mindset.  They become more concerned about what they look like on the outside.  The impression people get is perfection.  No place for them.

4) Comparisons of size and style outweigh the mission God has called you to.  Every church has its corner of the world in which to be a light.  When we take our eyes off the mission field God has placed us in and begin to compare with other churches, we have started down a slippery slope.

5) The same methods are used each year.  Cruise ships offer the same basic program, menu, and entertainment each week – knowing the people will be changing.  Asking, “What we did last year” is an indicator we are relying on what was.  Battleships are constantly refining their plans and making adjustments in order to be best prepared for the current mission field.

6) Fellowship-focused events are far more frequent than outreach events.   Has fellowship-focused opportunities become the main ministry of the church?  Are new people easily able to join those circles?  Fellowship times are great entry points and great times of community but can become a hindrance if they become the focus.  The church is more than a social circle.  It’s the body of Christ, connected, for sure, but connected for a purpose – to reach the world for Christ.

7) This attitude: “Get things right, then invite.” People (and leaders) in the church begin to talk about the need to “get things straightened out with the people we already have before we can start inviting new people.” Truth be told, we will never get all the people in church straightened out.  The only healthy churches are the ones who are reaching out, inviting, and pulling in new people.  That act alone will help people grow in faith.

8) Emphasize programs, formulas, and gimmicks as a way to grow.  Growth is the outcome of hearts on fire for Christ. It comes from prayer, diligence, and careful administration.  Programs aren’t bad in and of themselves, but they are the tools, not the method for growth.  The method is to make disciples.  The tools for this are numerous.

9) Low leadership expectations.  The cruise ship mindset is one of ease.  The battleship mindset is one of urgency.  Leaders who have worked to make it easy on themselves and others have slipped into a mindset of comfort. Ministry is hard work.  We want to be smart but don’t expect it to be easy.  There are far too many high-capacity leaders in our churches who aren’t being challenged or called upon to serve in the kingdom.  We have not set expectations for them to help them achieve great things for God.

10) Willing to attend (more or less), but not willing to serve.  When members of the church reduce their connection by showing up for an hour on Sunday, the full power of an alive church isn’t there.  It takes everyone in the church to make it happen.  The leadership needs to work hard to make sure that there are openings, entry points, and opportunities for people to engage, but the congregation needs to walk through those doors.  There needs to be clear-cut ways for people to serve in the church and community in the name of Christ.

11) Too much inside information. When you have to be an insider to catch on to the language code, you’re losing focus.  Conversations, publications, and information need to be focused on the public, the guest, and the newcomer.  Make it plain, simple, and easy for people to understand and connect.  When you are thinking about inviting – think about new people.  Think about the community.  Your pool of people isn’t the group already in your church – it’s the 10-mile radius around your point of ministry!  One simple example – church abbreviations.  Don’t assume the community knows your denominational acronym or where your building is even located.


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