In his book Radical, David Platt writes:
In the late 1940s, the United States government . . . construct[ed] an 80 million dollar troop carrier for the navy. The purpose was to design a ship that could speedily carry fifteen thousand troops during times of war. By 1952, construction on the SS United States was complete. The ship could travel at forty-four knots (about fifty-one miles per hour), and she could steam ten thousand miles without stopping for fuel or supplies. She could outrun any other ship and travel non-stop anywhere in the world in less than ten days. The SS United States was the fastest and most reliable troop carrier in the world.
The only catch is, she never carried troops. At least not in any official capacity. . .
Instead the SS United States became a luxury liner for presidents, heads of state, and a variety of other celebrities who traveled on her during her seventeen years of service. As a luxury liner, she couldn’t carry fifteen thousand people. Instead she could house just under two thousand passengers. Those passengers could enjoy the luxuries of 695 staterooms, 4 dining salons, 3 bars, 2 theaters, 5 acres of open deck with a heated pool, 19 elevators, and the comfort of the world’s first fully air-conditioned passenger ship. Instead of a vessel used for battle during wartime, the SS United States became a means of indulgence for wealthy patrons who desired to coast peacefully across the Atlantic.
Things look radically different on a luxury liner than they do on a troop carrier. The faces of soldiers preparing for battle and those of patrons enjoying their bonbons are radically different. The conservation of resources on a troop carrier contrasts sharply with the opulence that characterizes the luxury liner. And the pace at which the troop carrier moves is by necessity much faster than that of the luxury liner. After all, the troop carrier has an urgent task to accomplish; the luxury liner, on the other hand, is free to casually enjoy the ship.
The SS United States = The American church
Unfortunately, most churches in America resemble the luxury liner. Although God designed us to carry soldiers into battle, we’ve become more interested our own comforts during the journey – so much so that we’ve actually quit moving toward the battle! When you attend a service at the average church in America, you typically hear more about the programs/amenities you can find on the ship than you do about the mission which is ahead. I guess it is what they say it is: a service. Like the staff on a cruise ship, the church is there trying to serve it’s patrons/members. Unfortunately, those members are there selfishly “getting fed” and consuming those services when they should be thinking in terms of being transformed/trained by the Gospel so they can accomplish the mission of “serving the world” with the Gospel.
To borrow a phrase from James, “My brothers, this should not be so.” (James 3:10)
On the other hand, what if the church was coming together to equip it’s members/troops to take ground for the Kingdom of God? What if we didn’t have “services” but “training exercises?” What if we removed the luxuries from the church and focused on the mission? What if we saw our ultimate goal as sending troops into the world rather than catering to the whims of our members? What would it take to convert the luxury liners that we have into troop carriers again? What organizational changes do we need in order to make quick, in-the-heat-of-battle decisions? If we were to return to our “troop-carrying calling,” would the church be able to accommodate 15,000 soldiers who shared space as opposed to 2,000 patrons fighting for position and space? If we focused on this calling, would the church move at a faster pace unhindered by petty internal arguments?
Anyway, these were just a few of my thoughts after reading this section of Radical.