Thursday, January 1, 2009

All Hands On Deck

Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, so that his people would learn to serve
and his body would grow strong.

-- Ephesians 4:11-12

Are you one of the millions of people who vacationed on the high seas last year? Whether you sailed to the Caribbean, Alaska, Bermuda or the Greek Isles, the voyage was probably as memorable as some of the ports of call. That's because modern cruise ships are literally 24-hour floating cities populated by thousands of fun-seeking passengers from all over the world. Rising several stories above the water, many large vessels entertain their guests with onboard movie theaters, gourmet restaurants, bustling nightclubs and full service gymnasiums. Some cruise ships even have basketball courts, rock climbing walls and miniature golf courses. And if you're looking for shopping bargains in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, the duty-free store is on Deck 10. Then take the glass and chrome elevator five decks down for your haircut, massage and manicure.

Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, one of the world's largest cruise ships, is over 1,100 feet long and serves more than 4,300 guests at full occupancy. Each day, its restaurants serve thousands of meals and its laundry cleans just as many towels, sheets and table linens. And behind it all are hundreds of talented, hardworking crewmembers - all dedicated to making their guests' vacations as fun and memorable as possible. A ship's crew includes an army of stewards, cooks, mechanics and even daycare attendants - and that's not to mention everyone assigned to navigating the ship. From captain to cabin boy, every crewmember has a critical role in helping their vessel sail effortlessly through both calm seas and choppy waters.

Like a full service cruise ship, the church also needs dedicated people to help it operate efficiently and grow its passenger list. That's because a church is much more than a group of people who meet on Sundays to listen to the pastor and sing along with the musicians. The Bible tells us that God has given every Christ-follower certain gifts, talents and resources for advancing His Kingdom on Earth. Some of the uses are obvious - like singers and musicians serving in the praise band. Others have important gifts with behind-the-scenes applications - such as bookkeepers or office managers who help the church use its resources wisely. For every gift, talent and resource employed in the secular world, there's also an application for strengthening the body of believers known collectively as The Church.

Jesus' earliest followers were a diverse crew from many walks of life. Some were fishermen and one was a tax collector. Even Jesus Himself had carpentry skills. Now, 2,000 years later, Christ still seeks followers willing to represent Him in our community and serve others by using what God has already given them.

"Come, follow me," Jesus once told fishermen Peter and Andrew, "and I will make you fishers of men." If we're willing to follow the first Christ-followers' examples and open ourselves to the great possibilities, Jesus will no doubt use us to lead and strengthen His Church. It's up to each of us to respond to His simple - yet radical - invitation.

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