Further Conversations on the Rowboat and Sailboat Church

It is hard to write blog post that both fully expresses your thoughts while also being short enough that people read them.  Yesterday’s post Setting Sail “Is the Church a Rowboat or Sailboat?” has sparked some pretty good conversation.  As such I thought I would follow it up today with a bit more about what Joan S. Gray says in her book, “Spiritual Leadership for Church Officers: A Handbook,” says are the differences between Rowboat Churches and Sailboat Churches.  One part of this is expressed by the images below.  When I read her descriptions of the two I am more apt to think of the rowboat church as a galley ship rather than a dinghy.  That makes the oarsmen slaves not a crew.  More than once I have felt that the Church (Universal) has treated people in this way.

I think that at the heart of it all is where the starting point for our ministry and life is found.  She reminds us that we need to be dependent on the power and will of God.  Like it or not, many times the Church (Universal) has often thought of itself as the master of the mission of the church. Rather than seeking to discern, follow and work towards the “Missio Dei” or the Mission of God.

Here are some further points from Joan Gray:


Qualities or assumptions of the Rowboat Church:

  • God has given the church a basic agenda and then left it up to the church to get on with it.
  • Progress depends on circumstances like the amount of money in the bank, the number of volunteers available, the charisma and skill of its leaders, and the demographics of its community.
  • They ask the question, “What can we do with what we have?”
  • Presence or absence of resources largely determines what can be done.
  • What the is sea like and how willing people are to ROW makes the decisions

happy crewQualities or assumptions of a Sailboat Church:

  • Leaders know that what they have or lack in the way of human and material resources is not the decisive factor in what they can accomplish.
  • Look on church as a continuing adventure with a God who leads and empowers them to do more than they ever could have dreamed.
  • The adventure involves believers in and intimate relationships with the triune God who guides their life as a church
  • Key question is not “what do we have?”, but “What is God leading us to be and do now in the place where we find ourselves?”
  • They believe that the God who calls is the God who provides, and that if they are invested in doing what God wants the church to do, God will provide the resources.

1 thought on “Further Conversations on the Rowboat and Sailboat Church

  1. I like the sailing analogy especially when it comes to being open to new possibilities and to using our resources more fruitfully than we can possibly imagine on our own. A sailor needs training, practice and constant alertness to see where the wind is and to respond as it starts to lift the sails. Sometimes it’s easy–but not true, I think–to assume that we in the church can just relax and wait around for God to do something rather than to be about the business of strengthening our faith and watching diligently for those opportunities–the wind–that will move us further in God’s service.

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