If a gold-mine that has produced a number of nuggets already might actually contain a few more, only a fool wouldn’t take the time to make another excursion into the shaft and dig around for more.
In my relentless pursuit of analogies and/or illustrations that might be useful for making the truths of God more understandable, I recently ventured back down into the gold-mine of the U.S. Military. On this latest trip in, I was looking for a nugget that might help the leadership of a local church to reconsider the priority that they have assigned to what has historically been referred to as “missions”.
And believe it or not, I found another nugget! Actually, it’s quite a bit larger than a nugget. It was actually….an aircraft carrier… the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan to be exact! This Nimitz class nuclear powered warship has the capacity to fully transport 90 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters and has a crew of more than 5,600 people, (3,200 of which are for the ship itself and 2,480 that concentrate on the aircraft).
By asking the following easily answered questions about the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, and then asking similar questions about the local church–questions that I believe are also easily answered based on the bible, I’m convinced that a few challenging and God-glorifying truths might be made a little clearer.
1. What is the functional reason for the existence of an aircraft carrier, specifically, the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan ?
–Can the answer be any simpler? An aircraft carrier exists to…..CARRY AIRCRAFT!
A carrier is brought into existence for a purpose…to carry aircraft, and then given a mission. That mission is to launch the aircraft it carries when commanded to do so by the captain of the ship in response to the orders the captain receives from the commander-in-chief.
2. If the U.S.S. Reagan has a capacity for transporting and launching 90 aircraft, (most with not more than two people in the cockpit of those aircraft when they fly), then what is the purpose of the other approximately 5,500 people that are on board the ship?
–Everyone else on board makes up the team that is essential for the ship to do what it was created and designed to do…launch the aircraft and carry out its mission. Every crew member has a specific job to do, but their job is always accomplished in unison with with all the other crew members and the jobs each of them do. Every member of the crew must understand that they are an essential part of the whole team of people that work together so that the mission of the ship can be accomplished. Any team member that doesn’t take their job seriously or do it to the best of their ability is putting the accomplishment of the mission at risk and could actually cost the lives of others and even their own.
Less than 5 percent of the crew are actually in the aircraft that the ship launches. When those aircraft are launched, they will be the only ones to actually engage the distant enemy that represents a government in conflict with that the government the carrier represents. That engagement will take place as many miles away from the ship as possible.
3. The aircraft are launched to accomplish a mission at a great distance from the ship itself, but is the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan also capable of accomplishing a mission in the vicinity immediately surrounding it’s own location?
–Yes, of course. It carries other sea-capable craft and weapons systems that other crew members are trained to use and that can be deployed within the nearby vicinity of the ship.
4. Does the captain of the ship ever fly off of the ship on a combat mission?
–No. His primary role is to ensure the ship is in working order and is capable of being at the location it is required to be in, with all systems, including the aircraft, ready to do what they were designed to do.
As I was mentally chewing on these things and tinkering around with how these things might illustrate some truths that local churches would do well to consider, I had an incredibly thought-provoking conversation with a recently retired U.S. Navy doctor.
Any time I have the opportunity to speak with someone who has also served in the military, I seize the opportunity and pepper them with dozens of questions. I genuinely love to hear about their motivation for joining, their specific occupation while they were in, and if they’re open to talking about, some of the lessons about life they may have learned during their time of service.
This doctor told me that the “mission” of a Navy physician changes when that doctor moves from duty on shore at a hospital or clinic, to medical duty on a ship. Although every individual sailor, airmen, or Marine’s health care is important, when on a ship, that person’s healthcare has to be filtered through the “mission” of the ship and that person’s role in accomplishing that “mission”. If I understood correctly, this doctor was telling me that even the health care needs of the crew of the ship must serve the “mission” of the ship which is the highest priority.
I honestly didn’t know that, but as I thought about it, it does make sense. The health care needs of the crew are NOT the highest priority, the “mission” of the ship is. In fact, every member of the crew knows that the ship does not exist to keep them healthy and that the actual accomplishment of the “mission” that they are committed to could very well be detrimental to their health, and may even cost them their lives.
Although I’m sure some of those you already see where I’m going with this, I will end this post with this thought:
Knowing why every local church exists and the mission it has been given by God is crucial and understanding that mission and making it the filter through which everything else it does is viewed should determine the way things are prioritized.