Wheels Down & Wheels Up: Life With The Church

Ever tried landing on an aircraft carrier? Most of us haven’t. Few aerial feats can match it in terms of difficulty. We’re talking about allowing an aircraft to fall out of the sky in a controlled dive, putting its wheels down on a moving speck, in the middle of a massive body of water. Oh, and the pilot needs to walk away alive, unschathed, and the aircraft needs to fly again. Navy pilots do this routinely; but ask any one of them — no landing just happens.

Landing in a church doesn’t just happen either. In fact, the Bible describes the process as more of a responsibility to be undertaken with great care.

Hebrews 3:13 describes the everyday life of the church in this way: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” That’s a two way conversation, isn’t it?

…it’s unrealistic and irresponsible to build a great organization and simply expect Jesus’ people to put down wheels and land safely without guidance and shepherding in living a life worthy of the gospel

The author of Hebrews is making 2 key assumptions. First, “exhort one another” envisions constant encouragement and communcation. He assumes church is less of an event to attend and more of a family to identify with. Some use this distinction to excuse themselves from church attendance, but a family member who never shows up to family gatherings — while they’re related — can’t say they’re living the life the author of Hebrews commands. Second, failure to identify consistently with the daily ministry of the church inevitably leads to a hardening of heart. We either are transformed by the gospel together, or we regress in isolation — there is no middle ground.

it is unrealistic and unhealthy to approach the church as a consumer, as a place to stay without being sent.

Church leaders, it’s unrealistic and irresponsible to build a great organization and simply expect Jesus’ people to put down wheels and land safely without guidance and shepherding in living a life worthy of the gospel. On a carrier, this job falls to the LSO (Landing Safety Officer), someone who’s full responsibility is ensuring that incoming aircraft receive all the guidance necessary to put down wheels safely and find shelter.

Conversely, it is unrealistic and unhealthy to approach the church as a consumer, as a place to stay without being sent. The whole goal of a pilot landing safely is to be sent back out rested, refueled, and rearmed. A pilot who believes the LSO is about meeting his or her wants rather than needs in terms of the mission is confused about the purpose of an aircraft carrier.

May we find that giving up our comfort in acts of faithful obedience will help us recognize how God intends His church to exist in advance of Jesus’ return

A carrier serves as an advance force of a nation. In many ways, the church is the advance colony of Jesus’ kingdom. We have a mission to make disciples in advance of the return of Jesus. In the same way, a follower of Jesus who expects pastoral shepherding to coddle and provide comfort devoid of “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.” (Ephesians 4:12) is refueling for a flight they don’t intend on taking.

Where does this lead us? Church leaders, let us fight to lead people to live lives worthy of the gospel, not just lives that make the church brand look attractive. To this generation of the church, maybe some struggling to land and find their place, lean into the leadership of your pastors and church that are grounded in God’s word, regardless of what generation they’re in. God’s word is timeless. May we find that giving up our comfort in acts of faithful obedience will help us recognize how God intends His church to exist in advance of Jesus’ return.