Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Yearn For the Ocean Before Building the Ship

(Battery Park, NYC, the Statue of Liberty in the distance)

"If you want to build a ship, don’t summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs, 
and organize the work, 
rather teach people the yearning 
for the wide, boundless ocean.” 
 (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

As churches, what do we envision? Many attempt to build ships (the methods of ministry) before the people have acquired a yearning for the wide, boundless ocean ( = the vision of the God's kingdom). Dallas Willard, in The Divine Conspiracy, points out that Jesus' eyes envisioned a God-bathed, God-permeated world. Jesus craved to sail the high seas of His father's kingdom. The desire to bring others on this adventure drove all that he said and did. Given this desire, "ship-building" comes naturally.

The first task in spiritual formation is bringing people to that place of yearning for the beautiful kingdom of God. I've seen people transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit begin to catch Jesus' vision of the kingdom, only to be encouraged by the church “to buy wood, prepare tools and distribute jobs." Ship-building becomes more of an obligation than a delightful joy.

We must, within our churches, re-imagine what God's own life is like ("heaven"), and then bask in the reality of His vastness, goodness, justness, and love. We must recognize how indispensable this yearning, this ferocious desire to explore the vast, boundless ocean, is. Building the church without the peoples' deep longing for heaven on earth is wasted energy.