Pastor Eric Swensson
We know from the writings of Tertullian (160 – 220 AD) that the early church used the image of a boat as a metaphor for itself, and it did so in relationship to baptism. This makes sense when remember how Peter used the Ark in a sermon on Holy Baptism. Clement of Alexandria (150 - 215 AD), approved of the use of four images: dove, fish, anchor and “a vessel flying before the wind.”
You can easily find examples of early usage in books and online. The image of a boat was used on grave markers expressing faith that God guided them safely through the storms of life toward the heavenly shore.
Many churches have boats in their stained glass windows, either a scene from the Gospels or used to represent the church. It is helpful perhaps to know that the only Greek word used in the Gospels is the one for the twenty-foot long fishing boats. Jesus told his disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 ESV). The Disciple Ship is meant to be a small nimble craft used for fishing.
The baptized need to be especially nimble of mind these days to reach those who do not yet love our Lord. We live in a North America that while it may be debatable if we can talk about a “Christian nation” it was a place where Christianity was valued and the basics of the faith taught in each denomination was not constantly contested within the denomination itself. We now sail on seas where ill winds blow. Diverse beliefs have powerful voices, confusing nearly everyone it seems. We live in what is essentially a “dechristianized” landscape, and many people who do attend worship are led by ministers who have “demythologized” the faith until it is nothing more than a set of inspirational thoughts. It might be enough to perk you up and feel good about yourself but hardly anything to land you safely on Jordan’s shore.
We are looking for other disciples to join us. If you are ready to leave the safety of the nave of your church building and go in search of souls to be discipled, let us know how we can help you go fishing!