Airplanes And Churches

Came across this humorous bit a little while back and it reminded me of several things. Here is the funny that I read;

Taxiing down the tarmac, the jetliner abruptly stopped, turned around and returned to the gate. After an hour-long wait, it finally took off.

A concerned passenger asked the flight attendant, "What was the problem?"

"The pilot was bothered by a noise he heard in the engine," he explained. "It took us awhile to find a new pilot."
(taken from ZPH "Time to Smile")

Nearly twenty years ago I was taking a flight from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Chicago. The group that I was with were all salesmen on a convention trip and as a result, were quite vocal and outgoing. We all took our seats and the plane went out on the runway. The engines roared as we went zooming down for take-off---when all of a sudden the pilots slammed on the brakes and came to a stop. They turned around and went to another runway. The pilot came on the intercom and announced to us passengers, that they were reading the flight manual and realized that they needed a longer runway for takeoff. Needless to say our confidence in that flight crew was very low. My thoughts of that incident may seem to be humorous now, but back then I can imagine that a lot of prayers went up faster than that plane. As I look back in retrospect, I am so thankful that those pilots read their instruction manual, or I would not be here today.

Would you want to be on such a plane? Would you like to have to fly with such an airline? If you had an alternative form of transportation, would you still make that flight?

When we consider flying in the public airways, our number one concern is always safety. That is why air travel is stastically the safest form of travel. Even though we hear of a crash every now and then, we are struck with the fact that safety is of supreme importance in that industry. Thus the scenario of the cute story at the beginning of this article is not likely to happen.

As we consider the comedy of this situation, we are caused to reflect upon similar attitudes facing todays churches. Just how many churches are like the airplane listed above? Instead of correcting the problem, they just change the pilot (or in this case, the preacher).

Many times, the churches are not as concerned with safety as in the convience of its customers (or members). As there is great expense at delaying a flight for mechanical reasons, the airline company loses a lot of money in the compensation and eventual lost business. Thus it is in their best interest to keep the customers happy. Most customers that arrive safely to their destination do not give it a second thought, but had something happened, they sure would be upset.

Looking at spiritual matters may not appear as important as the safety record of an airline to most people, yet the potential for disaster is even greater for each soul. Speaking of souls, have you ever noticed in the airplane disaster movies that they give the count of "souls on board"? Just how important are those souls? Very important to the airline industry. But what about the souls in the pews?

The above story may be cute, but I fear that it represents many more churches than we are willing to acknowledge. Rather than heed the advise of an experienced person given the charge of safety, they must meet their quotas and agendas as top priority. The preachers of the gospel are given the charge to "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." It is the leaders of the congregation who have to listen to the complaints and would rather not listen to them. Thus they seek to satisfy the customers and are willing to compromise the safety of operation and hope that nothing bad happens.

Where a preacher should be commended for exposing the true identity of error instead of the symptoms of such error, they are reprimanded for speaking the truth. Usually the preacher is "speaking the truth in love", but those guilty of error or sin take offense to the instruction and discipline given to them. Rather than acknowledge their sin and wrong ways, they will seek to justify themselves and demand the removal of such a person who would dare to implicate them or their activities.

We also have a flight manual that details all procedures and describes the function of all our machinery that is in place. It also list the backup plans and explains the warnings and what to look for. The book of Hebrews is very descriptive of this comparison. It not only explains what it does, but gives warning to those who would take for granted what the instructions are. It also affirms that observance of the rules and proper maintenance and training will bring the desired results. Either the plane lands safely or the soul will make it to heaven.
Granted, changing pilots is probably easier than repairing an engine, but which step solves the real problem? Likewise, changing preachers is often easier than repairing a sinner, but which step solves the real problem?

The difference in the two situations is that in one our life is in danger, and in the other our soul is in danger. Which should frighten us more?

We should support those who would expose error or sin (even if it is ours). This reminds me of an event recorded in Nehemiah 8:9 "...For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law." The people realized that they were sinners and knew that they were not worthy to be called the children of God. They also realized that the promise of blessings was likely to be taken away from them. Later on in verse 12 they were told to rejoice and have a feast. We read; "...because they understood the words which had been made known to them." Upon a proper understanding of God's will, the chance that the people would serve Him rather than idols was much greater.

The day that our sins are made known to us brings sorrow on our part because we have failed God. However if we repent and turn to the Lord, it is a joyous occasion by which we give God the glory when we realize the great gift that He gave us, and recognize His great grace that extends to us.

May we not condemn those who point out our error and sins, but support them and hold up their hands, because if they did not have the courage to speak plainly and boldly, we would be lost.

By Carey Scott and Troy Nicholson

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