I have learned to float my boat in the
deep waters of the Christian faith.
During a coffee break at our fall conference one year I was visiting with our speaker, Mike Treneer. We discussed several topics during that conversation. His remark, as quoted above, has been in my mind since, prompting me to think further about the importance of floating my own boat in the deep waters of the Christian faith. For me that has been a journey in which I am still traveling. I recall the times when my “spiritual boat” wanted to travel in the tributaries or shallow waters of the Christian faith. These times over the years, as well as observing the lives and ministries of both those who traveled in the deep waters as well as the shallow waters, have convinced me of the importance of Mike’s statement. I am, by God’s Grace, continuing to learn how to keep my boat in the deep waters!
The spiritual waters that we traverse in life are comprised of deep waters as well as the shallow areas. What may we ask, are these deep waters? The Reverend Dr. Don L. Davis defines them as follows in his book, “Sacred Roots.” They consist of “That which has always been believed, everywhere, and by all.” (Vincent of Lerins) This “Rule of St. Vincent” leans upon the Ecumenical Councils and Creeds, especially the Nicene Creed. Moving forward some seventeen hundred years we may still find this unity of belief and practice in many ministries today. In a number of these their attention is directed to the deep waters as illustrated by the motto of The Navigators, “To know Christ and to make Him known.” Does this mean that we are not to pursue the study and understanding of all areas of the Bible? By no means! We should pursue all things in all of scripture, examining and applying them to our lives with the help of pastors and other expositors. Such studies are commended and commanded. (II Timothy 2:15) What it does mean, however, is that the focus of our mission and investment of time with others should center on deepening their relationship with Christ and helping them to model the Great Commandment and to become actively involved in the Great Commission.
Over the years I have observed some individuals whose ministry seems to be centered in shallow spiritual waters. They build a box around themselves and only allow input to their lives from a narrow list of people and doctrines. Similarly, the output and ministry from their lives is limited to a select few-those whose doctrinal positions on all sorts of issues align exactly with their own. They, in effect, have limited the width of God’s Grace to them and its expression through their lives as well. I have been aware of others whose chief “ministry” to others is not to deepen their walk with Christ, nor to equip them for ministry. Rather, their focus is to change the belief system of others regarding an issue in the shallow waters of the Christian faith. In a similar way I have been aware of ministries and churches who seem to intentionally limit their outreach by choosing shallow waters. One such church states not only its doctrinal position on its sign, but also declares that it will only accept one translation of the Bible as authoritative!
It seems that we most commonly build our fellowships and churches based primarily on our “knowledge.” Unfortunately, even in churches with well delineated doctrinal statement about various issues, there may be a wide divergence of opinion about different areas of “knowledge.” Only a few may have the exact same “knowledge” in any congregation about all the various items that exist in the shallow waters of our faith. I Corinthians 8:1b tells us that “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” If we are puffed up by our “knowledge,” it is easy to disregard others whose “knowledge” is not identical with our own. If our fellowship or church is based primarily on knowledge, instead of love, then ultimately we find that our churches are split, our ministries are fragmented, and we experience separation of friendships.
Additionally, can we be absolutely certain that our particular knowledge about all the intricate details of the scripture is the only correct one? Are we not able to leave the possibility open that we may be mistaken on some of these minor points of scripture? Is it really possible that we, alone of all people, have the complete and accurate knowledge of all the points in which we differ with others? Shall we not, rather, keep to ourselves our thoughts and opinions regarding the shallow waters as we focus on guiding others through the deep waters?
The three verses that were chosen by Jim Morris on which to base our Kansas Navigator ministry were Philippians 3:10, Matthew 28:18-20, and John 15:8. These focus on the knowledge of Christ, making disciples, and bearing much fruit for His Kingdom. These are the deep waters in which we may safely travel, confident that the Lord will use our lives for His Glory to the maximum extent possible. These waters provide room for the maximum input of His Grace into our lives, and the maximum output of His Grace through our lives. May His Grace guide “your boat” in these waters as you labor for Him.
In Christ, Richard Spann