The Place for the Ship is in the Sea

In his book on the life of 19th century evangelist, D.L. Moody (A Passion for Souls), Lyle W. Dorsett tells the story of a return trip Moody took back to the U.S. on the German steamer, the Spree.  Leaving on November 23, 1892 from Southhampton, England en route to New York, the seas were choppy.  Four days in and in the middle of the Atlantic, the main shaft of the propellor broke and fragments exploded causing the Spree to take on water. They floundered for three days till a Canadian freighter, the Lake Huron, happened upon them and towed the Spree for eight days to Queenstown, Ireland.

Dorsett would write:

Moody never forget the Spree, its cracked hull, and God’s great mercy.  He often spoke of the rescue, the courage of her crew, and the miraculous escape. As difficult as those days must have been at times, Moody suffered more agony and sleeplessness over the wounded church than he did over the wreck of the Spree.

He laboured tirelessly to bring unity among Christians, inviting people from ever conceivable regiment of God’s army to help rescue and nurture souls.

Thus the allusion to the opening quote above. In response to this, Tullian Tchividjian writes:

We need to avoid being culturally removed – failing to be “in the world,” like a ship out of water. We also need to avoid being culturally relaxed – becoming “of the world”, like a ship being submerged.

But this is the state of the western Church today. The sea is in the floundering ship, and there are many holes in her hull.  Eugene Peterson laments in his memoir, The Pastor:

[The] lack of common cause resulted in what it seemed to me was a lot of religious clutter, much of what struck me as an accumulation of trivia. My imagination had been schooled in the company of Moses and David; my congregation kept emotional company with television celebrities and star athletes. I was reading Karl Barth and John Calvin; they were reading Ann Landers and People magazine.

All this inspired me to write:

Seeping through every dried-out shiplap board

this boat has not been at sea for a very long time.


Now hands are sore for pulling ropes

Sails torn by rot

Block and tackle rusted in place, useless.

Barnacles encrust the once sleek hull,

her crew drunk and forgetful of their tasks.


The place for the ship is in the sea,

God help it when the sea is in the ship.

Pray that I would have God’s spiritual energy to continue “to labour tirelessly to bring unity among Christians, and invite people from ever conceivable regiment of God’s army to help rescue and nurture souls.”


About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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