I am a boat owner; a
sometime sailor. My family has learned to enjoy the mystique and the
excitement and the serenity of the sea. We have spent weeks every
summer for years living aboard our boat, Moonshadow in the San Juan Islands of
Washington State and in the Queen Charlotte Islands of Canada.
When you own a boat, you
have what boaters call A hole in the water that you throw money
into. Boats need to be repaired; often. The sea and the weather
take a huge toll on the little floating objects we call boats.
Storms arise and beat at hulls and sails. Electrolysis eats away at
all things electrical. We use up provisions and run low on fuel and
run from storms and
in all of these cases, boaters learn to love The Harbor.
The Harbor is both a
place and a concept to a boater. Its a place of safety and comfort.
The Harbor is a place of provision and repair, a place of rest and
restoration. Its a social place, where friendships are made,
continued and renewed. The Harbor is a place of commonality:
Everybody in the Harbor has a boat, and boaters share a camaraderie
non-boaters know or care little about.
By now you should be
getting a clear picture of Harbor in relation to church.
Let me quote further from Mary Lindow in her recent communication
entitled, Obsessed with Sanctuary and this, by the way, came to
my inbox before she and I had communicated with each other. At her
writing and mine,shes in
Australia, Im in America. She writes:
THE AWAKENING OF
THE NEED FOR SANCTUARY.
Sanctuary. A place of refuge, a safe harbor. Asylum, shelter, a
place of safety. A holy place set aside for worship and rest.
The Lord is allowing man to have both the joy and shock of coming to
the end of his means of prodding and producing until he falls into a
heap at the feet of the One Who has the key to the place of hope and
He, The King of tranquility and Divine Purpose has the place of
Sanctuary carved out in a definite place. THE PLACE OF WORSHIP.
Did you hear it? Did
you catch it? Sanctuary. A place of refuge, a safe harbor. Asylum,
shelter, a place of safety. A holy place set aside for worship and
rest. A Safe Harbor. The Harbor. The place where broken and
shattered boats can come when the storms of life have blown against
them. When cancer strikes and when divorce infiltrates, there is a
Safe Harbor to return to. When children rebel and find their way
to drugs or alcohol or crime and nobody seems to understand or care
there is a Harbor.
When the pink slip
finds your inbox and income dries up; when a thousand things go
wrong that you never expected or planned for there is a Harbor of
Safety, a place of refuge, a shelter from the storms, a place where
other boaters have experienced some of the same things and are
waiting to help you get your boat in order.
And there is a Captain of our salvation waiting to take the helm of
your life and show you the way through the shallow places and the
rocky places and the places where currents tug and pull at your
craft to carry you away from your intended course. There is a Master
of the Ship Who has already charted the course for you and Who longs
to take control of the wheel of your life and the compass of your
And we find it all in The Harbor.
So what does a Harbor
look like? Is this THE ANSWER for the Emerging Church? Is this the
ONLY WAY to have church?
To begin, I would not
claim that I have THE DEFINITIVE ANSWER for the Emerging Church. I
am only offering the bits of knowledge and understanding that my
thirty-four year journey to get to a place of understanding in God
has provided me. I dont think my answer is an ONLY sort of thing.
But it is a way and an answer.
And what does a Harbor
look like? First, there is no cookie-cutter-this-is-how-you-do-it
Some church denominations have produced templates for their
congregations to follow, believing that in conformity there would be
unity. History and the nature of men have shown us the weakness of
The Bible however reveals to us patterns of worship. There are
elements that must be part of our spiritual assembling together.
Well discuss these later, because I want to attempt to describe the
nature and the composition of Harbors.
Here are some bullet-point descriptions of a Harbor:
Harbors do not
necessarily meet on Sundays, and probably do not meet during morning
hours. Some rationale: Most people today work at least five day each
week. In the best of settings, Saturday and Sunday are the only
non-work days of the week for many families. On Saturday, the yard
must be mowed; the kids have practice, shopping must be done,
changing the tires on the car; on and on the list goes until
Saturday is largely taken up with catching up. Sunday
traditionally has belonged to God. This means that at 9:45 on
Sunday morning, Johnny is in his Sunday School classroom, Beth is in
hers, and mom and dad are in the adult class. At 11 AM its time
for the Big Show Sunday morning worship. In some traditions,
after the 11 AM service, youve done your duty and may go home and
rest or whatever. In some traditions, church begins again at 6 PM
with the Evangelistic Service. This is the service and the time
when church folks believe that non-believers will come to church
and may thus be evangelized. I personally conducted these services
for more than twenty-five years but they never produced what we
intended because non-believers dont want to be in church on
Sunday nights (or really, on any other night, for that matter!). The
church with its facility and program and service cant reach the
lost! The Church is meant to be among them.
Wouldnt be interesting
to see the reaction of your neighbors if suddenly you stopped piling
into your car on Sunday morning, wearing your Sunday Best and
rushing off to church? Perhaps if you are close enough with a
neighbor he might ask you if you are aware you are missing
something. What a grand opportunity to tell your neighbor We
stopped going to church and have become the church! Youre with
church right now! And hey, since we arent going to church this
morning, how about if you and your wife join us for a nice, relaxed
never know, your neighbor might just be curious about somebody who
is following Jesus and at the same time enjoying life!
We like to say, Harbor
Happens. Sometimes a Harbor happens without intention. It just
develops. I was waiting for my car to be repaired one day, and saw a
coffee shop nearby. Id rather sit with coffee in an overstuffed
chair beside a fireplace while waiting on my car any day than to sit
in a plastic chair listening to air-hammers and drills, so I walked
in and sat down.
As time went by I
noticed the various customers coming and going, and saw that the
girls serving coffee knew almost all of them by name (and by
personality and coffee preference!).
I approached the counter
and said, It looks like I walked into a church and not a coffee
shop the way you talk to these customers. The young lady said,
Wow! Thats what it really is! Were Christians and we believe God
has put us here to touch these peoples lives!
I told the ladies about
Harbor. Soon we were joined by a young man who had recently
completed a four-year program at a Bible College and had been hired
by a large church as a youth minister. He had then resigned after
realizing that he was being asked to mostly occupy an office, attend
staff meetings, oversee programs, cool hot parishioners, baby-sit
young people, become a bus driver for events and otherwise use his
time for almost anything but the ministry he envisioned when he
walked across the stage and received his Bachelors of Arts in
we talked about Harbor that morning, this young man became absorbed
by the concept. He then said, Wow! Im involved in Harbors without
even realizing it! Im not in the ministry anymore. I just hang
with people, like here, in this place and talk to them about God and
about His love and His mercy.
Harbors are not conducted by a Conductor (a pastor in the
Harbors exist mostly in homes. Sometimes a Harbor might meet
at a Starbucks or some other coffee-house (Im partial to
Austin-Chase coffee, since, as an Austin who is chasing after God
the name naturally fits me!).
Harbors are not intended to replicate a traditional Sunday morning
The elements of
Harbor vary and change with existing situations.
An explanation: In one Harbor, I received a call from the host early
on in their experience. He said, I blew it last night! It was a
disaster! I asked what happened and he related to me this story.
Well, a woman came last night who was obviously depressed and upset
when she arrived. She was in so much pain that we didnt do anything
I had planned to do. We just ministered to the lady all night. Some
of the women had experienced what she was going through and they
talked to her. We all laid hands on her and prayed for her for a
long time, and when we finished, it was time to go home! What do I
point in the conversation I asked, So tell me what you did wrong.
So far you have only told me what you did right!
The host replied, Well I had planned to share a teaching that God
gave me and I didnt get to do it.
Harbors arent places
where we have planned agendas so much as we gather to be in the
Presence of Jesus and to hear from Him or to sing to Him or to
praise Him or to be quiet with Him and to do what the Holy Spirit
urges us to do at any given time.
We dont have any
certain order of worship as traditional churches might have. Our
order is His order in whatever shape that may be.
Harbors meet weekly at
different times to suit the needs of the members (the Sabbath was
made for man, not the opposite)
Harbors consist of
between 2 and 21 people. (When a Harbor reaches about 22 people,
its time to divide and conquer. We ask a new host to take a
number of people and begin a new Harbor in another home).
Harbors meet together
every 4 to 6 weeks at a central location for Celebration. This
location is usually a hotel ballroom or banquet room. We try to
conduct these meetings on a Sunday, and we begin with a large meal,
followed by visiting and socializing and singing and worship and
sharing words and prophecy and encouragements. It is during
Celebration that the Apostolic Voice is heard alongside the Prophet.
It is here that Pauls teaching is realized in the larger gathering,
how is it brethren, when you come together, each of you has
the full panoply of Gods ministry gifts: Apostles, Prophets,
Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. We do not practice deleting words
from Gods word. We take the Whole Counsel of God as His will and
purpose. So we dont eliminate the positions of Apostle and Prophet.
Modern church tradition places most of its emphasis on the role and
position of pastor. Teachers are given credence as are
Evangelists, but how many Apostles and true Prophets of God have you
known? Not many. Yet they exist. Mostly they have been hidden by the
hand of God partly for growth and maturation, but also because the
church would kill the prophets and abolish the apostles were they to
be revealed before their time.
In a Harbor, regular
folks people who are on a journey to know God comprise the Harbor.
From week to week they meet, allowing God to use them as He desires.
They grow and learn; they make mistakes and find themselves both
apologizing for error and asking forgiveness for sin. Community
results. Family develops. Relationship begins. From time to time, a
person known to have a pastoral gifting comes to the Harbor. The
pastors main purpose is not to administrate, counsel, preach,
initiate programs or any of the myriad jobs todays Corporate Pastor
almost literally a CEO does.
Instead, the pastor does
what a pastor (among sheep, a shepherd) does. The pastor ensures the
sheep have good pastures to feed from. He makes certain there is
adequate water and that wolves that may be attacking are dealt with.
He checks the body for viruses and for infestations of bacteria.
He exists to ensure both the health of the flock and that the
general direction of the flock is toward more green pastures.
And then, the pastor takes his leave. He does not meet with a Harbor
each week, but is a sort of circuit-rider, going from home to home,
Harbor to Harbor so that when the pastor has attended your Harbor,
you may not see the same person for a number of weeks.
In like manner the
Teacher comes, provides a teaching, and goes. The Evangelist stops
by to remind us of the Great Commission and of our responsibility to
reach the lost. The Evangelist has a special gifting and anointing
and provides the Harbor with needed emphasis and anointing.
During Celebration, the
Apostle and the Prophet come into play. These are servants, not
masters. Each of the ministry gifts and especially these two are
foundational like the foundation in your home. Its there. Its
vital, and its largely unseen. The foundation allows a
superstructure to appear above it. When we drive through a Street
of Dreams we dont say in awe Look at that foundation! We see the
superstructure, the house that sits on the foundation. So the
Apostle and the Prophet are beneath, holding up and making possible
the ministry of the larger house.
Harbors have Hearts.
Im often challenged by current church pastors regarding finance and
the Emerging Church: It goes something like this. How would the
church be financed if we put into action what you suggest? Now this
is meant to be a rhetorical question because these leaders think
were talking about some wild-eyed, hippy-communal kind of crazy
Recently a pastor listened to my description of Harbor and said,
Oh, thats a nice niche to get into... Pastor, I love you,
but its not a niche its the Church! And the Church has a heart.
Let me help you. The
Bible encourages rather than discourages Christian financial giving.
I wont conduct the teaching here, but Jesus had much more to say
about money (because its such a powerful barometer of
heart-temperature) than He taught about heaven or hell. Lets cut to
the chase: You cant leave the traditional church and shout
whooppee, Im free! I never have to be part of an offering again!
Thats not biblical nor is it reasonable. We must be givers if we
belong to Jesus.
So, in Harbor, people
may freely give, although there isnt an emphasis on giving or even
necessarily an offering time when Harbors meet. There might be a
box by the door where people can contribute. This has worked well in
But what do you do with all that money?
When I led a
traditional church, and was known by title rather than by name, I was faced with an annual budget that I was
largely responsible to create, recommend and when necessary, adjust.
I can tell you that I literally wept at times when I thought about
the percentage of funds that went from Gods people straight into
accounts to pay for a mortgage and mortgage insurance. We had
insurance for fire, for neglect, for property, for people - for
earthquakes! We paid
huge utility bills we had giant rooms to heat and cool and light
year-round whether the rooms were always in use or not (The church
is mainly empty most days of the week; something that has always
We had staffs to pay, secretaries, receptionists, janitors, yard
maintenance people, maintenance men. We had chairs to replace,
carpets to purchase the list seemed to go on forever. And then a
blessed missionary would come to us and talk about the people of
Nepal or Nicaragua or the Philippines. He would tell us that for
just a little money he could feed or house or clothe or teach these
people. And we would say something to the effect of Bless you,
brother, heres $150 per month to support your work. What would
have happened had we been without mortgage and insurance and
property and we could just have said, Heres $150,000 to get the
job done! Im not suggesting that money equals ministry, but as a
friend said to me once, If you think money isnt important and that
you dont need money for ministry, just try to walk onto one of your
flights without a boarding pass and see where your ministry goes.
ministry. But money is too often tied up in the things of the
church and not in the heart of the church. Harbors release money
to do the work of the ministry.
There is more, but
the more will wait for another time.
| how harbor works |
what harbor looks like |
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