Fire Extinguishers

While stationed onboard the Barry, my friends and I were a small group of passion filled witnesses for Jesus. We were so consumed with making Christ known that we were witnessing about Him wherever people were found.

  • Rock Concerts
  • Carnivals
  • Onboard Ships
  • Up and Down Piers
  • Fairs
  • Outside Strip Clubs
  • Subway Stations
  • City Parks, etc.

And we got results from our witnessing. People were genuinely converted!

In the process of time that passion for witnessing began to fade away. What happened to that fire? Where did it go? What caused the Holy Spirit’s fire to stop working through us? There was, of course, the doctrinal divisiveness, the sexual failure of one of the leaders of the group, and the final stake in the heart came when we stopped our Bible studies and started attending churches when our ship was home ported for long periods of time. When we were deployed and traveling around the globe, we didn’t have the opportunity to attend church services.

USS Barry (DD 933) Tied Up to the Pier in Newport, Rhode Island. Outboard ship is the USS William C. Lawe (DD-763) May 21, 1982

USS Barry (DD 933)
Tied Up to the Pier in Newport, Rhode Island.
Outboard ship is the USS William C. Lawe (DD-763)
May 21, 1982

It was then that we became like those in the church and began to act like them. They began to show us how mature Christians were supposed to live. They taught us how to moderate our behavior so we wouldn’t repulse people with our fervency (make church people feel guilty).

  • They never witnessed for Christ, so we stopped witnessing.
  • They didn’t expect conversions, so we stopped expecting them.
  • They never prayed or fasted for people’s salvation, so we didn’t do that either.
  • They were overly busy with Christian Education, so we redirected our focus on educating Christians who were attending classes in churches.
  • They were active taking care of the building, so we started helping with “Church Work Days.”
  • They were consumed with taking care of the 99, so we became highly involved with ushering, greeting, music ministry, serving on committees, sang in the choir, etc.

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:12-14)

Lack of Focus and Improper Priorities

The structures in a given church are not evil, in fact, most of them are beneficial. The buildings are not evil, most of the time they provide an extremely useful service. The programs in a given church are not evil, most of the time they serve a productive purpose. But I have seen churches that have a tendency to establish structures, buildings, and programs that hinder evangelism and effective disciple-making.

Chet, the day he left the Barry May 21, 1982 (21 years old)

Chet, the day he left the Barry
May 21, 1982 (21 years old)

I first began to recognize the reduction of evangelistic passion while the Barry was being overhauled in the East Boston Shipyards. It was then that we began attending area churches. The churches were not effective in integrating new members. They also didn’t know what to do with people whose lives had been bent, shaped, focused, and totally aimed on evangelism. Passionate evangelists have a way of making the average person on the pew feel uncomfortable—convicted.

I didn’t leave these churches and seek one with an evangelistic thrust; I changed and began to merge with the status quo, and our evangelism dropped off. We began to act, talk and function like an average Christian. Attending church led us to lose our evangelizing edge. The number of converts slowly began to decline.

This refocus of priorities sucked the fire for soul-winning right out of me. I can’t blame churches. I’m responsible for my own actions. But when you get around other Christians that have never shared their faith, and don’t express an interest for the lost community around them, that spirit has a way of transferring itself to all who come into contact with it.

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