Monday, May 21, 2007,9:54 PM
Captain Kirk on the Church

In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Captain James T. Kirk stands trial before the Klingons for his ships unprovoked attack on the Klingons and subsequent boarding of their ship and murder of the High Chancellor. While Kirk denies any involvement (it is all a set-up to sabotage peace talks) he is convicted because as Captain he is responsible for the actions of his crew (regardless of his knowledge thereof).

My apologies to those uninitiated into the Star Trek universe, but that scene came to mind the other day in a discussion about church planting and the nature of the church. Church planters are often viewed as the captain of a ship - the entire responsibility rests on them. Of course a ship's crew has their jobs that actually keep the thing moving, but there still is a captain on whom the responsibility rests. Whether the ship sinks or floats is on the captain. Even if the whole crew mutinies, it is still the captain's fault.

Even in the Emerging Church/Missional mindset I still see that attitude applied to church planting. Granted that may be because most emerging/missional church plants are really just seeker churches that want to be trendy and actually talk about "the poor" every once in awhile. But its still the issue. The wellbeing of the church rests on the pastor and the success (read high numbers of people and money) of the church is something the pastor must singlehandedly accomplish. (of course this is sooo not an issue in our church plant).

Anyway, I personally think that whole concept is stupid. (hows that for a thoughtful perspective)

If we are the body as the church, a community that has come together for a common purpose it seems kinda messed up for the "captain" to take all the glory or all the blame. I know I'm "low church" and so am not a fan of hierarchy. I don't buy the whole pastor as spiritual head that must be submitted to thing. We talk often at church of it being a road trip that we are all taking together, but it still seems like the captain/crew mentality is the dominant paradigm. Not that I promote anarchy or some spiffy organic arcadian model (read- where nothing ever happens because we are all waiting for it to happen orgainically). I'm just hoping to find a balance somehow. Maybe its just me or perhaps there might be a whole lot more re-imagining of church needed before perceptions change.


posted by Julie at 9:54 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 5/22/2007 06:12:00 PM, Blogger Andrew

    Nice post. I too grapple with how to achieve a sense of balance; and you accurately describe the two poles.

    My church is anti- congregationalism, since so many of the pastoral staff have had bad experiences with it. I think their response, which works after a fashion, is to have a team of captains at the top. Still it is, as you say, captain/crew.

    One of the things I have been wondering is how to avoid the celebrity-ism that occurs whenever you have a captain/crew kind of scenario. All the newbies contort themselves every which way to get "in" with the captains. This overloads the leadership and leaves a lot of the crew on the sidelines untapped. Perhaps it is just human nature to want to create celebrities and we will never get around it.

    However, perhaps as we reimagine church, some new alternatives will present themselves.

  • At 5/23/2007 09:26:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    I think it does get a lot harder to "be the church" as a fully functioning body the larger the church is. There are necessary leadership and administrative tasks that do need to get done. But it doesn't seem right to say that because one person takes a 'leading: role in one aspects that everything then should be dumped on that person.

  • At 6/02/2007 12:57:00 AM, Blogger paul

    I think it's Dan Kimball who has contrasted Kirk with Picard to show difference between modern and postmodern leadership - under kirk he's the main man. the hero who always goes down to help rescue etc. picard is much more inclusive, listens to his officers, delegates away team leading, "make it so" rather than we'll do... etc

    I thought it was a good contrast :)

  • At 6/02/2007 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    Actually I think it was the late Stanley Grenz who first made that Kirk-Picard comparison in his book "A Primer on Postmodernism", though Kimball may have borrowed it from him, I don't know.