Summary: Part 2 of 4
Jack Chinn was on board the U.S.S. Princeton when that new aircraft carrier was launched at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in 1942. For two and a half years, the ship was home to Chinn and several hundred other men. More than just a military vessel, the Princeton was also a small town. Naturally, the crew had a strong sense of community. Its citizenry included businessmen, dreamers, pastors, alcoholics, losers, cops, cons, Christians and pagans. Lifelong friendships were forged in that floating village.
On October 24, 1944, life in the small town called Princeton changed forever. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, a single bomb from a Japanese airplane hit the flight deck, exploded through the lower levels of the ship, and instantly killed many men. Within a few hours, the ship had slipped to the bottom of the sea, leaving hundreds of survivors adrift in an alien and dangerous environment. All of the familiar patterns of life were suddenly and irrevocably altered. The men had to develop new survival skills, adjust to new communal patterns, adapt new forms of communication (like waving articles of clothing at distant ships), and cope with new reasons, rhythms, and resources for living.
New communities formed in and around life rafts and floating debris. Men who had been antagonists, or perhaps never even met, were suddenly sharing a life-sustaining piece of the wooden flight deck. Men from very diverse operational units found themselves thrown together into the brand-new neighborhood of a life raft.
Chinn’s eyes dance and his face breaks into a large smile when he recalls, "First thing we did in our life raft was call a prayer meeting. We all began to cal on God. Some were repenting and others were just sobbin’ as they cried out to the Lord, a few just kinda mumbled. But, we were all sincere and determined to get holda’ God."
Chinn goes on to describe one particular shipmate. "Even ole’ Swede-he was the roughest, meanest, cussinest man on the ship and he said to the rest of us, ’Now, men, let’s all look right up at God and just pour our hearts out to Him. Now, I mean it, let’s all tell ’im we’re sorry for our sinnin’ and that we need help.’"
Today more than half a century later, Chinn remembers, "You know, I’ve been in a lotta church services and prayer meeting’s over the past seventy years. But the best service I ever attended was in that life raft in the South Pacific."
His story of that life-raft service begs one simple question. What church model was that, anyway?
The "Help! My Ship is Sunk"
Where did the format-the liturgy-of the service in the life raft come from? Was that a seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven, permission-giving, twenty-first-century, or new-apostolic group? What course did "ole’ Swede" take to find out that he had a gift of teaching "the Body" how to pray?
Is it possible that one Japanese bomb may have led more people to Christ than many churches and evangelistic events do today?
Could it be that certain world catastrophes like September 11th, what is happening currently in the Middle East and even weather patterns are under God’s control? God revealed much about His activity in the earth when He asked Job,
Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place; that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?
(Job 38:12, 13)
God knows how to motivate people to run into His house and into His arms. Through external pressure, setbacks and difficulties, people flock to a loving Creator for safety and sustenance. Charles Simpson observed how in Psalm 27. King David would seek God when he recognized that various "adversaries" and "evil-doers" were intent on his destruction (vv. 2,3 KVV). Although under the threat of enemies overtaking him, David suddenly proclaims:
One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life.
(Psalm 27:4 KJV)
What a contrast for many of us today. We often wring our hands, scratch our heads and stare at world events with perplexity. We wonder why things have jumped out of control. Yet, is God really wringing His hands about history-about us? Why do we assume that history is like a big bus lunging through crowded streets and playgrounds with a dead driver at the wheel? Do we truly believe that we serve One who is powerless in the face of out of control circumstances on earth?
So we see a world searching for meaning in life. I mean desperately seeking. The are looking for reality in various philosophies, religions, cults, psychics, palm readers, technologies and New Age beliefs. The harvest has begun.