Will There Be Enough Lifeboats?
There is much benefit derived through the study of history; lessons to be
learned through the recorded experiences of others who have gone before
us. "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our
instruction..." It is on that line that the institutional church,
particularly that in America, is on an eerily similar course to that of
the doomed luxury ocean liner, Titanic.
Hauntingly, the institutional church shares many of the same
characteristics and influencing factors which ultimately led to Titanic’s
sudden and tragic demise, along with great loss of life. Issues dealing
with life and death take precedent over virtually all else, and it is
this principle that should compel us to take a closer examination of the
suggested parallels "to see whether these things be so." It must be noted
that the emphasis is on the application of spiritual parallels and
principles, and not in precise and specific prophetic fulfillment.
And for those who are convinced as to "whether these things be so," it
will inevitably beg the question, "What then shall we do?" The correct
answer to that eternal question is merely the beginning of an extended
process. Many will not proceed beyond that initial recognition. The
implications alone will be daunting enough. The applications of those who
are willing to live out their convictions will do so at great personal
cost, requiring no less than the Spirit of God to see them through.
"Where there is no vision, the people perish." May we learn much from
Titanic. May we receive and respond to, what may well be, a God-given
"vision" relevant to our time, whereby many will be spared from perishing
in that day. "For it is not His will that any should perish..."
For her time, Titanic was unsurpassed in luxury and opulence and was
technologically advanced for the period. ‘Because you say, "I am rich,
and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing..." Ironically, this
great ship took 3 years to build and less than 3 hours to sink upon
hitting the iceberg. On Sunday, April 14th, at 11:40PM, she struck the
iceberg, sinking two hours and forty minutes later at 2:20AM on Monday.
"Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich
by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste."
Furthermore, the first-class passenger list for Titanic’s maiden voyage
included some of the richest and most prominent people in the world.
Today, there are many "leaders" situated in the equivalent of a
first-class section of the American Church who enjoy a wealth and
prominence far beyond the typical Christian. The disparity is especially
telling when compared with those outside this country.
Prior to the tragedy, emphasis was placed on the cosmetic aspects of the
ship. After the tragedy, safety took priority. The focus changed to the
engineering design and structural integrity of the ship. As a result, the
hull was reinforced and bulkheads were extended into higher walls to make
compartments fully watertight. It is no coincidence that the critical
importance of walls is quite evident when reading books such as Ezra and
Nehemiah. "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds
blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had
been founded upon the rock." "According to the grace of God which was
given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is
building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For
no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is
Another design flaw was that the Titanic’s rudder, though not legally too
small for a ship of its size, was in fact far too small and thin to
accommodate a such a large vessel. Apparently, no account was made for
advances in scale, and little thought was given to how a ship of that
immense size could possibly turn in an emergency, such as it was required
to do on the fateful night. It was a veritable juggernaut which had
limited ability to change direction. The size and momentum were just too
great to avoid disaster. "Nor do men put new wine into old wineskins;
otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins
are ruined; but put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are
Perhaps even more fatal to Titanic was her triple-screw engine
configuration, which had reciprocating steam engines driving its wing
propellers, and a steam turbine driving its center propeller. The
reciprocating engines were reversible, while the turbine was not. Since
the center turbine could not reverse engines to avoid the iceberg, the
lst Officer inadvertently handicapped the turning ability of the ship.
Since the center turbine could not reverse during the "full speed astern"
maneuver, it simply stopped turning. Furthermore, the center propeller
was positioned forward of the ships’s rudder, diminishing the turning
effectiveness of the rudder.
Had the lst Officer reversed the port engine, and reduced speed while
maintaining the forward motion of the other two propellers (as
recommended in the training procedures for this type of ship,) experts
theorize that Titanic might have been able to navigate around the iceberg
without a collision. However, given the closing distance between the ship
and iceberg at the time the bridge was notified, this might not have been
The bottom line was that the steering mechanism was far too complex to be
used effectively in an emergency situation of this type. "But I am
afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds
should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to
Subsequently, the conclusion of the British Inquiry into the sinking was
"that the loss of the said ship was due to collision with an iceberg,
brought about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being
navigated." Throwing caution to the wind, it is alleged that the manager
of the ship company compelled the captain to increase the cruising speed
in order to impress and set a new Trans-Atlantic record despite the
threat of icebergs in those waters. "A man with an evil eye hastens after
wealth, and does not know that want will come upon him."
The American Church is now replete with what the apostle Paul referred to
as "another gospel," teachers and teachings emphasizing wealth, power,
and fame. It is immediate, fleshly gratification packaged and sold as a
spiritual, God-given right. "For all these things the Gentiles eagerly
Jesus spoke these words to the Jews, and this was anything but a
compliment. And yet, having already provided a list of causes for this terrible
tragedy, no single aspect regarding the huge loss of life from the
Titanic disaster has provoked more outrage than the fact that the ship
did not carry enough lifeboats for all her passengers and crew. This was
partially due to the fact that the law, dating from 1894, required a
minimum of 16 lifeboats for ships over 10,000 tons. Since then the size
of ships had increased rapidly, meaning that Titanic was legally required
to carry only enough lifeboats for less than half of her capacity.
Actually, the ship’s company exceeded the regulations by including four
more collapsible lifeboats - making room for slightly more than half
capacity. "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable."
In the busy North Atlantic sea lanes it was expected that in the event of
a serious accident to a ship, help from other vessels would be quickly
obtained, and that the lifeboats would be used to ferry passengers and
crew from the stricken vessel to her rescuers. Full provision of
lifeboats was not considered necessary for this. Overconfidence and
presumption reared its ugly head and a terrible price was paid. "Before
destruction the heart of a man is haughty..."
It was anticipated during the design of the ship that the British Board
of Trade might require an increase in the number of lifeboats at some
future date. Therefore lifeboat cranes capable of handling up to four
boats per pair of cranes were designed and installed, to give a total
potential of 64 boats. However, the additional boats were never fitted.
"A hireling is not concerned about the sheep."
The lack of lifeboats was not the only cause of the tragic loss of lives.
After the collision with the iceberg, one hour was taken to evaluate the
damage, recognizing what was going to happen, inform first-class
passengers, and lower the first lifeboat. This is why the church needs
true prophets who can watch, discern, and are prepared to direct God’s
people at a moment’s notice, "...men who understood the times, with
knowledge of what Israel should do..."
Yet another factor in the high death toll that related to the lifeboats
was the reluctance of the passengers to board them. They were, after all,
on a ship deemed to be "unsinkable." Because of this, some lifeboats were
launched with far less than capacity, the most notable being Lifeboat #1,
with a capacity of 65, launched with only 12 people aboard. "Do not trust
in deceptive words saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of
the Lord, the temple of the Lord,’ "Cursed is the man who trusts in
mankind and makes flesh his strength..."
The excessive casualties have also been blamed on the "women and children
first" policy for places on the lifeboats. Although the lifeboats had a
total capacity of 1,178-enough for 53% of the 2,224 persons on board, the
boats launched only had a capacity of 1,084, and unfortunately, all
together only 705 people were actually saved-32% of those originally on
board. This is a tragic result when the 1,084-person capacity of the
lifeboats actually had sufficient room to include all of the 534 women
and children on board, plus an additional 550 men (of which there
were1,690 on board).
It has been suggested based on these figures that allowing one man on
board for each woman or child from the start would not only have
increased the number of women and children saved, but also had the added
benefit of saving more lives in total. In addition, the psychological
impact of seeing fully loaded lifeboats may have spurred more passengers
to evacuate, and the resulting less crowded and chaotic deck would have
made the process much more efficient. There would have been the added
benefit of keeping families united, whereas, in the policy adopted aboard
the Titanic, this was not the case. Unfortunately, as it was, the many
desperate men had to be held off at gunpoint from boarding the lifeboats,
adding to the chaos of the scene and there were many more casualties-of
women, children, and men, then otherwise with many lifeboats not filled
A church devoid of strong, male leadership is a recipe for chaos and
confusion. It is not indicative of a healthy church to have women and the
young predominant in leadership roles. This is not to say that women have
no role in this area, but it is rather a matter of emphasis, and not
"O My people! Their oppressors are children, and women rule over them. O
My people! Those who guide you lead you astray, and confuse the
directions of your paths." And, what about Deborah who was a judge in
Israel? Yes, what about Deborah? She would provide wise counsel for the
male leadership of Israel, who was to be leading his people on the front
When Barak was summoned to come to Deborah, she declared that the Lord
was commanding him to go out to do battle against Sisera and his army,
how to fight it, and that the victory would be his. But Barak was
unwilling to take his rightful leadership role and refused to go without
being accompanied by Deborah. "And she said, "I will surely go with you;
nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are
about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a women."
In no uncertain terms, this was a rebuke!
We must take special note of the 8 musicians who remained on board to the
very last. These men nobly and selflessly played their instruments on the
deck of that sinking ship in order to provide some measure of comfort to
those about to enter a watery grave. Only the day before, they were
playing at the Sunday worship service. Many witness have testified that
the last song performed was "Nearer, My God, To Thee." In a real sense,
they chose to minister to the people up to the very end, taking no
thought for their own welfare. None of the 8 band members survived.
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his
friends." "...and they loved not their lives unto death." What an example
of a shepherd-servant heart! What would we do given a similar crisis? How
would we conduct ourselves? Some of us are likely to find out!
The institutional church is following in the wake of Titanic. It is
heading straight for that iceberg. The collision is inevitable and
unavoidable due to its speed and power. It is not a matter of "if," but
"when?" Two-thirds of the people on this ship perished with only a third
saved. The proportions are unmistakably prophetic, "... two parts in it
will be cut off and perish, but the third will be left in it... and I
will bring a third part through the fire..." Most of these died while
floating and floundering in the frigid waters, waiting for help which
never came, or came too late.
Understand this! The 1,523 people who perished on that fateful night did
not die as a direct result of the ship being sunk. They perished because
there were not enough lifeboats! Those lucky enough to get into a
lifeboat were forced to listen to the wailing cries of those in the
water. Eventually, the cries died down as, one by one, they perished. A
German liner passed the site of the sinking on the 20th. All the
passengers agreed that the sun glinting of the icebergs was a lovely
sight, until they were close enough to see the wreckage and the bodies of
clinging, singly and in groups, to the wreckage. "The scene," said one
passenger, "moved everyone on board to the point of tears." Even this
second-hand account causes one to shudder. How much more would such a
personal experience leave an a indelible scar upon our souls for the rest
of our lives, haunting our day visions and night dreams?
There is a remnant of people who will "get it." They will understand the
vision and run with it. Run where? They will run "outside the camp" in
order to build lifeboats, just as many lifeboats as they can. The owners
of Titanic were not interested in having a sufficient number of lifeboats
in 1912, and neither will it be with the leaders of today’s "Titanic."
Making sure the ship is a source of visual pride and runs efficiently
with state of the art technology is the chief concern. Diligent and
sacrificial labor will be required for preparation for that day. What
day? The day when the institutional church becomes the victim of its own
fleshly success and the world turns on it with the venom of a betrayed
lover. Its destiny is sealed and we must have enough lifeboats to save as
many as possible.
And, what will these lifeboats look like? They will take the form of
relationships created by divine connections, private homes, communal
places of refuge, underground networks, and other modes yet to be
revealed. Some of us will be called to do all we can to make certain that
there will be enough lifeboats for all who desire to leave this doomed
ship. Most will continue to invest much time and energy keeping this
behemoth afloat, "thinking there are doing God a service." They will keep
this enterprise moving full steam ahead by artificial life support, but
at a terrible price, at the needless expense of human carnage. But, the
real question is, will there be enough lifeboats?
Eyewitness accounts report that in Titanic’s final moments, as it began
to sink beneath the waves, the immense pressures upon the ship caused it
to break in two. The front half of the ship sank immediately while the
back half remained afloat, virtually bobbing in the water, providing
those still clinging to that portion of the ship a glimmer of hope.
Moments later, that portion of the ship would also slip into its watery
grave. " A house divided against itself cannot stand." "Do you not see
all these things? Truly, I say to you, not one stone here shall be left
upon another, which will not be torn down." God’s judgments are total and
complete. And, there is a concern which goes even beyond not having
enough lifeboats, and that is seeing them lowered from this great sinking
ship well below full capacity. May history not repeat itself.
*Titanic fact www. sources:
History on the Net
Library Think Quest