"God has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form…The perfect surrender and humiliation was undergone by Christ: perfect because He was God, surrender and humiliation because He was man." CS Lewis
Jamaican child from Breadbasket.com
This is an example of American Christianity in all of its mediocrity. Come on a cruise, eat, drink and spend money. Then make yourself feel “spiritual” by pretending that you are on a mission trip and studying the “Bible” as presented by the finest of Bible teachers who will “train you up in the way you should go.”
Let’s take a look at one recent cruise listing. This was sent to TWW courtesy of Dr. Butch who does a bag up job of imitating Ergun Caner. Here is the video presenting the cruise from Inspiration Cruises.
From the website we read:
“I am so excited to invite you to be a part of the 4th installment of the Cruise with a Cause. PraiseFest Ministries has fully chartered the Carnival Destiny May 30th – June 4th, 2011 as we sail to Montego Bay, Jamaica. You will be joining Pastor John Hagee, Dr. Johnny Hunt, Josh McDowell, Bishop Dale Bronner, Hezekiah Walker, Dr. Ergun Caner and numerous other speakers and artists for this unique experience of a lifetime. The Cruise with a Cause is the perfect combination of a cruise vacation, Christian conference and a mission trip. You will enjoy all of the food and fun that comes with an all inclusive cruise. On board the ship, you can choose to be a part of more than 50 concerts and conferences throughout the week.”
(Well, well, well lookee at who is showing up as a speaker, Ergun Caner.This guy is everywhere!)
If you go to the website, you will see a listing of all the other speakers. It goes onto say:
“If you are a pastor, student leader, leader of any kind within your church or an up-and-coming artist…WE NEED YOU!! We need leaders who are willing to share the Gospel in each school assembly. We also need talent for each school whether it be singing, dancing, drama, etc. If you are interested, please see our “How to Get Involved” section. We will also have an amateur talent competition on board with celebrity judges.”
Let’s see how they advertise Ergun Caner’s credentials.
"Dr. Caner has come a long way from his roots. Raised the son of an Islamic leader until his conversion to Christ in 1982, he was disowned by his father. Well known in both Christian and secular media, Dr. Caner has been featured on national media networks such as CBS, NBC & ABC. In addition, he is known throughout the world appearing on such Christian shows as Billy Graham’s Decision Today and Moody Open Line, just to name a few. Dr. Caner travels the world defending the faith and persuading audiences of the truth of Jesus Christ. Currently, he is dean of The College at Southwestern (TCS) on the campus of their Baptist Seminary. Today, Dr. Caner’s ministry has reached millions along with his brother Emir; they have authored 11 books translated into six languages. Unveiling Islam won the Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical publishers Association.”
Here are some of my thoughts regarding this trip. However, I do want to stress that I am not against cruises. It is the pretense that this cruise is some sort of “mission” trip and Bible seminar that is patently ridiculous.
-The Egun Caner bio is patently false.
This man is a proven liar and has been removed from his position as Dean of the School of Theology at Liberty University. However, his resume on the cruise seems to indicate that he is Dean of the College of Southwestern when in fact it was his brother, Emir, was the founding dean, but is not even at the college at this time. His supposed speaking engagements around the world “defending the faith” have also been called into question.
It would behoove anyone signing up for this cruise to check the bios on the teachers.
-The teachers on this cruise are profiting from this venture in the form of free cruises and other perks.
There is an incentive given to pastors and leaders to bring their fans and congregants along on the trip with them. In fact there is a discount given to groups of 20 or more people. As we saw with Mac Brunson at FBC Jacksonville, the pastors use their pulpit and church to advertise for the trip. In other words, they potentially become the shill for the cruise agency. They are not doing this out of concern for their flock. It is out of concern for, at the minimum, a free trip and possible other financial incentives. You can be sure that books and CDs will be prominently displayed for sale during the trip.
-The mainstream teachers/leaders give credibility to the more questionable speakers on the roster.
When well-known Christian leaders, like Johnny Hunt and Josh McDowell, add their names to this speaker list, they are wittingly, or unwittingly, giving credence to the other speakers on this cruise. There are some speakers on the cruise who have questionable theology and questionable ethics. Do some of these leaders compromise their ethics and theological positions for the simple cost of a free cruise? I fear the answer is “yes.”
I anticipate the objection that it is good that the cruisers hear at least a couple of decent pastors. I disagree. Many will interpret the presence of these pastors, like Johnny Hunt, as giving tacit approval to the other speakers
-The mission aspect of this trip is questionable at best. 3/10/11-Please refer to this link for a response from PraiseFest .
In fact, this trip could be looked at as a way to pretend that one is “serving God” while lounging and eating. Can you imagine how this looks to the poor Jamaicans who are being “ministered to” by the well off cruisers?
So, arriving on their luxury liner, they go off to a school, shuttled in nice buses, and “witness. “ Then they take a few pictures with the natives and, with a tip of the hat, get back to the ship in time for the grand midnight buffet. In the meantime, many of the Jamaicans, who were just “blessed” by the “sacrifice” of time by the vacationers, return to their homes, amidst poverty and violence, often without enough food or electricity. And, for this “service” the Christians can have bragging rights that they took a mission trip. Yeah, right.
But, one might say, the Jamaican government opened up this “opportunity” to “witness.” I have been to Jamaica and have some news for many. Jamaica is an island that has seen a sharp uptick in violence. It is often unsafe to leave the resorts so tourist money rarely gets out to the small businesses that operate outside of the designated resort. Tourism is sharply down which effects the economy to this tiny country. The government is involved in efforts to bring tourists in to spend money. Here is an interesting article on declining tourism due to violence in Jamaica in Daily Finance.com.
I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the Jamaican government would let a boatload of friendly atheists and Wiccans visit the schools so long as they spend money on the island.
Here is the bottom line for me. Pastors need to stop shilling for the cruise agencies. All Christians should go on a real mission trip and be involved in local ministries on a regular basis. People need to read David Platt’s book, Radical, to learn what real sacrifice looks like. And then, go on a cruise and stop pretending that it is more than a vacation.
After that cynical rant, I want to leave you with a bright moment. When Jesus was born, on a dark night, two millennia ago, the world was going about its day-to-day business, never suspecting something had changed. Imagine the surprise, fear and delight of the shepherds as they listened in on one of the greatest angel choruses of all time, singing praises to a newborn King.
Perhaps it was a bit like this. One Saturday, in a Macy’s Department Store in Philadelphia, there was a random act of culture. May you be blessed.( PS-Etiquette demands that you stand).