One of the most successful movies of recent times was Titanic. The movie made millions based on the true story of the tragic sinking of a ship that was considered unsinkable.
The World Book Encyclopedia, in an article by Robert L. Scheina, defines a shipwreck as “the accidental destruction or loss of a ship. A ship may be lost by striking land, another ship, or another floating object, such as an iceberg. Fire also causes shipwrecks.” The article goes on to say, “Although ships are now safer, the impact of shipwrecks that do occur is much more severe. This is because present-day ships can carry more cargo than ever before, and many cargoes are hazardous.”
I doubt seriously if any of us could name five of the major shipwrecks in the last two hundred years. Most could name the Titanic, but we would be lost to know when, where, or why beyond that. According to Lloyd=s Register of Shipping, and other sources, these are the major shipwrecks on record:
1852 – Birkenhead, 450 dead, wrecked off the coast of South Africa
1853 – Annie Jane, 348 dead, wrecked off Scotland
1854 – City of Glasgow, 399 dead, vanished out of Liverpool.
1857 – Central America, 422 dead, sank on the Cuba to New York run
1858 – Austria, 509 dead, burned in the North Atlantic
1859 – Pomona, 388 dead, wrecked off Ireland
1865 – Sultana, 1,653, exploded on the Mississippi River, most on board were former Union Army POWs returning home
1867 – 58 vessels, 1,000 dead, hurricane in the West Indies
1873 – Atlantic, 500 dead, wrecked off Nova Scotia
1878 – Princess Alice, 640 dead, collided in Thames River
1891 – Utopia, 533 dead, collided off Gibraltar
1895 – Reina Regenta, 402 dead, foundered near Gibraltar
1898 – La Bourgogne & Cromartyshire, 561 dead, collided off Nova Scotia
1898 – Maine, 260 dead, explosion in Havana harbor, helped ignite the Spanish-American War
1904 – General Slocum, 1,030 dead, burned in the East River in New York
1904 – Norge, 651 dead, wrecked off Scotland
1912 – Titanic, 1,523 dead, struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic
1914 – Empress of Ireland, 1,029 dead, collided in the St. Lawrence River
1915 – Lusitania, 1,198 dead, torpedoed by a German u-boat
1915 – Eastland, 812 dead, overturned in the Chicago River
1915 – Endurance, crushed in an ice pack in Antarctica all crew survived and were rescued 20 months after the shipwreck
1916 – Britannica, 30 dead, mysterious explosion in the Aegean Sea, most think it was a torpedo
1917 – Mont Blanc, 1,635 dead, exploded in Halifax Harbour
1931 – St. Philibert, 368 dead, overturned off the coast of France
1942 – Curacao, 335 dead, collided off England
1948 – Kiangya, 1,100 dead, exploded in the China Sea
1954 – Toya Maru, 1,172 dead, sank in the Tsugaru Strait in Japan
1956 – Andrea Doria, 46 dead, collided off the Massachusetts coast with the cruise ship Stokholm, 1,660 rescued
1958 – Uskudar, 361 dead, capsized off Izmit, Turkey
1963 – Thresher, 129 dead, nuclear submarine sank in North Atlantic,
1970 – Namyong-Ho, 308 dead, sank off South Korea
1975 – Edmund Fitzgerald, 29 dead, strong gale snapped the ship in two
1981 – Tampomas II, 580 dead, burned and sank in the Java Sea
1983 – Tenth of Ramadan, 357 dead, burned in Lake Nasser, Egypt
1986 – Admiral Nakhimov, 398 dead, collided in the Black Sea
1987 – Dona Paz, 1,840 dead, collided near the Philippines
1991 – Salem Express, 475 dead, struck a coral reef near Egypt
1993 – Neptune, 800 dead, capsized off Haiti
2000 – Kursk, 118 dead, Russian submarine sank in the Barents Sea
So what does this have to do with anything? As I was thinking about shipwrecks, I thought about the many Christians and churches I’ve observed over the years that are now shipwrecked. Once tall, strong, and proud, they now lay on the bottom of a murky sea called Disaster. Some were run aground by compromise; they didn’t stay the course. Others were sunk by internal explosions. Power groups, personal agendas, and petty opinions caused the church to blow up and sink from sight. Still others capsized because they didn’t pay attention to details or didn’t read the instruction manual.
Whatever the reason, we have countless examples of people who have made a shipwreck of their lives. We see countless churches who were once powerful witnesses that now are nothing more than deteriorating monuments to a once great past.
I know ministers whose lives are shipwrecked and whose ministries are sunk because they compromised morally or ethically. I know men who were once deacons who now are floating dead in the water. I know people who have quit growing in their faith and now their lives are covered with barnacles. They are no longer seaworthy. They do not live lives worthy of the gospel.
Shipwrecks are tragic. Any time you see a life that is sinking into sin and compromise, it grieves you. It is sad to see a family that once sailed through life, now run aground by petty, fleshly desires. No one sets out to wreck their lives, but we see examples of it every day. People who don=t steer their lives down the straight and narrow can one day find their lives lost in the depths of sin.
Churches that fail to keep their eye on the Captain of our Salvation are destined to become churches in name only. They may still meet, but they are rudderless, powerless vessels and an embarrassment to the fleet. Every shipwrecked life or church should be a reminder to all of us that no one is immune or invincible. We are all vulnerable. We must keep our hands on the wheel, follow the course our Captain has laid out for us, and make sure we are anchored in His harbor.