Published February 26, 2013

Paul's Epistle...
"The Most Effective Sermon"

Earlier this month, Shelia and I were privileged to go on the Singing At Sea cruise to the Bahamas. The Singing At Sea is the granddaddy of Southern Gospel music cruises, and we'd been on a few before. But this year's was, by far, the best yet.


Well, for one thing, of course, there's all the food one could want – three square order-from-a-menu meals, but also food available virtually anytime at handy spots on the ship.

Then, of course, there's the music. The Gospel music seemed non-stop each evening and during the day when at sea. More than two dozen top groups were on board.

But the unique thing about this cruise is that, of the 2,150-or-so passengers aboard the ship, all of them were there for the Singing At Sea. This was not a ship divided between Gospel music fans and "regular vacation cruisers," few of whom may be Christians. It was distinctly an all-Christian cruise.

What this means is that such things as the casinos and bars that are normally offered on such cruises were not operating in their usual manner. The bars, instead, served fruit juice and sodas and such. The casino was closed and converted into a Christian bookstore where the artists and speakers could make available their CDs and books. Wow.

Because of all of this, it was, for us, more like visiting in a large church somewhere. Or perhaps attending an old-fashioned campmeeting. That impression was bolstered by some exceptional Bible teaching and preaching by several gifted preachers throughout the week.

So, for us, the outstanding memory was the Christian fellowship. Guests are assigned for the evening meal, and we were blessed to sit with two pastors and their wives and three delightful ladies who were long-time friends and decided to take the cruise together. New Christian friendships are born and old friendships are renewed on such cruises. It's a little bit of heaven at sea.

But I think there's an even more important aspect to all of this – something that could have eternal consequences.

The ship's crew numbered more than a thousand. And, in talking with several of them – and in hearing reports from others about their encounters with crew members – it became very clear that the crew really looks forward to the Singing at Sea cruise each year. This is true from the cabin stewards and dining room wait staff all the way up through "ship management."

Why?  Because the people on this all-Christian cruise are generally so unlike the cruisers they have to deal with the rest of the year. How?  The people are... well, "nice." They exhibit Christian attitudes toward others. They are more friendly than the usual vacationers. They are not complainers. I didn't hear one substantive complaint all week.

Is this a big deal? I think so. These crew members are from all over the world. Their religious backgrounds undoubtedly span the spectrum. But they have noticed that there is something very special that happens when Christians gather together. The atmosphere is just ... different.

This is a good example of the influence Christians can have on non-Christians when they simply live their lives in a God-honoring way in a very public manner. It is the easiest, and perhaps the most influential, form of Christian testimony. It is being that "salt and light" Christ has commanded us to be in this world (Matt. 5:13,14).

Because of the thousands of people on this ship, the impact can be huge. But you don't have to be in such a large group to put this principle into practice. People around you – those with whom you come in contact every day – are observing you. Do they see nothing special or unusual about your actions – the way you speak, the things you do? Are you, in their eyes, just like everyone else?

Or do they – whether they realize it or not as such – see Christ living in and through you?

As the classic Roger Bennett song says,

"When the world looks at you, do they see Jesus?
When the world looks at you what do they see?
Do they see hope? Love? And charity?
When the world looks at me what do they see?"*

It's been said many times, but it's undeniably true: the way you live your life can be the most powerful and effective sermon those around you might ever witness.

- Paul

*"When The World Looks At Me," Roger Bennett, Onward Bound Music ASCAP.

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