Pass It On: Joan S. Gray

By: John Reiter

Posted: October 30, 2021

Category: Daily Devotional

Matthew 16:17-19

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”

Joan S. Gray was elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) at the 217th General Assembly on June 15, 2006. She has also spent many years working in various churches and has been an adjunct faculty member at Columbia Theological Seminary.

The leaders of a church, its pastors and officers, make the crucial choices about how that congregation is going to go forward. In effect, they decide whether the church will operate like a rowboat or a sailboat…The basic difference between them has nothing to do with the circumstances of a congregation; rather, the difference is in the attitude of the leadership and members. The bedrock reality of life in the rowboat church is that God has given the church a basic agenda (for example, to make the world a better place, save souls, help the poor, spread Christian truth, etc.) and then left it up to the church to get on with it. The dominant attitude in

this congregation is either “We can do this” or “We can’t do this.” The church’s progress depends on circumstances like the amount of money in the bank, the number of volunteers available, the charisma and skill of its leaders, and the demographics of its community. Leaders in a rowboat church spend a large portion of their time focusing on such issues, and the key question becomes, “What can we do with what we have?”… In contrast, the dominant attitude in a sailboat church is that “God can do more than we can ask or imagine.” Its leaders know that what they have or lack in the way of human and material resources is not the decisive factor in what they can accomplish as a church. Rather, they look on church as a continuing adventure with a God who leads and empowers them to do more than they could ever have dreamed. This adventure involves believers in an intimate relationship with the triune God who guides their life as a church. Leaders of a sailboat church do not begin their planning by assuming they know God’s agenda and adding up the resources they have to accomplish it. Rather the key question is, “What is God leading us to be and do now in the place where we find ourselves?”


God of All, thank You for entrusting us with the gift of Your church. Strengthen us as a community of faith to be open to Your Spirit and where You might be leading us. Empower us to prayerfully consider Your calling in our lives as individuals and as a church. Help us to glorify You in all that we say and do. Amen.