Casting Out Devils

Speaking Conservative Truth to Evil-Doers

Fisher’s Folly

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HMS Invincible (1907)

HMS Invincible (1907), the first Battle Cruiser

Originally published in Divine Parodies & Holy Histories:  with Select Poems:
Illustrations of Gospel Truth (Liberty, TX: God’s Trombone, 2007).

Most people have heard the story of the German battleship Bismarck which, early in World War II, sank the British cruiser HMS Hood in the Denmark Strait.  The Hood, queen of the British fleet, was blown in half and sank quickly, with only three survivors.  News of the sinking gave birth to the rallying cry, “Sink the Bismarck,” at least one major motion picture, and a hit song by Johnny Horton.  But most people do not know the rest of the story.

Sir John Fisher is famous for building the HMS Dreadnought, the first real battleship.  The Dreadnought influenced capital ship design for decades to come.  (The last of the Dreadnought Class of battleships, the USS Texas, berthed near Houston, can still be seen today.)

USS Texas

USS Texas, Last Surviving Dreadnought-type Battleship

Fisher also envisioned an equally powerful but faster warship, the battle cruiser.  A battle cruiser would sport the large guns of a battleship but employ much less armor in order to make it faster.  According to writer Robert Kissel, it “could overtake and sink a conventional cruiser, and outrun whatever opponent it could not outrange.”

The battle cruiser met with some early success.  In 1914-15, British battle cruisers sank seven German cruisers and a destroyer.  Commanders of these vessels began to be seen as particularly dashing and admirable.  However, the weakness of the battle cruiser—light armor—was painfully revealed at the Battle of Jutland.  Three battle cruisers were easily sunk, with a combined loss of 3400 men, and only 8 survivors.  By design, the battle cruisers lacked the armor to take a hit and to protect their ammunition magazines.  Lacking sufficient watertight compartments, they sank quickly with heavy loss of life.  The battle cruiser came to be called “Fisher’s Folly.”

Unfortunately, the British Navy did not readily learn from its mistakes.  Not until 1920 was the final battle cruiser commissioned.  The largest warship of its day, it was christened HMS Hood.
In retrospect, experts conclude that the fault of the battle cruiser lay in the fact that “it looked too much like a battleship,” and tended to be used like one.

Similarly, I have seen many church programs come along that looked good, sounded good, and yielded remarkable initial results.  Going for effect, with much glitz and fanfare, these programs often garnered a lot of interest, much activity, and large numbers of participants, even ostensible converts.  More often than not, however, the programs were not well thought-out and their results neither solid nor lasting.  Typically, these programs ate up the church’s resources of time, money, and human energy with little to show for it.  Too many of the adherents gained through big programs are like those followers of Jesus who, when Jesus began to preach a hard message, ceased to follow him (John 6:66).

Having learned from observation and experience, I have come to believe that in general, programs are not the answer to evangelism or ministry.  Far better is the investment of time and energy in training true disciples and mentoring true ministers into the ministry.  Converts must be carefully nurtured, and leaders must be thoroughly trained and tested.

So be careful.  Not everything that looks like a church will stay afloat.

Source:  Robert P.  Kissel, “Trading Armor for Speed, British Battle Cruisers Were Used More as Battleships than as Cruisers, with Horrific Results,” Military History, February 2001.

© 2014 Paul A. Hughes

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Written by biblequestion

February 1, 2014 at 6:56 AM

Posted in Church, History

Tagged with ,

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