Depending on how one counts them, there are about 1,000 lighthouses in the United States. Though many are relics of a pre-technological nautical past, many more remain in service yet today.

Perhaps the greatest change to come to these sentries of the shoreline was automation. Today, a single U.S. lighthouse remains manned: Boston Light. It was the New World’s first lighthouse, and it took an act of Congress to protect Boston Light’s Keeper from the unemployment line.

You might be surprised to learn that there were lighthouses during the time of the Early Church. In fact, the most famous lighthouse was built in Egypt several hundred years before the birth of Christ; it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, surviving until the 14th century.

The job of a lighthouse and a church are not that unlike.

The primary job of a lighthouse and its Keeper are to ensure safe passage.

The Early Church carried out faith formation through many means that remain today, such as teaching, formulation of doctrine, and the telling of stories. But much of the Early Church’s most effective faith formation work took place through ritual.

A ritual is a series of actions that are performed in a specific order; kind of like a habit, a ritual is something done time-and-again. For the Early Church, rituals allowed a standardization of process that helped move those far from God into a life of strong faith.

Rites of passage allowed the Early Church to ensure safe spiritual passage for Christ-followers. Click To Tweet

There aren’t many rites of passage today, inside or outside the church. Yet research confirms what history implicitly understood, rites of passage are especially important in helping an individual to feel as though they have achieved something, gaining mastery, and proving that transformation has occurred as a result.

Rather than avoid rituals, the Church should strive to identify and implement meaningful rituals at every age and stage of spiritual growth.

Further, families should consider the power of rites of passage, especially those with a faith focus.


PRACTICE Make a quick list of rites of passage that you have experience in the course of your life, whether within your family, school, church, or elsewhere. Reflect on their meaningfulness.

Kevin holds a Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics and Future Studies from Portland Seminary, where his work on Early Church spiritual formation passed with the rare honor of exemplary distinction. He is also a graduate of Cedarville University and Dallas Theological Seminary, holding degrees in Biblical Studies, Visual Communications, and Church Educational Leadership. Kevin has served on ministry staffs in some of the largest churches across the United States and is currently the Senior Minister of JupiterFIRST Church in Jupiter, Florida. His most important role, though, is husband to Sally and dad to four of Generation Z’s youngest members: Libbie, Lucy, Harris, and Matthew.