Life Saving Station
You know I could not think of one instance in all the time I spent in school that someone invited me to church with them until just today when I was reminded by a friend of mine I grew up with Mark Benford that he invited me to his church in 5th grade. He is the only person I can remember in Elementary, in Middle School or in High School that ever once reached out to me and invited me to church or told me about the gospel of Jesus Christ, out of all those years only one. I find it both strange and disheartening that we have relegated evangelism to handing out an invite card to a church service. Don’t get me wrong it is a handy tool but not nearly as effective as someone personally sharing the gospel with another. Churches especially in the West have become more of a “come and see” model than what God designed the church to be and that is a “go and tell” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Now a days the buzzwords are “great communicator” (we make celebrities out of Christians HA! I thought we were to make the name of Christ famous not the latest and greatest “communicator”?). “Branding” (because it’s all about the church and not the Church). “Systems” (where we have relegated God as a formula to be figured out and not a relationship to be pursued) and for some reason prayer, discipleship, church discipline, personal holiness, and truth even at the expense of offending someone don’t seem to have a place in the church today; those things just don’t get enough people in the seats. The church today is trying to out world the world, trying to out culture the culture as if to say “hey we’re Christians and we’re still cool” unfortunately we want to be cool by the fallen worlds standards and as a result compromises have to be made. Instead of being agents of change upon the culture the culture has changed the church. “Well you won’t reach them if you don’t” they say which confusingly I wonder but what are you reaching them with?
We have made church here in the West nothing more than a show and entertainment where we pride our greatest selling point of our church to be “we can get you in and out in an hour or less”. Church services have become in many regards entertainment for the goats when it was designed to be a time of feeding the sheep. We have made the church about us and not God. We will show up to church as long as it doesn’t interfere with our schedules. If we don’t have soccer, baseball, band, basketball, camping or the activities that we like we will be there. It is so sad to see so many base God around their calendars than base their calendars around God. And we wonder why our youth leave the church when they get older; well we have shown them throughout their childhood the church of God, the bride of Christ that Christ died for is not nearly as important as our other activities. This generation is fulfilling 2 Timothy 3:4 more than any other generation before it, we truly have become greater lovers of pleasure than lovers of God. I even saw here recently the argument to come to a Saturday night service at a church not because God was moving or any other reason other than so you could sleep in on Sunday because the church is all about us after all right?
I look over the landscape of the church and in many ways I am left confused and disheartened. Not having grown up in the church maybe I look at the church through a different lens than others. Now don’t get me wrong I see God moving in many churches all around in an amazing way even in some of the churches that champion the things I wrote about above and like all movements of God He does it in spite of us. I write this out of a deep love for the Church and those that comprise it as well as a deep burden for the lost. My fear is we are developing nothing more than a cultural Christianity serving up nothing more than a more wholesome version of the entertainment presented to them by the world and not the true gospel that lays claim upon the life of the believer to the point they die to self, pick up their cross and follow Jesus with the full understanding He has every right to interrupt your life and your plans anytime He wants to. In many regards I feel that the church has gone from a life saving station to nothing more than a pool party.
This makes me think of a story I once read:
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew.
Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now, the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired life-boat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in this club’s decoration, and there was a symbolic life-boat in the room where the club initiations were held. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick and some of them had black skin and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. They did.
As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” – 2 Corinthians 5:20