On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur stood a lifesaving 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. Many of those who were rescued and also others from the surrounding area wished to become associated with the station and to give their time, money, and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The lifesaving station grew.
In time some of the crew became concerned that the station was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more commodious place should be provided as the first refuge of those snatched from the sea. The emergency cots were replaced with beds, and better furniture was purchased for the enlarged building. The station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely. Fewer members were now interested in leaving the plush station to go to sea on lifesaving missions. So they hired surrogates to do that work. However, they retained the lifesaving motif in the club’s decorations, and a ceremonial lifeboat lay in the room where club initiations were held.
One dark stormy night a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick and obviously from distant shores. The station was in chaos. The event was so traumatic that the people contracted for outbuildings to be constructed so future shipwrecks could be processed with less disruption.
Eventually a rift developed in the station. Most of the members wanted to discontinue the station’s lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to their normal social life. Some insisted, however, that rescue was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. But the latter were ignored and told that if they wanted to keep lifesaving as their primary purpose, they could begin their own station down the coast, which they did. Over time those individuals fell prey to the same temptations as the first group, coming to care more about comforting one another than rescuing the perishing. After a while a few, remembering their real purpose, split off to establish yet another lifesaving station. And on and on it went. Today if you visit that seacoast, you will find a number of impressive lifesaving stations along the shore. Sadly, shipwrecks still occur in those waters, but most people are lost. (Adapted from “The Life-Saving Station” by Theodore Wedel.)
This fictional tale stings to read. Makes me cringe a little. Maybe a lot. It hurts because it doesn't sound much like fiction at all. As I look back at the past 23 years of serving the local church, I notice what often concerns the church, ruffles her feathers, and grieves the church sounds and looks a lot like social club concerns and not life-saving stations.
Let me get right to the heart of the matter. Fighting over which style of music you prefer is dumb. Fighting over what time you get to worship is dumb. Fighting over our preferences in clothes is dumb. Making enemies with family in the church is dumb. I have a feeling it is JUST the sort of thing that would disgust Jesus. (Rev.3:16)
Look around church. People are dying and drowning in sin all around us. Some in our own homes right before our very eyes. Shipwrecks abound. We have been commissioned to be life-saving stations. (Matthew 28:16-20) Let's get real. Let's get serious. There is no time to waste. (2 Timothy 2:4)