Monday, January 2, 2017

Life-Saving Station

These men were members of a rescue crew for the United States Life-Saving Service at the Vermillion Point Station on a strip of Lake Superior known as the Graveyard Of Ships. Crews like these eventually became the United States Coast Guard and their members have saved thousands of victims of shipwrecks through their many years of service.

Between 17 and 18 years ago, there was a great move of God at our church. In one year our church of 100 baptized over 60 people. Dozens more were changed and added to our church. So much had changed that we talked about changing the name of the church. One of the suggestions was "Safe Harbor Baptist Church," and another was "Life-Saving Station," because it seemed that God was rescuing so many shipwrecked lives. Well, it's obvious that we didn't change our name. How about our mission?

Churches are made of Christians - people born spiritually by faith in Jesus. They are spiritual beings inhabiting physical bodies in a fallen world. They have not arrived. They have begun. Spiritual growth must follow spiritual birth, and sometimes it doesn't. Christians and churches are quite capable of settling into a lifestyle that is far less than God's plan. They are capable of adopting only the parts of God's mission that suit their own lifestyle. So, it's necessary for Christians and churches to take stock of where they are and whether they are still on mission with God. That's what we're doing this month at our church. 

Here's a parable that has helped us begin the examination. Maybe it will help you and your church do the same. It was originally told by Dr. Theodore Wedel in the middle of the last century.  It's called the Life-Saving Station.

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 those who were lost. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and gave of their time, money, and effort to support its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little lifesaving station grew.

Some of the members of the lifesaving 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 lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in the club’s decorations, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club’s initiations were held. About this time a large ship wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split among the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving 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 the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station. So 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 lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.