On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks
often occur, there was once a little life-saving station. The
building was primitive, and there was just one boat, but the members
of the life-saving station were committed and kept a constant
watch over the sea. When a ship went down, they unselfishly went
out day or night to save the lost. Because so many lives were
saved by that station, it became famous.
Consequently, many people wanted
to be associated with the station to give their time, talent,
and money to support its important work. New boats were bought,
new crews were recruited, a formal training session was offered.
As the membership in the life-saving station grew, some of the
members became unhappy that the building was so primitive and
that the equipment was so outdated. They wanted a better place
to welcome the survivors pulled from the sea. So they replaced
the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged
and newly decorated building.
Now the life-saving station became
a popular gathering place for its members. They met regularly
and when they did, it was apparent how they loved one another.
They greeted each other, hugged each other, and shared with one
another the events that had been going on in their lives. But
fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving
missions; so they hired lifeboat crews to do this for them.
About this time, a large ship was
wrecked off of the coast, and the hired crews brought into the
life-saving station boatloads of cold, wet, dirty, sick, and half-drowned
people. Some of them had black skin, and some had yellow skin.
Some could speak English well, and some could hardly speak it
at all. Some were first-class cabin passengers of the ship, and
some were the deck hands.
The beautiful meeting place became
a place of chaos. The plush carpets got dirty. Some of the exquisite
furniture got scratched. So the property committee immediately
had a shower built outside the house where the victims of shipwreck
could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting there was rift
in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the clubs
life-saving activities, for they were unpleasant and a hindrance
to the normal fellowship of the members. Other members insisted
that life-saving was 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
those various kinds of people who would be shipwrecked, they could
begin their own life-saving station down the coast. And do you
know what? That is what they did.
As the years passed, the new station
experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It
evolved into a place to meet regularly for fellowship, for committee
meetings, and for special training sessions about their mission,
but few went out to the drowning people. The drowning people were
no longer welcomed in that new life-saving station. So another
life-saving station was founded further down the coast. History
continued to repeat itself. And if you visit that seacoast today,
you will find a number of adequate meeting places with ample parking
and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters,
but most of the people drown.
Evangelism vs. Fire
Elton Trueblood, the Quaker scholar, once compared
evangelism to fire. Evangelism occurs, he said, when Christians
are so ignited by their contact with Christ that they in turn
set other fires. It is easy to determine when something is aflame.
It ignites other material. Any fire that does not spread will
eventually go out. A church without evangelism is a contradiction
in terms, just as a fire that does not burn is a contradiction.
A survey done by sociologists Glock and Stark
found that among evangelicals, over half of their close friends
are likely to belong to the same congregation, whereas among liberal
churchgoers, such as Presbyterians and Congregationalists, few
or none of their close friends are likely to be members of their