The people's voice of reason

The Lifesaving 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.

The author of this parable was an Episcopal priest named Dr. Theodore O. Wedel who served as the former Canon of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington DC. He penned this parable in 1953, but it is, without a doubt, still very relevant today!

I read it for the first time many years ago, and I make myself re-read it periodically to remind me of what the mission of the Church is really all about. The mission of the Church of Jesus Christ is first and foremost about saving and serving lost people who are drowning and hurting in the midst of life. This parable is unfortunately a remarkable and enlightening appraisal of many modern-day churches in America. Would you agree that many people that grew up in churches across the United States feel like this may describe their current or home church?

In the parable, there is a moment when, for various reasons, what was once a lifesaving station on a dangerous coast becomes a “Club.” From that point forward, the primary reason for joining the Club was the benefits of membership, the prestige of belonging and the nice and comfortable facilities. In the beginning, the motivation was that of saving and serving lost souls. Saving people from shipwrecks on that rocky coast was the most important mission. But now it is just a Club with optional weekly attendance for meetings, occasional opportunities to serve, hired staff to do the work and very relaxed membership responsibilities! Sound like your church or one you know?

We wonder why 59% of millennials that grew up in the church have dropped out! And many of us Baby Boomers are shocked that only 25% of 18 to 29-year old’s in America are practicing Christians! And did you know that 44%-52% of millennials in the US did not grow up in and did not and do not attend a church at all! (See Barna Research Group)

So, if you are like me and you are a Christ follower who is a part of a local church, we have our work cut out for us. We have a huge mission field and an exciting challenge! 75% of the millennials in our communities are not practicing Christians and need to hear the gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ! Less than 18% to 20% of all the people in our communities attend church at all on a regular basis. There are many lost and hurting people all around us! Many folks in our communities are drowning in hopelessness, pain, confusion, addiction, and unhappiness!

We have the best news in the world to offer the lost and drowning! We have a Heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally! We have Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who offered himself on a cross to save us! We have the Holy Spirit who is here to live in us and be our comforter, guide and counselor!

Yes, we have the One God who reveals Himself through the Trinity! One God who we can experience in three ways: As Father over us. As the Son with us. As the Holy Spirit in us. That is Good News worth sharing!

We are told that 97% of Christians believe that the best thing that could ever happen to someone is to know Jesus Christ! (Barn Research Group) If that is true, then may we get on with the mission of the Life Saving Stations. The rocky coast of our culture and the dangerous seas of life are very real. People are drowning.

As Christ followers, may we once again focus on the mission of the Church! May we man the life boats and venture out to rescue those in need!


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