It has been said, “If the primary aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.”
The same goes for the church. If our goal is to preserve it, we will defensively protect it. If our goal is to reach out, to go somewhere, and to do something – we will willingly risk it.
Those who have a future are those who look outside of themselves. They risk new approaches. They service new people. They exist for others and not themselves. In some ways, it is the safest route to survival.
Churches of the twenty-first century will not be those that emphasize self-preservation and isolation without risk. The survivors and thrivers will be those who exist for others.
There is a sense in which the church has taken itself too seriously. We have thought that keeping ourselves going is a good enough reason to continue. How different from Jesus, who came to seek and to save those who were lost (Luke 19:10). The church is really a means to an end rather than an end itself. God is the one who is most important. Obeying Jesus Christ is what really matters. How many local churches have lasted when they only look inward for themselves? What matters is THE church of Jesus Christ is larger and stronger than ever, that the gospel has more adherents right now than in all of previous history combined, and that the cause and kingdom of the Savior have advanced for 2,000 years.
The parable of the lifesaving station begins with drowning swimmers and sailors along a dangerous stretch of the coast. A few heroes accepted the mission of saving those in distress. They were so successful that their ranks quickly grew. Many of the new lifeguards were those who were themselves saved from the sea. Together they organized into a lifesaving society and built a lifesaving station. It was simple at first, but as their numbers and influence grew, so did the station. Within less than a generation the membership was large, and a lifesaving club with state-of-the art facilities for recreation dining, and entertainment had replaced the lifesaving station. Membership was highly valued. Member meetings discussed finance and membership requirements. Old-timers and their children held the power. Newcomers seldom joined. Every year there was less and less interest in actual lifesaving. The membership hired professional lifeguards to do the lifesaving for them. It was a fine club but no longer in the lifesaving business.
This parable is a commentary on the church that once existed for others but changed to exist for itself.
Every one of us needs to answer the question: “Who are we here for?”