Lifesaving Station or Clubhouse?

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On a dangerous seacoast notorious for shipwrecks, there was a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but a few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost. Because this little station saved so many lives, it soon became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others from the surrounding areas, wanted to associate themselves with the station by giving of their time, money, and effort to support its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little life-saving station grew.

Some of the new members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge for those saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in a bigger building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they redecorated it beautifully and furnished it as a sort of club.

Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. After all, the lifesaving station’s coat of arms still adorned the clubhouse, and from the ceiling of the banquet hall, where the club celebrated the initiation of new members, hung a model of a large lifeboat. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. Some of them had black skin, and some spoke a strange language. The beautiful new club was considerably messed up. 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 in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities because they thought these activities were unpleasant and hindered the social activity at the club. A few members insisted that lifesaving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. But they were quickly overruled. The other members told them 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 down the coast.

And so they did. They started with a crude little building, but its reputation spread quickly. As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred at the old station. The new station evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded.

If you visit the seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, only now most of the people drown. What about our churches today? Are they clubhouses for the spiritually elite? Or are they lifesaving stations for the lost?

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