Summary: The church’s primary reason for existence is to save the lost.
The Church Exists for Evangelism
How does the old adage go? “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.?Can we say it together? “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.? Do you agree with this statement? For us here at the Seattle Central Korean SDA Church, as we celebrate the inauguration of the new church building, I ask you, “Is the main thing, the main thing? Do we even know what the main thing is? How many of us know? Would Satan do all that he can to keep the church from keeping the main thing the main thing? The answer is yes! And he has been very successful.
Studies show that 80-85% of churches have plateaued or are in decline in North America. By the way, a plateaued church is a dying church.
Each year, estimates are that as many as 2,700 churches in the United States alone hold their last service, close their doors, and put up the “For Sale?sign.
Satan has been very successful here in North America. 80-85% of churches in North America obviously don’t know what the main thing is! How are we doing? Are we a part of the 80-85% of churches in decline.
I want to tell you a parable. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!?
Canon Theodore Wedel told a parable of a dangerous seacoast where many sailing ships were wrecked and many lives were lost (Sweazey 1968:12-13). Volunteers from a nearby fishing village again and again braved the storm and rescued many from drowning, and those who were saved often joined the rescue team.
One day a volunteer suggested that with practice they could do an even better job. So in summer the rescue crews practiced rowing and throwing life preservers and were later able to save more lives. Another volunteer thought they should build a boat house near the coast to keep the rescue boats. That way they would not waste time bringing their boats from the village. After a time, a third volunteer suggested that they build a shelter for the people they rescued, for they often died of the cold. And another recommended adding a kitchen to make soup to warm the storm victims. All these innovations added to the effectiveness of their work.
Later a rescuer suggested that they wait in the boat house during the storms so that they would be ready when a ship was wrecked. Another proposed adding a game room so that they would not be bored, and a third that they expand the kitchen so that they would have hot drinks and food while they waited in the boat house. The members took great pleasure in their building projects and added a lounge and a fine restaurant. The rescue station grew in prestige, and many more joined it on that account.
As time passed, one member observed that rescuing was a highly specialized task and that only those highly trained for it should be allowed to do the job. So they hired young men to go out in the storm while the rest cheered them on from the rescue complex. Finally the members had a meeting and decided to discontinue the lifesaving feature of the “club?altogether. It was too costly, and they all were too busy with related committee meetings and other activities.
A number protested that this abandoned their primary propose, so they resigned and started a real lifesaving station down the coast. Once again they went out into the storm and waves to rescue those who were drowning.
One day a volunteer suggested that with some practice they could do an even better job. So in the summer the rescue crews practiced rowing and throwing life preservers, and they rescued more people. Soon the crews from the club up the coast challenged them to a contest, for although the group had given up actual lifesaving, it retained “rescuing?as a summer sport. And when a rescue station won, its members were given a trophy to take home.
Later someone in the newer group suggested that they build a boat house near the coast to keep their boats, and another added that they needed a kitchen and shelter for those who were rescued. After a time, they added a game room and restaurant for those waiting on the coast during the storms.
Eventually, rescuing became a highly trained skill and specialists were hired to do the job. And one day the members decided to discontinue the lifesaving because it was costly and they were all busy. A number protested and moved down the coast to start a true rescue station.
We know the rest of the story.
Is the meaning of the parable obvious? What is this parable describing? What does the rescue station represent? The church! Who do the rescuers represent? They represent Christians. And who do the highly specialized rescuers represent? Pastors!