Are you a lost-centered or searcher-centered Christian?
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur was a crude, little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat. The few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea. With no thought for themselves, they went out, day or night, searching tirelessly for the lost. So many lives were saved by the wonderful little station that it became famous. 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 efforts for the support of its work. New boats were bought, and new crews were trained. The little lifesaving station grew.
Some of the new members of the lifesaving station were unhappy because the building was crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in an enlarged building. Now the life saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they redecorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely because they used it as a club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions so they hired crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in the club decoration, however, and a symbolic lifesaving boat dominated the room where initiation took place.
About this time, a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crew brought in boat loads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick; some had black skin, and some had yellow skin. The beautiful 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, a split took place in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal life of the club. Some members insisted on lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they still were called a lifesaving station. They finally were voted down, however, and told that if they wanted to save the lives of various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast. 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 coast today. You will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters. But most people drown.
Frank Voight is credited as the author of this classic story called “The Lifesaving Station.” His simple parable illustrates how easily a church can shift from being lost-centered to searcher-centered. A search is always lost-centered, not searcher-centered. How easily that focus can shift. Let me ask you an uncomfortable question: Are you a lost-centered Christian or a searcher-centered Christian? Here are some ways you can tell.
Lost-centered Christians go to the lost rather than expecting the lost to come to them. Believers are to take the initiative rather than waiting for the non-Christians to take the first step (Mark 16:15).
Lost-centered Christians meet the physical and emotional needs of the unsaved, as well as their spiritual needs. Non-Christians will respond more readily to the words of the Gospel after they have seen it lived out in ministry (Matt. 5:14-16).
Lost-centered Christians value non-Christians as people and seek to develop relationships with them. They never view the unsaved as “an evangelism project.” No one wants to be your project (Matt. 22:39).
Lost-centered Christians lead their church or small group to devote time and resources to reaching the lost. They guard against the insidious tendency to spend all of their time and resources on the believers who are already part of the church (Luke 19:10).
Lost-centered Christians become students of the unsaved. They take the time and effort to learn their spiritual condition as well as how the unsaved think and feel (I Cor. 2:14, 2 Cor.4:3-4).
Lost-centered Christians lovingly challenge their non-Christian friends to commit their lives to Christ. They are not “pushy” but persistent in urging them to become Christians, aware of the eternal danger they face (Heb. 9:27).
The call to follow Christ is a call to live in search mode (Matt. 4:19). No one gets lost on purpose (Luke 15:8-10). Searches are always costly (Luke 15:4). Love pays whatever a search costs (John 3:16). Are you a lost-centered Christian or a searcher-centered Christian? (Gary Taylor is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of evangelism.)