Acts 27: 27-30
On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. They took soundings and found that the water was forty metres deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was thirty metres deep. Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow.
So at last they’re getting closer to land, they just have no idea where it is. The sailors on the ship know that, in the dark, there’s a good chance the boat will hit rocks and smash to pieces so they try to escape on the lifeboat. In other words, their attitude is: "As long as we’re OK, we don’t care what happens to everyone else. As long as we’re saved, that’s all that matters."
Sometimes as Christians we can take that same attitude: "I’m OK, I’m saved, so that’s all that matters. I’ve got my ticket to heaven when I die so who cares what happens to everyone else."
When the Titanic sank, tragically over 1,500 people died. Only about a third of the passengers lived to tell of the nightmare. But as tragic as the death toll was, the greater tragedy was that many more people could have been rescued.
The Titanic was certified to offer lifeboat space to 1,178 people. However only 711 passengers and crew were rescued, while 40 percent of the total lifeboat spaces remained empty. Of the 20 lifeboats lowered overboard, only a few were filled to capacity. Several were less than half full. Meanwhile, hundreds of people floated in the open water wearing life jackets near the 20 unfilled lifeboats. Only one of the lifeboats went back in search of other survivors. The rest (with room to spare) remained at a safe distance observing the horrific scene, comforting one another, and praising God they'd been spared.
In the months after the tragedy, investigators found out why so many lifeboat seats remained unfilled. It was because those who had got onto the boats assumed that filling them to their capacity would cause the boats to break in two during the lowering process. They didn’t want to put themselves at risk or in danger, so once they were on board, even though there was still room, they just left everyone else behind.
Jesus has left His church with one mission – that is to reach out into every part of our world and rescue people who are drowning. Not drowning physically, but drowning in sin and guilt and shame and addiction and oppression and hopelessness and despair. However what can happen is that we jump into the lifeboat, we’re saved, and from that point forward what we care about most is our own safety, security and comfort, while we completely lose sight of what the lifeboat is there for – to save lives, not to play around in.
From the very start of the church in the book of Acts, I think God deliberately disrupted that feeling of being a settled community. Think about it. Imagine the weeks leading up to the Day of Pentecost. There was 120 of them in the upper room, just praying and hanging out together. They all knew each other. It must have been lovely telling one another all their favourite Jesus stories. So what does God do? He pours out His Spirit on them, and in one day 3000 people are saved and added to the church.
In 24 hours it goes from 120 to 3120. A bit unsettling! They have to rethink how they do things. Small groups, new leaders, new structures.
Jesus Kingdom is an expansive Kingdom, it always makes room for more, it accommodates any who wish to enter it.
In Luke 4 we read this:
“The people were looking for him [Jesus] and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” (Luke 4: 42-43)
The people loved having Jesus all to themselves but Jesus was focused on his mission – and that was to reach more and more people.
Luke 19: 10: Jesus said: “...the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
However full your church is, you must still make room for more. And when it’s filled again, make some more room. Or create new lifeboats. Plant new congregations. Start new small groups. Begin another Alpha course. But let's not stop continuing the mission of Jesus, which is seeking and saving the lost, until He returns. At that point it will be too late.