Lifeguarding and Why We Can’t Wade In

Welcome back to another “starting conversations” article. Feel free to share with your staff, volunteers, prayer group, social media friends to initiate some specific conversation on evangelization. God bless your discussion!

It’s late summer and people are swimming. What better time to offer a parable for becoming an evangelizing parish?

…Once there was a person walking by the sea, and he saw a man swimming, but in trouble. It wasn’t abundantly obvious, but it was clear once this person watched for a moment. One also saw and decided to ignore him, saying “he made his own choices.” Another pointed to him and said to others, see, this is what happens when you don’t practice water safety (and then he posted this on social media). Another pretended he didn’t see that person. Another decided this was a real shame, and she should create a committee to make sure people are more educated on water safety. Another decided to look for a lifeguard, and finding none, wrung his hands and shook his head, walking away. Another decided to shout instructions to the panicked man, which he couldn’t hear. Finally, another saw there was a life preserver on a line, and decided to throw it to the drowning man, and pulled him in. He stayed with him until it was clear he was okay, and offered him a ride to the hospital in case he inhaled water, etc.

Which one did the will of his Heavenly Father?

“The person who threw the life preserver line.”

And Jesus said go and do likewise….

Now honestly, I have been on that literal shoreline, and when people realize that a person is drowning, almost everyone snaps into action. If there is a lifeguard, he or she moves immediately. People stop to focus, pray, support, and call 911 or recruit someone who knows CPR. People hold hands with the family looking on in a panic. People snap to action to save and protect physical life.

The thing is, in a post-Christian world, there are a lot of people spiritually drowning. They are lonely, depressed, anxious, trapped in sinful behaviors, and confused about who they are. They are addicted to solutions that are not God, and they fail that person. These people have not heard the good news that Jesus Christ is for them, not against them, and has come to save. They do not know that God loves them as they are and too much to keep them where they are. And yet–we have baptized lay people who don’t recognize they have been called and empowered by God to be a lifeguard for this person.

Let’s go back to the parable. Imagine there was a person wading in the water, telling that drowning person he needs to get used to the water, learn how to swim, and he’ll be there when he’s ready. And he begins with dipping his toe in.

Right…that person doesn’t exist. Because the person drowning needs help immediately. If the person can’t swim, he throws a preserver from shore, or gets a lifeguard.

How often in a parish context do we “dip our toe” into becoming an evangelizing parish? Training people for evangelization and accompaniment, investing in radical hospitality, and just getting out there and sharing the life-preserver good news that Jesus Christ is present here and now to save you?

The situation is indeed that serious, and we should not be afraid. God is in favor of good evangelization, trust me. But the lesson of this parable is you need to commit to helping the spiritually drowning.

Some discussion questions for you, and your brothers and sisters in the faith–

  1. Do we really believe that people around us are spiritually drowning?
  2. What does it look like to be spiritually drowning?
  3. And what do we do? If we don’t know what to do, how do we rectify that?
  4. Are we guilty of “wading in”?
  5. What is the difference between prudential judgment and the courage of mission?

Similar Posts