The Lifesaving Station – A Parable (Leighton Ford)
Once upon a time there was a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occurred. On that coast was a little lifesaving hut, very crude and with only one boat. But there were a few devoted members who gave themselves day and night, at the risk of their own lives, to rescue those who had been shipwrecked.
Soon this little station became famous because so many were saved. Others wanted to become associated with this very famous enterprise and gave time and money and effort to buy new boats and to train more crews. After a while some members were unhappy with such a poorly equipped center, so t hey enlarged the building and put in better furnishings.
The lifesaving station became a popular gathering place and the members began to use it as a club.
As time went on fewer members were interested in the dangerous lifesaving missions and instead hired professional crews to do the work. But lifesaving motifs were prominent in the decorations and there was even a liturgical lifeboat in the room where they had initiations!
About this time there was a large shipwreck. The hired professional crews brought in the cold, half-drowned, and dirty people and the club was messed up. In response, the property committee had a shower stall built outside where future victims could clean up before coming in.
A split developed among the members at the next meeting. Most of them wanted to stop the lifesaving activities, which were becoming a hindrance to their social lives. Some members insisted that lifesaving was their only priority. The majority prevailed and the minority were told that they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast. They did.
As the years went by, the new station went through exactly the same changes as the old one had. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History repeated itself and on that coast today visitors find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore.
Shipwrecks are still frequent. But most of the victims now end up drowning.
Adapted from Transforming Leadership by Leighton Ford (1991, InterVarsity Press)