There was a mountainous coastline that was known to be very dangerous. Many large ships were wrecked on the rocks due to frequent violent storms. So the king of the land had a lighthouse built to warn the ships away from the coast, and he placed people there to work at the lighthouse to keep it in good repair. Amazingly, many ships were saved by that simple, non-impressive looking little lighthouse.
           As the lighthouse was maintained, the keepers decided to make some improvements. They added a kitchen so they would have hot meals and a furnace so the place would be warm. But as the years went by, some other, less fortunate, changes were made. News got out how the little lighthouse had helped save a great number of ships from crashing onto the rocks, and as a result, more and more visitors came to see the place for themselves. Many of these visitors were so impressed with what they saw that they wanted to work there, if only the working conditions were not so harsh. So, to cater to their wishes, the lighthouse keepers enlarged the facilities and installed wall-to-wall carpets. They also added brand new, comfy leather recliners, central air conditioning, a fitness club, a fancy big-screen TV, and a number of other features.
           Increasingly more people came to see the new and improved facilities. Now, of course, there are only so many jobs to go around at a lighthouse, so the keepers wondered what to do with all the other visitors. That’s when they came up with the idea of a lighthouse theme park! So, over a period of time, many rides and other attractions were built, several restaurants and a shopping mall were added, even an 18-hole golf course and a state-of-the-art country club.
           All the amenities were perfectly maintained and always got a fresh coat of paint every year, but the light itself had burned out a long time ago, and the ships were wrecked on the rocks regularly, just as before. The worst thing was that the lighthouse keepers weren’t even noticing anymore… They had become so focused on building, expanding, and improving things that they had become completely distracted from their chief mission – namely to save others from crashing and drowning.
           This little parable, which I heard years ago and has attempted to retell here as best I recall it, perfectly illustrates the danger of distractions. Satan, of course, loves it when we take our eyes off of Christ, and one of the ways he makes that happen is by giving our eyes something else to focus on. He has been studying human conduct for thousands of years and knows how to distract us away from God’s will. I’m convinced that when it comes to ministry, his goal is to divert our attention away from our primary mission and on to secondary, much less effective, man-made goals and methods. The result is that an alarming number of churches today have become “seeker friendly”, attempting to bring people to the house of God through clever gimmicks rather than through the faithful preaching of the Word. In the process, sermons have become watered down and the Christian message has become compromised.
           The commission Jesus gave the Church is very simple: Go out into all the world and proclaim the Gospel, make disciples, baptize them, and teach them what He has commanded. Our task is merely to take the good news of the Gospel into the world, not to labor to try to increase church attendance. All we should be focusing on is the simple commission that the Lord gave us. When we do, we can trust that God will do His part and add to our numbers as He sees fit. Amen?