In the next part of William Booth’s Vision of the Lost, he focuses his attention on the people who had been rescued from the angry sea. What he sees is a strong indictment against Christians who are self-absorbed instead of being mission focused. This is hard to read because it hits too close to home for most of us. Keep in mind, if you already know Jesus, then you are safe on the platform.
As I looked on, I saw that the occupants of that platform were quite a mixed company. That is, they were divided into different sets or classes, and they occupied themselves with different pleasures and employments. But only a very few of them seemed to make it their business to get the drowning people out of the sea.
But what puzzled me most was the fact that though all of them had been rescued at one time or another from the sea, nearly everyone seemed to have forgotten all about it. Anyway, it seemed the memory of its darkness and danger no longer troubled them at all. And what seemed equally strange and perplexing to me was that these people did not even seem to have any care — that is any agonizing care — about the poor perishing ones who were struggling and drowning right before their very eyes — many of whom were their own husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and even their own children!
Now this astonishing unconcern could not have been the result of ignorance or lack of knowledge, because they lived right there in full sight of it all and even talked about it sometimes. Many even went regularly to hear lectures and sermons in which the awful state of these poor drowning creatures was described.
The occupants of this platform were engaged in different pursuits and pastimes. Some of them were absorbed day and night in trading and business in order to make and gain fortunes, storing up their savings in boxes, safes and the like.
Many spent their time in amusing themselves with growing flowers on the side of the rock, others in painting pieces of cloth or in playing music, or in dressing themselves up in different styles and walking about the rock to be admired. Some occupied themselves chiefly in eating and drinking, others were taken up with arguing about the poor drowning creatures that had already been rescued.
But the thing to me that seemed the most amazing was that those on the platform to whom He called, who heard His voice and felt that they ought to obey it — at least they said they did — those who confessed to love Him much and claimed to be in full sympathy with Him in the task He had undertaken — who worshipped Him or who professed to do so — were so taken up with their trades and professions, their money saving and pleasures, their families and circles, their theology and arguments about theology, and their preparation for going to the mainland (heaven), that they did not listen to the cry that came to them from this Wonderful Being who had Himself gone down into the sea. Anyway, if they heard it they did not heed it. They did not care. And so the multitude went on right before them struggling and shrieking and drowning in the darkness…
Ouch. I see myself in that description. I sometimes get distracted and forget that my priority mission in this life is to work with my Savior to get people out of the sea.
Selfishness is a common problem for most of us. Not that we are purposefully selfish — that would be rude. Instead, we look around at others and begin thinking that everyone has it easier or better than we do — a perspective that convinces us we deserve more or better. Self-focus allows us the luxury of taking our eyes off of the people who are still drowning in the sea. And when we look away, we forget, even though it wasn’t that long ago that we were drowning.
This problem also affects churches. They get so bound up in their buildings and committees and budgets and dogma and traditions that they forget the mission of God. Mission drift is the main reason why churches die. Frankly, it is probably the only reason.
I have no doubt that William Booth struggled with the some problem. He was just as human as you and me. But when God gave him this vision, he was taken by passion. My prayer is that Booth’s vision will do the same for us.
Next week we’ll look at part three of the vision.