Recently I was listening to Lauren Daigle’s song “Rescue” on the radio (K-Light). As can happen with radio, her beautiful song was juxtaposed with news of the ongoing search for a lost mushroom picker. On the southern coast of Oregon, we have deep woods full of mushrooms: boletes, chanterelles, even pine mushrooms. Mushroom fever can easily lead pickers over one ridge and then another until they are lost and need to be rescued.
Daigle sings, “I will send out an army to find you in the middle of the darkest night.” We have experienced search and rescue teams that will quickly set up a staging area for the volunteers who show up to help with the search. Like the words of Daigle’s song, we send out an army to rescue the lost mushroom picker, child, or patient from a nursing home. We do whatever we must to find the lost. Daigle’s song speaks powerfully of how God hears our “SOS” and relentlessly pursues and rescues us in the darkness of our sin and unbelief.
Her song, and the news about a search for the mushroom picker, challenged me to think about ways that the local church should be more like a staging area for the search and rescue of the lost. I know it is an imperfect analogy and certainly doesn’t define every part of the church’s mission, but the comparison can be instructive.
First, search and rescue teams have a sense of urgency that the church often lacks. When temperatures are dropping, rescuers know they are on the clock and must rescue the lost before they succumb to hypothermia and exposure. Here in Coos County we have high rates of domestic, child, and drug abuse. We have high rates of depression and suicide. We can not be casual about rescuing the lost. Urgency should muster an army and our resources.
Second, the search is intentional, united, and organized. People come together and work together to find the lost. A search is laid out on a grid so that available resources and people are used effectively. People are often paired up so that none of the searchers are at risk of getting lost or hurt. In this county, however, it has been difficult to get churches to work together to reach the lost. If we could ever get all the pastors in the same room, we would discover there is no organized city-wide strategy for reaching people for Christ, addressing the homeless crisis, or setting free those enslaved to addiction. We are haphazard and that puts both the lost and the rescuers at risk. Our urgency should compel us to set aside our denominational and territorial differences and work together to rescue the lost and bring them into relationship with Jesus Christ.
Third, rescuers go. They don’t set in the staging area hoping that the lost wander in on their own. Occasionally this does happen, but it can never be the strategy of a search and rescue team. The staging area is important—it is where the rescuers are equipped with lights, maps, whistles, blankets, radios, and first aid kits. But if having a great staging area becomes our goal, we have missed the point. We must go.
It is true; many don’t know they are lost and do not want to be rescued. But many do know that things in their life are dark. Many have lost hope and direction. Many are crying out—but don’t know they are really crying out for God. Believers need to be a light in the darkness, warmth in the cold, a friendly voice to broken by loneliness. Sometimes we withdraw from the search thinking we searched everywhere and have cried the names of the lost until our voice fails. But with Lauren Daigle’s song, we need to declare, “There is no distance that cannot be covered over and over.” Our search and rescue mission needs to be as persevering and unswerving as God’s search for us.