Drowning at Church



The 21st Century Christian Teacher’s mailing list shared some interesting ideas. When a movie portrays a swimmer who is drowning, generally they are thrashing their arms and yelling for help. The US Coast Guard says that’s not the case. Here are the five signs that indicate someone is drowning:


  1. Drowning people rarely scream. They’re more focused on trying to breathe than yelling!
  2. Drowning people only keep their heads out of water for short bursts.
  3. Drowning people can’t wave for help. Their arms are busy trying to keep their heads out of water.
  4. Drowning people are so preoccupied with not frowning that they are frequently unable to move towards a rescuer or grab rescue equipment.
  5. Drowning people can usually only struggle above water for 20-60 seconds before sinking out of sight.


Because most people don’t recognize what drowning really looks like, it is tragically common for someone to drown right in front of help.


What does this have to do with the church? There are people here who are drowning. They’re loaded down with sin or guilt. They’ve been treading water because of broken relationships, but they’re getting tired and they can’t keep on forever. Their burdens are pushing them underwater, spiritually speaking, but we don’t notice because we didn’t hear them yell, we didn’t notice them thrash. They just quietly disappear.


People who are spiritually drowning frequently can’t (or won’t) ask for help. Sometimes they don’t know how. Sometimes they don’t have the energy. Sometimes they are just so focused on what’s wrong that they can’t see what’s around them.


That’s where the church comes in: just like a potential drowning victim’s life depends on watchful parents, friends, and lifeguards, hurting people at church need our vigilance. We have to be watching to help or we’ll never notice until it’s too late. Let’s make a commitment to make sure that we don’t lose anyone right under our own noses.


Matthew Hiatt