Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 17, 1953

A Tragic "Leakage": Saving The Lost -- Losing The Saved

Roy Tidwell, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

For some nineteen hundred years the church of our Lord has been engaged in saving the lost (on some occasions more actively engaged than others). The church is presently more active in this great work of saving lost souls than at any previous time in the last half century. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent annually in the greatest cause on earth, all over the earth. And the church is growing everywhere. True, not all of this supposed growth can rightly be called growth — there is some "swelling"; this, too, has the appearance of growth. It is also true that true cases of conversion have not caught up with the number of additions experienced. But, the church is growing; both numerically and spiritually. This is as it ought to be; as God desires it. And may all the effort being expended that meets with the good pleasure of Him who died to save us both continue and be multiplied. Only through the faithful proclamation of the gospel of Christ can lost souls be saved; there is no other way.

While it is gratifying to see, hear, and read of so much good work being done, and new fields of labor being entered upon, still — Brethren, while we are busily engaged in the good work of saving the lost, we are losing the saved! I suppose I have been more or less conscious of this fact for some time. No doubt you have thought of it also. But not until recently has it struck me with such force. I do not know how it is where you live, but I can testify of conditions as I have found them in my labors. When I moved to Littlefield, Texas, some ten years ago, I heard there were "a good seven hundred" members (good referring to the number, not the character) of the church. And, believe it or not, there were! At least seven hundred of them. However, about three hundred of them I never saw — not at church, anyway. Those I did get to know were, for the most part, good Christian people. The others? They numbered among the "saved" that were lost! Lost to the cause of Christ and themselves. The latter far outnumbered the former.

In the city of Lubbock, Texas — a city of churches--where there are more than three thousand nominally active members and ten or more congregations, I have heard various gospel preachers of Lubbock say that the number of persons who have been faithful and who no longer attend, far outnumber those who are now active (attend). And what does all this mean? It is self-evident: while we are saving the lost, we are losing the saved. Brethren, something is wrong! The "back door" has been left open: or, at least, ajar. (And, maybe, the "front door" has been misused!) Or, perhaps — as the little boy who fell out of bed, upon being asked why he fell, replied, "I was sleeping to close to where I got in."

Look with me for a moment at a situation in the "mission" field — where I now live and labor — Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Until the coming of Brother Sidney G. Roper and me to Edmonton, the church was unknown. The church is now six months old, with eight active members. Edmonton is a large city — large for Canada — about 200,000 people. To be sure, not a great deal has yet been accomplished. But, here are some of our findings to date: We have found more members of the church ("well, I used to be") who never come than those who do; almost two to one. Here is but a sample: just today my wife and I were in the lovely home of a contractor, who, along with his wife, number among the lost "saved." A lovely family — four teen-age children (who dance frequently and worship never). Another case: the wife of a reputable doctor, who was reared in the church, having obeyed the gospel at an early age, never gives the slightest indication that she is interested or ever expects to return. Still another: an official of the provincial government and head of the Department of Immigration, came one Lord's day with his "letter" from a congregation in Eastern Canada; he returned only once. Prior to our coming he had been meeting with the Christian Church. We presume he has returned; he has given us no reason for his continued absence. Still another business man, claiming to be a member of the Lord's body, is an elder in one of the Christian churches here. Edmonton has a professional football team. The entire coaching staff (former Oklahoma and Texas citizens) are members of the church. One coach comes occasionally (he is married to a Catholic), and the other goes to the United Church with his wife. Need I go on? I could, but this illustrates the principle upon which we have been speaking.

How shall we regard such a tragic condition in the church? Not just here, but everywhere! Isn't it about (past) time that we did some serious investigating, and see "what meaneth this"? Truly it challenges the best that is in us. We talk of the Catholics, and try to "play down" their growth by "playing up" their apostasies. But what shall we say of our own condition in this respect?

Perhaps at a later date and in another article we shall have something to say about some of the causes and the cure for this condition.