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A Lesson From the Titanic on Evangelism

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Have you ever struggled with sharing your faith with others?

Even though I grew up a preacher's daughter and great-granddaughter, I'd wrestled with how to share my faith with others and bring them to Christ. Despite being an extrovert who loves talking to people, the more "traditional" approaches to evangelism had always been a struggle.

God used a story from the Titanic to bridge the gaps in my heart and mind about evangelism.

Most of us are familiar with the story of the RMS Titanic, which left on its maiden voyage on April 10th, 1912, struck an iceberg, and ultimately sank on April 15th. It's most known for its massive loss of lives. Sadly, many believed that the ship was "unsinkable" and perhaps that was part of the reason it was equipped with only 20 lifeboats, enough for roughly half of the passengers onboard.

Of the 20 boats, 18 were successfully launched carrying passengers, two floated away, and only two came back after the ship sank to look for survivors. Nine people were rescued from the water, but only six survived. 

Reverend John Harper was a second-class passenger traveling with his daughter and niece. He handed off his daughter to a crewmate to board lifeboat 11, and soon after handed his life vest to another passenger. He knew believers caught up in this tragedy were ready to die, but the unsaved weren't. So, he began calling out to the unsaved and pleading with them to turn to Christ and be saved. 

After the ship sank, Rev. Harper continued calling to others in the water asking if they were saved, including George Henry Cavell, who clung to a board and drifted not once but twice near the Reverend. To paraphrase Cavell's account:

"Are you saved?" Harper asked, struggling in the water. 

"No," Cavell replied as the current separated the men only to shift them back in sight of one another a few minutes later. 

"Are you saved?" shouted Harper, beginning to succumb to hypothermia.

Again, Cavell responded negatively, so the Reverend replied with the promise from Acts 16:31: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved."

Harper fell victim to the cold water and drowned, but Cavell was one of the six rescued from the water. He was saved twice that night— once because of John Harper's heart for those dying without faith in Christ and second because of those on the lifeboat who came back for the lost ones in the icy ocean.

In Luke 15:3-10, Jesus shares a story of a shepherd with a lost sheep and a widow with a lost coin. Like the shepherd who left the 99 to find the one or the widow searching until the lost coin was found, we're called to find the missing and bring them to Christ.

As a Christian, for many years, I was like the safe and secure passengers in the lifeboats. I didn't share my faith openly (something I'm working on.) How many around us do we leave in the waters, content in our safety and comfort in our lifeboat? 

Believers are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), and we have our roles, strengths, and the gifts He has given us to bring others to Him. Evangelism doesn't look the same for every believer. Sometimes it can come from behind the scenes, like my role of helping optimize a Christian website's ability to be found in search engines by those seeking Christ.

We don't always see the outcome of our efforts, but that doesn't mean God isn't using us. John Harper's legacy lives on through those Jesus saved in response to his bold evangelism and its story. That includes this adult woman living in Oklahoma over 100 years later recognizing how important it is to fill the lifeboats, regardless of how those seats are filled.

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About The Author

Image of Ashley Clayton

Ashley Clayton joined CBN in April 2021 to help CBN with search engine optimization, website testing, and a bunch of other geeky marketing things. Born and more or less raised in Shawnee, Oklahoma she lives on a five-acre farm with her husband, two boys, two dogs, and chickens. As a family they enjoy games of all types - video, board, and virtual tabletop role-playing games.

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