This is an excerpt from Jason’s upcoming book, Mission Ready Friendship, which will be released August 30, 2024. In the book, Jason explains how to deepen friendships to a place where intentional evangelization is natural and unforced. 


In 2023, the Travel Lens website looked at data to determine the ten most dangerous beaches in the United States. The data showed that the total number of surf-zone fatalities, shark attacks, and hurricanes made Smyrna Beach in Florida the most dangerous beach in America. Smyrna Beach has a disproportionately high number of shark attacks, but riptides are the most common danger. They have had weekends where hundreds needed to be rescued as riptides tried to pull people out into deep water.ocean waves


Lifeguards at Smyrna Beach have reported that at times they thought kids were waving to their families on the beach only to realize that they were panicking in a riptide. The lifeguards couldn’t see the riptide, but when they listened closely, they could hear the faint sound of panic above the noise of the beach and immediately knew the child was being pulled out to the deep by the invisible force. If they were not listening intently for those alarming yells for assistance, they wouldn’t necessarily know the children were in danger. From experience they know that what looks to be the playful waving of hands may actually be a frantic cry for help. Because of that, they listen carefully for screams amid the din of playful beach sounds.


Christians are called to be like the lifeguards on Smyrna Beach. Life’s waters do look beautiful, and they are often safe. But riptides and even sharks lurk under the waters. Marriages that look healthy and joyful could be in danger. We know that our friends who appear to be successful and happy struggle with crippling anxiety in their jobs. People have secretly become wrapped up in unhealthy patterns and addictions that they feel helpless to escape. They feel darkness, regret, and loneliness as they go to bed at night. Everyone looks like they’re doing fine and having a good time, but below the surface, some of our loved ones are facing dangerous threats.


If you were a lifeguard at Smyrna Beach, you would not be bored. You would be constantly scanning the horizon for people who look like they need rescuing. Your work breaks would be necessary, not luxuries, because of the intense concentration required during your shifts. As a result, time would go by quickly. Boredom would be a rarity.


Sometimes we might feel like we are lifeguards at an Olympic training pool rather than Smyrna Beach. Many of us live in a Catholic bubble and get lulled into thinking that life’s waters aren’t that dangerous. Or we might not view ourselves as lifeguards at all. We think that is the job of the priests and people in professional ministry. Like lifeguards at the Olympic training pool, our faith sometimes feels boring.


But people on a mission are not bored. They have a purpose, a goal that is often intimidating. Mountain climbers are not bored as they summit. Triathletes are not bored as they race. Artists are not bored as they paint. They know what they are striving for at each moment.


Life’s seas are full of threats—we are friends with wonderful people who are facing real danger, and many of them will never darken the door of a church. We might be tempted to leave the fate of our friends and family in God’s hands. We might get lulled into simply hoping for the best, assuming that eventually they will run across something helpful to steer them onto the right course.


Passive approaches with our family and friends will not rescue them soon enough from life’s riptides. No reasonable lifeguard leaves it in God’s hands when someone is threatened by the waters. They know that prayer alone isn’t going to save them. God wants them to jump in the waters to save people in danger. God wants us to be lifeguards by being disruptive friends. Our mission is to stay alert, listen closely for any sign of threats in our friends’ lives, and be ready to give everything to swim them out.


Jason Simon is the President of the Evangelical Catholic. The Evangelical Catholic’s mission is to equip Catholics to live out the Great Commission. Learn more.


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