I once occasionally watched a television program called “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” with Regis Philbin. Contestants from the audience would be confronted with a series of questions and if the questions could be answered correctly the ultimate prize was a check for one million dollars.
Contestants had one huge advantage – four lifelines. First of all, if a contestant wasn’t sure about the answer to a certain question he had the privilege of asking the audience. The audience would respond to the question by using a keypad to signal their answer. Sometimes a majority of the audience would identify the correct answer and if the contestant decided to go with the audience’s response he/she would be permitted to continue the pursuit of a million dollars.
Another lifeline permitted the player to skip a question. By doing so he/she didn’t risk giving the wrong answer and could continue the game without any penalty.
Yet another lifeline was Phone-A-Friend. In Phone-A-Friend, up to three friends, relatives, or other acquaintances were available to the contestant for consultation. These three people were pre-selected, and producers arranged to have them standing by in case they were needed during the taping of the show.
When a contestant selected the Phone-A-Friend lifeline, game play was stopped. The contestant then selected the person from whom he/she desired assistance and support and that person was contacted by phone. The Phone-A-Friend lifeline often saved the contestant from being eliminated as a participant and permitted him/her to continue the quest for the ultimate prize.
In the early days of “Millionaire” there was a fourth lifeline – the calling of an expert, celebrity, or professional in a certain area of expertise. The point is that lifelines were important – in fact, invaluable – to the participant in the quiz show know as “Millionaire.”
In other cases the idea of having a “lifeline” is even more crucial, even essential to the continuation of life.
Several years ago a man by the name of Liu Mai was working on an apartment building in Guizhou, China when he encountered a life-threatening situation. He was in a harness and suspended 80-feet above the street below. He was using a drill on the side of the building when a 10-year-old child cut the ropes on his harness and he nearly plummeted to his death.
Mr. Lui said, “I was using an electric drill to fit security lights to the outside of the building when I felt my safety rope shaking. I looked up to see what was wrong.”
… having a “lifeline” is even more crucial, even essential to the continuation of life.
The child was in his apartment on the 9th floor watching a cartoon on television, but the noisy work was interrupting his TV show. He decided to cut the ropes, which served as the lifeline of support to the workman. Consequently Lui was left hanging onto a single rope for dear life while colleagues spent 40 minutes struggling to pull him to safety. Lifelines are important.
Gabe Watson, 34, of Alabama stood trial for killing his new bride, Tina, as they honeymooned in Australia. The groom allegedly turned off his wife’s air supply, her lifeline, while both were underwater and held her in a bear-hug until she lost consciousness – before turning the air back on and letting her sink.
Although Gabe has been called “the honeymoon killer,” the case against him was ultimately dismissed for lack of conclusive evidence, but the fact remains, lifelines are important.
In 2015, over 59 million Americans will receive almost $870 billion in social security benefits. Nine out of ten individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits, which represents about 39% of the income of the elderly.
Last year the Social Security Trustees published its annual Trustees Report on the health of the Social Security system. The trustees expect the Trust Funds to empty in 2033. Once the Trust Funds empty, the program will only be able to pay a percentage of its scheduled benefits. In other words, this lifeline for senior adults continues to crumble through poor management. This unnerving truth simply illustrates that lifelines are important.
Southern Baptists’ lifeline
Interestingly, Southern Baptists have a lifeline. It is called the Cooperative Program. This 90-year-old method of funding our missions and ministries is the catalyst that holds our denomination together and keeps us on task to fulfill the Great Commission. The Cooperative Program has been called “the genius of Southern Baptists.”
Giving through the Cooperative Program enables any congregation of believers to become a more effective Acts 1:8 church. The smallest church with the most modest budget can have a spiritual impact in their community, state, nation, and world by including the Cooperative Program in their budget. The largest church with the most impressive budget can set an example of teamwork and support by giving to Christ’s mission on earth through the Cooperative Program.
Giving through the Cooperative Program enables any congregation of believers to become a more effective Acts 1:8 church.
What would happen if churches became indifferent and lukewarm toward the Cooperative Program? Our vast missionary enterprise would have to be curtailed. Our significant church-planting network would have to be minimized or put on hold. Our training of pastors, missionaries and church leaders would have greatly limited. Our Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission would have to be silenced at a time when their voice and influence is desperately needed in American life.
Baptist Collegiate Ministries would have to be curtailed. The Georgia Baptist missionary staff could no longer provide leadership, deacon, pastor search team, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School/Small Group Bible Study, or Discipleship training. State missionaries who assist pastors and congregations in church revitalization, evangelism, stewardship, music, men’s and women’s ministries, missions, and and disaster relief would have to be limited or suspended.
Why? Because the Cooperative Program is the lifeline for our work as Southern Baptists and Georgia Baptists and lifelines are important. No! Let me rephrase that. Lifelines are essential to survival.