Ernest Shackleton’s Appeal for Followers


24Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).


In the late 1800’s Ernest Shackleton, the famous British explorer, when he was about to set out on an expedition to the South Pole, put an ad in the London Times, “Men wanted for a hazardous journey to the South Pole. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” How many people do you think responded to the ad? (Scrolling down to the end of two paragraphs will give you the answer).


Pastors of the Western church of Jesus Christ tend to want to make it easier for people. We're afraid that the message of the pure gospel and Christ's call to commitment will put some people off. We put coffee cup holders at the back of the seats and only brew premium coffee. We make the room warm, but not too warm in case we put people to sleep. The music has to be just right, with perfect sound reproduction. The children's classrooms have to have enough toys, with no hint of a stain or blemish on any of them. Our Western culture has permeated our church culture. As a result, we have a marketing mentality. People in the West are used to this.


Such marketing strategies do not bind the churches in Asia; they have grown strong by a deep commitment to the cause of Christ. When we think of Shackleton's advertisement, why would this draw anyone? When calling for a commitment, Earnest Shackleton told them that this would not be easy, and only those who were ready to give up their lives for the cause should apply. He wrote, "Safe return doubtful." This exploration would be a trip of great hardship with a small wage, bitter cold, and long months of darkness. What would move anyone, we would think, to desire to go with Shackleton? In speaking of it afterward, he said that so overwhelming was the response to his appeal that it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him. In fact, Shackleton had over 5000 replies to his ad.[1]


Why do you think 5000 men responded to such an advertisement? Many are looking for something to which they can give themselves that would live on after their deaths. Men need a challenge. Even though there was a possibility of death, the response was overwhelming and surprising. However, out of those 5000 people, only 27 were chosen for the trip. Advertisements for young men to join the American Marines play on this desire for challenge, commitment, hardship, honor, and recognition. If we could have questioned the 5000 responders about their reason for wanting to go, the main motive would have been the same as those that join the Marines, that of the challenge, glory, hardship, and the desire to be part of something that will make a difference. The most inspiring thing you can ever say to somebody is that they have made a difference through what they have done. Many are aware that the future does not look bright for anyone who has a mind to look at what is happening in the world. It will become increasingly dangerous to be a Christian as we approach the end times, yes, even here in America. There will be increasing pressure to compromise your faith and your values.


Without a deep commitment to the cause of Christ and intimate love for King Jesus, we can fall away from the centrality of Christ and obedience to His Word. We are called to not only believe but to be a disciple, a disciplined one. Let me ask you this question: if it were illegal to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Your answer to that question may shed light on whether you are a nominal believer or a disciple. I pray that these words today may find an opening in your heart to desire to be a disciple rather than just a believer. Keith Thomas

Read more on this study by clicking the following link: A Revolution of the Committed.

[1]Quit You like Men, Carl Hopkins Elmore (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1944).