In our Wednesday Midweek Check-In Series, we are getting the opportunity to hear from local groups committed to serving our neighbors here in Martinsville and Henry County. We are doing this because we recognize that partnership with other organizations is one of the ways in which we can succeed at doing God’s work in our community.
Doing church, being the Body of Christ, in the 21st century isn’t just about donning our Sunday best and coming to services and Sunday School anymore. Being the church outside the walls of the church matters more than it ever has.
We had a great opportunity this week to hear from Dr. Mike Hatfield, Pastor of Chatham Heights Baptist Church, who was inspired by the book Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger and presented about it to challenge and encourage us as Christian communities. This book tells of the Lewis and Clark expedition that set out on a quest to follow the Missouri River to the other side of the continent, only to run into huge mountain ranges (the Rocky Mountains) and have to repurpose their canoes and partner with local Native Americans to continue their journey.
Bolsinger uses this story to remind us that the church faces a very similar situation today – we must adapt to our surroundings or we will die. Our training didn’t really prepare us for this, and our canoes are not any good in the mountains. We need new navigational tools to get us through uncharted territory.
There can be a lot of trepidation with new and changing ministry. It doesn’t always work out the way we expect. It fails and succeeds and fails again. But without this kind of hopeful movement forward, we will be left behind, while God uses other ministries to promote the Kingdom of God. God’s out there in the mountain ranges, and either we leave behind our canoes and grab a horse, or we cannot move forward.
Of course, adaptation looks different in every context. We as a church will adapt to this change of terrain in different ways than a church in a different town or city. We will also adapt with the gifts and callings we have from among our fellow Christians in this community – we have different gifts than other faith communities. Prayerful consideration of our next steps in partnership with organizations, other churches, and each other is what I hope we can do as we take our next steps in our journey together. Let’s pray about and talk about what our new tools might look like.
I’m grateful to know God has gifted us with such wonderful church leaders and fellow Christian communities doing God’s work here as we attempt to be God’s people, loving our God and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Thank you again to my colleague and friend, Mike Hatfield, for sharing this excellent book with us as we seek to do transformational stewardship and partnership!