I love maps. Always have. The surest way to sell me a book is have a map in the front. I blame Tolkien.
Back before satellites that could read the paper over your shoulder and detail every square inch of the planet a lot of map making was guess work. You would get highly detailed maps near roads or rivers and then fill in the rest. Or, without a good way of measuring distance or coordinates, you would get vague outlines that have little relationship to actual coast lines. Then, of course, you also have the maps that are out right guesses based, at best, on travelers’ tales or, at worst, pure imagination. Even the best, most modern maps distort a curved world on flat paper.
And lest we forget often “Here be Dragons.”
Planning is a bit like map making. Our church is having its postponed planning meeting this Saturday with all of the Boards. Some of it will be easy, those well known paths we have trod before. Other things will have a pretty good outline, observations made from afar or details provided by those who have gone before.
But its not enough.
In Acts 1:8 the disciples are told:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
First the familiar, then everywhere else.
Those places off our mental and experiential maps are the ends of the Earth, the uttermost parts as it is says in the KJV. That is where we have to go.
We have to go there because we are called there, but we have to go because it will help us grow. Not in numbers, that may or may not happen, but as people, as Christians.
We need to see the people we say we want to help. We need to actually know who they are and how they live. Not as numbers or statistics or even as faces in a video or photograph. As real people with real needs and hopes and dreams.
“The map is not the territory.” Sound advice. We might think we know where we are going or what we are getting into, but we don’t. There are big blank spaces in the map of what the church could be doing (all churches, not just this particular one) and we need to wander over and see what we can see.
We see a section marked Poverty, but we know it only by its outlines. We see a section marked Mental Health, but we only have travelers tales. We see the boarder of Dependency, but have no idea what lies beyond. We even see signs for places we may have known but not visited in a long time. Biblical Literacy, Self Sacrifice, Discipleship, Outreach. Maps are static, reality is not and we may think we know what lies over there but the way has changed.
I want us to go to places we have never been. I want us to go back in force to places we have long left. I want us to maintain the paths we know well.
And sure, there may be dragons; but that is how you find the cities of gold.