Using the example of Lewis and Clark’s exploration of finding a way to the Pacific Ocean, Tod Bolsinger talks about the challenges that the church faces today. When Lewis and Clark reached the Continental Divide they expected that they would find a river and be able to paddle the rest of the way to the Pacific. They expected that they would find a large river, a water route because that’s what they had already experienced. With that expectation they had climbed up the mountains to the Continental Divide dragging their canoes along with them. When they reached the Continental Divide, there was no river in sight. Instead they saw more mountains. They were face to face with a mountain range bigger than their expectations. Lewis and Clark had a decision to make: do we keep dragging these canoes?
Tod Bolsinger says that the church today is in the same type of position. We have to decide what can we let go of because the landscape before us is nothing like the landscape behind us? Lewis and Clark decided to leave the canoes behind. The canoes weren’t doing them any good. If anything they had become a burden to keep dragging along. For Lewis and Clark it was more important to discover this new world than to keep dragging canoes. The canoes would hold them back and be a liability.
The Christian church today faces the challenge of a whole new world. It’s no longer the case that everyone around us is a Christian. No longer do most people attend worship on a weekly basis. No longer do people have a church home, even if they aren’t there every week. No longer are all weddings and all funerals held in a church. How will the church, how will we navigate this landscape? We may long for and miss the days when… everyone went to church and everyone was part of a church, etc., but that doesn’t necessarily help us deal with where we are today and where we will be in the future. Sometimes I think Lewis and Clark had it easier because they could clearly see that there was no river and it would have taken a lot of physical strength to keep dragging the canoes. Of course, they needed to drop the canoes. For the church today and for us, there’s a lot of uncertainty.
For Lewis and Clark, one of the best decisions they made along the way was to listen to and follow Sacagawea, a Native American, teenage mother. While Lewis and Clark, were not home in this new terrain, Sacagawea was home. The church today can also benefit from listening to and engaging with those who find themselves at home in this new landscape.
Sometimes I can get rather sad, thinking about how different Christianity looks today compared to when I was growing up, but then I remember that there will be many wonderful and incredible experiences of Christianity ahead. What Lewis and Clark found on the other side of the Continental Divide was beyond what they could have imagined. The same holds true for us as we faithfully follow God into the future. I look forward to making those discoveries together at Good Shepherd.