Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Not On Any Map

In their introduction to "The Passionate Church: the Art of Life-Changing Discipleship" Mike Breen and Walt Kallestad write about the earthquake - measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale - that hit Hawkes Bay, New Zealand in February 1931:

"Once the smoke and dust cleared, the residents of Napier and Hastings were met with a great surprise. The shattered landscape bore little resemblance to the terrain they had known so well. Landmarks such as Napier Bluff Hill, a popular tourist destination, had been torn from the coast and tossed into the sea. What had once been flat ground was now a series of hills. Where there had been valleys, there was now level ground. Most shocking of all was the discovery that the water in Ahuriri Lagoon had somehow been swallowed up, leaving nine thousand acres of dry ground.
When the residents of Hawkes Bay setr about rebuilding their town, they faced a dilemma. The extent to which the earthquake had changed their environment was astonishing. Their maps of the region no longer applied; those maps showed roads running along land that no longer existed. and they did not show the new land heaved up by the earthquake.
Eventually the towns of Napier and Hastings were successfully rebuilt in the art deco style of the time (and to this day remain among the best examples of period architecture in the world) because those who directed the rebuilding threw out their maps and instead relied on a compass. When the landscape changes, maps are useless, but the compass is still trustworthy." [pp. 15, 16]

"Our compass is Jesus. Just as north is always north, Jesus never changes. As today's church passes through an ocean of cultural changes, it's our Compass that will keep us on course.
Our maps aren't working anymore. We've gotten away from the Compass...All that matters is the compass - Jesus. The Compass is true and will not lie." [p. 20]

The Celtic monks of old would get into small boats and head out across the sea, not knowing where they would hit land, but compelled onward beyond their horizon by the Holy Spirit. The history of mission is littered with such poured-out lives - such as the Cambridge Seven, who each gave up their glittering futures within the British aristocracy (at a time when to be part of the aristocracy was to exercise the greatest influence in society, in the nation that ruled the world) to take the Gospel of Jesus to the people of China, securing in the process earthly scorn and treasure in heaven.

Right now, I find myself in the midst of the crowd of witnesses. Several of the young adults who have come and spent the last twelve months being trained by us at St Thomas' have decided to pass up on worldly security and go and live in missional community on the estates of Sheffield - in Shiregreen, and Pitsmoor, and Upperthorpe. Several of the staff team feel compelled to live increasingly radical lives, dying to self, the specifics of which it is not my place to post here (yet).

And for us, as a family, God has called us to leave the security we have here and go to a place that He will show us. And so, I have recently handed in my three months' notice at work (I finish at the end of July); and we are selling our house - not knowing what the future holds; but knowing, and trusting, the One who holds it. In the eyes of the world, this is utter foolishness. In the eyes of many of our friends, it is very brave. In our opinion, it is a great big adventure of faith, as we throw off more and more things that so easily entangle, and run the race set out before us. We might not have a map; but then, the reality is no-one else does either. What we do have is the Compass, and a whole new continent to pioneer...

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