Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Way Forward

I am more and more convinced the way forward for the Church in the coming season will not be discovered by traveling a known course predicted and planned by our logic and reasoning.  The way forward will be discovered within the wind of the Spirit. 

Near our home in Jacksonville, Oregon is one of the premier paragliding launch points in United States called Woodrat Mountain.  Paragliders fly a cloth wing suspended by cord lines that resembles a high-tech parachute.  As I drive through the Applegate Valley, I always glance up toward Woodrat Mountain looking for a paraglider in flight. 

This sport has developed a niche group within it’s ranks called vol bivouac.  Vol bivouac is fly-camping. These pilots pack minimal camping gear and launch into flight not knowing where they will eventually land.  They take an expedition to an unknown camping spot where they will land at the end of the day waking the next morning to do the same thing all over again.  Some of these pilots travel hundreds of miles over the course of a week.  Only a handful of vol bivouac pilots exist worldwide.

The goal of these pilots is to seek out and enter a rising a thermal of air to capture the upward lift it produces gaining enough altitude to then glide forward in their journey until they discover another thermal.  This process of catching rising air thermals and gliding forward is the engine of this form of travel. At the end of the day they try to land at the highest point of altitude. This high place will put them in the best position to launch the next day.

This is such a powerful illustration of how the Church needs to travel into the next season of our history. We have some adjustments to make in how we live or we may end up creating an expression of the Church that resembles a large airliner where we sit in a noisy aluminum enclosure for hours droning along established routes of travel to predetermined destinations.  We need to return, and in some cases reinvent, how we interact with God and His Spirit.

The way forward for the Church will not be discovered by flying established routes of religious flight.  Our way forward will resemble a vol bivouac pilot.  To do this we must rethink how we fly. 

I learned some valuable lessons from these fly-camping paragliders.

They Fly Simply

A paragliding traveler packs minimally.  Ounces, not pounds, determine what they carry.  It is time to offload much of what we think we need as believers and get really simple once again - like the first disciples who walked with Jesus without carrying a lot of excess religious baggage. We carry God’s presence. That is our bottomline.  God’s presence within us contains all we will need for the journey.  Anything else is just added weight.

They Fly Without Defined Map Lines

While these pilots carry topographical maps they only use them to determine what kind of terrain they are flying through.  The rising air thermals dictate their direction. This kind of flight is not planned with straight lines drawn on a map. Many of our religious straight lines are drawn over known pathways or the way we have done things in the past.  We have become good at repeating the predictable. God is wanting to launch us into unpredictable spiritual airspace where we can rediscover what it means to live, trust and move in the Spirit.

They Value Altitude Over Distance

A paraglider must gain altitude in order to achieve distance. They search out rising air thermals and once discovered, they stay within the columns of rising air to gain every foot of altitude possible before moving forward.  We need to rediscover how to linger in the presence of the Spirit.  This is where we will gain spiritual altitude and this is where we are finally able to stop living with the self-imposed requirement that we always have to be moving forward along a straight map line as the ultimate measure of our success. 

This ability to linger in God’s presence will be critical if we are going to rise above the cultural terrain we are facing in this new and unexplored leg of our journey. To experience the freedom this kind of flight offers requires that we step off a precipice of predictability and begin to soar within the unpredictable thermals of God’s presence.

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