I used to teach snowboarding at a high level. I would take snowboard instructors to the biggest steepest run at our resort and ask them to ride it fakie (with the wrong foot in front). I enjoyed hundreds, if not thousands, of hours snowboarding. In order to improve and in order to help others improve I had to push both them and myself beyond the ordinary comfort zones. As we progressed some people took notice of us and recognized the ability/skill set they were witnessing. More importantly, as we progressed we gained confidence and ability. Through our trials we were building each other up.
There is a moment in every good downhill run that one must make a crucial choice, to jump or not, to speed up or not, to aim for a certain part of the hill or not, and in that moment everything hangs. Failure to act, hesitation, is simply not a viable option. To fail to act in such a moment is to guarantee a crash.
Someone once spoke of the church as a trapeze act, they noted that the intense moment when the artist must trust instincts built through thousands of hours of training and let go of one bar to get to the next is the moment of terrifying beauty, and the moment that is required to get to the other side. It’s the moment most of us avoid and it’s the moment we simply can’t look away from when we see a church doing it.
The analogy, of course, is that it’s the moment our church is in, like it or not, and hesitation/inaction will cost us dearly.
A moment when everything hangs in the balance and inaction is not an option.
A moment when we need to trust our thousands of hours of training as a people of faith and take a leap; but this is surely easier said than done. The trapeze artist has the other trapeze; the snowboarder has the bottom of the hill, what does the church have to aim for?
When it comes to the Presbyterian Church in Canada I would suggest we are in many ways more like the trapeze itself: capable of much but nothing on our own.
Picture two very strong cords fastened higher than you can see, fastened tightly, never to fail, never to let what they hold fall. Attached to the end of one is a bar, it dangles there, hovering over the abyss and fastened on only one end to only one rope. There is another rope, the bar would be better off attached to both, would be capable of greater feats, if it were attached to both.
I don’t exactly know what the rope are today. Maybe they are God and Mission. Some people would have us say the church needs more spirituality (and maybe it does), others would have us believe we need more governance and strategic planning (and maybe it does), better music or graphics or websites or PowerPoint presentations, some yet would say it needs to be more forward looking, or perhaps rooted in the past…
In truth each congregation is different and each one needs its own solution if it is to steward the message of peace hope and love to another generation.
When I look at the history of the congregation I serve here in Duncan I can see that it has gone through some very difficult times (it has fallen down), and that God saw them through those times, and that they are stronger for having gone through them (it progressed).
The snowboarder and the trapeze artist know they are unlikely to fall (and that if they do the damage isn’t nearly as bad as most people fear). They know this because they have a history of failures and successes.
The church too has such a history, over 2000 years of living through changing times and cultures.
My point is this: this week I am relying on God as I try to every week (we are looking at serous staff changes, building projects, major fundraisers, new liturgies for our contemporary service of the future and on and on its goes).
I will be praying, listening, reading, and trusting Him to provide the future of my family and my church, and I think you might find it both fun and gratifying to do so as well.
We have every reason to have greater hope than the trapeze artist or the snowboarder because we do not rely solely on our training, or ourselves but on God the Father who promises to heal all rifts, Jesus the husband of the Church, and the Holy Spirit who was sent to help and empower us.
Follow God through the moment of suspense, everyone will watch, and everyone will applaud if you do. More importantly, because God is with us, should we fail or succeed all shall be well and we will grow ever more Christ-like.