Ertell Whigham, Director of Congregational Resourcing and Equipping
Like many travelers today, I have gotten into the habit of depending on what is popularly known as a Global Positioning System (GPS). This simple technology is helpful and still amazes me, when I put it to use. I can choose the shortest distance, fastest route, open road or city route; I can avoid construction or traffic jams, locate gas stations, restaurants, points of interest and countless other destinations anywhere in the country. It can show me where I’ve been, where I am and where I’m going and, more often than not, it takes me to my desired destination.
While my GPS is not without some periodic problems and is indeed far from perfect, in most cases it guides me well to my various destinations.
However, sometimes it will guide me into unfamiliar areas or even take me the long way around (so to speak). As I give thought to the suggested route and after working through my own calculated risk process (what happens if…?), I will more often than not submit to its direction.
Like my GPS, Conrad Kanagy’s 2006 study, Road Signs for the Journey, is loaded with facts and figures/data based on past, present and projected future realities. It is full of information that will help to guide me on my ministry journey. However, it is important that I choose to not only learn from but to also submit to what it offers.
In the past two years since the Kanagy report there has been much thought and conversation related to his findings. I have attended several church-wide meetings where the findings have been reviewed and studied again.
There’s been public affirmation that there is much to learn and do, as well as to be thankful for, and we express how impressed we are and want to gather with our brothers and sisters to hear more about what is going on in the places where ministries are growing and thriving.
However, more often than not, these gatherings feel somewhat like having a GPS programmed to take us to a destination, but instead of following its directions, we stay in our parked car enchanted by the travel possibilities, colors and symbols on the screen. We sit and look at the very resource that (though not perfect) can get us closer to both the desired and needed destination. All we need to do is make a choice to submit and commit ourselves to follow the part of the journey that has been made clear and is most helpful.
While I believe there is sincere excitement and interest related to all that is taking place among the churches on the margins and/or urban or racial/ethnic ministries, in most of our churches and leadership systems, I have yet to see little more than “window shopping.” In others words, we look with great interest, but for some reason are not willing to buy and make it our own. We won’t cloth ourselves with that which, to a significant degree, will help move us into more relevant and effective ministry now and in the future.
The findings in Road Signs for the Journey must do more than make for interesting conversation. It is my belief that we should allow this picture of our church, in cooperation with the spirit of God, to transform not only our thinking but our systems, culture and approach to ministry. While no congregation, culture or ministry is perfect, Road Signs calls for more than just sitting in a parked car, fascinated by all the options and possibilities.
Having said all this, I am encouraged. As the church of the Living God, we are not guided by road signs or GPS’s but by God’s Promise of the Spirit which will guide us into all Truth.