Do you know where you were and what you were doing 50 years ago? I do, at least for a very specific moment in time. The date was July 20, 1969 – I was 9 years old at the time (yes, now you know my age.) The moment I’m thinking of was when we, the United States, landed a manned spacecraft on the moon.
As I remember it, in the late afternoon of July 20, mom and dad herded all us kids into the car and we drove to the home of Wesley and Jean DeHaai. A bunch of mom and dad’s friends had gathered there to watch TV and share in this historic moment. There were other kids present from the various families assembled, many of them were playing outside. However, I was fascinated with “space” and the idea that we were actually sending a human to the moon, so I was glued to that TV. I remember watching a sweating and anxious Walter Cronkite as he talked America through what was going on. There was relief and even joy when the words came from the surface of the moon, “The Eagle has landed.” meaning the spacecraft, named the Eagle, had successfully landed on the moon.
As we were leaving later that evening, I remember looking up at the moon and thinking… “Wow, there’s a person up there now!” For me that moment brought the realization that something that seems impossible to accomplish is likely quite do-able when enough effort, energy, and determination is applied.
The journey toward this great accomplishment didn’t begin just days earlier when Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Canaveral. It didn’t even begin the year or two earlier when the parts for the rocket and spacecraft were being designed, created and assembled. No really, the great accomplishment of putting a man on the moon began with President Kennedy stating the challenge that America would put a person on the moon by the end of the decade – and it was 1962 when President Kennedy gave that speech.
A famous line from the “Moon” speech is “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard.” And indeed, the challenge, the difficulty, the opportunity seemed to bring the nation together to accomplish an incredible goal. And we did it!
Today we live in a world and nation filled with many challenges. There are many difficulties facing the Church and even our local church. The number of people not attending a worship service on any given weekend is growing. The percentage of people who don’t have ANY knowledge or experience with a church is growing. The number of people who are turned-off by what they see in the church in our nation is growing. All of this can be so despairing…or it can be a point of realizing there is an opportunity before us as a church to do something hard, but something that will impact this world for God’s Kingdom. What’s the “hard” thing we are being called to reach for? What’s our next big step?
This question I just asked comes from a huge ten-foot banner I saw at NASA a few years back. The picture was of the famous “footprint on the Moon” and the caption on the banner said, “What’s our next big step?” This banner was intended to keep the people looking to the next challenge, even BIG challenge, and not just settle for what they’ve already accomplished.
So, my question is, for us as a church what is our next big step to keep us reaching beyond the walls of our church to share the love of Jesus with the next generation from the heart of downtown? We have a mission to accomplish! It might even seem impossible…but so did putting a person on the moon to a nine-year-old boy 50 years ago.
I was struck just the other day by a Facebook post by friend and fellow pastor Adam Weber of Embrace Church in Sioux Falls. Adam posted… “If we spend even half of the time and energy we use criticizing other Christians, pastors, and churches…on loving, serving, and pointing others to Jesus instead, we just might change the world.” Amen!! These are hard days…but we are drawn toward overcoming hard things! Yes…let’s change the world!!