I donned clothes of protection against the icy, ravaging river and climbed into the raft. We were white-water rafting for the thrill, but I got more than just thrills as I thought about similarities to the church.
I quickly noticed that we had to work as a team. We had to stroke together sometimes; other times, it was backstrokes on our side and forward strokes on the other. We had to be unified in our intent to survive and go for the goal -- what a great picture of what a church could be! The mission is to be a community who goes into the rapids of the world, gathering to prepare to work together in our different ways.
The guide was clearly knowledgeable, but used that knowledge to serve us and find the path to the goal. We “obeyed” his commands, not because we had to, but because he knew where we were going and could coordinate our working together in a way that empowered us and required little of him other than to keep us directed.
The raft was designed to go somewhere. We could sit in it on the shore, but it is best fitted for the water. The church can be a retreat from the world, but is best served when we are loving each other and those we meet in the rocky places of our daily journey.
Fear of the cold water kept us in the boat. We were all watching the others and how they moved so we could align with them. Most people in churches are afraid to get in the boat because of the sacrifice that might be required. People show up for the safety videos but miss the trip, sitting on the shore decked out with all the paraphernalia.
We were not in control, but were riding an incredible power that moved us forward when we positioned ourselves to be moved by the surges. The church is often like a wading pool with synthetic waves that minimally replicate, but could never come close to approximating, the real work of the Holy Spirit to launch us forward.
We bumped against a lot of rocks. Life with God is not safe and comfortable. We may feel out of our zone in listening to our neighbors. But we are not stopped or thrown out by these exciting interactions.
We had fun because we took care for our own part and supported the rest of the crew with a helping hand or supportive words of encouragement and clarification. We all wanted to make it to the goal, and hence had to stay in the boat, taking care not to drink water if we fall in. “Together” was a proximal term as we each did our unique part in cooperation, not replication.
Sometimes we just stopped and enjoyed the ride. Other times, it was all-out energy invested on a very specific task. Maybe churches would do well to get out of the comfort zones and climb on board, ride the waves, and tell the stories afterward to invite others into the adventure.