In a recent post, Seth Godin retells what he terms a “magical story.”
A Gurkha rifleman escaped from a Japanese prison in south Burma and walked six hundred miles alone through the jungles to freedom. The journey took him five months, but he never asked the way and he never lost the way. For one thing he could not speak Burmese and for another he regarded all Burmese as traitors. He used a map and when he reached India, he showed it to the Intelligence officers, who wanted to know all about his odyssey. Marked in pencil were all the turns he had taken, all the roads and trail forks he has passed, all the rivers he had crossed. It had served him well, that map. The Intelligence officers did not find it so useful. It was a street map of London.
Of course it’s not that we shouldn’t care about ministry details. The challenge is to care about the right details. I have been a part of too many church board and committee meetings where we spent hours working, in effect, to carefully revise a map that was long since out of date. But, if all we were doing was looking down at “the map” we could continue with energy and intensity, assuming that this was the most important work in the whole world.
In our work with pastors and congregations, we seek to work together to help each of us to “look up and out” instead of “down and in.” (This decidedly does not mean to overlook those who are “down and out” but rather to not be so self-absorbed and self-referential that we neglect those who are just beyond our downward, inward gaze.). The urgency of “getting out of our heads” and “getting out of our building” and “getting out of our comfort zone” has never been more acute.
When Jesus said “seek first the kingdom of God…” I doubt if he was looking at a map. In saying that, I think Jesus was reminding us that he is the compass for all our ministry.