Every once in a while I still see them at rest areas along the highway or in restaurant or bank vestibules. Highway maps. Before Global Positioning Systems (GPS) these tools of travel were critically important for getting from point A to point B.
With either a map or a GPS there are two important questions that must be answered. First, my location. Where am I on the map? The second question is your destination. Where do you want to go that is represented on the map?
If you don’t have the first question answered, telling you where you are presently located, then it does little good to plan for the second question that specifies the place to which you wish to go. Without any reference point for your location or your destination you are “just driving around.” Some drivers do this a lot. They say, “We’ll figure out where we are going when we get there.” These are happy people who don’t live by the clock and have extra money to spend on gas.
MAPS ARE NOT THE TERRITORY
It would be silly to think that you could look up Tampere, Finland, for example, on a map and then walk away saying that you have now been there. It is not the same thing. Until you have been there physically it is not logical to say that you were there because you found the city on a map.
When you look at a map, however, you can determine how you are going to get there if you know from where you are leaving. With point A and point B in mind, you can now start planning how to get to where you wish to go. In this case you will easily conclude that you will need a car, that you will need to fly in an airplane or take a boat and that you will have to take another car, train, plane or bus and find a place to stay.
MAP METAPHOR APPLIED
For churches it is so important to be clear about who they are and what they believe; i.e., their location on the spiritual map. People can then decide whether or not they share the same positions and enthusiasms.
It is also important for churches to know where they are going. If they are focused upon being heaven-bound then they start planning how to get there and how to bring along as many people as possible.
So, it is important now and then to remind each other of the beliefs, practices and enthusiasms that unite us. As we review them there should be very little disagreement. And so, we have listed “Our Beliefs” on a page of our website to affirm what most other followers of Christ also affirm. But, as we state at the outset…
…the problem with Doctrinal Statements about “What We Believe” generally serve to distinguish between one church devoted to following Jesus to other churches who are also devoted to following Jesus. The truth is that this approach to following Jesus does not make sense in light of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:
I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me….“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
John 17:21-23, NLT
ONE IN CHRIST
It is one thing to believe some things, however, and quite another to put them into practice. That is why we begin by giving attention to how we do what Jesus has called us to do. This is when we make sure that we know the territory itself and not just the map.
Jesus said two important things that help us define our place on the map. First, Jesus tells us that when we lift Him up, He will draw others to Himself (John 3:14-16; 8:28; 12:32). So, we lift Him up.
Second, Jesus tells us that others will know that He are His disciples by how we demonstrate His love to others (John 13:34-35). So, we love each other with the love of Christ and we love the people around us with the same love so that others can see Jesus in our lives.
SERMON ON MAPS
The sermon on maps, consequently, is a simple reaffirming of what can be found on the “Our Beliefs” page. To guide us along the way we have made a commitment to several specific keys that include the following:
- Focus Upon Jesus
- Talk About Jesus to People Who Do Not Know Jesus
- Be Biblical, Not Traditional
- Focus Upon Children and Families
- Focus Upon Small Groups In Homes
- Practice Meaningful Worship