Many years ago I was in Salt Lake City, UT for a Southern Baptist Convention meeting which happened to occur just prior to the Winter Olympics later that year. Obviously, everything was under construction, especially the highway systems.
I have learned something about people who live in a particular area, they are so used to the chaos around them they don't even think about telling someone from the outside how to navigate around the commonplace chaos. So, when we rented a car at the airport no one bothered to tell us or the other 12,000 tourists for that week that the major Interstate through Salt Lake City was under major construction. Now when I say major I don't mean some sissy re-stripping project. I'm talking about a 10 lane (5 each way) super highway capable of Autobahn speeds that appeared to be ready to carry us straight to our hotel and convention center.
There was one major problem. And, when I say problem I don't mean some girly problem, I'm talking full blown, grown man kind of trouble. The problem - THERE WAS NO STINKING BRIDGE TO GET TO THE OTHER SIDE!
They had spent millions building a super highway that literally stopped at a creek. Compared to the new Interstate system this creek was minuscule. But because they had not built the bridge, we were stuck on the wrong side. Imagine, several thousand Baptist preachers all stopped at the end of the road trying to figure out what to do now - the irony was palpable! There were no signs warning that the road ended and no directions about how to get to the other side from where we were. We were left to our own ingenuity and devices to find our way across.
That moment of utter futility has served as a metaphor for my life and ministry ever since. For the majority of my public ministry which spanned the last twenty years of the 20th Century and now the first decade of the 21st Century, "Church Inc." has been busy building super highways. We've called them by various names: Inerrancy, Defense of Marriage, Anti - Homosexuality, and more recently a resurrection of arguments over the nature of Election when it comes to salvation.
We have cussed and fussed our way down super highways where we have spent millions of dollars and countless hours of energy making sure we can move through these complicated issues with speed and great influence. Our leaders have been nearly monthly commentators on news opinion programs as we've been successful in holding at bay many perceived social and moral threats. Don't get me wrong, I am not in favor of a neutered sacred text, and I think marriage is between a man and a woman, and yes, I believe God is in charge of salvation, I am humble enough to admit I'm not sure how he calls an elect from among all of us.
However, THERE IS NO STINKING BRIDGE TO THE OTHER SIDE!
We now stand at a precipice with the next generation starring at us from the other side. No matter how loud we yell, they don't hear us, nor understand us (that is for another dose of randomness). Perhaps in all of our huffing, puffing and the expenditure of way too much money and effort we should have designated some resources on ensuring that we could bridge the gap to the next generation. They do not understand our holy wars, and speak a very different emotional language than us and look at us like one would an exhibit in a museum.
I can't help but hear Jesus say things like, "lay down your life", "the first shall be last", "go the extra mile". Somehow, it seems we heard him say, "win elections", "dictate to the culture to came to us first". For those of you who know me well, I understand that it is often my nature to stand and scream at the problem. I am done with that! I think, it is time to climb down from the superhighway and try building a footbridge to the other side. After all the way to peace and grace is narrow and difficult!