I read this book at the end of last year, and if you have had any ministry conversations with me, I have probably mentioned it to you. If you are in ministry right now, and especially a United Methodist (pastor or laity) I HIGHLY recommend this book!
Tod Bolsinger, the author, connects the Lewis and Clark expedition to what we are all experiencing in the Church in the US today. I think the illustration is brilliant! You see, Lewis and Clark set out with the expectation that the uncharted territory of land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase was the exact terrain as that in the east. They believed that there was a water source that would connect the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean, that the slight incline to the Missouri would decline on the other side and in their canoes, they would travel to the Pacific. But they found mountains. And when they were told by the Mandans that they would have to cross the mountains ahead of them, what reference did they envision? Absolutely, the only mountains they knew, the Appalachians. For any of us who have seen both in person or even in pictures, you know these were not the same mountains they had seen before in the east. So, when exploring the land ahead of them, Lewis and Clark and company, soon learned all of the knowledge and experience they had from exploring American in the east was not going to help them in this new expedition, they were in for a bumpy ride!
My friends, we are ALL in the same position. Let’s face it, the world in front of us is NOTHING like the world behind us. The millennial generation is the only generation who knows what it is like to learn how to use a computer in elementary school (or before). We get information on events seconds after things happen. I like this quote from page 27, “[A]fter centuries of stability and slow, incremental change, in less than a generation our world has become VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.” This isn’t going to change. The skills we learned in school, the books we’ve read, our teachers, our experiences, nothing can prepare us for where we are in history TODAY, and how we need to move forward into the future TOMORROW. I believe that those of us in the church are feeling this more so than in the business world. I am asked to speak in churches and around the conference about young people. I know everyone wants to hear about what magic program we can develop, what ministry can we pull out off of the shelf that will draw in more young people. Canoeing the Mountains solidifies what I have been saying…do NOT recreate anything you have tried in the past. It won’t work. We are in new times, with a new generation, and what worked before will NOT be successful today.
I realize that no one likes change, and I will be the first to admit that change is scary stuff. I don’t agree with change for the sake of change, but Friends, let’s get real. Leave your canoes behind. They are not going to be useful for the road ahead. It is time we begin to ask ourselves, “What is God’s mission for the world and how can we, as a church, fulfill that mission?” It’s going to require new ways, new thoughts, new avenues.
I hope this gets you thinking, that it stirs something that makes you want to dive a little deeper. Pick up the book, or just read these blogs and discuss your thoughts. No doubt we are in for a change, and I agree with Bolsinger, our experience from the past is not going to help us navigate this uncharted territory. Are you ready? It’s going to be a bumpy ride!