The great Methodist preacher Halford Luccock published a book entitled Marching Off the Map. The name came from a story about Alexander the Great. As Luccock tells the story, Alexander’s army had moved from victory to victory, sweeping across Asia Minor, then through Persia, and into the mountainous region that is now Afghanistan.
One day his generals came to him nervously and said, “We don’t know what to do next. We have marched off the map.”
Any person, any organization, any institution that has moved forward for any significant amount of time will experience that moment when they pause to realize they have marched off the map. That is when the moment of decision comes – do we continue going forward off the map, where we don’t know what to expect? Or do we go back to the security of what we already know?
Sometimes churches face this challenge. Do they cling to the traditions and methods that served previous generations, or do they open themselves to new opportunities and new methods?
In that same book, Luccock cited the story of Rip Van Winkle. As he read Washington Irving’s story again, Luccock said, “I was startled by . . . the sign on the inn in the little town from which Rip went up into the mountains for his long sleep. When he went up the sign had a picture of George III of England. When he came down, it had a picture of George ‘the first’. . . .
“Rip, looking up at that picture of George Washington, was completely lost. The most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle was not that he slept twenty years but that he slept through a revolution. While he was peacefully snoring up in the mountains, there had been a great turnover which completely changed the face of his world. But Rip did not know anything about it. He had been asleep.”
There is a revolution underway in our world, too, and we dare not try to sleep through it.
(The full version of this article will appear in the Saturday 10/6 edition of the Independent-Mail.)