Mountain Climbing and Church Planting
Having lived most of my life in flat cities like Miami, Chicago, and Columbus, mountain climbing was something that was completely foreign to me. I’ve seen picture of hikers in magazines and posters. I even saw a movie about Mount Everest which was really cool. But, that was the extent of my climbing experience. That is until summer of 2000.
It’s called Madera’s Peak. Seated at the heart of the Ansel Adams Wilderness in Southern California, it was an awesome sight, at some 5000 feet tall, covered with sharp rocks, steep climbs, and beautiful snow. It took us three days of hiking just to get to the base of the mountain, and another day just to climb it. For most of the twelve people who were in this group, this was our first climb. As we got closer and closer to the base of this majestic mountain, my heart was beating faster and my palms were beginning to fill with moisture. I knew this was going to be one of the toughest challenges I will encounter in my life. But inexplicably, I was strangely drawn to it with all my heart.
We took turns leading the group through the numerous trails, until it was finally my turn to lead the last leg of our climb, which was the toughest part of the climb. With arms and legs shaking in fear, feeling my heart pound with excitement, I began to climb. With the 75 pound backpack over my shoulders, I grabbed each rock as if it were the last thing on earth, and pulled myself up inch by inch.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally grabbed the last rock and pulled myself up to the peak. The mixture of adrenaline and the physical exhaustion brought together a sense of pain and joy that I’ve never felt before in my life. Once I caught my breath and helped others to the peak, I threw off my backpack and saw for myself in real life what only existed in my mind’s eye up to this moment. As far as the eye can see, there were magnificent trees all around, and tall mountain peaks that kissed the clear blue sky. It was absolutely awe-inspiring! Even 16 years later, those majestic images are firmly imbedded in my mind’s eye.
I think these 3 years of praying about church planting have been like mountain climbing. You hear about others doing it. You read articles about it. And when it's finally time for you to do it, your heart is filled with fear and excitement. You wonder when you'll trip and fall. You ask if you have what it takes to finish this journey. You wonder who is crazy enough to go on this journey with you.
There is no guarantee of success in church planting. The whole thing is one big risky endeavor with a very high probability of failure. Many church plants will fail. A few will "succeed" and reach the "summit." But for me, what excites me the most about this journey is not so much about reaching that summit (though that would be nice). But the opportunity to say "yes" to Jesus who is inviting us to walk hand-in-hand with him by faith. Well, that's the good stuff right there!