Mt. Everest is typically referred to as the tallest mountain in the world with an elevation of 29,029 feet, over twice as tall as the well-known Pikes Peak (14,115 feet), located just outside of Colorado Springs, CO. Year after year nearly 1000 experienced climbers take their turn at the summit, intent on becoming one of the relatively few who ever achieve this feat.
The climb to the summit of Everest has two distinct components. The first component, the trek to Base Camp, is attempted by nearly 30,000 people each year. In comparison to the ascent to the summit, it is considered much easier and takes significantly less time. Take these statistics for comparison. (1) The climb to Base Camp takes approximately 12 days, whereas the climb from Base Camp to the summit takes nearly 40 days. (2) The elevation of Base Camp is 17,598 feet, in comparison to an altitude of 29,029 feet at the summit. (3) The 30,000 people who make the journey to Base Camp each year is several times the roughly 4000 people who have EVER reached the summit of Everest.
So, what does that have to do with us…EFC-MAYM? 150 years ago, under the guidance and inspiration of Indiana Yearly Meeting, Kansas Yearly Meeting was birthed and began a journey up the mountain. Over the years we have faced many challenges, which led to innumerable failures and successes. In some people’s minds, the fact that we have endured for 150 years is a significant accomplishment. I recently saw an article listing 10 U.S. companies that are still in existence after 100 years, and the only one of those still going after 150 years is the U.S. Postal service (est. 1775). 150 years is a good run.
Just like those 30,000 people who make the trek to the Mt. Everest Base Camp each year, it is no small feat EFC-MAYM has accomplished by enduring 150 years of ministry in the central United States. This is a great accomplishment, which calls for a grand celebration!
However, as significant as the past 150 years has been, even more important today is where we go from here. As you recall, of the 30,000 who reach Everest Base Camp each year, less than 1,000 continue to the Summit. Why is that? Reaching the summit is not for the faint of heart. It requires much preparation and training, as well as endurance along the way. The cost of attempting the summit, and not reaching it, can mean death. Signs of bodies frozen along the path to the summit are evident to climbers each year. They stand as a stark reminder of how costly this journey can be.
As we consider what the future holds for EFC-MAYM, I am reminded that it is likely the next stage of our journey will be more challenging than the first leg, as well. It will require that, like Jesus and the apostles before us, we count the cost. It will require preparation, training, a willingness to step out and re-envision the church, and perhaps most importantly, a commitment to endure in order to reach the summit.
One of the reasons why it takes 40 days to complete the climb from Base Camp to the summit of Everest is because of the time it takes the human body to adjust to new altitudes along the way. The body can adjust. However, it is not easy. Likewise, there will need to be some major adjustments in the way we “do church” if we are to survive another 25, 50 or even 100 years.
What might the next stage of the journey look like? If we are to continue to fulfill our calling and mandate to “equip the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world in Jesus’ name” it will first and foremost require a relentless commitment to church planting. Across North America these days we, as Evangelical Friends, are facing the reality that church planting is a must in light of dwindling church attendance, a culture that is becoming increasingly secular, and a world that is increasingly hostile to the gospel. What the church will look like 50 years from now is very difficult to say. But, the truth and power of the gospel remains, so we must do our part to create new forms of “church” as we move further into the 21st century, if we are to survive.
Second, it will require “church revitalization”. Truth be told, most of our churches need a fresh wind of God’s Spirit, a revival or awakening of sorts, if we are going to remain alive and relevant to the culture around us. Change is never easy (just like adjusting to new altitudes). However, a renewed commitment to be “all in” will be necessary for churches to thrive in the days ahead.
Finally, until God gives us a fresh vision, it seems to me we need to continue to revisit and pursue the “Dream” from 2014. It is not prescriptive, but descriptive of what the church might look like, as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment.
My question to you and me is, “Are we fully committed to scaling the summit?” Or are we people who rejoice that we have reached “Base Camp” and would prefer to just stay here where it is a bit more safe and secure. Will it be costly to take the next journey? Very likely. Do we really have any other option when considering what our leader the Lord Jesus did for us? I don’t think so. So, what will it look like for you? What will it look like for your church? Are you willing to give it your best effort? I think we know the answer. Forward, we must go!
Thayne A. Thompson, DMin
Executive Superintendent, EFC-MAYM