Summary: There comes the point in every congregation when we must decide to move forward.
Building on Faith:
Past the Point of No Return
Interview with Ron Jones about the moment in the take-off pattern that a pilot must make a decision to commit to take-off or abort the flight.
This “crossover principle” finds an arresting illustration in the lives of God’s Old Testament people. God intended the Exodus from Egypt to act as a prelude to the entry into the Promised Land. In the most famous period of procrastination of human history, that brief prelude became a 40-year-long detour in the desert. An entire generation of Israelites disappeared into the sands until the moment came to cross over. Joshua 3 finds God’s people waiting for that moment after a preparation of 40 years. They could no longer evade, avoid, step over or step around the crisis of their history. It was time commit to take-off or abort the mission.
Our congregation has taken a journey of preparation. It began quietly and inwardly among leaders. It has grown outwardly and obviously to include every age and stage of life in this church. We have organized, prayed, testified, visited, mailed, and preached. Yet all of this is only anticipation; we are now at the moment of decision. Unfinished symphonies, half-written books, uncompleted canvases, and incomplete buildings abound. How many have started what they could not finish or have begun what they could not complete? In the Cotswold section of England near the village of Broadway, there stands in the open country a stark tower on a barren hill. For miles around it signals the beginning of something that was never completed. It is the monument to a fancy that never became reality.
This lack of completeness must not be so in the journey of our congregation. We have come to the day of crossing over. Humans procrastinate but God always completes. Did you ever see a sunset and remark, “That is only half a sunset?” Did you ever see a seascape and ask, “Why did God not complete the sea?” You never saw half a snowflake or half a mountain. What God begins God completes: “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” (Philippians 1:6).
This truth must be self-evident: After the weeks of preparation, we now face the challenge of crossing over.
When God’s people cross over, they need a certain indication of God’s leadership: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it” (Joshua 3:3). The twelve Hebrew tribes had camped on the far side of the Jordan in anticipation of crossing over. For thousands of people to plunge into the overflowing river required a singular certainty of God’s direction. The Hebrews had been desert-bound slaves. They had no experience with flooding rivers. They had not been that way before.
No biblical image has captured the imagination of our generation as much as the ark of the covenant. Harrison Ford epitomized the mystique of the ark as Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” More recently other real-life searchers have traced the ark to a supposed final destination in Ethiopia. What accounts for our fascination with this ancient biblical object? The ark stands for the presence and leadership of God. The origin of the ark rests in the cloud-shrouded time Moses spent with God atop Mt. Sinai. A secular world that knows little of that ultimate reality has fastened its attention to the ark as a manifestation of that presence. Yet the ark was no magical totem; its leadership belonged to those willing to move forward in faith.
We no longer follow a gold-encrusted box as the emblem of God’s presence. Believers have the written Word of God and the unseen, but nevertheless real, Holy Spirit of God. In the presence of these realities we should have an even greater sense of God’s guidance in our lives. The Holy Spirit blows like a wind upon us, glows like a fire within us, and flows like a river through us. Mighty acts for God take place because of the certainty of that unseen but nevertheless real leadership.
Martin Luther was the leader of the Protestant Reformation, which forever changed the Christian world. He revolted against the Roman Catholic Church of Europe. He was excommunicated by this church and banned by the Holy Roman Empire. He knew that leadership would reject him when he challenged the entire world order for the sake of the Gospel. When the moment came to cross over and nail his Thesis to the door, certainty led him.
John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist movement which has become the Methodist Church. He felt his heart strangely warmed as he heard the Preface to Luther’s “Commentary on Romans” read in a meeting at Aldersgate Street in London. Wesley moved forward with a certainty that shook England. He crossed over to the beginning of the Evangelical Awakening.