May 2010

Take the Adventure - E. Stanley Ott

Welcome to the first edition of “Take the Adventure,” the e-journal of the Vital Churches Institute dedicated to the encouragement of Christians, congregations and denominational governing areas.

Last fall in the midst of two months of travel to seventeen different cities to work with denominational regional areas in growing the vitality of their congregations, I found myself singing old road songs such as Simon and Garfunkel’s, “Homeward Bound,” Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” and Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Life for all of us is a trip!

Four words that deeply express significant facets of this traveling Christian experience are journey, pilgrimage, quest and adventure. All of them involve travel and destination, goal and process, ends and means.

Journey portrays travel from one place to another as our Lord journeyed from Jericho to Jerusalem and our lives journey toward all manner of destinations. My daughter Shelley and I once took a bus tour of some of the castles, the chateaux, in the French Loire Valley. Our journey was simple movement from castle to castle through breathtaking scenery. The Christian life is very much a succession of journeys and destinations.

Pilgrimage is associated with the passage of the faithful to a holy place or to the Holy One. A group I traveled with to the Holy Land had a real sense of pilgrimage as we approached places such as the Sea of Galilee and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. I have the same sense when I spend a day on retreat for a time of reflection, meditation and prayer with our Lord.

A quest is a journey, often long and challenging, in pursuit of a goal. It is very much a seeking, the ardent pursuit of a momentous end. The word “quest” always reminds me of the Knights of the Round Table as they pursue some mission of mercy or of the Man of La Mancha (Don Quixote) as he sings The Impossible Dream ( ): to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause ((Mitch Leigh, Joe Darion 1965). Quest is a wonderful word to use of Christian experience because we very much have an end in mind in this life –the Missio Dei- the mission of God – and in the life to come as Jesus said, where I am, there you may be also (John 1:4 NRSV).

Adventure describes what you may experience during your journey, pilgrimage and quest. Adventure involves exciting, troubling and often challenging experiences which may be risky, uncertain and often ambiguous in nature. I love the spirit of adventure on the road of the Christian life.

Once while I was the pastor of a congregation I was offered the opportunity to assume the additional responsibility for a publishing ministry. While the offer had all sorts of potential, it was also somewhat scary. It meant raising funds and learning good business practices such as product development, customer service, and accounts receivable and payable and so on. During the process of deciding what to do I awoke very early one morning in a cold sweat thinking about the risks involved when suddenly and very forcefully the words came to my mind, “Take the adventure the Lord has for you!”

I knew immediately it was a quote from the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. When the leading characters are about to undertake significant yet potentially challenging and risky activities they would say to each other, “Let us take the adventure Aslan has for us.” The character of Aslan in the fictional world of Narnia represents the person of Jesus in our real world. I knew instantly my only faithful response was, “Yes, Lord.” As it turned out the challenges I had anticipated in assuming that publishing concern were real yet the doors our Lord opened that I had not anticipated were remarkable.

When we take an adventure for our Lord, when we pursue the Missio Dei, the mission of God trusting in the grace of God, as we understand our Lord is leading us, we engage in the adventure of a journey, pilgrimage and quest with the most wonderful of traveling companions, the Lord’s own self.

Our work at the Vital Churches Institute seeks to enable denominational regional areas and congregations to flourish in missional and transformational vitality. This new e-letter, Take the Adventure, aims to encourage and equip you in your own adventure of faith and ministry and to assist you as you encourage and equip others. Bringing vitality to our life together, doxological (God-ward), communal/koinonial (inward), and missional (outward) is the great adventure on which our Lord leads us all.

Take the Adventure!

E. Stanley Ott

E. Stanley Ott, Ph.D. is president of the Vital Churches Institute and consults with denominational regional areas and with congregations. His books include Twelve Dynamic Shifts for Transforming Your Church and Transform Your Church with Ministry Teams.

Copyright © 2010 Vital Churches Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. We encourage you to share articles from the Take the Adventure e-letter with your congregation and denominational regional area. You are welcome to reprint articles from the Take the Adventure e-letter for one-time use by congregations and their leaders when the material is offered free of charge. Please write us and tell us how Take the Adventure is making an impact in your congregation. If you would like to use this material in other ways, please email VCI at .