I really like maps. I like the maps in the back of many Bibles (especially the ones outlining the journeys of the Apostle Paul). I have a pair of maps hanging on my wall, written in Latin, depicting the ancient world. When I was trucking, it was with the aid of maps that I could find just about anywhere I had to go (and sometimes exactly where I was!). The church has always used maps, as it were, to discover where it was and where it needed to go. But despite the use the church today finds itself in a place that is not on its favorite map. In fact, we find ourselves “…off the map. Here, there be monsters.”
Maps are a result of the work of surveyors and explorers. We, the users of maps, simply travel where others have already been, and usually in ways that others have deemed best. The map that the church has been reading for the past 1500+ years is worn out. Not only that but it no longer portrays, accurately, the landscape for the journey on which it now finds itself. Like the ancient maps written in Latin on my wall, they do not show the world as we now know it is. Meanwhile, the church inches farther and further; lost, with no means to locate it-self or where it is going. Regardless of how one turns the map, eschewing its markings, the actual landscape is unrecognizable and, apparently, unchartered.
Certainly the Apostle Paul had a map as he toured the landscapes of Asia Minor and Europe. Yet, at the same time he was pioneering the design of another map. The map he was drawing was a map for the spreading of the gospel, guided by the compass of the Holy Spirit. When one looks at the map in the back of many Bibles of Paul’s journeys one can see a map of the landscape, but also one sees the passage of the Good News across that landscape. We don’t look at the map of Paul’s journeys for the landscape, but the movement of the message he carried across it.
Understand, I do not think that the church finds itself in the wrong place. I think that the church is studying the wrong map. Our trusty map of Christendom has taken us as far as it was designed to take us. Our compass has taken us off the map. He has removed us to another place in need of another map; off of which we refuse to blow the dust, to unroll, and to gaze upon. This map, after all, is nearly 2,000 years old. It contains only a path less traveled (and not tread upon in 1500+ years). The original surveyor and explorer of this map was Jesus Christ. The pioneers who first utilized this map were the apostles, and the primitive and early church. This map has the landscape of the world as we now know it, and lacks only the continued charting of movement – the movement of the message of the Good News to the uncharted monsters. According to the compass we are precisely where we’re supposed to be. We simply need the right map to tell us where exactly we are.