Advice for the Christian journey. “If we only focus on the end, we and many others will miss wonders and scenes and outlooks that God would love for us to experience,” says the Rev. John Kasper.
Superintendent, Central Bay District
My daughter, Faith, son-in-law, Steve, and two, soon-to-be three grandchildren — Titus, Verity, and “yet-to-be” — live in Cohasset, MN. Debbi and I visit them at least once a year. From our home in Midland, MI, this is typically a twelve-hour trip with necessary stops for restroom breaks, gasoline fill-ups, and meals.
At first, we did the 12 hours all at once; we didn’t want to miss any time we could spend with them, which is a misnomer as the first day with them we’d be totally spent. So, we adjusted to two days to make the trip. It’s much less stressful. Still, our focus was on the goal. Yes, we enjoyed the ride and often exclaimed how beautiful the scenery was; it was still a straight shot across the UP, through Wisconsin, and into central, upper Minnesota. And we typically returned the same way – straight home.
Last fall, daughter Amelia and son Gabe visited our Minnesota family when colors were about perfect (and covid restriction let up). As they prepared for the trip, I overheard them make plans. “What shall we see, and where shall we stop along the way?” Yes, their purpose was to spend time with siblings and their niece and nephew. But rather than speed through to the destination, they planned to enjoy the journey.
This year, Debbi and I learned from our children and enjoyed the journey as well as the destination. Oh, the wonders, scenes, and history we had missed because we were so focused on the goal: beautiful waterfalls, interesting architecture, unique shops, fascinating museums, amazing overlooks. We saw only a small percentage of what we could have experienced, all because we were so intent on the destination. And guess what, the journey didn’t take away from our goal of visiting family. The journey may be similar when next we visit our Minnesota family, but we have so much more to explore and enjoy along the way.
I wonder: what other experiences are missed, what other amazing things God may have wanted to exhibit, but the focus was on the goal rather than on the journey? Of course, this doesn’t mean the hoped-for destination or result is unimportant. Nor does it mean that there aren’t times when the journey needs to be a focused straight shot. But is the journey too often overlooked?
As I meet with pastors, church councils, and leadership teams, I ask them about their mission statement. I ask because that is the stated goal of the church. Jesus, of course, has given all believers the mission of making disciples. But how each church seeks to do this will necessarily be unique because each church is unique, functioning in unique communities. So, developing a stated mission is essential.
The follow-up conversation, however, is often a combination of results attained and missed. Always the focus is on the end goal. But is the mission the end goal? Or, is the mission the means to the journey to the final outcome?
I submit that the mission we have as a church, a district, a conference, a denomination, and the Church universal is about the journey to what will be the final outcome when Jesus returns triumphantly when the old has passed away, and the new shall come, and a new heaven and a new earth will be established. If we only focus on the end, we and many others will miss wonders and scenes and outlooks that God would love for us to experience. We will miss making relationships and having conversations, and getting to know others and their cultures because we have been more concerned with numbers of members than with the people who those numbers represent. We won’t see individuals and groups’ creativity, beauty, passions, and thoughts because we failed to slow down and stop and hear and see. And guess what? The journey won’t take away from the goal, but it sure will be less stressful, more enjoyable, and more rewarding.
Let’s “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has call [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14) and enjoy the journey as well, taking note of all that God would have us experience.