Getting My Bearings:
Reading a Compass and a Map
In a 2014 video on how to use a compass, wildlife film maker Simon King, reports that 12% of people cannot read a map; 22% do not know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and 37% cannot read a compass in order to find north. Much of our way of getting around/navigating has been made simple thanks to GPS and hand held electronic devices. But King also reported that 33% of people said they could not get to somewhere they had never been before without a satellite navigation system. The tools that had once been basic to people finding their way, had been lost.
The skills used for these two methods of finding your way are very different.
When using a satellite navigation device, it
- Identifies where you are.
- Shows you turn-by-turn direction yours destination. You are required to verify the road signs along the way to confirm you are traveling where you want to go and when you arrive that it is your desired destination.
When using a compass and a map, you
- Identify where you are
- Orient the map to your location
- Take a bearing to your destination
- Continue taking bearings when you alter your course because of obstacles.
As a young education minister I used the Baptist Sunday School website to order material for all the Sunday School classes. But it was not very long before other publishers were contacting me about sending their material for me to "check out" and if I did not like it I simply shipped it back. Then congregation members started bringing me material they thought would be good for classes. Then other denominational publishers began making available the best material of different publishers. About this time my friend Israel Galindo mentioned the idea of "curriculum being all the church engaged in" and not just the published curriculum we used. Two years ago we were using material from multiple publishers because it was excellent material and people were engaged by it. I began to realize that the material was helping the church engage in good conversation about current issues and ask better questions concerning challenges to faith and life. But people were not ready for such challenges to their faith. For so long the church had feed them using material with good exegetical Bible study, from theologically like-minded sources of their own church, that the average congregation member did not how to navigate in the wide open spaces of theological perspectives backed by scripture. Tools that had once been basic to faith and study had been lost. They did not know how to get their bearings when they got off the theologically paved road they had always traveled.
I reflected on the fact that I had come through a similar upbringing in church and had been confronted by the same issues, but somewhere along the way I had acquired tools I used to find my way. Tools I used to understand where I was on the map and how to get my bearings of where I was going. Tools that most people today are fully capable of understanding and using. They are tools for exegetical Bible study, theological reflection, willingness to confront questions of faith, cultivating a community of love and support, and an understanding that a deep faith takes time and effort.
The difficult news for us in church leadership is the paved road is easy and most people are used to it. And the world around the church is also rewarding "fast & easy" methods of living. A deeper faith is not an easy road and each individual must choose to go there. It will be more difficult for the average church member to adopt more rigorous ways of following their faith. But in today's world where the church is going into new territory, people of deeper faith are going to be the ones who find the way. Leadership must challenge people to discover the tools for navigating a deeper faith. This by no means is a silver bullet to the challenges of the church today, but it is certainly a part of what is needed.
These thoughts above are from David Fox, our partner based out of Roanoke, Virginia. He has served in various roles either as pastor, associate pastor or minister of education in Virginia churches. For more information about how he can help you in spiritual formations, contact him at 703.304.0714 or firstname.lastname@example.org.