How Apollo Can Inspire the Church Today

I’m fascinated with space and space exploration. This has been a life-long interest.

I can remember at the young age of 5 getting lost at Disney World in Florida. Now, you might ask, “What does this have to do with space exploration?” I vividly remembering thinking that if I kept walking, Cape Canaveral would just be around the corner. My family was not impressed with that logic when a Disney World employee brought me back to them.

I can also remember the aftermath of the Challenger explosion, watching the return to space a few years later, the Mars rover, and, sadly, the end to the shuttle project.

What has fascinated me the most about space exploration is an event that took place 11 years before I took my first breath. It still boggles my mind that on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 – crewed by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins – landed on the moon. It is amazing, even still, that not only did we land on the moon, but that we walked on the moon. With Apollo 15, we actually took a car, of sorts, and drove on the moon’s surface.

I don’t know about you, but that absolutely amazes me. This month, 50 years after the moonshot, I believe we are still fascinated by it all. What history has taught us is that even though it was controversial at the time, it was an event that brought us together. In a period of deep division and unrest, the moonshot and the achievements of the Apollo mission gave us a dream, inspired innovation, and helped us to see something beyond ourselves.

So, what can the moonshot – though 50 years in the past – teach us about life today, especially as we think about the mission of the church?

We need a dream. We need something that inspires innovation. We need something that helps us to see beyond ourselves.

Churches that are without a dream or hope are often those that are floundering and struggling to survive. When I think of a dream, I am thinking of a vision that points us to something that seems so impossible, so outlandish, so impossible that it is only possible for us to completely trust God to help us see it through. That kind of dream inspires us to think big and claim the opportunities before us.

What often prevents us from dreaming is that we are more aware of our struggles and obstacles than the possibilities. Our focus, and energy, is often taken up by conversations on negatives: low attendance, low finances, and low motivation. We need to talk about these things, because they are important, but if our conversations are only in the negative, then we cannot be shocked that our churches fail to dream big and claim the opportunities before us.

We need to dream and have hope in the church, because it inspires innovation in ministry and mission. It calls us to partner with God to do that which we’ve been empowered to do.

What often holds us back is that, because we focus on the negatives in front of us, we stick with what is comfortable. We do the same things we’ve always have done before with the hope that it will, this time, lead to a different result. I remember sitting in a seminar led by Rev. Jacob Armstrong, of Providence Church outside of Nashville. He said something that has stuck with me. Armstrong said doing the same thing over and over again doesn’t produce the same results, it leads to fewer and fewer people.

A dream that inspires is the work of the Holy Spirit that leads us to deeper and more effective ministry. The Spirit empowers us to dream and then try new things to live out these dreams. The Holy Spirit comes alongside us to help us to think about what it would mean to live out our dreams and to help us to see that it is acceptable, and sometimes necessary, to fail to reach our goals.

When we have a dream that inspires innovation, it leads us to see that we are a small part of something bigger than ourselves. We are connected to a larger and global movement, and our work here helps to further it along.

The body of Christ is connected to one another. We are in this together. Our work, our dreams, help make disciples, share God’s love, and encourage one another, and it is what furthers the entire mission of the church. Mission and ministry are often at its best when we grab hold of the idea that life is bigger than our struggles, our faith is bigger than what is in front of us, and we are all in this together.

We need dreams. We need innovation. We need to see we’re all in this together.

The question that I am contemplating with you is, “What are our dreams for Beverly Hills? Where might God be calling us to take a risk to be bold in faith? How can we see that we are all in this together?”

I ask that because the fact of the matter is this: So long as we are not dreaming, not trying to reach new people, or seeing that we are part of something bigger than ourselves we are struggling. For too long, the church has been unwilling to dream, to see beyond ourselves, but we cannot live this way any longer.

If we want to live out the Great Commission (to make disciples of Jesus Christ) and the Great Commandment (to love God and our neighbor), then we have to be willing to, like the Apollo missions, shoot for the stars.

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