Space, Rockets, and Making Disciples

a-baa-rocket-failThe other night at the weekly Civil Air Patrol meeting of my local USAF auxiliary squadron, I taught a class (as I sometimes do) on Aerospace Education for a group of about 20 cadets and 5 adult officers.  For this particular class, I offered a lesson on the history of four pioneers in the science of aerospace and rocketry. I love teaching because the lessons always include more than merely sharing facts, figures, dates, and data. Many times when we teach others, it is an opportunity to inspire young people, to reach beyond what they perceive to be their own limitations.

Four aerospace scientists, Konstatin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky, Hermann Oberth, Robert H. Goddard, and Werner Von Braun were truly pioneers in the field of astrophysics, mechanics, and space flight.  Here are three interesting facts that I learned that were common among all four of them:

(1) Despite the fame and accolades given them years after their work and research had been accomplished, all of these three men were frequently challenged by their skeptics, and often ridiculed by their peers. (2) Experimentation and failure was at the heart of their work, and they never lost sight of the vision that had been given them, despite their many failed attempts, experiments, and “hair-brained” ideas. (3) Each of these leaders contributed in some way to the modern space programs we have seen make such advancements over the past five decades. The Apollo missions to the moon, the Space Shuttle program, the International Space Station and now, the eventual missions that will inevitably take us to Mars and beyond were all made possible because four men were inspired to reach for the stars.

Although our current and future space programs operate on the surety of precise measurements, proven facts, historical data, and measurable results, the path to aerospace success was not always paved with surety and precision. If not for the willingness of a few people to risk ridicule, skeptics, and failure, we would still be wondering what it would be like to set foot on our closest orbiting satellite (the Moon), rather than planning to reach our closest neighboring planet (Mars) in the next ten to fifteen years.

Why do I share this? Simply because I believe that the mission of the church requires us to take risks and to be willing to reach beyond what we perceive to be our own limitations. Jesus commissioned the church, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) This sounds like Jesus was serious about the work he has sent his church to do, and my suspicion is that he expects us to step out of our comfort zones and go do just that; make disciples. Go!   To go and make faithful followers of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ today, we may have to take a few more risks. We may have to be willing to accept failure as a part of experimentation and ultimately, we may have to be willing to risk the skepticism and ridicule of our colleagues. The failures and experimentations, starts and stops, disappointments and hopes, are all necessary experiences of leaders who are willing to go into those places, others dare not go.

Maybe making disciples in the 21st century and beyond may have to look a whole lot less like a production operation, where our systems, processes, and ideas are rigid, well planned, and measurable. Maybe making disciples of Jesus Christ in the 21st century, a time in our culture that is changing more rapidly than any of us can imagine, may require the church to be more willing than ever before, to experiment, to fail, and to step out of the boat and trust the Spirit to lead us.  Maybe we have to listen more openly to the dreamers, to the people who have a passion for folks on the margins of the church, and maybe, just maybe we have to be willing to partner with those folks who may show up at our doors with really some “hair-brained” ideas.

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One Reply to “Space, Rockets, and Making Disciples”

  1. As a former NASA “scientist ” I was in charge of “risk assessment ” at Headquarters and many centers. We never worked without risk, but we clearly understood both the hazards and the probability, mitigated what we could; and then went ahead. Christmas need to understand the risk, and then go ahead.

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