What I Learned from the Recent Loss of Neil Armstrong

August 28, 2012

What I Learned from the Recent Loss of Neil Armstrong

 
 
 

The world lost an historic figure on Saturday.  Neil A. Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon died at the age of 82.  I can still remember that night in July of 1969 when our family crowded around the television and watched it live.  As a young boy I was mesmerized by the sheer historical importance of that moment.

I've always loved anything to do with space and space-travel.  After-all, it's the great frontier before us and watching the moon landing that night gave me a sense that mankind was about to embark on the greatest adventure since Columbus founded the New World.  But for anyone with any sense of memory regarding the history of NASA and its programs the moon landings soon fell victim to one of the great dilemmas of our modern world.  The problem of vision over dollars.

Let me explain.  Few endeavours have captured the imagination of the world like the Apollo moon missions.  They gave us a sense of reaching further into the unknown while at the same time deeper into what makes us human.   I remember in the midst of those missions hearing of permanent stations being established on the moon, with the hope the moon becoming an eventual tourist destination. From there the moon would become a launchpad to Mars.  Now that the moon had been conquered, the door to a waiting universe had been thrown wide open.

That was back in 1969 and where are we today?  No offence, but the glory days of the Apollo missions have never been repeated.  No disrespect to the Space Shuttle, but its nowhere near the aspirations of what NASA was envisioning back in the early 70's.  Today there are no stations, no colony on the moon, no repeat performance of a moon landing let alone a multi-year mission to Mars.

What happened?  It's simple.  Economics won over vision.  In the Nixon era the budget of NASA was cut dramatically and the directive from those controlling the resources was to focus on an earth orbiter that would deliver payloads into earth's atmosphere.  Practical, probably.  Inspiring, not so much.  And that's the problem.  Whenever money has the determining vote on mission, vision, or priorities it will always either deaden or kill them altogether.

That is one of the great tragedies of our modern world.  We have become so bottom-line conscious that we can no longer shoot for the stars.  I'm not saying that we become reckless with our resources or that we create untenable objectives.  Both need to be considered wisely.  But far too often we allow our vision to be negated by the money.

This is especially true in churches.  The real danger when this happens in churches is that we become complacent. We no longer trust in a God who can supply more than we ever hope or imagine.  Especially when we recognize the scope of what Jesus has called us to through the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  Being complacent is not an option.

I personally lament the lack of vision in many churches, in many ways similar to the way I lament what happened to NASA.  Because here's what I believe.  When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon for the first time and uttered those famous words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," he was envisioning a future that continued to stretch our imaginations and push us further into the unknown.  I find it hard to believe that Armstrong would have been satisfied with the path NASA took after Apollo, because he would have seen the potential for what lay ahead.  I pray that we have the same bold vision for the church.




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