I live in the town of North Conway, New Hampshire. This is in the middle of the White Mountains, which contain Mount Washington– the largest peak in New England at 6,288 feet. This is obviously small compared to Everest and even some peaks in the Rockies, but to this Ohio Valley boy it’s big!
This past Monday I set out for a trek that I didn’t know if I could handle or not! Some new friends of mine took me on a hike up Mount Washington on the Huntington trail, which is known as the toughest hike in New England. I’m new to hiking so I figured, “Hey, hiking is just walking, right? How bad/dangerous could it be?”
I didn’t realize I was really in for it man! There’s a certain part of the Huntington trail that involves free climbing up ledges, where if one lost footing or slipped they’d fall and basically get killed. Granted, not all of the mountain is this way, but there are a few spots that are seriously dangerous! As we made our way up this part of the trail I was grateful to have Trevor behind me to give me a boost once and a while, as well as Joe in front of me to show me where to climb. And we made it! I’ll tell ya I’m in ok shape and two days after I’m still seriously sore!
There were a few moments on those ledges that I was earnestly praying for my life, as well as thinking if there was a way to get out of climbing the rest! Fear at times took over and paralyzed me or made me want to give up.
But there was a strong analogy in those moments. I’m a leader/pastor in the church, and there will be many times when fear will set in. Like, “don’t try to love or reach out to that person! They look like a criminal!” Or, “don’t go to that country to do mission work, it’s too dangerous!” or “Don’t invite that person over for dinner! You don’t want them to know your address!” Or “don’t talk about Jesus in this situation, or people will think you’re a nutcase!” Or “don’t stand up for what’s right now! People will think you’re a freak!”
Paul addressed this when he wrote to his young protégé Timothy. He wrote: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Why is cowardice all too common amongst the church? I suppose we live in a situation, in America and potentially some parts of Europe and Australia, where it’s not required as a pastor to be courageous. But there are people that are seriously hurting out there that need the love and truth of Jesus. If we don’t step out and into their pain and struggles, we’ll never complete the work that Jesus sent us to do, the kind of work that people like Paul were beaten, imprisoned and eventually killed for.
So I probably won’t ever go back up that trail again! There are other trails that are far less dangerous up the same mountain and many other mountains. A little risk is fun sometimes with hiking, but I’d prefer to just get a killer leg burn and a great mountain view- you can forget the ledges!
But when it comes to ministry- I want to always ride the edge. And I wish the same for all my friends who are pastors. To many, I’m just preaching to the choir, but some of us need to step out in faith more. One of the reasons why the church in America is dying may very well be that too many pastors are sitting inside their offices as the walking dead continue to die (and I write this from my church office!) Instead, may we sense the urgency of our mission and live it.
- Do you know how to Hike Safely? (inclinevillagecabin.com)