Did you know that for over two hundred years people believed that California was an island?
It happened innocently enough in 1539 when explorer Hernan Cortez was sent from Spain to search for an idyllic island in the area. After a long journey, supplies ran low, so he made an educated guess. Having sailed up the Gulf of Baja for hundreds of miles with land on both sides and water ahead and behind him, he turned back and excitedly told the king and queen that he’d found the island.
This belief was reinforced by future inadequately equipped expeditions. Soon, maps were printed, people were educated, and the physical map became the mental reality. Though expeditions as early as 40 years afterwards found that it was in fact a peninsula, “the island of California” was accepted as truth for 200 years.
Why did it take so long to change the map?
If you see a map long enough it becomes the map, not a map. Once our beliefs become fixed we interpret all new data through the lens of that “reality”.
The same thing happens in churches.
It’s why some programs are untouchable. It’s why older pastors are less likely to develop new disciple making maps than younger ones. Once a disciple making map is established it becomes the map, not a map.
The first difficulty of developing a disciple making culture is seeing the need to redraw the disciple making maps. It’s a difficult process. No one likes to hear that their map shows an island that’s really a peninsula.
Unfortunately, there are only faulty maps available for building a disciple making culture in your church. It’s unchartered territory. But that won’t stop others from selling you one that’s “proven” and yet, somehow just for you. Don’t buy it.
Because whether there’s an accurate map available or not, it’s better to find an expert in exploration. Someone who will walk the journey with you. Someone who knows your church is unique in both make-up and kingdom contribution. Someone who knows that developing a culture of disciple making in your church is unchartered territory.
Justin Gravitt, author of this blog, is with Navigator’s Church Ministries. They have made available to you, “The Start Small Grow Slow Strategy,” which you can download for free here.
Such explorers are your best bet—whether a map exists or not—because they know two things:
First, they know what’s needed for a successful expedition. What to take, what not to take, and how to survive the threats you’re likely to face.
Second, they know how to use an explorer’s tools. I’m not just talking about expertise with compass and flint. I’m also talking about experience. On an expedition, knowing which plants to eat and which not to are a matter of life and death. One adds fuel to your journey, while the other ends it.
Of course, if you already know the way, an expedition will repeatedly frustrate both you and your guide.
But for those seeking lasting change, it begins with a willingness to toss your old maps on the table. Now your first step away from those maps is to find an experienced explorer to go on the expedition with you.
I’m ready, if you are. Don’t wait. Now is always the time to start.
Written by Justin Gravitt
Justin Gravitt is the Dayton (Ohio) Area Director for Navigator Church Ministries. Read more from Justin at his blog, “One Disciple to Another,” where this article first appeared.