Have you ever been lost? I mean stuck in some place where you didn’t know what was ahead, behind, or to either side? Everything around you is strange and foreign. You have absolutely no hope of finding your direction. You are totally and utterly lost.
Ever experience that?
One of my favorite television shows ever is the ABC show LOST. They were stuck on an island because they didn’t know where they were. No one knew, not even the rescuers. They couldn’t move forward or be rescued. They were completely lost and the only thing they could do was try to survive. And as the show progresses, you discover that the title of the show is not about them being lost on an island, it’s about how lost each of the characters are in their own lives.
The problem with being lost is that you don’t know which direction to go. If you choose incorrectly you might go backwards or sideways or any other way except the right way. It might make things worse for you. In fact, you have no way of knowing what is the right way to proceed. To get unlost you have to find familiar territory, orient yourself to your location, and then make an educated guess about the right direction to move forward.
Most of our churches are lost. It’s probably a big factor in why so many churches are plateaued or in decline. We can spend all day pointing fingers about who’s to blame, this generation or the previous, this method or that. But in reality it doesn’t matter because the church as a whole is lost.
And I don’t mean lost as in they don’t know Jesus…although, no doubt many churches don’t know Jesus either. I’m talking about lost as in they don’t know where they are.
We have churches and church leaders in situations and circumstances that they don’t recognize. Sure they’ve got great idea about how to move forward but somehow they can’t seem to get traction.
You see…you’ve got to know where you’ve been before you can move forward. Otherwise you’re just plain lost.
Churches have forgotten where they’ve been. They forgot the lessons of ten, twenty, thirty years ago about doing ministry and reaching others. Sure the times have changed, methods need to be adjusted. But unless we remember where we’ve been we’re just going to waste a lot of time relearning old lessons.
Church leaders try so hard to push their churches forward that they don’t dare encourage the church to look back. But we have to. We have to learn and reflect. We have to grow. And we can’t do that if we’re lost. In order to have a clear direction we must understand the path we’ve already covered.
This applies to our personal lives too. If you feel lost and without direction, pause and reflect on where you’ve been and where you want to go. We learn this lesson from basic geometry. In order to draw a line we need two points in space. In order for us to find our direction we need two points in our lives.
Where have you been? Mark the point. Where do you want to be? Mark the point. Now use the points to draw a line into your future. This is where you will go.
Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Don’t let this scripture fool you. Paul is not saying we should completely forgot about or learn from our past. He’s saying that we shouldn’t allow our past to slow us down or prevent us from reaching the goals God has in store for us. In fact, Paul wants us to learn from ourselves and from the examples of others. Look forward just a few more verses and see what Paul says:
Philippians 3:17-18 “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.”
If you don’t learn from others, from yourself, from your past, from your mentors…if you don’t do whatever you need to do to locate yourself and to get yourself unlost, you will never move forward. The philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” How true. You can never move forward in your life, you can never get unlost, until you know where you’ve been.
And it’s my opinion that all people will remain ultimately lost in their lives until they let Jesus be their guide.