One of the topics I’m asked to speak about most often at churches and conferences and in workshops is how God is helping churches see their neighborhoods with fresh eyes. But lately I’ve also been drawn to another aspect of this relationship. In particular, what if it is within the context of the Neighborhood that the Church itself is best seen?
The metaphor I keep coming back is one of bioluminescence, the chemical process by which organisms—fireflies, some deep-sea fish, and other creatures—emit light. (The word derives from the prefix bio-, meaning “life,” and lumen, or “light.”) I’m especially interested in bioluminescent algae and plankton, which can make waves glow, illuminate footprints in the wet sand, or appear as miles-long light trails behind ocean ships.
Jim Lovell, the commander of the Apollo 13 mission and a former Navy pilot, recalled the time in 1950 when he had to perform his first night landing on an aircraft carrier. Through a series of unfortunate events, he had gone off course. His instrument panel had shorted out (as had the cockpit light), there was no moon, and thick clouds blocked out the stars. He was plunged into darkness, with no sense of where to find his ship, the USS Shangri-La.… Read the rest