Ok so I probably didn’t nearly die, but I got your attention right?
Anyway last week I went for a holiday with some friends in the Lake District in the North of England. We spent the week climbing mountains and swimming in the lakes and enjoying open fires and great company. One day we decided to climb Scaffell Pike, the highest mountain in England. The way up was tough, it’s a long way up and the route we took included near enough vertical climbs and several times when we thought we could see the top only to get there and see we still had several hundred vertical metres to cover.
Anyway eventually we got to the top as you can see in the picture at the top. The mountain was covered in mist and it looked pretty crazy but I was enjoying being at the top, that meant we didn’t have to go up any further and was one of the few places in the lake district you can get a phone signal.
Well us being us we decided that it would be best to take an ‘interesting’ route down which meant not the obvious, easy, tourist path. We took our bearing and started following it and eventually found the path we thought we were meant to be on. We pressed on for a couple of hours going down scree slopes, passing mountain rescue points and eventually coming down towards a valley. For anyone who doesn’t know, a scree slope is generally a steep slope covered in large amount of small stones, often made entirely of that, which fall away without much encouragement. By this point I’d given up climbing down the scree and was going down the nice steep wet grass at which point I slipped, slid down several metres and dislocated my shoulder. It wasn’t long after this that a few of us started expressing doubts about if we were on the right path as the direction we were headed wasn’t quite where we were expecting to be according to the route marked on the map. We pressed on anyway assuming we were on the right path and just either not as far along or further along than we thought, this seemed like a good approach until the patch seemed to come to an end and we were presented with a near vertical drop to the bottom of the mountain covering probably about 30 or 40 feet. It was at this point we knew for certain we weren’t on the right path.
You remember the story- I’m sure? You’ll remember King David – the villain of the piece. You’ll remember Bathsheba – a victim of the king. You’ll remember her husband, too – poor loyal Uriah. Do you remember Joab, though? Joab was the commander of King David’s army – and charged with the unpleasant task of clearing up David’s mess. In order to keep his hands clean, he was to send Uriah to the thickest part of the battle, and then withdraw all the support troops from around him – so that he could die by the hands of the enemy. In this way, Uriah was gone, and David’s problem was no more.
At different times during my life I have felt as if I am wearing Joab’s clothing. On those occasions when I have commissioned personnel for mission service overseas and promised to pray for them, I occasionally slip into Joab-mode as the months roll by. In other words, I have willingly sent them into battle, but allowed myself to get distracted by other things – and I leave them to fight on alone without the support of concerted prayer.
Later today I shall meet with a group of energetic, creative, motivated people who are serving the Church of Jesus Christ in digital space. They are visiting places and contacting people across the virtual map who are far from any church. They are intersecting with culture in myriad ways which have not hitherto been possible. This is cause for celebration.
My question, however, is whether they occasionally turn into Uriah and the rest of the church occasionally slips into Joab’s role? Do we dispatch them into these digital spaces and then simply leave them to get on with it? Any missionary who was contacting over 1000 people in a week would probably feature in some sort of church prayer letter – but do these ‘digital disciples’ get that kind of support?
Of course, the people reading this are probably the wrong ones to ask. The chances are that if you are on this page then you also share some degree of conviction about the value of an online Christian presence. Could you spread it further, though? Could you get this article, or a version of it, into some printed medium in your church?
Could we do something to gather the troops around all those Uriah Tweeps out there, I wonder?