These were the words spoken by Jim Lovell, commander of the Apollo 13 space mission after an explosion caused the loss of the entire oxygen supply for their space module. The three person crew had to squeeze into the two person lunar module while NASA scientists began to urgently figure out how they could use the lunar module as a life boat to bring the crew home alive.
As I have been speaking to pastors and leaders from our Baptist movement over the last few months I have been hearing many people share similar words to those spoken by Jim Lovell. For some there is an attendance problem, for some a volunteer problem, for some a financial problem. Others identify deeper problems; a mission problem, a discipleship problem, a consumer Christianity culture problem, a vision and direction problem, a problem maintaining deep community at a time people attend Church less regularly.
The question is what do we do with these problems? It can be easy to try and deny them, or just accept them as part of the season, or point to the positives that give reason for encouragement, or just carry on and hope for the best.
I believe the best thing we can do with our problems is to face them head on. If the Apollo 13 crew had been in denial, the consequences would have been fatal. Just like in the movie, a Church naming a problem is the crucial step, the catalytical moment that begins the process of change.
We can learn much from the NASA scientists working to solve the crisis they faced. There were no easy answers. The search for a solution required collaboration, creativity, ingenuity, hard work and thinking outside the square. It required them to neither panic nor be complacent. It required them to listen well to one another, to learn together, to avoid the blame game and instead draw on the gifts, skills, and insights each team member had to contribute.
Christian leaders should be able to face problems we experience with confidence and hope. God is with us in good times and bad, God is in control, and greater is he who is in me (and us) than he who is in the world. God’s promises are that he will build his Church and move by the power of his spirit.
This is unquestionably a challenging and exciting moment in history for the Church. It’s a time for prayer, honest conversation, humility, creativity and courage. But the most courageous step a Church needs to take may be the very first one, the one Jim Lovell did without hesitation. Houston we have a problem. May your Church be courageous in this time, for the cause of Christ and his gospel.