I was exercising in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the setting was nothing short of inspiring. The Gerald Ford Presidential Museum was to my left. The Michigan River was on my right; and I ran down a damp trail between them. My mind was racing through a church leadership workshop that I was scheduled to conduct later that morning, when the strangest thought occurred to me.
Suppose an alien from outer space sat in on one of your church board meetings…I told you it was strange. Just go with me. It seems that he and his little green buddies have been visiting popular organizations on Earth to try to understand them. They have heard about this strange organization called a “church”, so they send someone down. They want to understand the church. What kind of organism is it? What does it do? How does it work?
So the little Martian parked next to the Pastor’s spot and walked—I guess—into the church. He followed the voices into a pleasant room of about twenty people all seated around a big table. Most of them are so deep in their discussion that they barely looked up as the visitor came in. He knew enough English to understand a white-haired lady when she whispered, “He looks kinda strange. Must be from the Conference Office.” That must have been the general sentiment because the Martian was allowed to sit down without incident.
So there he sat, the Martian in the church board meeting; and he tried to determine what business they were in by the conversations around the table.
They plunged into a lengthy discussion about the budget and church finances and the Martian thought, “They must be a banking or lending institution of some sort.”
Then the conversation shifted to an animated discussion about something called Oshkosh and the Pathfinders and he decided it had to be like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America that they had observed in an earlier visit.
The Church School discussion had the Martian totally confused because he took some notes that read, “I was wrong! It’s an educational institution.”
One discussion got so heated that the little fellow scribbled with excitement, “I think I got it. Fighting! It’s a strange kind of fighting that they do.” But then the focus shifted again and the Martian was back to square one.
As the conversation shifted from musicals to retreats to potlucks, the Martian seemed further and further from discovering what the church was all about until finally, he slipped out of the room, into his spaceship and headed home.
“So what did you find?” they asked as he opened up his report. “What was the mission of the church? What do they actually do?”
“Well, I’m not quite sure,” he said. “They talked about a lot of things. They all seemed important but nothing seemed to really drive the conversation. Nothing really stood out.”
By that time, another Martian spoke up. He was a veteran in the Mission to Earth project and he had listened with interest to the report.
“Interesting!…So you say you heard the church members speaking about a number of things: Pathfinders, potlucks, Christian education, General Conference…”
“Well I’m pretty sure that the primary instructions of the originator of the church was that they were to go and make disciples—whatever that means,” the veteran Martian said.
“In fact, those were the last instructions he gave them before he disappeared.”
“Nope. That’s not it,” the little green guy mumbled. “I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear that…at all.”