Lewis And Clark Repent!

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Dear Friends,

I am reading a book entitled Canoeing The Mountains: Christian Leadership In Unchartered Territory by Tod Bolsinger.

The premise of the book is that the Christian Church finds itself in unfamiliar territory. The leaders of the church were trained to lead a church in a society that no longer exists. The result is that Church leaders are lost in unfamiliar territory. Some know they are lost. Some do not know they are lost.

Mr. Bolsinger compares the Church today to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Lewis and Clark left present day Illinois north of Saint Louis in 1804. Their task was to map the newly acquired Louisiana Territory and find the most direct route to the Pacific. It was assumed that there was a direct river route to the Pacific Ocean.

Near Lemhi Pass on the Montana-Idaho Border the world view of Lewis and Clark changed drastically. There was no direct water route. There was no convenient route. To get to the Pacific, one had to climb treacherous and unknown mountains. To continue, a different way of seeing was needed. With the help of Native Americans, the Lewis and Clark Expedition switched from canoes to horses and pack animals.

This point in the Lewis and Clark Expedition provides a good illustration of repentance.

It seems to me most people think of repentance of a ‘hellfire and brimstone’ conversion accompanied by strong doses of guilt.

That is not repentance.

Repentance simply means ‘turn’. Repentance means to turn from one way to another way.

In the case of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, it meant turning from one way of seeing the expedition to another way of seeing the expedition. Turning from using canoes to using horses because the conditions changed.

Of course, Mr. Bolsinger applies this same principle to the Church. He would argue that in today’s world, the Church needs to turn from one way of sharing the Gospel to another way of sharing the Gospel.

All of us do need to repent. In the book, The Blue Mountains of China, Rudy Wiebe defines repentance in this way: “Because this is a Jesus society and you repent, not by feeling bad, but by thinking different.”

When God calls us to repent, it is not a call to feel bad. It is a call to think different about our journey, our path, and our place in God’s world.


Ricky Adams


Peace Lutheran Church

Mill Valley, California