What Does Apollo 13 Have to Do with Church Ministry?

posted in: Woman to Woman Newsletter | 0

By Lori Stanley Roeleveld

Can the engineers of Apollo 13 inspire the ministry of the church? I say yes!

When God created us in His image, He hardwired us to rise to a challenge, to adore exploration, and to find satisfaction in untangling knots. You wouldn’t always know that from our approach to ministry.

I sat with one ministry worker in New England who was discouraged about the “lack of forward progress” in his congregation. “What do you see as the barriers?” I asked.

He leaned back and stated, “Quirky people, the pandemic, and a culture that has no interest in spiritual things.”

“Okay,” I replied. “Then that’s your assignment, right? God called you to shepherd and evangelize in the rocky spiritual soil of New England during a pandemic, motivating quirky Christians to engage a culture numbing itself on relentless entertainment. Go! Or have you decided to decline the assignment? Do you imagine He won’t provide what you need to accomplish it?”

In relying on God for our salvation, we’ve sometimes imagined that means we sit back and watch Him do everything else, too. Maybe the church has also been negatively impacted by our modern love of media and spectating, but “binge-watching” ministry is not an exercise in faith; it’s a recipe for disaster.

We’re called to be engaged, to utilize our gifts, and to apply our hearts, minds, and backbones to the Kingdom work we’ve been assigned to carry out in the name of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

What if rather than complain about who we have to work beside and where we’ve been assigned, we approached ministry more like the NASA engineers depicted in the 1995 movie “Apollo 13”? This fictionalized account of the 1970 moon mission that encountered life-threatening problems would be a wonderful tool for your next church meeting.

The astronauts had a beautiful vision they were authorized, trained, and equipped to accomplish. Their mission, however, was expected to encounter problems and challenges. This one encountered more than most.

At one point, the engineers, 200,000 miles away from the spacecraft, had to find a way to make a square filter fit into a hole designed for a smaller, round filter using only what the astronauts had on board. The astronauts’ lives were at stake. Their families were praying for their safe return. But they would run out of breathable air and die far from home if this team of engineers couldn’t solve the problem. Go!

They knew their goal. They knew the limitations of their materials. They knew lives were at stake. They knew no one else had this assignment. It was up to them. They didn’t waste time complaining or looking for new engineers or wishing they had different supplies. Instead, they solved the problem – using what they had, working together, and refusing to give up in the face of impossible odds.

The apostle Paul knew the challenges of ministry more than most. In 1 Corinthians 11:24-30, Paul lists just a few of the challenges he faced spreading the gospel. Paul understood what it was like to work with everyday people who would disappoint or turn out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing, and yet he trusted God’s vision of the church.

Paul spent the first three chapters of Ephesians explaining the goal of the church and all that God has supplied us for the task at hand. In the rest of Ephesians, he talks about our attitudes and about the armor we’ll need to accomplish it. Then God says, “Go!” Be the church. Do the work. Preach the gospel. Make disciples. Live for Me.

He expects us to understand that lives are at stake – eternal lives. He expects us not to look around for someone else to do it or to stand about complaining about our assignment. Instead, He has equipped us to utilize every person He welcomes into the family and the supplies He’s provided to deliver a “square” gospel into the “round hole” of the times in which we minister.

Let’s refuse to sink under the complaining spirit of our times. Instead, let us rise to our calling, as is our design in Christ. In this way, when the mission is accomplished, we will celebrate with Him as those who took part, rather than those who watched from the comfort of their couches or pews.

Ministry in New England. You have what it takes in Christ. Go!


Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a blogger, speaker, coach, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She has authored four award-winning books, with a fifth in the works. She speaks regularly at women’s events and retreats across the country. Though she has degrees in psychology and biblical studies, Lori’s learned the most from studying her Bible in life’s trenches. She speaks her mind at loriroeleveld.com