As part of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, NASA’s Mission Control has the critical role of directing our country’s journeys into outer space. Most people, including me, have never observed this high-tech control center firsthand. But millions of us made a virtual visit courtesy of the move Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks–a film named for and depicting the true story of a spacecraft launch to the Moon.
The crew of Apollo 13 blasted off from Florida in May 1970, confident they would land on the moon a few days later. Unfortunately, an oxygen tank explosion three days into their mission caused severe damage that made landing on the Moon impossible–and put the likelihood of returning to Earth in serious doubt. Mission Control, which intended to guide and support a trip to the Moon, was thrust in a new direction. Flight Director Gene Kranz, portrayed by Ed Harris in the movie, succinctly announced a change in their grand purpose: “Our new mission is to get our people home.”
Later in the drama, we watch dozens of people in Mission Control–as well as a nation tuned in on television–agonize as the moment approaches when Apollo 13 tries to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. Stakes are sky high–the ship will either burn up, bounce back into space to drift forever, or successfully splash down in the South Pacific. The camera catches Kranz as he overhears two executives whisper, “This could be the worst disaster NASA has ever experienced.” Being the type of bold leader I love, he interjects a gritty alternative view. “With all due respect, sir,” he says, “I believe this will be our finest hour!”1
This quotation parallels much of the Christian outlook when it comes to evangelism. Man was destined for an awesome mission when we first came on the scene, but a terrible event took place which left us unable to continue that mission; that event was The Fall. Seeing as we could not continue living in a state of world such as this, “our new mission is to get our people home.” We were once those who were drifting in space filled with uncertainty, but now we are at home and operating mission control. Because of this, evangelism can either be the “worst disaster” or “our finest hour!”
1 Miller, Sue and David Staal. “Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It.” Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. 47-48. Print. quoting Apollo 13, directed by Ron Howard (Universal Pictures, 1995)