Sunday, October 24, 2010

What's Wrong With This Picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

You’re looking at a picture of the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras. It was taken right after Hurricane Mitch devastated the Caribbean in 1998.
In November 1998, Hurricane Mitch ravaged the Honduras. 5,600 people died. 12,300 were injured and 8,600 disappeared. In addition to the loss of human life, 150 bridges were damaged or destroyed. The most modern of all the bridges, The Choluteca Bridge survived intact but suffered perhaps the greatest indignity, the river moved right out from under it leaving its builders wondering what to do next.
This bridge was the only bridge left standing after the storm swept through. The Japanese company that built the bridge was so proud of it that this picture was put on their brochures to show the strength of their construction.
There is only one problem. The storm had such force that it moved the river. The Bridge is as USA TODAY comments;
The graceful arches of the New Choluteca Bridge stand abandoned, a white concrete sculpture far from shore, linking nothing to nowhere. The Choluteca Bridge itself is perfect… except that it now straddles dry land. Mitch changed the course of the Choluteca River, and there is water where the access roads used to be ... Now, there is no solution… it is very difficult to change the current. [The river] is in a totally different place.''
The Choluteca Bridge prior to
Hurricane Mitch's devestation

The Choluteca Bridge survived intact but suffered perhaps the greatest indignity, the river moved right out from under it.
Have you noticed how easy it is to become irrelevant? Whether in business or even the church, being a bridge that doesn’t have a river running under it is the height of irrelevancy. As the caption said, this bridge now flows “from nothing to nowhere”.
This picture brings up a host of questions, most of which are uncomfortable to ask, the answers maybe painful to accept, but absolutely necessary lest we be that bridge, well built, and well intentioned, that is irrelevant to the lost people all around us.
There is no question that our culture has shifted. Where many remember the church as being a dominant force in society and where coming to church was the culturally cool thing to do, today the church is in an antithetical position to culture where the culture is actually seeking to stamp out the church and its influence. We have moved from a time when the Bible was accepted as absolute truth to a time where now the quoting the Bible (as happened to the high school valedictorian in Las Vegas this year) is a cause for censure.
It is estimated that 300,000 of the 380,000 churches in America are either plateaued or declining. Could it be the river has moved? Are we a bridge with no river running through us? To change the phrase from the famous book “Who Moved My Cheese?” we are sometimes asking, “Who Moved My River?”
This picture has raised a variety of questions in my mind.
· What happens when you "build it, plan it, offer it, and they don't come"?
· What do you do when the culture shifts right in front of you? Hunker down or adapt?
· Does the mission really matter more than methods? What is really non-negotiable?
· Is the church in the bridge building or people reaching business? The answer to the question will determine what the future looks like!
· Is irrelevance another word for irreverence?
· The “No Bridge, No River? No problem! (Syndrome)” – turning the bridge into a museum that is extremely meaningful to its members but irrelevant to the majority of people who desperately need what the bridge can provide.
It is said of the church in Europe, which at one point dominated the culture, that it is today, “an echo of the past not a voice in the present”.
One of the greatest dangers we face spiritually is remembering what we should forget and forgetting what we should remember. The church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. In the great book “The Purpose Driven Life”, Rick Warren begins his book with the most countercultural statement imaginable “It’s not about you!” We have a tendency to think church is all about us, and what we like, what we want, and want done. We want our gleaming bridge, shining in the sun yet we are like the Japanese builders, proud of the bridge even though no river runs though it. Maybe the answer to the question is that irrelevance is the highest form of irreverence because we are forgetting what we should remember.
Paul said he had become all things to all men that he might reach some. How does our commitment to reach lost people measure up to that? I know it seems that even the smallest changes from the status quo make us feel uncomfortable yet if we are to be a church where the river runs through us we need to move to find the river. May God give us grace, wisdom, and courage! I know the fear of us becoming irrelevant and not engaging the culture in which we live has driven me to my knees. We are living in diverse and challenging times. May the God who has promised us that He has a plan for us, a plan to give us a future and a hope, give us the grace to handle whatever comes and make an impact on the culture in which we live.
Give this story of a real bridge some thought. It’s a parable for all of us. If you want to find out more go on the web and check out either Hurricane Mitch or Choluteca Bridge for amazing stories and pictures.
May we be that bridge that leads from the nowhere and nothingness of our worlds lost condition to the heavenly kingdom where the Father awaits all who will put their trust in Christ.


  1. The second picture is of the 'old' Choluteca Bridge downtown which survived the storm. The 'new' bridge, which had only been completed a couple of years before, is farther upstream and out of town.
    New bridge:
    Old Bridge: