If you know me, it’s no secret that I’m a fan of NASA and manned spaceflight in the 1960’s. It all started for me with my
grandfather’s fascination with the subject; he met several NASA personnel back over the years and was a good friend with an Apollo 15 astronaut, the late Jim Irwin. I even have an autographed picture in my office of Irwin standing on the Moon.
I have a fairly idealized and romaticized view of what took place during this era. I admire the focus and can-do spirit of 400,000 employees at NASA, working hard to achieve President Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely by the end of 1969. It was an exciting time, and the team’s efforts held in awe most of a nation that was in the midst of unknowable turmoil. Millions were transfixed by the successes of Apollo 11, 12, and 14 and countless prayers were sent up during the near tragedy of Apollo 13.
Then, a fickle public, a hostile press, and a shortsighted Congress killed the momentum. The money was drained away from space exploration into domestic programs that exacerbated as may problems as they solved. Apollo flew only three more missions to the Moon; since then, with the exception of the early days of the Space Shuttle program and the Challenger and Columbia tragedies, the US space program has been rather uninspiring.
Flight Director Gerry Griffin puts it this way: “They’re going to look back and say, ‘You know, these people created that great hardware. They did all those neat missions to the Moon back in the mid-1900’s or so! And then they stopped.’ And they’ll wonder why.” (as quoted by Craig Nelson in Rocket Men, pg. 348)
Who knows? If we kept flying to the Moon after 1972, we might regularly be sending men and women to other planets by now. Commercial and civilian space travel might be a regular feature in our lives. But we didn’t, and now we’re stuck in low-earth orbit with a boring space program. The US government simply failed to seize the momentum of the early days of Apollo.
The apostles and the early church rode a wave of momentum in their early days, evidenced in the book of Acts, and they took hold of it in the face of intense persecution. Peter, John, Paul, and Barnabas encountered opposition and threats everywhere they went, but they refused to let go of the momentum. They knew that this momentum, driven by the Holy Spirit, would carry the Good News of Jesus Christ to the nations. They had no doubt that God would see them through if they rode His wave.
In what areas of your life do you need to seize momentum? In what ways are you in danger of letting go of God’s momentum? How can the church and other believers help you?