When Someone Packs Your Parachute

We work better when we work together

Justin Kim
When Someone Packs Your Parachute
Photo by Sienna Wall on Unsplash

Charles Plumb was an American jet fighter pilot during the Vietnam War. He was shot down on his seventy-fifth mission over North Vietnam. He parachuted into enemy territory, where he spent 2,103 days in prison. Plumb survived and flew planes a couple more years before retiring.

One day a man said to him, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!” Confused, Plumb asked how the man knew that.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied.

“I guess it worked!” Plumb responded. “If the chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”*

Not only in the military, but also in the church, many individuals make a mission successful. Churches are not run by lone rangers, cowboys, or solo warriors doing their own ministry, even if called by God to do it. We are all part of a complex, complicated, and multifaced operation, coordinated by God.

One ministry that exemplifies this cooperation is Adventist Possibilities Ministries (APM). On the surface it reaches out to the blind, deaf, the physically immobile, orphans, widows, widowers, caregivers, and those with mental health challenges. This is a crucial ministry that harks back to Jesus’ message of reaching out to those in need.

Underneath the surface, APM reveals a larger lesson. Yes, everyone must be reached, but reached for what? Second Timothy 2:2 says, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” We reach out to many so that the many will reach even more.

APM does not reach out merely to their constituents. They “reach out” to them so that they may realize their full discipleship potential and thus reach out to others. This is the core principle of “possibilities.” What was once considered a weakness is now an advantage for the gospel.

Men’s and women’s ministries are not just about reaching men and women, respectively, but inspiring them to reach other men and women. Youth and children’s ministry is not just about reaching young people, but discipling youth leaders (of any age) to reach youth and children. Family ministries doesn’t treat family issues only, but inspires families to use the medium of the family to reach other families. Personal ministry is not a selective few “advanced” lay members doing the work of one-to-one evangelism, but every member educating all to do the work of Jesus. Even pastoral ministry is not the work of the individual, but the potential multiplication of the pastor’s work in every worker. The list can go on.

Our current approaches to ministry have become simplistic. If there are children, we triage them to children’s ministries; if there is an Asian, we point them to Asian ministries; if there is a widow, we look toward APM. After years of preaching about individual passions, gifts, and unique interests, we have created silos in our departmental ministries. As a result, we pack parachutes only if we are good at it and understand it as the final objective in ministry.

The reality is that every follower of Jesus has been called to evangelism and service. The most zoomed-out perspective shows that our ministries work together. Ministry is based not only on individual passion, interest, and talent but also on the ability of the Holy Spirit to bless anyone. Sure, there are specialties and areas where we could work more efficiently. But we are all called to get involved in the work of mission, regardless of extroversion, introversion, temperament, or personality. Let us offer our abilities, disabilities, possibilities, availabilities, and capabilities to the responsibilities given to us by Jesus.

We work better when we work together. Just ask Charles Plumb.


Justin Kim

Justin Kim is the editor of the Adventist Review magazine