There are a lot of things in this world I really like - a great rack of ribs, a cup of coffee in bed, fixing something that is broken, etc. There are, however, very few things that I love - Jesus (Sunday School Answer!), my beautiful wife, my most amazing son, and of course, the Tar Heels!
Ok, maybe that is a bit of hyperbole, but my very first sports memory was 1982, when Jordan hit the go-ahead jumper to win the national championship. I have always been a North Carolina boy to my core, and I felt so much pride that this team represented my state. I was hooked, and have been ever since.
This past Saturday, I stayed up way too late to watch my beloved Heels lose to UNLV. It was not really even that surprising a loss based on their play thus far in the season, despite being ranked #1 in the nation. It doesn't take an amateur coach (though I am one) to recognize when a team hasn't "got it" yet. This team, at least as of Saturday night, still doesn't "have it."
Last night, on my ride home from our Deacons meeting, I heard Roy Williams call in show. He made a most profound statement, one that reveals a coaching philosophy passed down from Dean Smith that I have always admired. He said, "I wasn't going to call a time out to start the second half. Even if they scored the first 50 points, I was not going to call time out. I wasn't just coaching for that game, I was coaching for this season, and for this program, and for the future."
I remember clearly my second game as head coach at Pungo Christian Academy. I had been asked to coach at the last minute, and met the guys on the first day of practice. We had 9 practices together, and then we were playing games. To say that our learning curve was steep would be an understatement. We were trailing by 12 at half time but we were in the game. Our opponent started the second half on a run. They were pressing and we were turning it over, and I could see the guys starting to panic. I heard at least 50 "coaches" behind me in the stands yelling for a time out, but I knew that I didn't want to call one. Sadly, I gave in, and called the time out. I'll never forget that feeling, knowing I had lost a teachable moment. I wanted them to figure out on their own that in life, people won't pull you aside and coddle you when things go bad. Sometimes you have to fight through. Sometimes you have to fall back on instinct and training and preparation. I told the guys in the huddle, "we practiced press breaks every day in practice, I thought at some point you guys would figure out that you should RUN THE STUPID PLAY!!!"
After that time out, they did, and even though the damage was done, we fought through the rest of the game pretty even. Afterward, a parent came to me and asked why, when we were down 20, her son didn't get more playing time. I decided right there I wasn't going to lose a second opportunity to teach. I told her, "I know we didn't have a chance to win this game, my goal is to give us a chance to win the next one. The only way to do that is to keep teaching until the very end."
Sometimes it is hard to take the long view. We live in a microwave world. Instant internet, instant coffee, fast food, TV on demand. We want what we want, and we want it yesterday.
Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind. Proverbs 21:5
I think that we have lost our ability to see long term. I think our desire for instant satisfaction has deprived us of the joy of seeing hard work come to fruit. We don't want to plant seeds anymore, we want to plant full grown trees. It shows up in our churches especially. We want to grow, and many churches are willing to press themselves into a cookie cutter shape to do just that. Even the things we measure in church reveal our skewed priorities. We measure how many people we put in our buildings, but not our effect on our community outside. We count the money we receive in offerings, but we don't count the impact we are making on poverty. We count baptisms but not disciples.
My hope is that, as we move forward in a new world, the Church can plan for the long run. That means preparing our children and teenagers to have conversations about their faith, rather than memorizing bumper sticker slogans, because the world they enter won't settle for "because God said so." It means that ministry will happen in our every day lives, not just in programmed events, because a busy, entertainment saturated world doesn't rely on the church for social events. It means counting the impact we make outside of our walls, not just the people inside. Finally, I think it means that we will have to learn to be more patient with ourselves, willing to stay the course even when we aren't bursting at the seams. After all, which is more valuable, one mature disciple living the way Jesus taught, or 5 people who show up on Sunday to be fed a service, only to go about life as usual the rest of the week?
Its time to redefine success. It will pay off in the long run.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Last night was a huge night for the life of Grace Crossing! We as a body voted to move forward in our plans to build a new permanent home for our ministry. Needless to say this was the culmination of years of hard work on behalf of a lot of people, and to many there was a sense of relief as every person in the room stood to pledge their support to this vision for our future.
Now comes the hard part. Saying you are going to do something is easy, actually doing it is much much more difficult.
When I was a teenager, I remember going to youth camp, sitting through what was almost always an excellent presentation of the Gospel, and then hearing the evangelist say "now, with every head bowed, and every eye closed, raise your hand if you want to accept Jesus." I admit, I peeked sometimes, (come on, you all did too!) fascinated with the whole idea of "secret salvation." I distinctly remember kids in my youth group who would raise their hands, and I would feel so good for them, not really knowing why. Then the evangelist would ask that those who had raised their hands come forward. Most did, some didn't.
If you say it in private, but can't even walk down an aisle in a room full of people who are "on your side" when it comes to living for Jesus, how will you do it in the "real world?"
Then, of those who had raised their hands, I noticed that even fewer actually acted differently after camp was over. Heck, some didn't even make it through that evening before going back to the same ol' same ol'.
I remember wondering if this was really what it meant to be "saved." What do you think? Does this match the description of a Kingdom person described in Jesus' many parables? Does it match up with the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians? Does it carry the kinds of actions James says should be evident in living faith?
I wonder how many of you have felt the same way?
I have said before and I will say again, you will never ever never ever ever never hear me say, at the end of a sermon, "with every head bowed and every eye closed." I think that kind of easy believism was more harmful to the kids I grew up with than it was helpful. It sowed confusion and a false sense of what God expects from us as followers of The Way. There may not be floods of people coming down the aisle at the end of my sermons, but those who do will (hopefully) have a full understanding of what it means for them to stand before a body of believers and say, "yes Lord!"
Last night we made it clear what is ahead for us as a church, and still, everybody stood. Now comes the real work. We are going to have to reach into our pockets and fund this project. We are going to have to give of our time, our talent, and yes, our treasure to see this come to life. We're going to have to bake sale and pledge and maybe even look outside the box for ways to see this building built. Saying "yes we can" is much easier than saying "yes we will." Actually doing something about what we say will be even harder.
The good news is we are not alone. Just like that man, woman, or child that comes before God and says "yes I will," we are empowered beyond ourselves by the Father, through His Son, with His Spirit. When we say "yes we will," what we really mean is "yes we will, with your help God!"
So we stand before God and we pray, "God, help us to meet the vision you have for us as a people. Help us to be a place, and a people, where Your grace intersects peoples' lives."
Now comes the hard part, but its the hard part that reaps the real reward.
at 9:13 AM