I enjoy basketball. Playing takes a greater toll than it once used to. Saturday our team played and suffered a monstrous defeat. I confess to wondering when the day would come that I should only play pick-up games and leave the leagues to the flat bellies. After this past week the day is nearer than I once believed. I once coached a high school girls team for one year (No that is not me in the photo). We played a well-oiled machine in the playoffs and it did not matter what I did or knew, the game was never in question. There is little doubt folks watched from the stands thinking,"If I were coach …"
Over the past twelve years I have stood in school board meetings a couple of times to speak in behalf of an embattled coach. The issue for me was not how well the job was done. The real issue rested with the notion someone whose expertise is in another field, a field in which that person makes their living, somehow knows how to coach better than the very experienced person the school hired. Sure, a person could be a one game wonder. If the issue were simply knowing plays, managing a clock and motivating players maybe others could do it better. Forget that a coach needs to be something of a psychologist and sociologist. Yes, young people can be head cases as they work to mature through a protracted adolescence and you can count on some who hail from a home life exerting more pressure than a Calculus test.
My favorite line to use in these moments, if I do say so myself, was to suggest the parallel between a coach and a pastor where, "everyone is an expert in my field." Huddles near the concession stand often contained grumblings about the coach. He did not run the right plays, call the right defense or have the right players in the game. We sometimes overheard these in hallways or insinuated in personal conversations.
I recall practicing with the boys’ team at one of our local schools. Hearing parents talk of their skills as if the next Michael Jordan donned local colors and certainly possessed potential for Division 1 possibilities left me bemused. I have played with some very talented fellows. Daryl "Choo" Kennedy abused me a time or two at Northwest Classen. He was quite the player at the University of Oklahoma. Curtis Hinex who played for OBU leaped over me to dunk the ball in a pick-up game. These fellows could play. The keen eye of a parent often fails to pick up the subtleties that go into making a player great. Give them a place to speak and they will certainly illustrate their scouting acumen in a hurry.
When it comes to pastoring, since we only work one day a week, everyone is smarter than the pastor. I wonder just how to calculate the educational cost versus the working schedule. Let’s see B.A., M.Div. and D.Min. in order to work one day. Since everyone has the time, skill and inclination to work to understand the contextual settings of Scripture interpretation should be fairly uniform. But it is not. The plurality of Christian interpretation, not to mention denominational expression, should correct any notion that a "simple reading" of the text "reveals." Who gets to say? Add to that the necessity to be skilled at psychology, sociology, anthropology, not to mention something of an adept politician.
Moving a group to understand the world differently seems like installing a new offense. Some may remember the "wishbone" coming to the University of Oklahoma. Growing up a Sooner fan in that era left us always looking to see on whom we could "hang half a hundred" as they tried to catch the likes of Billy Sims. For quite sometime it worked with immense success. Once people caught on and skill and ability brought parity to the college game it became necessary to re-think the offense. I remember thinking, "Little hope for us now. We do not know how to throw the ball." Some time later we enjoy the conquests of Heupel, Hybl and White. Boy did our view of the world change in Soonerland.
For some reason we in the "Church" want to hold on to the "wishbone" as if we would not know how to win a game any other way. We stand and speak prophetically of the "end of the world as we know it" (a la Brueggemann interpreting the Prophets) and you can hear the moans. Uncertain. Sacrificing standards. Accommodation. Few continue to listen to the "prophetic imagination" declaring a "brave
new world" where the King and His Kingdom show up more than nominally.
Often the shift draws criticism for lacking in ethical demands. The real sense for me is we should be demanding more than historical forms of holiness (you know the usual suspects – dancing, drinking, gambling, dirty movies, smoking). We too often fail to consider and understand a more complete and robust call to holiness. Here I am think of the Apostle Paul’s summation of the law as, "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Gal. 5:14) If this is not a high ethical demand I cannot think of another. Paul then outlines the work of the Spirit (fruit) which certainly demonstrates the character of our ethic and in drawing it together Paul writes, "against such things there is no law." And yet, our failure to live in these ways indicates living according to our "old law," that is the law of the "self." One generation considers this shift a "lowering" while a another generation sees it as a "raising."
Taking note of the ears of the culture in which we find ourselves embedded (read, located) may well tell us where we who follow Jesus should place our "emphasis." This is not a way to deny the need to avoid sin; to run from evil. On the contrary, spending all our time fixated on only what I referred to as the "historical demands of holiness" may well lead us away from opportunities for people to hear "Good News" today. We may well plunge ourselves deeper into the Christian ghetto never to connect with a person in need of the love of Jesus again.
The solution for many is a new coach. He will bring a new offense. Invigorate the fans. But, if all things remain the same we simply get the same. George Barna and others have long pointed out just how we keep getting the same. When we talk about "missional" we are not talking about re-arranging the deck chairs. Our intent is to say we move from "mission" as one more project we take on, to a way of viewing the world in a whole new way. We see the world as the setting for the "story of God." Our participation as Jesus followers is not about choosing what projects for which we will sign up. Instead our involvement is life in the coming Kingdom of God; a Kingdom already and not yet. Our vocation and families find home in the Kingdom rather than the Kingdom finding home in our vocation and family.
We need to see the world God is making new and will complete at the coming of Jesus. We need to understand rescue, renewal and restoration comes under the activity of the Triune God who revealed Himself "finally" in His Son. To go on seeing the world as we once viewed it is to resign ourselves to a bygone day. It is to look for the renaissance of the "wishbone" in a "west coast offense" world.
UPDATE – I found this article by Ed Stetzer of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Some of my readers may be helped by the description in this piece. Why is cultural relevance a big deal? And an excerpt posted here points out the value of finding the connecting points between our current cultural location and the very real culture in which the Word became flesh. Preaching that Understands the World