Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pots of Gold

I noticed this story on a sports ticker the other day. (Read another version of it HERE.) Notre Dame sent some of their potential football recruits packages of 477 hand-written letters. This represents one letter for every Notre Dame player who has ever been drafted to the NFL.

This is certainly extravagant and as the article points out will lead to other colleges competing to see who can show their recruits the most love. If the next school sends 500 letters will that mean they value their players more than Notre Dame does?

As a church leader it's my job to send a letter or email each week to each first-time guest for whom we receive contact info. In fact, guests receive an email from me on both their first and second visits  to one of our worship services. Focusing upon hospitality toward guests is an important aspect of our Sunday morning experience. In an ideal world each guest would leave feeling they've made at least one new friend and met a church that cares about them and can help meet their needs.

I know other churches that attempt to demonstrate their love for each person that comes through their doors by dropping off a box of cookies or some homemade bread later that week or even Sunday afternoon. A couple of times I've received a pen in the mail as a "thank-you" gift for visiting a church. I've also heard a minister at a large church describe how he spends Sunday afternoon making phone calls to first-time guests that left their phone number on an attendance card.

I don't really imagine that any guest at a church service would want to receive 477 letters later that week. But it makes me think about our attitudes. Are we as passionate about "recruiting" people to the kingdom of God as we are about recruiting top players to a football team?

In Romans 10:1 the apostle Paul wrote, "my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.

What does your heart desire for your neighbours? Would you risk getting eternal hand cramp "so that they may be saved?"

Two Questions:
1. What's the most extravagant thing you've seen a church try as they followup with guests?
2. Can you think of another spiritual application to this story about "pots of gold"?  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Is Perfect Good Enough?

According to multiple news reports, including the football coach at the University of Texas, Mack Brown, will be forced to retire in the immediate future.

Brown has been the head coach in Texas for sixteen years. Fifteen of those years produced winning seasons. In fact, from 2001 to 2009 they won at least 10 games every year. In 2005 Texas won the national championship and came second in 2009. They won the Rose Bowl in 2004 and the Fiesta Bowl in 2008. They also won the the Big 12 title in 2005 and 2009.

In almost any college football program in the country this would be a hugely successful era.

But Texas isn't "any football program in the country."

The Texas football program has enormous financial resources and the administration and fans expect that support and wealth to result in regular Big 12 championships at the least and national championships every few years.

Over the past four years the Longhorns have barely broken even in the Big 12 with a 18-17 win-loss record. This article also points out that "Brown [is] the first coach in Texas history to suffer four straight seasons with at least four losses."

So turning around a season that started with two unexpected losses and clawing back to a share of second in the Big 12 wasn't good enough to save Brown's job.

Different jobs come with different expectations. Sometimes just having a winning record is a major achievement for the team. In other locations beating a traditional rival will make a successful season. But then there are those teams for whom anything less than ultimate success is failure.

Each time I hear of a successful coach being fired for not being successful "enough" I reflect on the grace I receive from God. The only "enough" God seeks from me, is a spirit broken enough to recognise my need for God's forgiveness and healing in my life.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:6 (tNIV)
Plenty of times I get caught up in the pursuit of various "enoughs" trying to please God or earn something from Him. I'm glad God's standards are so much lower that those of football fans around the world, because I'm never enough for God. The only "enough" in our relationship is that God is "enough" for me!