Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bigger Than Me

Gilmore Junio

Denny Morrison is a decorated Canadian long-track speed skater but stumbled in the 1000m qualification race at the Canadian nationals and did not make the team for the Olympic event in Sochi.

Gilmore Junio was part of the same team. He qualified to race in both the 500m and 1000m races. Yet, after racing the 500m race, he decided to give up his spot in the 1000m race to Morrison, who had not qualified. (Read more about this amazing decision HERE.)

Junio's reasoning was that Morrison had a better chance of medaling in the 1000m race than he did. For the sake of the team, Junio sacrificed his position. The sacrifice paid off, as Morrison won silver in the 1000m. 

The Canadian skaters entered the Olympics with a unity of purpose--to acquire team medals--that extended beyond their own individual desires.

This is the lesson the apostle Paul sought to teach the Corinthian believers who were focused on themselves. They argued about teachers, were involved in sexual misconduct, wondered whether they could sue one another, had a myriad of worship problems focused around one-upping each other with spiritual gifts, and even misunderstood the resurrection! Paul called this worldly behavior. Such behavior, Paul said, demonstrates that one is still an infant in Christ, in need of baby food, not the solid food eaten by adults (1 Cor. 3:1-4).

To teach them, Paul used himself and Apollos as an example. They were two of the teachers who were being argued about among these believers (1 Cor. 1). Rather than comparing doctrine, arguing about rhetorical devices, or fighting over ministry methods, their work complemented each other. Rather than competing, they cooperated. There was a unity of purpose in their work. They were fellow workers, together, for God. They were "one" in this work (1 Cor.3:8-9).

Paul characterized this unity of purpose with garden imagery. He planted, Apollos watered, but it was God who gave the growth. Neither the planter nor the one who waters were anything; the one who really mattered was the growth-giver--God (1Cor. 3:6-7).

This unity of purpose creates the context for God to give growth. We are God's garden. But comparing, competing, arguing and fighting are like weeds that interrupt progress in God's garden. Like Paul taught, and as the Olympic speed skaters demonstrated, a unity of purpose is the only way forward. How we live together matters. Our unity of purpose must be in growing together as God's garden, eliminating weeds of discord while serving one another, for God's glory.

Jeremy Hoover is the minister at the Otisville Church of Christ in Otisville, Michigan. His website is at He is an avid sports fan who enjoys biographies about athletes and books by coaches. His favorite sports are hockey, where he roots for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and football, where he pulls for the New England Patriots.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Remember the Seahawks!

After last week's post a friend of mine, whose name I won't mention, who happens to be a Seattle fan took issue with the fact that I'd written about the losing Superbowl team. I acknowledged the validity of his point and promised him this post. :-) So here are some winning thoughts served with a slice of Manning pie.

Just as the Superbowl was about to kick off, my sister, who lives in Seattle, posted this facebook status,

"Still trying to understand the rules of this American football game. Why are there 12 players for the Seahawks and only one player for the Broncos (Peyton Manning)?"

I thought it was a brilliant comment on the way the two teams had been portrayed. I'm a big Manning fan, so if he had run out onto the field in the Superbowl in a Seahawks jersey I'd have been cheering for the Seahawks. I suspect that many others around the country allocated their Superbowl loyalties based upon their like or dislike of Peyton Manning. He became a larger than life character in this sporting drama.

In contrast, when I reflect on the persona projected by Seattle I keep coming back to the ideas of team and community.

1. Seattle has successfully embraced fan enthusiasm by honoring the crowd as The 12th Man. (11 players are on the field at any given time.) This relationship with fans has made Seattle one of the loudest stadiums in which to play and helped Seattle to only one loss over the past two season. Seattle actually holds the world record for the most crowd noise at a sporting event. That roar even created a small earthquake!! 

2. Although Russell Wilson has provided some great quarterback play and team leadership, the heart and soul of the team is it's defense. Richard Sherman has attracted a lot of media attention in the role of a bad boy with a big mouth. But the strength of the Seahawks defense has been a group of players labelled "The Legion of Boom". When compared to the singular focus Peyton Manning has received, the fact that Seattle's engine room consists of a group of players makes a significant point. Individuals can't win championships in a team sport.

3. As this story describes, even Pete Carroll, the Seattle coach, was willing to take a tackle for the benefit of the team. This style of leadership and commitment are contagious and help establish a team first mentality among the players.

There are so many ways to take these points and apply them to churches. I think I'll let you do most of the heavy lifting on this one. But here's a couple of summary thoughts.

1. The concept of the 12th Man is all about giving fans a slice of ownership in the team. As this article describes this ownership creates community that (at least for a little while) energizes a city. Churches need to have this same goal. Members want to be part of something bigger than themselves. People long for community and contributing to a greater good. How does your church communicate inclusion and value to each member?

2. Church isn't just about the individual. Yes, it's a community that God uses to speak into the lives of individuals, but it doesn't stop there. Being part of the body of Christ means that sometimes we'll put our bodies on the line for the benefit of others. That's teamwork. That's church. That's Jesus. As a church leader I have to regularly ask myself how I'm modelling this value.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How to Lose the Superbowl

Given the title I'm resisting the very strong temptation to simply write, "Have Peyton Manning as your QB". But that would put Manning in Buffalo Bills territory and that would be unfair since he does have one of those big, shiny rings in his trophy room.

But let me say this about the Superbowl. "WOW, THAT WAS CRAZY!!!!" Did anyone see that coming? From the first snap Denver looked like they were still in a different time zone! The image of the ball sailing past Manning's head to start the game is one that will stick with me for a long time.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a Colts fan, that means I'm a Manning fan, and that means that on Sunday I was a Denver fan. He seems to be a man of tremendous character, and with a very dry sense of humour that I like. He has richly deserved all the league MVP's that he's won. His comeback from neck injury and a year out of the game is remarkable.

The Superbowl loss was certainly not all about Manning. Defense and special teams also had games to forget. The Broncos never gave a hint that they were going to compete in this game. It was extremely disappointing. Before the game Denver was actually the favourite, but they played like they wanted to win first pick in the draft!! This was the largest Superbowl blowout in 20+ years!

So, "How to lose the Superbowl?"

  1. Miss tackles. 
  2. Give the opponent points on the first play of the game.
  3. Miss tackles... and blocks.
  4. Let the opposition pressure the QB and tip passes.
  5. Miss tackles.
  6. Throw more interceptions than touchdowns.
  7. Did I mention, Miss tackles.
But there's another way to lose the Superbowl that Manning also aced. If you're going to lose, lose with grace. Did you catch this story, about Manning making the effort to come back and sign an autograph for a beer vendor and others at a time he surely just wanted to be alone. Or did you hear about how Richard Sherman, villain to Manning's halo in this game, described Peyton checking with him post game to see how serious the injury was?

If you're going to lose, that's how you lose a Superbowl. With your integrity intact.

In 2 Corinthians 8:2 Paul gives this description of some churches he'd visited, "Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts." (Message)

These churches found themselves with their backs against the wall, yet they didn't dwell on their own circumstances. Even in the middle of personal trial they wanted to serve and help others. It's easy to love our neighbours after we win our personal Superbowls, or life is breezy. Loving our neighbours when our circumstances suck requires a lot a character. Some people can do it because of their personality, most of us require the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives to truly love others while dealing with our own personal hurt.

So thank you Peyton Manning. Not for losing, but for losing with grace.

Related Links:
  • A friend shared a similar blog post HERE.