Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The War of Attrition

Last week this blog post highlighted the importance of not allowing complacency to stunt our growth early in our faith journey. This week, regular contributor Jeremy Hoover looks at the lessons we can learn from the other end of the season, the Playoffs.

The NHL season, and in particular the Stanley Cup playoffs, represent a war of attrition.

The entire 82-game NHL season is a war, out of which only half the teams survive. Only 16 of 32 teams make the playoffs. The season is a war of attrition. It wears teams down in an attempt to see who can endure and outlast. Teams may start well, but they also have to end well. One example of this is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who began the season with a very successful start through the first twelve games, only to score points in just eight of their last twenty-two games and fall out of a playoff spot.

The playoffs are a war of attrition. Playoff teams engage in up to four rounds of a best-of-seven games format. This means that the two teams that play for the Stanley Cup can potentially play an extra 28 games, or fully one-third of what they already played in the regular season.

The playoffs are tough. They wear teams and players down. Every year it seems as though one team that was fine-tuning for a playoff run takes a big hit through injury and suffers a playoff loss. One example of this is the Tampa Bay Lightning, who lost their top goalie, one of the best in the league this year, to a knee injury in the last week of the season. This loss was devastating and led to the Lightning being swept in the first round.

The team that swept the Lightning, the Montreal Canadiens, suffered a devastating injury of their own. In game one of the Eastern Conference finals, their starting goalie, one of the top goalies in the league and an Olympic gold medal-winning goalie, suffered a knee injury and is out for at least the length of the Eastern Conference finals.

The playoffs force teams to reckon with the forces of attrition and to find ways to carry on. Often the team who wins the Stanley Cup is the team who was able to endure and outlast all others. The key is perseverance. Teams that keep focused, don't lose their cool, avoid serious injury, and press on are the teams that most often win it all.

Many of our churches look like this. We start well but get bogged down in the middle of our "season." We lose a few games and we begin looking for a quick fix, a blockbuster trade, or something to help. Attendance is low, we struggle to find ministry leaders, or we notice spiritual lethargy and are unsure how to overcome it. 

Perhaps we find our churches gaining momentum at the right time, only to be hit right then with a major injury in the form of a personality conflict, a major fight within the church, or a leadership problem. 

Or maybe we feel poised to make a "playoff run"--there is a specific ministry we targeted to build evangelistic zeal--but we fizzle out because our people became tired.

The key is in these situations, the way to avoid the war of attrition waged against us, is to persevere.

In two different places in 1 Timothy, Paul urges Timothy to persevere. In the first place, he provides Timothy with a list of things to teach, a way of life that will instruct people through action, and an encouragement to be diligent. He tells Timothy to persevere in these things (1 Tim. 4:11-16). Later, he charges Timothy to flee from the temptations of wealth and to "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness" and to "fight the good fight of the faith" by taking hold of eternal life and persevering (1 Tim. 6:11-12).

If we follow Paul's advice to Timothy, we will be able to overcome the forces of attrition that work against us because our focus will be on the eternal nature of the ministry we provide, not the day to day goings on the physical management of that ministry. Like Timothy, we can persevere to the end.

What helps you to persevere in your faith, ministry, or life when adversity strikes?

No comments:

Post a Comment