Monday, August 10, 2015

Learning from Sackcloth and Ashes

In 1896 Utah became the United States' 45th state. The modern Olympics launch in Athens. Dow Jones begins an index of 12 industrial stocks. Henry Ford takes his 1st Ford through streets of Detroit. The 1st movie theater in US opens, charging 10 cents for admission. A large power plant at Niagara Falls begins operation and the City of Buffalo receives it's first power from the fall over a 25 mile transmission line

And the Australian cricket team on a tour of England is bowled out in just 113 balls.

No Australian cricket team was dismissed as quickly for for almost 120 years... until 6 August, 2015. On this day the Aussies kissed the Ashes good-bye as they edged their way to infamy in just 111 balls. (You can watch a video of the disaster HERE.)  Australia's 60 runs is their lowest innings total against England in 79 years.

The world's smallest trophy.

Was it really just a few months ago that Australia won the limited overs World Cup? Was it that same tournament that England only won 2 matches and didn't make the quarter finals? YES. It's all recorded right HERE.

Australia's woes bring to mind two comparisons with life as a Christian. (You may have more.)

1. Succession Planning: This Australian squad to tour England included nine players in their 30's. Many of them are now contemplating retirement. The selectors played it safe and chose players based on accomplished track records, but this gave the squad an unusually high average age.

Churches also have to take risks with their young members. Titus 2:3-4 describes older women teaching younger women. This principle surely applies to men also. There's a risk that we'll think of this teaching in terms of passing on knowledge. Churches generally do a good job of transferring knowledge. Teaching also requires allowing people to fail. Established members in churches must create an environment that allows younger Christians to fail as they learn what it means to live out their faith. If expected standard is perfection before long there won't be a younger generation.

It feels safer for the long-term members to maintain control, because that's what's familiar to them. But sooner or later new faces need to take over and the key question becomes, "have they been adequately equipped?"

2. Build Up: It's easy to mock and criticise our teams and the players when the fail. Perhaps we rationalise that we'll come back to support them later, we're just expressing out current frustration. We've all been through this and I know I've laughed as my own teams are ridiculed.

In the church (and life) we can't treat people this way. It's the young Christian who's sinned publicly who most needs to know that repentance leads to forgiveness. It's the person struggling with their faith who most needs friends to sit down and listen to them, not laugh at them. In moments of crisis people need compassion. The church would be a cruel a place if mocked and discarded people as quickly as we do the players on our favourite teams.

Do you know someone around you who's struggling with faith or life? What can you do this week to lift them up and let them know they're not alone?

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