Saturday, September 20, 2008

Change Like a Tiger

I root for the Kansas City Chiefs.
HEY - I hear you snickering! Watch it!
Anyway, as I was saying, I root for the Kansas City Chiefs. And they are terrible. The game last week between the Raiders and the Chiefs may have been the ugliest football game I have ever seen. They stink.
But I know them. They are my guys. And I'd rather root for a horrible team that I know than try to find another team to root for that might be better. I could root for a team that would be fun to watch, a team for whom there was a sliver of hope, a team that could run a wider variety of plays than Kansas City, whose offense seems to consist of running Larry Johnson into a huge pile of linemen three times and then punting.
But to do that, I'd have to learn about a-whole-nother team - players, colors, logos, coaches, everything. All of that change and then I wouldn't even be 100% sure that they would win the Superbowl, anyway. So I stick with the hapless Chiefs, who as I have mentioned before, stink.
I wonder if that's what the Hebrew people were feeling when they got hungry in the wilderness and complained to Moses in chapter 17. Their complaint was that in Egypt, at least they had food. But out here in the wilderness, there's just nothing! In other words, they knew Egypt. Bad as it was, at least they knew it. The wilderness was new, and despite Moses' leadership up to this point, they saw no hope that things would get better any time soon.
What's that expression? Better the devil you know...
Now add to this that I also root for the Missouri Tigers. This is also a team that I feel like I know. These are also my guys.
And they pretty much kick butt.
Number one offense in the NCAA, two legit Heisman Trophy candidates, hands-down favorite in the Big 12 North and some say the Big 12 championship game. In the past few years, they have completely transformed their offensive scheme and recruited a ton of really talented players to run it. And I must say that it is a lot more fun to root for a team both that I know and is also really, really good! I'm sure not about to change to rooting for a different college team; it's not even on my mind to do so.
So, speaking of changing the church -
Is there a way that transforming the church can be more of a Missouri Tigers than a Kansas City Chiefs experience?
A lot of people in the church seem to me to be reluctant to change because we prefer the church that we know to the unknown future church that might be. Even if the church we know may be stagnant, irrelevant, lethargic, it is at its core ours - or so we like to think. (Yes, I could drop in an argument at this point that the church is really God's, but for the sake of this discussion bracket that out for the time being.)
But maybe transformation of the church could involve both a sense of hope and also a sense of "ours." To infuse that which we already know with a new energy, to revive that which is familiar, to rejuvenate that which for so long has been obligatory and routine - this is the kind of change that I would like to witness in the church.
The Tigers didn't change their team colors, fire Truman the Tiger, remove the big "M" from behind the north end zone of Faurot Field, stop playing football, scoring touchdowns, making tackles. But the Tigers completely transformed their identity as a football team, which meant they completely transformed the way they play football. So they are still "our team" and also they are exciting to watch.
To be sure, I believe that the church needs to change - or better said, that the church is changing before our very eyes. But I really and truly do not think it has to change to the point where we don't even recognize it anymore. I'm going to root for the church, because it is "my team" and more seriously because I am called by God to serve through the church as a pastor. But I'd rather be rooting for a church that not only is "my team" but also in which I witness a sense of hope, energy, and excitement.


Anonymous said...

I was going to read this...and then I realized that it probably would be filled with stuff that I wouldn't understand...go sports!


Anonymous said...

Emil anonymously stretches your analogy even further to say that maybe, like the Tigers, the church needs to recapture the energy, talents and relevance it had in the past and restate them is today's language. (Emil is old enough to remember that 1969 season people keep comparing this season to.)

Brad said...

God's freedom requires risk. The Tiger's transformation was risky. The Chiefs are the declining church that focuses on solvable problems like the new carpet (revolving-door coaches) when what it really needs is a spanish language service (fire the petersons already!)

Take a risk, the excitement and hope will follow.

kerner said...

Great thoughts. I've been thinking a lot about innovative changes in the church lately. I wonder if one of the reasons we don't see this type of shift has more to do with longevity than it does with a resistance to change.

A college football team gets to cycle the entire team in 4-5 years. The NFL doesn't change quite as rapidly and the church even less frequently. Minor changes can start to look pretty innovative and groundbreaking when you've seen the same stuff for the past 20-50 years.

How can we start fostering small shifts that make people comfortable enough to cope with huge transformations?