Friday, February 8, 2013

What Golf Taught Me About Church Planting

The Golf Part

A call came in from a friend asking me to sub for him in a golf tournament.  He had paid the fee already and did not want to be paid back, but did not want the slot to go to waste.  With a free game of golf being offered, I quickly accepted.  When I got to the course on the day of the tournament, I discovered that my playing partner was also a sub.  We made our way to the driving range together to warm up.  I watched her hit a few of balls off the tee and could tell, she was a very good golfer. Already, I was feeling I really needed to step up my game. 

To complicate things, just as the tournament began, is started to rain lightly, but steadily.  Now, when situations are less than ideal, I tend to be inconsistent in my response.  Sometimes I adopt an attitude that feels I am off the hook for the outcome.  If I fail, then so what?  There was too much against me.  Other times however, I rise to the challenge and refuse to be defeated by any road block or obstacle in my way.  Truthfully, it is hard to tell which way I am going to go sometimes.  Will I retreat, or will I refuse to be defeated?

My playing partner was a "refuse to be defeated" kind of person.  And that attitude is contagious.  So I refused to lose as well.  As a result, I began playing way above my head, the wind and rain notwithstanding.  She was playing really well too.  We played 11 holes in the rain, and through those 11 holes, we were 6 under par and had a 2 stroke lead on the field. 

Then, something terrible happened.  The rain stopped and the sun came out.  A dry, cool front blew through and not only was it sunny, but it was not even humid despite the 2 hour rain.  My attitude changed just as suddenly as the weather.

Now, the weather conditions were no longer a challenge.  They were optimal.  I began to relax.  So did my partner.  In fact, we did not birdie another hole, and our victory slipped away.  

When the weather was rainy, windy and unpleasant, we found a way to push through wet grips, rain pelting our eyes, rooster tails shooting up behind the ball on longer putts, and the general feeling of being weighed down by all that rain.  I learned, thanks to my playing partner, that I can be at my best when those around me are complaining about their circumstances and starting to make excuses for anticipated failure, rather than make a plan to succeed despite the obstacles. But when the weather challenge went away, that sense of urgency evaporated as well, and complacency set in.  

I discovered that day, that sometimes outcomes are not so dependent how well I am externally set up for success, but how set for success I am set up internally - in my own mind, soul and spirit, and in my own attitude.

The Church Planting Part

Church planting is an odd thing.  A leader and a team of people decide that with a little bit of resources, and a lot of hard work, they will overcome the limitations of time, funding, volunteers, staff, programs, and the lack of any kind of reputation, to build a new community of faith in a particular community.  So, by nature this requires a certain kind of person - one who either has naturally, or can adopt the attitude that says, "If something gets in my way, I will find a way around it and refuse to be defeated!"

In a strange way, it may be that those who function best only when they are set up well for success may not make the best church planters - either as the pastor or as one of the members.  It may be that the best people to plant a church need stuff to overcome to be at their best.  We need to have something in our way.  We need looming deadlines and limited resources.  We need something to create in us a sense of urgency that says, "It's now or never." 

If everything suddenly became easy - unlimited funding, no deadlines, lots of equipped and willing volunteers showing up at our door (if we actually had a door), people in the community volunteering to donate land and money and resources - that sense of urgency might escape us.  Complacency could easily set in.  And although it may take a while, we might ultimately have to watch victory slip away.

How well set up for success we feel we are in terms of our circumstances is not nearly so important to how set up for success we are in our own minds, souls and spirits - in our own attitudes. 

The Hopeful Part

May we who are planting churches find the sense of urgency we need to push through every obstacle.  May we do so with a sense of purpose, commitment and with a great deal of grace.  May those who join us find the strength to also be at their best when things are less ideal than we had hoped they might be.  May we all find that in situations where others might be frustrated, confused, and retreating, we are instead those who become focused, joyful, unwavering in optimism,  persevering and relentlessly moving forward in the grace of God that is ours in Jesus Christ! 

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