Here Comes Fall….Again!
I used to love to watch sports on tv. It was a great way to shift my brain into neutral, get away from the pressures of the day and relax. However, over the last few years, agendas off the field replaced action on the field and it kind of sapped my desire to watch anymore. We cut our cable a year and a half ago.
This past week, however, I had the privilege of watching parts of a few college football games with my son-in-law who played in high school and college. He’s an assistant varsity coach now and the 9th grade head coach at the same high school in suburban Minneapolis. It’s fun watching games with him because he understands the game. The strategy. The thinking behind the plays. He understands the rules. He sees the dumb things coaches and players do when they’re not “in the zone” mentally and physically.
One of the interesting first-week college football storylines revolved around the backup quarterback for Florida State, McKenzie Milton. Milton had led the University of Central Florida to twenty three straight wins before suffering a gruesome dislocated right knee on November 23, 2018. The injury was so bad that, for a time, there was concern Milton’s leg would have to be amputated. Tendons and ligaments were ripped to shreds, arterial blood flow was interrupted to his lower leg and nerve function was very little to none when he was first examined after the injury. Milton endured two years of daily rehabilitation sessions on his knee. Amazingly, he survived a severe infection in 2019 that almost required amputation! Last Sunday, September 5th, Florida State was down to Notre Dame in the fourth quarter. Milton went in for the starting quarterback — his first college game in over 1,000 days! Florida State fought back under Milton but eventually lost in overtime.
So what’s the point of all of this? I think there are number of things that can be gleaned from the above.
1. Moving away from our core mission (i.e., why we exist) can have devastating consequences. Just like some sports leagues have gotten more concerned about “off the field issues” than on the field games, when we, as churches, pastors and leaders, deviate from our main mission — cooperating with God in making disciples who make disciples — we can lose folks and unwittingly sap their desire to be engaged with the mission of God, anymore. I’m not blaming you, pastor or leader, it’s easy to get caught up in things — I have at times — and it’s always been to my detriment and the detriment of the ministry I was leading at the time. Keep the mission of God before you — crystal clear. Keep the mission of God before your leaders and congregations — crystal clear! May we not lose sight of what it is our God desires for all of us to be engaged in — cooperating with Him in making disciples who make disciples!
2. A second item that can be gleaned from the above stories is that it is a good thing to be around those who have gone further down the road than we have! Not only is it a good thing, we should actively seek out those who have been where God is leading us to go! Sometimes this can be formal, up-close and personal. Sometimes it can be from a distance with someone who we have never met — yet have been challenged by their writings, actions and experience. I think of how our Pastoral Growth Groups (PGG) have the great potential to play a part in this as well as our IGNITE fall conference which is coming up in a few short weeks, September 27 – 30 in Rapid City, SD. We also can avail ourselves of other friendships, books, podcasts and video trainings that can challenge and push us to greater things than we have known before.
3. A last application from above is that of calling. McKenzie Miller just wanted to prove to himself, and to others, that he could recover from a very bad injury and make it back to the football field. While commendable — and inspiring — that pales in comparison to following the call of God on our lives — even when it hurts, knocks us out figuratively and/or drives us to despair. Every analogy breaks down at some point — we do not need to “prove to others” our calling when we get smacked down. BUT, when we do get smacked down, we should be willing to do whatever it takes to follow the call of God on our lives. Sometimes it takes “blood, sweat and tears” — literally and figuratively. In this role, I have heard many stories of colleagues amongst us who have come back from some very challenging circumstances — physically, emotionally and spiritually. I also have met with people who haven’t. For whatever reason, they are on the sideline longer than it need be to recover from their “injury.” Perhaps they gave up too soon, quit “rehab” or just didn’t believe they could make it back. Again, I am not coming down on you, pastor or leader, rather I am encouraging us to not give up. McKenzie Milton could have given up on a “dream” of playing football again. He could have been happy with just being able to walk — let alone regain upper level athletic prowess. But he persevered! Even when it wasn’t what he wanted to do or “felt” like doing. Similarly, we are advised in God’s Word to not give up! In Galatians 6, Paul writes Let us not become weary in well doing, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up. Many of us have gotten extremely tired of Covid and its wearisomeness. Is it coming back? Is it coming back again with a vengeance? What’s the truth about _____________________ (fill in the blank)?
May we not tire of engaging in what God’s mission is — cooperating with God in making disciples who make disciples! If you’re sensing your enthusiasm lessening for the mission of God, if you sense yourself frustrated and even angry over how things are going where you serve and the mission of God — wherever you find yourself, please feel free to reach to myself, Chris or Eric. We are happy to listen, to serve with you, to encourage, to be a sounding-board, to come along-side and walk with you in the good times and the challenging times. Please know that we desire to serve you in whatever ways, in God’s strength, that we can.