Did you watch the Saints beat the Falcons Sunday afternoon? Did you groan when quarterback Taysom Hill left the field with an injury, then breathe a sigh of relief when Trevor Siemian had a good remainder of the game? Did you check the Rams-49ers score, and find yourself going from happiness that the Rams were leading 17-0 to disappointment when they lost in overtime? Did you allow yourself to think – just for a moment – that the Saints might actually not only get into the playoffs but actually win a game or two?
Did you also find yourself thinking that this year’s Saints have a kind of “Never Give Up” quality that will serve them well next year? Maybe even have a bit of pride in that spirit?
You may not think of things like football games in comparison with congregational ministry, but I do. I’ve been a pastor for a long time, and almost always think of what things that happen “out there” have to teach the church. A few thoughts after Sunday:
- Having a good coach/pastor/congregational president is essential but not sufficient. Sean Payton did a great job this year re-inventing a team that had long been dependent on Drew Brees. That kept them in the hunt for the whole season, but didn’t get them to the prize we all desired.
- Team means everyone pulling together. Leadership and backups and backups to backups. The Saints this year were often better than the sum of the parts of uninjured players. Churches are at their best when everyone pulls together toward a shared goal of glorifying and serving God. If anyone on a team, or in a church, seeks to undermine the whole, they will drag everyone down, at least for a time. And when everyone works together, they can accomplish more than we might imagine.
- You have to celebrate your successes. The Saints celebrated that win on Sunday, even though they missed the playoffs. Churches need to celebrate relationships cultivated, worship done well, mission enacted – whenever and however it happens. Even, especially, in this challenging time, Grace has much to celebrate.
- Change happens. Everyone in the Who Dat Nation wishes that Drew Brees had never aged from the then 31 year old quarterback who won the Super Bowl. But he did, and eventually retired. Many people in the church wish that we still lived with the realities of church in 1958, when going to church was a societal expectation. Many people at Grace who raised their children at Grace wish that going to Grace, or a church very much like it, continued to have the same meaning for those children as it does for their parents. It is hard to admit the reality that many of them have chosen a different path. The question becomes how to respond to the change, since we do not have the power to re-create reality.
Churches all over are in a time of transition. This includes Grace. Your leadership team sent you a letter last week about their work, inviting you to trust God, trust them, do your daily homework. They reminded you about their retreat coming up at the end of this month. I would add a request that you pray for their work, as you prepare yourself to hear from them and engage with their recommendations when they return.
The church needs you all.
Grace and peace,