I can remember the t-shirts that our football team wore the year that Coach Dan Duff started his tenure at Hixson High School. They were gray with black lettering, with the word “TEAM” placed in large, bold type above the word “ME” in smaller type. There was an empty oval beneath that for the player to whom the shirt was given to take a permanent marker and write his number in it, staking his claim to the visual statement that Coach Duff was trying to make in an attempt to change the losing culture that was Hixson football. They were 2-8 the year before the auto mechanic teacher was relieved of his coaching duties, and Coach Duff was 0-10 his first season. The culture needed a change.
Think about the way we view “church”. All of us at some point in our walks and in our initial connections to a church family had a very consumeristic perspective of church. What can this church that I’m visiting do for ME? What can MY family get out of attending this church? Do I like the worship style and music? Do I like the preacher? Do I feel welcome here? Does this church have programs that appeal to ME? Do I like the atmosphere? Do I like the campus layout? (Sound familiar at all?) My aim isn’t to guilt you here; we’ve all felt like this or asked similar questions at some point. We’ve all been in a place of immaturity in our faith and sought after what we perceived to be best for ourselves (don’t mishear me—there are things to “look for” when you’re getting acquainted with a church family, but you have to admit that we often tend to go a little overboard about it). My question to you now though is this: can you look back to moments like that and see that you’ve grown to the place of saying, “How could God use me to bless others in this church? How can I teach my kids to find their place within this family of believers? How can I serve my pastor? How can I bless others even if I don’t always feel blessed myself?” Do you see the difference? Can you identify with this yet? I hope so, but if you can’t say this is you just yet, my hope and prayer is that you’ll start to move in that direction now (not because you read this blog, but why wait to start moving in the right direction, right?)
The culture in our churches today has a lot of vibrance, but some of it could use an overhaul. What would it look like if the American Church really and truly put community ahead of ourselves? We would be more like that New Testament church that we say we strive to be but somehow we often leave to mystery (when it really isn’t, if you’re reading the same Book that I’m reading). What if the culture of the American Church was one of unity, generosity, sacrifice, committed service, genuine love, pursuit of the character of Christ and a desire to glorify the Father? My friends if everyone bought in, this would change the world! And what is the common thread here? A denial of ourselves and elevation of the community we belong to.
So, are you wondering if Coach Duff’s efforts ever bore any fruit? Well, in Season Two he led the team to a 5-6 record and Hixson’s first ever state playoff appearance. By Season Three, the Hixson Wildcats had put together a 9-3 record capped off by their first ever district title. How did all this happen? People bought in, and they put down their own interests for the good of the team, their community.
How are you elevating your community above yourself today? If you’re already doing this, how can you make a Kingdom impact by influencing others to do the same?